The Greenhouse Effect and Climate Change

NRCS wheat field at twilightGreenhouse gases (GHGs), such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and water vapor (H2O) are a critical part of our climate system. These gases are effective in trapping heat at the earth’s surface. Without GHGs, most of the currently cultivated regions of the earth would be too cold for agricultural production. However, human activity is contributing to increases in GHG concentrations in the atmosphere and the increases are causing potentially detrimental changes in temperature and other aspects of climate. Although agricultural sources account for only 6 percent of the total GHG emissions in the USA, many sources can be reduced with minimal economic impact. Producers have opportunities to employ practices that save money and time, and take advantage of market forces that may lead to new commodities such as, carbon, bioenergy crops, and GHG emissions reductions.

Image above: Photo courtesy of USDA-NRCS

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