Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Seperti aku janjikan

Aku ada janji dulu kan? Ingat, article ni bukan base on proper studies yang aku buat (lab work etc). Ini based on kerja orang yang aku konon konon nak jadi seorang saintis yang analytical.

Human and global warming: Are we the primary cause? (An alternative view).

To those who aren’t ignorant about the planet that they live in, the title above, especially the words “global climate change” will definitely be a familiar title. Global warminghas been an ongoing study done by scientists ever since the 19th century. The main study is focused on causes, predictions and solutions. Predictions were made based on concluded data retrieved by paleoclimate studies. The paleoclimate patterns such as temperature, humidity level, and percentage of greenhouse gasses were being studied. These patterns then helps scientists to understand how earth’s climate works and therefore predictions can be made. 

Solutions on the other hand, are harder. In order to produce a solution, the cause of the problem needed to be understood. The causes for global warming are almost certain but are still open for debate.

The theory that almost every single scientist agreed on is the effect of greenhouse gasses. The major elements of the greenhouse effect are the greenhouse gasses. These gasses are Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), Perfluorocarbons (PFC), Sulphur Hexafluoride, and water vapour. The mechanism of the greenhouse effect revolves around the characteristics of the gasses. The reason to this is that these gasses allow sunlight to enter the Stratosphere and the Troposphere without any interference. The sunlight radiates heat causing the earths temperature to rise considerably. The problem begins when there is high abundance of these gasses below the ozone layer. The reason to this is that these gasses act as a huge cling-film that covers the earth. The sunlight that passes through the ozone earlier, reaches the surface and then being reflected back to the sky as infrared radiation. The greenhouse gasses absorb the infrared radiation therefore the heat is trapped in the atmosphere. This causes the atmosphere to stay warm and as time elapses, it gets warmer. Generally, this is how global warming works. Of course there is the extreme version of climate change such as the scenarios depicted in Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow.

So what is the cause?

The answer is obvious, Greenhouse gasses.

It is now clear that we have to tackle the cause by limiting the output of greenhouse gasses. There we have it, cause, problem and solution.

However, the questions that interest me the most are, who or what causes the high abundance of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere? Is it human activities? Or is it the earth’s natural processes? Are human activities is the primary cause or is it just a minor catalyst? To figure this out, we have to analysed the source of each greenhouse gasses and classify whether it is human induced or natural earth processes.

Gas Name

Chemical formula

Percent Volume







Water Vapour


0 – 4%




Carbon Dioxide















Nitrous Oxide






Figure 1 Earth's Atmospheric Composition  (in red are Greenhouse gasses)

The list above established the gasses and their percentage in earth atmosphere. Water vapour ranks the highest in terms of greenhouse gasses abundance therefore it should be tackled first.

The existence of water vapour in the atmosphere occurred solely by natural processes. The sun heats up liquid water that is on earth’s surface and water evaporates into water vapour. Water vapour is high in abundance around the equator as the equator receives the most intense sunlight. As water vapour exists due to a natural process, it shouldn’t be limited. Limiting the output of water vapour will only be wrong as it is disturbing the earth’s nature. Since the evaporation is a natural process, human activities cannot be blamed for 99.1% of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

We then move on to the second greenhouse gas with the most percentage in earth’s atmosphere, which is Carbon Dioxide. It accounts for up to 0.036% in the earths’ atmosphere. To limit the output of Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere, the source of Carbon Dioxide must be studied and this can be done by studying the Carbon cycle. 

Figure 2 The carbon cycle; the figures in purple are the annual carbon fluxes in Gigatons of Carbon/year (GtC/yr)

The Carbon cycle shows all the sources of Carbon that was released into the atmosphere. The total of Carbon released to the atmosphere annually is 217.1 gigatons. This amount came from many sources that are on the earth’s surface such as vegetation and soils (121.6 GtC/yr), fossil fuel combustion (5.5 GtC/yr), and ocean’s surface (90 GtC/yr). Out of the total, human activities contribute 5.5 GtC/yr, which is 2.53% of the 0.036% of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere.

Not exactly a massive figure.

However, let’s add up more possibilities of human contribution towards the 217.1 Gigatons of Carbon Dioxide per year.

Respiration and decomposition. Both of these are natural processes. Respiration and decomposition takes place in both animals and plants. The result of these two natural processes is Carbon Dioxide. This comes to the question “Should we limit the our breathing to help the environment?”

The answer is obviously no. Human need oxygen in order to live and the only way to do this is by breathing. The only down part is that, because of us breathing the air in; we are releasing Carbon Dioxide in to the air. Do not be alarmed. Human breathe out approximately 1 kilogram of Carbon Dioxide per day (depending on the activity) and that amount doesn’t contribute to the Carbon Dioxide level in the atmosphere. This is due to the Carbon Dioxide that humans and animals exhale came from the Carbon Dioxide that plants draw out from the atmosphere.

Secondly, decomposition occurs when bacteria decomposed any organic material into smaller and simpler material. This process will release Carbon Dioxide. However, the Carbon Dioxide released came from an organic matter such as plants or animals therefore, it doesn’t contribute to the global Caron Dioxide level in the atmosphere.

In the case of Carbon Dioxide, human activities can be at fault for contributing as much as 0.0009108% (2.53% of 0.036%) of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere.

So far, human contributed a really shallow figure to the greenhouse gasses making “human activities as a minor catalyst” more realistic rather than a global primary contributor.

The third highest greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is the highly flammable Methane. Methane can be released to the atmosphere by many ways. Production of fossil fuel, farming (animal waste management), rice cultivation, biomass burning and waste management produce methane. The examples above are methane producing human activities or by the very least, human activity related. Human activities released 109.6 Tg/yr (Teragram/yr), 73.7 Tg/yr emitted by biomass burning, 152.8 Tg/yr due to rice and ruminants activities and 155.3 Tg/yr came from natural emitting sources.

From the sources above, it will be inaccurate to say biomass burning and rice and ruminants aren’t apart of human activity. Studies done by scientists agreed approximately 90% of biomass burning was done by human and the balance of 10% was caused by nature such as lightning. Therefore, it can be said that human are responsible for approximately 328.73 Tg/yr or 66.9% of Methane in the atmosphere.

This is alarming.

We are responsible for more than 50% of dangerous, flammable, global warming inducing gasses.

However, the amount of Methane in the atmosphere, 0.00017%, isn’t exactly a big number. Although this is the case, it doesn’t give us the green light to not do anything about it. If human could emit Methane more than nature could annually, then we have a problem. 

The two greenhouse gasses with the lowest abundance in the atmosphere are Nitrous Oxide and Ozone (O3). The sources of Nitrous Oxide, as other gasses, are both human activities and nature. 

Human activity such as soil management, animal manure management, sewage treatment, combustion of fossil fuel and acid productions produced approximately 7.65 Tg/yr of Nitrous Oxide globally, nearly half of the total emission.

However, considering the amount of Nitrous Oxide in the atmosphere being low, the figure retrieved isn’t alarming. 

There we have it, greenhouse gasses analysed one by one in the order from highest abundance in the atmosphere to the lowest in terms of sources. 

The source of water vapour is are purely natural therefore there is nothing we can do. Human induced Carbon Dioxide produces a reassuring figure. The figures for methane produced by human activities are alarming as we produces more than nature does where else the volume of Nitrous Oxide and Ozone in the atmosphere are relatively low compared to the ones mentioned earlier.

From these, it is clear that human are just minor catalysts. To me, that is worst than being the primary cause. We are hurrying doomsday!

If the figures are low, why the fuss?

The issue that concerns scientists at the moment is that the rate of the greenhouse gasses emitted to the atmosphere is alarming. We are producing more of the gasses compared to 100 years ago. The higher the rate, the sooner earth will be destroyed.

The worst part is that, the consequences of climate change will happen when we have too much to lose. We have amazing technologies and engineering that will be destroyed due to our own ignorance. Worst still, more of us will face death. 

Don't we, at the very least, want to see our beautiful children living in a planet that is as beautiful as them?

We, as human, must take action. 


The Royal Society, n.d. Climate Science, Available: http://royalsociety.org/page.asp?id=1279&gclid=CPGQj67rn5cCFQhOMAodIlawAA (30th November 2008)

Energy Information Administration, May 2008, Greenhouse Gasses, Climate & Energy, Available:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/bookshelf/brochures/greenhouse/Chapter1.htm (29th November 2008)

Pidwirny, M. (2006). Atmospheric Composition from the e-book Fundamentals of Physical Geograpy, 2nd edition. Available: http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/7a.html (30th November 2008)

Pidwirny, M. (2006). Atmospheric Composition from the e-book Fundamentals of Physical Geograpy, 2nd edition. Available: http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/7a.html (30th November 2008)


NASA, 1st December 2008, The Carbon Cycle; The Human Role, Available: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/CarbonCycle/carbon_cycle4.php (30th November 2008)

NASA, 1st December 2008, The Carbon Cycle; The Human Role, Available: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/CarbonCycle/carbon_cycle4.php (30th November 2008)


Pidwirny, M. (18th November 2008), The Carbon Cycle; Photosynthesis and Respiration. Available: http://www.eoearth.org/article/Carbon_cycle (1st December 2008).

Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, n.d. Frequently Asked Questions, Available: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/pns/faq.html (1st December 2008)

U.S Environmental Protection Agency, 19th October 2006, Methane; Sources and emissions, Available: http://epa.gov/methane/sources.html (1st December 2008)


Granier, C., Petron, G., Muller, J.F., & Brasseur, G., 31st May 2000, The impact of  natural and anthropogenic hydrocarbons on the tropospheric budget of Carbon Monoxide. The Atmospheric Environment Journal, Available: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VH3-41NTBMX-11&_user=585204&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000029838&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=585204&md5=f59ace2155cd85f529885f22ad5014fb (1st December 2008)

NASA, 2nd December 2008, Earth Observatory: Biomass burning. Available: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/BiomassBurning/ (1st December 2008)

 Scheehle, E. December 2002, U.S Environmental Protection Agency: Global Methane & Nitrous Oxide Emissions Lecture, Available: www.stanford.edu/group/EMF/projects/group21/PresentDec2002/Scheehle. Ppt (1st December 2008)

Maaf kalau Bahasa Ingeris aku mengarut, atau benda yang aku cakap tu tak masuk akal. Ni apa yang aku fikir je. Tambahan pula, aku tulis ni dalam format "popular science" bermakna benda yang akutulis tidak diterangkans ecara mendalam supaya semua orang boleh memahami (kalau masuk dalam gila kang korang baru baca satu paragraph otak dah start fikir Shukila, Fiona, Suraya dan juga Atikah). Kalau ada pendapat lain aku terbuka hati nak dengar, bukan terbuka hati nak gaduh.

Jadi tinggalkan comment korang di tempat tinggal comment!


ps: sebab hype tanah runtuh sekarang, aku akan study factor factor tanah runtuh dan kenapa aku rasa area BA atau Hillview atau UK heights ni memang tak selamat.

Dari Top Boyz: Takziah kepada keluarga mangsa dan sesiapa yang terlibat dalam kemalangan tanah runtuh di Damansara ataupun di BA.


errk, kenyang said...

human just done minor contributor.
so i guess it the doomsday ticking for itself. should we as human interrupt their own program.

Liyana Zakaria said...

"However, considering the amount of Nitrous Oxide in the atmosphere being low, the figure retrieved isn’t alarming." -- We can't really say that it is not alarming. Here your post doesn't say about how each gas affect how much to the whole phenomena. We can't simply take things lightly with nitrous oxide(and the other gases of course); for all we know the supertiny amount nitrous oxide is the main one contributing to global warming.

We have to try to lessen ALL the gases regardless of what the compound is. But first we need awareness, man. Kalau masih tak kongsi kereta dan tak pernah guna Komuter dan LRT, memanglah karbon dioksida banyak gila (but we can't blame them entirely though, sometimes the busses and Komuter are crappy anyways).

Scientists and geologists ARE trying to find the solution. But it is all up to us to do the other tiny bits and small actions.

Wah it has been awhile since my head works while reading a blog. Thanks to you; interesting post!

Dari mana?