Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming

What is the Greenhouse Effect?

The greenhouse effect is a natural process that maintains the temperature of the earth. But when the number of greenhouse gases increases in the atmosphere, it results in a phenomenon known as global warming, which is one of the major problems that the world is facing today. We will discuss it in brief in this article below.


The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon that warms the surface of the Earth. The atmosphere present on the earthworks like the surface of a glasshouse. When the sun rays reach the surface of the Earth, 30% of the solar energy is reflected back to space. 21% of this energy is absorbed by the atmosphere. The remaining part of solar energy is absorbed by the sea, plants, and other structures present on the surface of the Earth. This absorbed energy is radiated out of the earth in the form of infrared waves that warm the Earth. Some gases present in the atmosphere are called 'greenhouse gases' because of their heat-trapping effect. These gases absorb the heat and radiate it back to the earth's surface. Greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor, etc. These gases help to maintain the greenhouse temperature at around 30℃ warmer than it would otherwise be. Without the greenhouse effect, the earth would be too cold to allow life on earth.


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Step1: Sun rays reach the earth's atmosphere. Some of this energy is reflected back into space.


Step2: The remaining part of the sun's energy is absorbed by the sea, plants, land, and other structures present on the Earth.


Step3: Heat radiates from the Earth towards space.


Step4: Some of this heat is trapped by greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere.


Step5: This keeps the earth warm enough to sustain life.


Humans have increased the levels of greenhouse gases in the air by excessive use of fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. This breaks the equilibrium maintained by the greenhouse effect, resulting in an increase in temperature of our earth's atmosphere. Simply, global warming refers to an increase in the earth's temperature. Global warming is a major problem that the world is facing today.


Global Warming

Greenhouse Gas

Formula 

% on Earth

Water vapour

H2O

35-70%

Carbon Dioxide

CO2

9-25%

Methane

CH4

4-9%

Nitrous Oxide

N2O

3-7%


We’ve always had some greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We take oxygen and release carbon dioxide in our respiration process. Plants take up carbon dioxide to make food by a process called photosynthesis. Once forests are cut down for human uses, they can no longer take in carbon dioxide, and this gas begins building up in the air instead of fuelling the growth of plants. So, by cutting down trees more carbon dioxide is added into the atmosphere. We've deforested large parts of the planet i.e increased the number of greenhouse gases, and as a result, have changed the temperature of the planet.


We’ve burned a lot of fossil fuels. Greenhouse gases are also released when organic matter (including fossil fuels like oil or gas) is burned. These greenhouse gases, trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere.


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Effects of Global Warming

Human activities such as the burning of fossil fuel and deforestation increase the level of greenhouse gases that causes long-term heating of the earth's climate system. This human-produced temperature increase is commonly referred to as global warming.


Scientists use observations from ground, air, and space to study and monitor climate change. This given graph illustrates the change in global surface temperature.


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Effects of global warming are given below:

  1. Year by year, records have been broken for the longest heatwaves which affect the sustainability of humans and other forms of life in the earth. 

  2. Increased temperatures are melting glaciers and ice caps. This melted ice increases the volume of water in oceans, leading to the rise of sea levels. 

  3. Extreme weather events like cyclones, drought, and floods are becoming more frequent and more intense as a result of global warming.

  4. The oceans have absorbed most of the extra heat and carbon dioxide so far. More than the air, global warming is making the seas both warmer and more acidic. This is a threat to marine ecosystems.

  5. Reduced rainfall and increasingly severe droughts may lead to water shortage.

  6. Heatwaves may lead to death and illness, especially among the elderly.

  7. High temperatures and humidity could also produce more mosquito-borne diseases.


Measures to Reduce Global Warming

As we know, global warming is a major problem that poses a risk and threat to all living systems. At the international level, various conventions, treaties, and agreements have been signed to combat global warming by increased mutual cooperation of various countries. But more than the governments trying to solve the problem, the individual should also learn to take responsibility for their actions and need to take small steps at a personal level to reduce the overall emissions of greenhouse gases in order to make the planet better and healthier. 


As individuals, we can do the following:

  • Use bicycles instead of automobile vehicles for short distances.

  • Plant more and more trees by organizing social events and plantation drives.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question. 1: How Global Warming is Responsible for Sea Level Rising?

Solution: As the earth's atmosphere warms, land-based ice in temperate regions melts more rapidly. Glaciers may retreat. This melting contributes to increased sea levels. The upper layer of the ocean will also become warmer. Water expands when heated. This expansion contributes to the rising sea levels, which can lead to drowning and submerging of coastal areas.

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Question 2: Do all Greenhouse Gases have the Same Ability to Trap Heat?

Solution: No, greenhouse gases differ in their ability to trap heat. Each gas has different radiative properties, typical atmospheric lifetime and atmospheric concentration, etc. For different greenhouse gases, the greenhouse warming potential is calculated depending on their concentration in the atmosphere and the time for which they are likely to stay there. The gases that have a higher greenhouse warming potential will have more heat-trapping ability and vice versa.