Greenhouse Gas: A hot topic

World Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Greenhouse Gas Emissions information panel Image: Designed by Jane Cameron
© Australian Museum

Certain gases in the air called greenhouse gases act like a blanket for the earth. Without them the temperature would be -18°C most days. However, many things in our modern world produce extra greenhouse gases—the coal burned to make electricity, the fertiliser used to grow food and the fuel burned to power vehicles. All these extra gases are being released into the atmosphere, gradually warming the earth and changing the climate.

Admit to emit

Every person in the world contributes to the rising amounts of greenhouse gases. However, people who live in high-income countries generally emit more greenhouse gases than low-income countries by consuming more energy, more food and more products.

What's my fair share?

If we shared out the right to produce greenhouse gases fairly across the world, each person would get to emit around 8 tonnes. However, in one year, the average Australian's greenhouse gas emissions add up to about 28 tonnes.

Cutting down emissions

We actually need to reduce our emissions to avoid dangerous climate change. So a reasonable target might be 4 tonnes for every person in the world. Cutting down our greenhouse gas emissions means making changes to the way people live, particularly in richer nations such as Australia.

* Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapour and ozone.

Did you know

The emissions from 1 kg of tomatoes:

  • grown at home = 0.0 kg CO2
  • bought local and in season = 0.4 kg CO2
  • bought out of season in a hothouse and transported to you = 50 kg CO2