Episode 185: What exactly does the “metric global warming potential” entail?

Have you ever wondered what exactly the metric “global warming potential” entails? On this week’s Energy Bite, Kelly Klima, a research scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

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Learn More
Understanding Global Warming Potentials by the US Environmental Protection Agency
Overview of Greenhouse Gases by the US Environmental Protection Agency
A Blanket Around the Earth by NASA Global Climate Change

Transcript

HOST: Did you know that some greenhouse gases have more impact on climate change than others? On this week’s Energy Bite, Kelly Klima, a research scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

KELLY: The term “global warming potential” is one way to describe the impact of a gas on surface temperatures. Scientifically, global warming potential is the ratio of the amount of heat a certain mass of greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere to the amount of heat trapped by a similar mass of carbon dioxide. If a gas has a positive global warming potential, it will warm the surface temperatures. On the contrary, if it has a negative global warming potential, it will decrease the surface temperatures.

HOST: What are the implications of global warming potential on climate change?

KELLY: Over the last century, people have been doing a lot of activities such as driving cars or flipping on light switches. Over a century, these actions net gases with a positive global warming potential, and consequently are warming the surface. Some activities, such as releasing natural gas, have a greater immediate warming effect than others, which leads scientists to wonder what energy sources might be best for the environment.

HOST: Does knowing about the higher impact of natural gas on climate change influence your decisions? (Yes, No, Maybe?) Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

 

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