Greenhouse effect definition

The greenhouse effect, also known as greenhouse, is a phenomenon of global warming, consisting in the retention of a certain amount of heat emitted to the atmosphere. This is caused by the increase in the content of gases: mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), freons, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). The greenhouse effect is also indirectly influenced by other gases generated during combustion, eg carbon monoxide (CO), other nitrogen oxides (NO2, NO), hydrocarbons. On the one hand, these gases pass a band of ultraviolet UV waves, on the other hand they absorb infrared radiation, thus preventing the escape of atmospheric heat into space. This process is similar to the one in a greenhouse or in a car left in the sun. The increase in CO2 and other greenhouse gases may therefore increase the Earth’s temperature to a dangerous level, which in the end may contribute to climate change. The increase in temperature can result in huge changes in the global structure and intensity of precipitation. Researchers estimate that the Earth’s surface temperature may rise by 2100 by around 1-3.5 ° C.


What are greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gas is a gaseous component of the atmosphere that is one of the causes of the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases prevent the emission of infrared radiation from the planet, absorbing it and returning it to the atmosphere, as a result of which the surface temperature increases. In the Earth’s atmosphere they are present both as a result of natural processes and as a result of human activity.


The greenhouse gases on Earth include:

* water vapor (the most common greenhouse gas in the atmosphere)

* carbon dioxide (CO2)

* methane (CH4)

* Freons (CFCs)

* nitrous oxide (N2O)

* halon

* industrial gases (HFC, PFC, SF6)



The impact of gas on the greenhouse effect depends on its ability to absorb infrared radiation and the concentration of this gas in the atmosphere. For example, methane, more than carbon dioxide, absorbs infrared radiation, but its amount in the atmosphere is smaller, which results in a smaller impact of this gas on the greenhouse effect.


Greenhouse effect consequences

The greenhouse effect and global warming can cause a number of serious consequences:

* raising the sea level by about 0.5 m and flooding of very populated areas, e.g. in the Netherlands, in the Mississippi basin or in Bangladesh;

* more frequent and more violent occurrence of such phenomena as hurricanes or floods;

* higher temperatures can improve the conditions for agriculture in the central and northern parts of Europe and Canada, but they will now dry up the fertile land, for example in Southeast Asia or in the USA;

* tropical diseases, such as malaria, can spread to the north and south.

The effect of generating greenhouse gases, in addition to the combustion of organic fuels, are also: forest cutting, savannah fires (loss of carbon dioxide absorption capacity) and agriculture, which is a source of methane from rice cultivation and cattle farming.


Greenhouse effect and global warming

In the scientific community, the view prevails that changes in the greenhouse effect caused by human activity are the main factor affecting the rise of temperature on Earth. The average increase in air temperature in 1906-2005, close to the Earth’s surface, was 0.74 ± 0.18 ° C (1.33 ± 0.32 ° F) per century. According to the 4th IPCC Report, insulation with over 90% probability is caused by human activity, and the impact of natural factors was estimated at 5%. The basic conclusions of the IPCC were supported by at least thirty academic associations and academies, including all national academies of science of the G8 countries.

Some scientists question human impact on climate change. A suggested alternative explanation of the global temperature rise since the industrial revolution is, for example, the effect of solar activity. In addition, skeptics evoke historic warmer and colder periods in the pre-industrial era [29]. These conclusions have been questioned by scientists who consider the anthropogenic impact to be key.