A greenhouse gas (sometimes abbreviated GHG) is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emitsradiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide,methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Without greenhouse gases, the average temperature of Earth's surface would be about 15 °C (27 °F) colder than the present average of 14 °C (57 °F). In theSolar System, the atmospheres of Venus, Mars and Titan also contain gases that cause a greenhouse effect.
Human activities since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (taken as the year 1750) have produced a 40% increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, from 280 ppm in 1750 to 400 ppm in 2015. This increase has occurred despite the uptake of a large portion of the emissions by various natural "sinks" involved in the carbon cycle. Anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (i.e. emissions produced by human activities) come from combustion of carbon-based fuels, principally coal, oil, and natural gas, along with deforestation, soil erosion and animal agriculture.
It has been estimated that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the present rate, Earth's surface temperature could exceed historical values as early as 2047, with potentially harmful effects on ecosystems, biodiversity and the livelihoods of people worldwide.