How The Greenhouse Effect Protects Our Planet
Greenhouse gases, consiting of carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and ozone, make up approximately 1% of the earth's atmosphere. The sunlight that filters through our atmosphere and then is reflected back up, is called infrared radiation. The greenhouse gases absorb the heat caused by this infrared radiation, slows down its escape and warms the planet. This "greenhouse effect" is what maintains the earth's temperature at a hospitable level. Without it, the average temperature of the planet would be about 30 degrees colder.
The Industrial Revolution
When you take into account the fact that even a one degree change in the earth's average temperature can bring about major consequences, a drop this large would be catastrophic and would turn the planet into a frozen wasteland.
Up until the mid-1700's, the earth maintained a natural balance between the greenhouse gases and the infrared radiation, sustaining our life-supporting ecosystem. With the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the natural balance was disrupted, effecting the release of the gases and the ability of the earth's atmosphere to contain them. The progress of a more mechanized world, and the burning of fossil fuels in automobiles, planes, power plants, and factories, began producing an over-abundance of greenhouse gases. Adding to the negative effects of the Industrial Revolution is the ongoing increase in our population, massive deforestation, and the loss of our natural woodlands and prairie systems.
The build up of greenhouse gasses in the earth's atmosphere is causing a warming effect. Over the last century, Earth's average temperature has risen one degree Fahrenheit. If the greenhouse gases are allowed to continue to build in our atmosphere, it is predicted that by the year 2100 there will be an increase of from 2 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the average temperature of the planet. This would have a devastating effect resulting in massive droughts, intense storms, and irreversible erosion to the coastal areas
A non-heated discussion on global warming and climate change
Stop Global Warming
Whether directly or indirectly, the increase in greenhouse gases has been caused by the actions of humans. Likewise, it is up to us humans to bring about change and reverse the effects of global warming. We can make a difference by making changes to our lifestyles and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. On a larger scale we can develop and deploy more sources of renewable energy and expand our forestlands to reverse the effects of deforestation. On a global level, we can join in a worldwide effort with other nations to reduce greenhouse gases and combat the negative effects they have on our planet.
Brian Dumaine is your guide in this intriguing look into the very near future.
Helpful Links on the Greenhouse Effect
- What is the greenhouse effect?
Brief, simplified description of the Earth's natural and human-enhanced greenhouse effect.
- Global Warming Interactive, Global Warming Simulation, Climate Change Simulation - National Geograph
Learn about Global Warming at National Geographic. Get facts, news, wallpapers, watch videos, and learn about solutions.
- Greenhouse Effect - What are Greenhouse Gases and the Greenhouse Effect?
A good explanation of the greenhouse effect and its relationship to global warming, plus dissenting opinions from some scientists and what is being done to address the problem.
- The Greenhouse Effect