The so-called greenhouse effect is necessary for all life on Earth. It contributes to absorbing the heat of the sun in the atmosphere. Thereby it heats 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 lead to a warmer climate. Therefore, human activities that release greenhouse gases have led to global warming. Hence the climate changecrisis.
How does the greenhouse effect work?
The phenomenon gets its name because it works like a greenhouse. Namely, the sun’s radiation hits the surface of the Earth and gets reflected 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 is causing instability in the Earth’s climate. As mentioned, they get released through human activity, such as industries. Another example is the burning of fossil fuels. This activity releases large amounts of GHG that can stay in the air for a long time.
As mentioned, greenhouse gases create the greenhouse effect. They lead to a warm temperature on planet Earth. CO2 is the most common gas mentioned when concerning climate change. For example, CO2 gets emitted through the breathing of plants, animals and humans. Another important gas for the greenhouse effect is nitrous oxide. The gas is also known as laughing gas. It is extremely powerful and up to 300 times better at trapping the heat from the sun than CO2. Luckily, nitrous oxide is not released as much as the latter.
Furthermore, water vapour is also a greenhouse gas. It stands for about 2/3 of the natural greenhouse effect. In contrast, CO2 is responsible for between 1/4 and 1/7 of the heating. More so, gases such as nitrous oxide and methane stand for about 1 % each.