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The so called greenhouse effect is needed for all life on planet earth. It contributes to absorbing the heat of the sun in the atmosphere. Thereby it heats up the planet to a temperature that is perfect for life. It works by gases absorbing the radiation from the sun. These are called greenhouse gases. However, too many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leads to a warmer climate. Therefore, human activities that release greenhouse gases have led to global warming. Hence the climate change crisis.

How does the greenhouse effect work?

The effect is called as it is because it works like a greenhouse. Namely, the suns radiation hits the surface of the earth and is reflected back by the albedo effect. This reflection and the heat it carries would have gone out to space if it hadn’t been for the greenhouse gases (GHG). These gases, such as CO2 and methane, absorb the heat. The trapped warmth contributes to the greenhouse effect.

Greenhouse gases exist naturally in the atmosphere. Therefore they are a part of natural processes. Just like when trees breathe in and out CO2. However, the rising amount of greenhouse gases are causing instability in the earths climate. As mentioned, they are released through human activity, such as industries. Another example is the burning of fossil fuels. This activity releases large amouts of GHG that can stay in the air for a very long time.

Greenhouse gases

As mentioned, greenhouse gases are the gases that create the greenhouse effect. They lead to a warm temperature on planet earth. CO2 is the most common gas mentioned in relation to climate change. This is a very common gas, created in the breathing of plants, animals and humans.

Another important gas for the greenhouse effect is the nitrous oxide. This gas is also known as the laughing gas. This gas is extremely powerful. In fact, it is up to 300 times better at trapping the heat from the sun than CO2. Luckily, nitrous oxide is not released as much as CO2.

Water vapour is also a greenhouse gas. It stands for about 2/3 of the natural greenhouse effect. More so, about half of the greenhouse effect happens due to water vapour. While CO2 is responsible for between 1/4 and 1/7 of the effect. While gases such as nitrous oxide and methane stand for about 1 % each.


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