Greenhouse Effect

Some of the energy from the sun is trapped inside our atmosphere as it is reflected back from the earth towards space. This natural process is called the greenhouse effect, as the atmosphere acts like the glass walls of a greenhouse, which allows the sun’s rays to enter but keeps the heat in.

The gases which make this happen (“greenhouse gases”) are mainly water vapour and carbon dioxide. As humans emit more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere the greenhouse effect becomes stronger. This causes the earth’s climate to change unnaturally.

The “greenhouse effect” often gets a bad rap because of its association with global warming, but the truth is we couldn’t live without it.

What Causes the Greenhouse Effect?
Life on earth depends on energy from the sun. About 30 percent of the sunlight that beams toward Earth is deflected by the outer atmosphere and scattered back into space. The rest reaches the planet’s surface and is reflected upward again as a type of slow-moving energy called infrared radiation.

As it rises, infrared radiation is absorbed by “greenhouse gases” such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone and methane, which slows its escape from the atmosphere.

Although greenhouse gases make up only about 1 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere, they regulate our climate by trapping heat and holding it in a kind of warm-air blanket that surrounds the planet.

This phenomenon is what scientists call the “greenhouse effect.” Without it, scientists estimate that the average temperature on Earth would be colder by approximately 30 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit), far too cold to sustain our current ecosystem.

How Do Humans Contribute to the Greenhouse Effect?
While the greenhouse effect is an essential environmental prerequisite for life on Earth, there really can be too much of a good thing.

The problems begin when human activities distort and accelerate the natural process by creating more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than are necessary to warm the planet to an ideal temperature.

Burning natural gas, coal and oil —including gasoline for automobile engines—raises the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Some farming practices and land-use changes increase the levels of methane and nitrous oxide.

Many factories produce long-lasting industrial gases that do not occur naturally, yet contribute significantly to the enhanced greenhouse effect and “global warming” that is currently under way.

Deforestation also contributes to global warming. Trees use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen in its place, which helps to create the optimal balance of gases in the atmosphere. As more forests are logged for timber or cut down to make way for farming, however, there are fewer trees to perform this critical function.

Population growth is another factor in global warming, because as more people use fossil fuels for heat, transportation and manufacturing the level of greenhouse gases continues to increase. As more farming occurs to feed millions of new people, more greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere.

Ultimately, more greenhouse gases means more infrared radiation trapped and held, which gradually increases the temperature of the Earth’s surface and the air in the lower atmosphere.

The Average Global Temperature is Increasing Quickly
Today, the increase in the Earth’s temperature is increasing with unprecedented speed. To understand just how quickly global warming is accelerating, consider this:

During the entire 20th century, the average global temperature increased by about 0.6 degrees Celsius (slightly more than 1 degree Fahrenheit).

Using computer climate models, scientists estimate that by the year 2100 the average global temperature will increase by 1.4 degrees to 5.8 degrees Celsius (approximately 2.5 degrees to 10.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

Not All Scientists Agree

While the majority of mainstream scientists agree that global warming is a serious problem that is growing steadily worse, there are some who disagree. John Christy, a professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville is a respected climatologist who argues that global warming isn’t worth worrying about.

Christy reached that opinion after analyzing millions of measurements from weather satellites in an effort to find a global temperature trend. He found no sign of global warming in the satellite data, and now believes that predictions of global warming by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century are incorrect.

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About Rashid Faridi

I am Rashid Aziz Faridi ,Writer, Teacher and a Voracious Reader.
This entry was posted in climate change, earth, Environment, Global Warming. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Greenhouse Effect

  1. Pingback: Free Environment Blogs » - environment effect

  2. Pingback: Global warming - scientific theory or carbon gospel? | cleanteam's net work

  3. pavan` says:

    Easily understandable to every one.

    Like this

  4. @pavan.
    Thanks. Keep Visiting.

    Like this

  5. MarkRight says:

    Nice blog as for me. I’d like to read more concerning that matter.

    Like this

  6. s srinivasa rao says:

    Now a days the civil engineering architects were buzz saying green house effect in construction of buildings .How rashids explanation can be interpreted to this aspect?

    Like this

  7. shraddha poudel says:

    Outstanding,everyone can understand it.

    Like this

  8. Hi Rashid,

    Some time ago I did a research on the greenhouse effect to use the science into building a solar oven. This actually worked very good. But, I remember that the theory was that the rays of light would go through the glass and then stay inside the “greenhouse” because as they hit another type of material (such as a plant, the floor or in my case a pan) and then transform into another type of ray that would go out the same way.

    I’ve got a question to ask you. If instead of one glass, I use two glasses air-sealed (no air between the sheets of glass) will the rays (that transform and heat the greenhouse) still pass through the 2 layered glass structure?

    Best regards,

    Like this

  9. tashanisha says:

    i take ur points for my presentation..thank you…

    Like this

  10. idoctlc says:

    I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it.Cheers for the info!!!! & This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you

    Like this

  11. Tito says:

    Greenhouse Effect and its Implication on Global Warming
    Greenhouse effect refers to an atmospheric process by which short wavelenghts of the visible light from the sun pass through the atmosphere where they are absorbed or trapped. However, part of light emitted from the sun in form of longwave is re-radiated from heated obects on the earth’s surface in to the atmosphere. Presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere does not allow the radiations to pass through. The greenhouse gas moelecules are more complex than any air molecule and their structure has high heat absorption capacity. The heat radiated back to the earth’s surface to modulate its temperature (Davis, 9).
    According to Parsons (23), this process is essential in order to support life. if this does not occur, the temperatues on the earth surcface would be below frezing point and plant or animal life would be supported. however, human activtities in the past centuries have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which inturn have increased the average temperature on the earth’s surface.
    Greenhouse gases include water vapor, caborndixoide, nitrous oxide and methane. Acording to a report released by IPCC in 2007, there was a significant increase in production of greenhouse gases between the 19th and 20th century (Davis, 11).

    Causes of greenhouse Gases and their impact
    Increase in population has led to increased transportation and manufacturing. This implies rise in the combustion of fossil fuels including oil, gas and coal. Combustion of fossil fuels leads to emission of, among others, carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and this account for over 80% of the Carbon dioxide emission (Alastair, 77). Parsons (25) notes that the gases produced are more stable that stay very long in the atmosphere. Deforestation is a human activity which involves cutting down of trees. Major causes of deforestation include human settlement and wood for industrial use. It is important to note that trees and other vegetative cover play an important role in atmospheric balancing process by consuming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Reduced absorption of carbon dioxide leads to its accumulation in the atmosphere.
    Electrical appliances and chemicals are also sources of greenhouse gases. Refrigerators, fire extinguishers chemicals, aerosols and some industrial packages are major sources of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). This chemical compound is also very strong and can stay in the atmosphere for a very long period of time. Chlorofluorocarbons are seemingly environmentally safe, non-toxic and stable chemical compounds at lower atmospheric levels. However, their stability allows them to ascend to the stratosphere where they end up being broken down by Ultraviolet light to Chlorine and Bromine. These two compounds deplete ozone layer. Depletion of the ozone layer exposes harmful UV radiations to human skins causing sunburns, skin cancer, premature skin aging and eye complications (Parsons, 45).
    According to (Davis, 13), methane is also a very dangerous greenhouse gas and which ranks second after carbon dioxide. Methane is normally emitted into the atmosphere as a result of agricultural practices. During digestion, herbivores animals release methane from their intestines and therefore, increased livestock farming has increased emission of methane into the air. Breakdown of organic matter by bacteria under oxygen starved environments like those in rice paddies leads to emission of methane in to the atmosphere. Some ice found in the Arctic seabed contains methane compounds and therefore, increased atmospheric temperature leads to emission of Methane. Some chemical fertilizers also contribute to accumulation of greenhouse gases and subsequent global warming effect. High nitrogen content in fertilizers increases soil capacity to trap heat and thus also contributes to rise in surface temperature. Leaching of excess fertilizers into water bodies create “dead zones” (Davis, 17).
    The rise in atmospheric temperature as a result of greenhouse effect melts glaziers leading to runoffs into seas. The sea water also warm and thermally expands, raising the surface level of water. According to Parsons (51), this rise in sea level has been responsible for displacement of over 600 million people living in low lying regions. This has also been the cause of rising frequency of ocean tides and killer storms including tsunami and hurricanes which over time, have killed and or displaced millions of people. Alastair (92) notes that the future is riskier since the sea level is rising at approximately 30cm in a year on average.
    Increased atmospheric temperature increases the rate of water evaporation. Though evaporated water condenses to form rain clouds, such rains may be unevenly distributed causing dry weather conditions in some regions (Alastair, 93). Evaporation in dry areas compromises plant life since their survival depends on water. This in turn comprises food production. Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a result of poor vegetative cover may also subject human life to health hazards.
    Solutions to Greenhouse Effect
    The problem of greenhouse effect cannot be solved completely; however, application of existing methods can help reduce the level of greenhouses gases accumulation and emission in the atmosphere. One best way to reduce accumulation of carbon dioxide is to plant more trees or vegetative cover. In the process of photosynthesis, trees consume carbon dioxide and in the process, reduce its level in the atmosphere (Davis, 57). There is also need to enforce carbon footprint policies and charge countries respective of their net impact on the environment. Although it is challenging to measure the harm caused by each country, carbon footprint encourage carbon offsetting and environmental awareness (Alastair, 102).
    Carbon storage is also another very efficient solution to greenhouse effect. In a process called Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS), carbon is diverted from the point of emission such as coal-fired power plant exhaust stack to an underground geological formation. For example: depleted gas and oil field, saline aquifer and un-minable seam among others. According to Jacobson (287), geological formation may store up to 2000 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide as compared to average of 30 Gigatonnes produced in a year. Another possible way could be influencing the demand-side energy conservation among consumers. This will aim at reducing emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Strategies here may include using fuel efficient cars or public means instead of driving, replacing fossil fuel consuming plants with green energy consuming plants and designing structures that use solar energy (Jacobson, 289).
    Most developing countries do not consider greenhouse effect as a major problem and despite having fewer industries; they have contributed significantly in the production of greenhouse gases. Therefore, it is important for developed countries to promote greenhouse effect awareness in these countries. There is also need to fund research and development to find alternative and more efficient forms of energy in the world (Davis, 63).
    Greenhouse effect is a challenge to the world that has not yet found a solution. Human activity, though justified by need, has been the central cause of the increased levels of greenhouse gases. The impacts of greenhouse effects are long-term and severe for future generations. Use of green energy, demand side energy conservation, carbon capturing and afforestation are some of the common ways through which emission of greenhouse gases can be reduced. Though not perfect solutions, they can help reduce the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

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