Whether it’s eating less meat or cycling instead of driving, humans can do many things to help prevent climate change.
Unfortunately, breathing less isn’t one of them.
That might be a problem, as a new study claims the gases in air exhaled from human lungs is fueling global warming.
Methane and nitrous oxide in the air we exhale makes up to 0.1 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, scientists say.
And that’s not even accounting for the gas we release from burps and farts, or emissions that come from our skin without us noticing.
The new study was led by Dr Nicholas Cowan, an atmospheric physicist at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Edinburgh.
‘Exhaled human breath can contain small, elevated concentrations of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), both of which contribute to global warming,’ Dr Cowan and colleagues say.
‘We would urge caution in the assumption that emissions from humans are negligible.’
As most of us remember from science classes at school, humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.
When we inhale, air enters the lungs, and oxygen from that air moves to the blood, while carbon dioxide (CO2), a waste gas, moves from the blood to the lungs and is breathed out.
With plants, it is the other way round; plants use CO2 to create oxygen as a by-product (the process known as photosynthesis).
Every person breathes out CO2 when they exhale, but in their new study, the researchers focused on methane and nitrous oxide.
These two are both powerful greenhouse gases, but because they’re breathed out in much smaller quantities, their contribution to global warming may have been overlooked.