The Greenhouse Effect

One of the most talked about atmospheric phenomenon of the past few decades is the greenhouse effect, and the connection between this and the global warming crisis is worthy of explanation. Although there has been an element of controversy surrounding the greenhouse effect – particularly in relation to man’s influence on the overall result – there is no doubt that there is a notable change in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere and the oceans, and it is essential that we understand what is happening, and what the future effects may be.

What is the Greenhouse Effect ?

The easiest way to explain the greenhouse effect is to begin with the causes. When certain gases – known as ‘greenhouse gases’ – gather in the atmosphere in greater than natural quantities the effect is a magnification of the hat on the surface of the earth. While solar radiation – that provided by the sun – is the primary cause of the heat, it is that which is radiated away from the planet’s surface and caught by the greenhouse gases which prevent it from being evenly distributed that is main problem. As some of this surface heat is directed back to earth the natural effect is of increased temperatures on earth. This affects both the land and, a more pressing problem for now, the oceans too. Consider that two thirds of the earth’s surface is water and it is easy to see how even the slightest change in the ocean’s temperature could have an effect, and this is before we go into the problems of rising sea levels.

What are the end results ?

We touched on the rising sea levels – brought about by heating of the oceans and the subsequent melting of the colossal ice caps at the north and south poles, something that we are observing with alarming frequency in the 21st century – yet it is important to see the effect this could have, especially on low lying countries. Some heavily populated areas are already at a high level of risk of flooding, and any rise in sea levels could be catastrophic. Furthermore, an increase in global temperatures could easily change the infrastructure of our eco-system and lead to crop failure and even more pressing problems, as well as dangerous change in the weather systems.

What are we doing about it ?

There are initiatives in place across the world to reduce the use of fossil fuels – coal and oil especially are known to be producers of greenhouse gases – in an effort to reduce man’s impact on the greenhouse effect, and also there is a concerted effort to find renewable, green and safe fuels and powers sources to replace those. Wind, solar power, wave power and geo-thermal energy are just some of the possible power sources that we need to investigate to make sure the planet has a healthy future.