Global Warming Potential

Global Warming Potential (GWP)

Global Warming Potential (GWP) is a measure used to compare the potential contribution of different greenhouse gases (GHGs) to global warming over a specific time period - usually 100 years. It is a relative indicator that quantifies the warming influence of each GHG compared to carbon dioxide (CO2), which is assigned a GWP of 1.

GWP takes into account the radiative forcing effect and the atmospheric lifetime of each gas, reflecting their ability to trap heat and their persistence in the atmosphere.

The GWP values for different GHGs enable the comparison and aggregation of emissions from various sources.

For example, methane (CH4) has a higher GWP than CO2, indicating that a given amount of methane emissions will have a greater warming effect than the same amount of CO2 emissions over the specified time frame. On the other hand, gases with lower GWPs, such as nitrous oxide (N2O), have a comparatively lower warming potential.

GWP values are crucial in climate change mitigation strategies, as they inform decisions on emission reduction priorities and policy development. By understanding the GWP of different GHGs, policymakers, scientists, and organizations can identify the most effective ways to reduce overall emissions and prioritize efforts to limit the impact of greenhouse gases on global warming and climate change.

What does a Global Warming Potential GWP of 1 Mean?

A GWP of 1 refers to the baseline value assigned to CO2. CO2 is considered the reference gas for comparing the warming potential of other GHGs over a specified time frame - typically 100 years. By setting the GWP of CO2 to 1, it serves as a benchmark against which the warming potentials of other GHGs are measured.

When a GHG has a GWP greater than 1, it means that it has a higher warming potential than CO2 over the given time frame. For example, methane (CH4) has a GWP of 28-36, depending on the time frame considered. This indicates that methane has a significantly higher warming potential than CO2, with the ability to trap more heat in the atmosphere over a given period.

On the other hand, gases with a GWP less than 1 have a lower warming potential than CO2. An example is nitrous oxide (N2O) with a GWP of around 265-298. While still having a considerable warming effect, its impact is less than that of CO2 over the specified time frame.

What is the Difference Between GWP and GHG?

The terms "GWP" and "GHG" refer to different concepts related to climate change. Here's the difference between the two:

Greenhouse Gas (GHG)

Any gas in the Earth's atmosphere that can trap heat and contribute to the greenhouse effect. Examples of greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases.

GHGs are emitted by various human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, industrial processes, and agricultural practices. These gases, when released into the atmosphere, absorb and emit infrared radiation, leading to an increase in global temperatures and climate change.

Global Warming Potential (GWP)

A measure used to compare the warming potential of different greenhouse gases relative to carbon dioxide (CO2). It quantifies the ability of a particular greenhouse gas to trap heat in the atmosphere over a specified time frame - usually 100 years.

GWP values are calculated by comparing the radiative forcing effect and atmospheric lifetime of each gas to that of CO2. The GWP of CO2 is assigned a value of 1, and other greenhouse gases are assigned higher values based on their warming potential. GWP enables the aggregation and comparison of emissions from different gases, allowing for a standardized metric to assess their impact on global warming.


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