What is greenhouse effect

greenhouse effect

Introduction

Greenhouse gases are those gasses present in the earth’s atmosphere that help to trap the heat received by the sun.

The greenhouse effect is a natural process where certain gasses in Earth’s atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, etc, trap and retain heat from the sun, preventing it from escaping back into space. This trapped heat warms the planet, maintaining temperatures suitable for life. However, human activities such as deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, etc have increased the concentration of these greenhouse gasses, contributing to global warming and climate change.

Components of greenhouse gas effect

The primary components of the greenhouse effect are as follows-

  • Carbon Dioxide(CO2)

Among the greenhouse gasses CO2 is the most abundant contributing maximum (60%) to the greenhouse effect. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm(parts per million) to about 368 ppm in 2000. This has been largely the result of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, and changes in land use. CO2 persists for 5 to 200 years in the atmosphere.

  • Methane(CO4)

It is another greenhouse gas whose concentration has tremendously increased since pre-industrial times. It was 700 ppb in the year 1750 and has reached 1800 in the year 2000. Methane is largely a product of incomplete decomposition and is produced by a large group of bacteria called methanogens. The major sources are flooded rice fields, freshwater wetlands, etc. methane persists for 12 years in the atmosphere.

  • Chlorofluorocarbons(CFCS)

These are non-toxic and non-flammable, highly stable, and synthetic gaseous compounds that were synthesized during the 20th century, and their concentration in the atmosphere has increased. It was approximately 282 ppt in 2000. The major sources are leaking air conditioners, refrigerators, production of plastic foams, etc, the chlorofluorocarbons persist for 45 to 260 years or more in the atmosphere.

  • Nitrous oxide(N2O)

The concentration of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere has increased from approx. 270 ppb in pre-industrial time to approx. 316 ppb in recent times. The main sources of nitrous

oxide are agriculture, biomass burning, and industrial processes.

How does this work

The atmosphere covered around the earth acts like a window glass pane. Gasses like carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen play a crucial role in moderating the Earth’s atmosphere. This is because these gasses are relatively transparent to incoming visible light from the sun, but also absorb the heat radiation given off by the ground and objects exposed to the sun.

As a result, they produce a heating of the atmosphere by what is known as the greenhouse effect. Without the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and the resulting greenhouse effect, the Earth’s average surface temperature would have been 18ºC to 20ºC, but due to the current scenario earth is getting warmer day by day.

Impact on climate change

Greenhouse effects have some very negative effects on climate. They are-

  • Global warming

Average global temperatures are rising causing changes in weather patterns and intense heat waves.

  • Sea level rise

Melting of ice caps and glaciers along with the expansion of seawater as it warms, contribute to rising sea levels, threatening coastal areas.

  • Severe weather and climate

Climate change is linked to an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, including hurricanes, droughts, floods and wildfires.

  • Ocean acidification

Absorption of excess carbon dioxide by oceans leads to acidification which affects marine ecosystems.

Impact on humans

The greenhouse effect has an impact on human lives also. They are mentioned as

  1. The climate changes are affecting humans differently.
  2. Countries having large populations in coastal areas face huge flooding risks.
  3. The direct effects of greenhouse gasses are health risks.
  4. This includes injuries and illness from severe weather, floods, heat exposure, increase in disease caused by allergies, respiratory problems etc.
  5. Increased temperature causes eruption of plant diseases and pests, explosive growth of weeds and increased basal rate of respiration plants causing a shortage in food security.

How to reduce the greenhouse gas effect?

A few ways to reduce greenhouse gas effects are as follows-

  • Use of renewable energy

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by limiting the use of fossil fuels and by developing alternative renewable sources of energy like solar energy, wind energy, etc.

  • Afforestation

Increasing the vegetation cover, particularly the forests, for photosynthetic utilization of carbon dioxide.

  • Sustainable agriculture

Adopting farming practices like agroforestry, and reducing deforestation can help minimize greenhouse gas effects.

  • Waste reduction and recycling

Reduce, reuse, and recycle materials to lower emissions associated with the production, transportation, and disposal of goods.

  • Use of public transport

Encouraging the use of public transportation like cycling, walking, and usage of electric vehicles to refuse emissions.

Natural greenhouse effect VS enhanced greenhouse effects

  • Natural greenhouse effect

It is the natural greenhouse gasses such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and others trapping some of the sun’s energy in the earth’s atmosphere.

  • Enhanced greenhouse effect

This is a human human-induced increase in the greenhouse effect trapping more heat and leading to global warming. Human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, etc lead to this (1)

Q&A

1. What is the greenhouse effect’s simple definition?

The process by which the sun’s heat is trapped near the earth’s surface by greenhouse gases is called the greenhouse effect.

2. What is the greenhouse effect of global warming?

The excessive burning of fossil fuels such as petrol, coal, etc results in an increase in the number of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere resulting in the excessive heating of the earth causing global warming.

3. What are the causes of the greenhouse effect?

The main causes of the greenhouse effect are greenhouse gasses such as

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Methane
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Chlorofluorocarbons
  • Water vapor

4. What does the greenhouse effect stand for?

Earth’s atmosphere keeps much of the sun’s energy from escaping into space. This process, called the greenhouse effect, keeps the planet warm enough for life to exist.

Summary

  • The greenhouse effect is a natural process where certain gasses in Earth’s atmosphere trap and retain heat from the sun.
  • The greenhouse effect plays a crucial role in sustaining life on Earth.
  • The greenhouse gasses are namely carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, CFC, etc.
  • However human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation have increased the greenhouse effect.
  • This heightened effect contributes to global warming, climate change, rising sea levels, and disruption of ecosystems.
  • Efforts like reducing emissions, transitioning to renewable energy, deforestation, etc can reduce the effects of the greenhouse effect.

References

  • Binay Karna.Lucent general knowledge.Lucent publication, Patna.Chapter 04- Environment, Page no:191-195.
  • Arun Shankar pal.Higher secondary Geography.New Book Syndicate, Kolkata.Chapter 8- Climate change, Page no-108-109.
  • Anuj Baran Sarkar.Higher secondary Geography.Oriental Book Company Pvt. Ltd., Kolkata, Chapter 5.4.4-Role of human beings on world climatic change, Page no-122-128.

Written By: Ankita Gangopadhaya

About Dr. Asha Jyoti 376 Articles
Greetings, lovely folks! 🌿 I'm Dr. Asha, a plant enthusiast with a PhD in biotechnology, specializing in plant tissue culture. Back in my scholar days at a university in India, I had the honor of teaching wonderful master's students for more then 5 years. It was during this time that I realized the importance of presenting complex topics in a simple, digestible manner, adorned with friendly diagrams. That's exactly what I've aimed for with my articles—simple, easy to read, and filled with fantastic diagrams. Let's make learning a delightful journey together on my website. Thank you for being here! 🌱.