Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse gases emissions are trapping heat in our atmosphere, leading to increased temperatures. These emissions are also impacting the frequency of precipitation events, causing more frequent droughts in some parts of the world while increasing flooding and hurricanes in other parts of the world. As a result, communities, plant and animal species, entire ecosystems, and our food supply are threatened.

There are six primary greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (C4), nitrous oxide (N2O), water vapor, ozone (O3), and the “F-gases”: chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). To learn where each of these greenhouse gases come from and how they impact climate change, view the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Overview webpage and the EPA’s webpage on the Causes of Climate Change.

The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, behind China. However, U.S. citizens cause more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than in any other country. The Union of Concern Scientists has a complete list of each countries’ share of carbon emissions for 2011.

Multiple industries contribute greenhouse gases with each industry contributing a different combination of greenhouse gases. Within the U.S., the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and the sources of those emissions varies in each state. The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions through the Clean Power Plan, the agency’s proposed rule to be finalized in August 2015.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the U.S. and Missouri

In the U.S., carbon dioxide emissions account for eighty-two percent of our total greenhouse gas emissions, with sixty-eight percent of our carbon dioxide emissions coming from the electricity generation and transportation sectors. The pie chart below from the Environmental Protection Agency illustrates all of the sectors that contribute to the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions.


Source: Overview of Greenhouse Gases, EPA,

In Missouri, eighty-three percent of our electricity came from coal-fired power generation in 2013. Given that coal is the most carbon-intense fuel source and carbon dioxide is most emitted greenhouse gas in the United States, it is critical that Missouri shift our energy portfolio away from coal-fired energy generation to reduce our contribution to climate change. As a member of the Missouri Clean Energy Coalition (MCEC), MCE collaborates with other organizations across the state to advocate for reductions in our carbon emissions and increases in renewable energy production in Missouri. To learn more about MCEC, check out the Clean Air Missouri webpage. To learn how you can become a member or support of MCEC, contact MCE’s Policy Director, Ed Smith.