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

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

    This one minute animated video from TVNZ demystifies some of the scientific and technical language.


    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.

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