Rights: The Royal Society, TVNZ 7 in partnership with the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology Published 15 December 2010 Download

This is a simple explanation of what greenhouse gases are and how they function.

This one minute animated video from TVNZ aims to demystifies commonly used, but little understood scientific and technological jargon.


What are greenhouse gases?

A mix of gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

They’re called ‘greenhouse gases’ because they act a bit like glass in a greenhouse – letting in heat from the sun but stopping some of it from escaping back into space. They make the Earth livable – without them, the temperature would be well below freezing.

Most of these gases occur naturally. But some, like carbon dioxide, increase when we burn fossil fuels.

A thicker blanket of greenhouse gases is very likely to increase the surface temperature of the Earth because less heat escapes – and this has led to concerns about global warming.

Over the last century, the Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by about .8 degrees Celsius - many believe this is because there are more greenhouse gases insulating our atmosphere.

And that’s what greenhouse gases are.