Are there other greenhouse gases?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is just one of many different types of greenhouse gas which contribute to climate change [2]. Although CO2 does make up 76% of greenhouse gas emissions (measured in CO2-eq*), there are two others that we must not forget about [3]:

1) Methane (CH4) is a much more “potent” greenhouse gas than CO2: over 100 years, one methane molecule has the same warming impact as 28 molecules of CO2 [7]. This is because methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas, but lasts on average for only 12 years before breaking down, compared to 5-200 years for CO2 [8].

Methane accounts for about 17% of CO2-eq emissions [3]. A lot of people think that cows fart methane [9] – in fact, they burp it [10]! However, agriculture as a whole is only responsible for about 39% of methane emissions [4]. It may be a surprise to you that energy generation releases a similar amount of methane, at 36% [4].

2) Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than methane – it’s 9x stronger over a 100-year period [7]! Fortunately, we don’t release that much of it, so it only accounts for about 7% of CO2-eq emissions [3]. 72% of this is from agriculture [5], primarily from fertilisers and manure [1].

Whilst altering what we feed cows can reduce CH4 emissions [11], to reduce emissions more substantially we need to have fewer cows [12]. N2O emissions can be reduced by, for example, using only as much nitrogen fertiliser as a crop will consume [13], and using alternatives to fertiliser such as leguminous plants (like peas and clover) which take nitrogen out of the air and release it into the soil when they die [14,15].

*CO2-eq = CO2-equivalent emissions: the amount of CO2 that would cause the same amount of warming as a given amount of another greenhouse gas, over a 100-year time span [6,7].



[2] See: Emissions of other greenhouse gases

[3] See: Greenhouse gas emissions by gas source

[4] See: Methane (CH4) emissions by sector

[5] See: Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions by sector

[6] See: CO2-equivalent (CO2-eq) emission

[7] See: GWP values for 100-year time horizon, Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)

[8] See: table





[13] See: Reducing N fertilization


[15] See: Using biological N fixation to provide N inputs

Join our Newsletter!


Climate Science Ltd
Company Nr: 12370672
Registered in England & Wales
Mail: [email protected]


15 Hope Close
United Kingdom

Climate Science is registered as a non-profit company limited by guarantee in England and Wales.

Copyright © 2019-2020 Climate Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Climate Science uses Cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.