Earth’s atmosphere has been an area of concern for several decades. As climate change becomes more of a threat, it’s now more crucial than ever to understand climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. With the greenhouse effect explained, you’ll equip yourself with the knowledge to help others and take action.
What Is the Greenhouse Effect?
Earth’s average temperature comes out to around 59 degrees Fahrenheit. How does it maintain such constant temperatures? The Earth’s atmosphere helps regulate the climate. The greenhouse effect is the natural warming of the planet, and the atmosphere is part of that process.
The atmosphere traps heat inside. This heat comes in the form of different radiations. Solar energy, ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) are forms of radiation in the Earth that it either reflects or absorbs. Percentage-wise, Earth absorbs 70% of radiation into the land, oceans and atmosphere and reflects 30%.
This process is similar to a greenhouse’s relationship with radiation, hence its name. UV rays easily travel through the glass on greenhouses, while IR gets trapped inside and warms it. This phenomenon occurs when the oceans and land then give off IR that stays inside the planet’s atmosphere.
Though the greenhouse effect has earned a negative connotation, it is not inherently destructive. It becomes harmful when polluting emissions multiply the effect.
What Are Greenhouse Gases?
While the greenhouse effect is one of Earth’s naturally occurring processes, greenhouse gases adversely impact that process. These gases consist of molecules that absorb the various types of radiation and trap them in the atmosphere, accelerating climate change.
The most common harmful greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. With CO2 at 82% and methane at 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2017, these two are the leading pollutants of the environment.
As they get trapped inside the atmosphere, bringing radiation with them, they warm the planet — hence the term global warming.
During the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, using fossil fuels like gasoline, oil and coal became inexpensive and readily available. However, the production of these fuels is a leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions. And to this day, they are still widely popular.
How Do Greenhouse Gases Affect the Environment?
Many areas around the world directly cause greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation and industry-level manufacturing are among the most significant proponents. Buildings, electricity, heat and agriculture also contribute emissions. And deforestation alone disrupts ecosystems and propels global warming.
These emissions accelerate global warming and climate change. As the Earth warms, sea levels will rise from melting ice. Weather will change and become more severe — hurricanes, droughts, floods and intense heat will all become more common. Climate change will alter or destroy ecosystems, natural habitats and migration patterns and affect human society as well.
Climate change disrupts ways of life on all levels, human or animal. Studies show 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is due mainly to human activity. At this rate, the climate will continue to heat up and change the world. With these adverse effects, the time for action has never been more pressing.
The Future of the Greenhouse Effect
What began as a natural process has now become overrun with harmful pollution. Since the Industrial Revolution, the greenhouse effect merged with greenhouse gases to result in what it is today. With the impending consequences, many are hopeful for solutions. You can do your part by reducing your carbon footprint and opting for a more sustainable way of life.
However, society and those responsible for the highest amounts of emissions will need to make changes. Our planet requires direct action. Experts say carbon emissions need to drop by 45% or more by 2030. Luckily, the movement is more active than ever, shifting society in that direction.
With this action and more, you can be a part of helping provide the Earth with a better future.
KEEP READING: How to Improve Energy Efficiency in Buildings