Essay on Greenhouse Effect: Causes, Problems, Effects and Prevention
The process by which radiation from a planet’s atmosphere warms its surface to a temperature which exceeds the normal temperature of the planet is called greenhouse effect. If a planet’s atmosphere contains greenhouse gases, the atmosphere will radiate the energy in various directions. Some part of this radiation will be towards the surface, making it warm. The downward component of the radiation, which is the strength of the greenhouse effect will depend on the atmosphere’s temperature and amount of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere.
The earth’s atmosphere is warmed by absorbing infrared thermal radiation from the sun. The greenhouse gases which are present in the atmosphere radiate energy, some of which is directed to the surface and lower atmosphere. The mechanism which produces this difference between the actual surface temperature and effective temperature is due to the temperature, knows as greenhouse effect.
The natural greenhouse effect of the earth is critical to support life. Human activities such as burning the fossil fuels and clearing the forests have made an intense impact on natural greenhouse effect, leading to global warming.
History of Greenhouse Effect
The term greenhouse effect was first used by atmospheric scientists in early 1800s. The existence of greenhouse effect was brought up by Joseph Fourier in 1824. In 1896, the effect was fully qualified by Svante Arrhenius, who made the first quantitative prediction of global warming because of a hypothetical doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. At the time, it was used to describe the naturally occurring functions of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere, and did not have any negative subtexts. It was not until the mid 1950s that greenhouse effect was teamed with concern for climate change.
Greenhouse gases that cause Greenhouse Effect
The major gases which contribute to the greenhouse effect on earth are as follows:-
- Water vapor 36-70%
- Carbon dioxide 9-26%
- Methane 4-9%
- Ozone 3-7%
The below mentioned activities release gases which prove to be harmful for the planet. Following are the six major greenhouses which play a lead role in the greenhouse effect and global warming:-
1. Carbon dioxide (CO2)
It is a naturally occurring gas, produced by living organisms and fermentation. Carbon dioxide which is emitted from fuel burning is responsible for approx 87% of global warming, and has alarmingly increased by 27% since the industrial revolution.
2. Methane (CH4)
Methane is a naturally occurring inflammable gas which is produced by decomposition of organic matters and geological coal formations. The landfills hole the major credit to release methane, which adds up into the atmosphere and leads the global warming.
3. Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
Nitrogen oxides are naturally occurring from microbial action present in the soil. It is also produced by burning of fuels. Due to the increased use of nitrogen based fertilizers and catalytic converters in automobiles, the production of nitrogen oxides has raised, thus disturbing the ecosystem balance.
4. Hydrofluorocarbon gases (HFCs)
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), coolant, cleaning and propellant gases were blacklisted internationally due to its harmful effect on the ozone layer. HFCs also play a crucial part in global warming, and are 4,000 to 10,000 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.
5. Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)
Very low atmospheric concentration can make it a good test gas for gas concentration monitors. SF6 is a man-made gas used in water leakage detection for cable cooling systems and insulating materials for high voltage equipment.
6. Perfluorocrbons (PFCs)
PFCs are man-made replacement gases for CFCs, but they also result as a by-product of aluminum smelting. They are also used as a purging agent for semi conductor manufacturing. They cause severe damage to the atmosphere too.
What does increased greenhouse gases indicate?
The increase in greenhouse gases directly increases the heat on the planet’s surface and lower atmosphere. It has a dangerous effect as it can reduce or even create holes in the ozone layer. Due to this, harmful rays such as ultra violet rays can seep in though the thin areas and cause damage on earth.
What are the causes of greenhouse effect?
1. Burning the fossil fuels
Fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil are an integral part of our lives, the elements which play a vital role in daily routines. The most important use of fossil fuels occurs in producing electricity and transportation. On burning the fossil fuels, the carbon dioxide stored inside them is released, which combines with oxygen in the air, resulting in production of carbon dioxide. As the population is increasing, the numbers of vehicles have made a high leap too. Due to this, the pollution has increased in the atmosphere. As these vehicles run, carbon dioxide is released, which is one of the main gases responsible for increase in greenhouse effect.
Electricity related emissions are high because we are still dependant on coal for generating electricity, which releases a huge amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Since it is the primary source of generating electricity, the loss of fossil fuels is massive, due to which the global warming has increased.
A major section of the land on our earth is covered by the forests. They are very important for a sustainable life on earth, as plants give out oxygen and inhale the carbon dioxide. Thus, the ecosystem is balanced due to the presence of trees. Sadly, large scale development of the urban landscapes has resulted in depletion of green cover of the earth. Forests are now being burnt down or chopped off to build concrete buildings instead. On burning the wood, the stored carbon is converted back to carbon dioxide, which adds up into the atmosphere, increasing the pollution.
3. Industrial waste and landfills
Various industries which are involved in cement production, fertilizers, extraction of oil, coal mining activities etc produce harmful greenhouse gases. Also, landfills filled with garbage produce carbon dioxide and methane, which play a major role in the greenhouse effect.
4. Population rise
Increase in population over the decades has led to high demand for food, clothing and shelter. Machines used in our daily lives such as air conditioners also exhale harmful gases, which contribute to the greenhouse effect. Also, more number of people means more usage of fossil fuels, which has made the situations much worse.
What are the harmful effects of greenhouse effect?
The adverse effects of greenhouse effect are alarming. They are already being experienced on the earth now, and can go much adverse changes in the near future. The major harmful effects of greenhouse effect are listed below:
- Melting of polar ice caps
One of the major threats currently to earth is the melting of ice caps. It is a four pronged threat: -
- The sea levels will rise. There is more than 5,773,000 cubic miles of water present in form of ice caps, glaciers and permanent snow. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, if all of the glaciers met, the sea level would rise by 230 feet! This will not happen all at once, but the levels will rise certainly, submerging the low-lying areas.
- The balance of the global ecosystem will be affected. The fresh water stored in the ice caps will desalinate the ocean as they melt. The desalination in the gulf current will play a negative impact on the ocean currents, which regulate temperatures. It will be difficult to draw a pattern of warming and cooling in some areas.
- Warmer water and stronger hurricanes will be more frequent than now. Due to the rise in oceans’ temperature, the probability of frequent and stronger hurricanes may also become a threat.
- Weather patterns will continue to change. Most of the regions that are currently subjected to droughts will face much challenging conditions. The wet region will get wetter too. Mountain glaciers and snow caps will further shrink which will jeopardize many water supply systems. These negative changes have already begun to show their impact in some parts of the world.
- Ecosystems will be stressed due the impact of greenhouse effect and global warming. Flora and fauna will be massively affected. The animals which cannot adapt to the climatic changes will extinct over the time, thus misbalancing the ecosystem balance. A variety of pests and tropical diseases are expected to sprout in the warmer regions. Valuable species especially in the arctic will be the worst affected.
Evidence to the changes in earth’s climate: Global Warming
The effects of greenhouse effect and global warming have already started showing up in some parts of the world. Situations are predicted to get much worse. Some of the observations recorded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are as follows: -
- Eleven out of twelve warmest years since 1850 occurred between 1996 and 2006. Average global temperatures have risen by approximately 0.74C between 1906 and 2005. This rise in temperature is widespread throughout the world, but higher at the northern latitudes.
- Sea levels have increased during the same period. Since 1961, the average rate has been 1.8 mm per year, but has now further increased to 3.1 mm per year since 1993.
- Some of the climate changes agencies from the United States have reported that the oceans all over the world are getting warmer at a rate much higher than predicted. The warming has occurred approximately 50% faster over that last century, than it was calculated previously.
A number of human activities contribute to the greenhouse effect, which has brought us to the alarming situations today. If continued without taking precautions to save the earth, the situations are going to be worse. Some of the human activities which produce greenhouse gases are as follows: -
- Fuel combustion
- Vehicle transport and automobiles
- Energy industries
- Use of oil and natural gas
- Metal production manufacturing industries and construction
- Fugitive emissions from fuels
- Mineral products
- Chemical industries
- Production of halocarbons
- Solvent and other product use
- Consumption of halocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride
- Production of halocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride
- Enteric fermentation
- Rice cultivation
- Agricultural soils
- Prescribes burning of savannas
- Solid waste disposal on land
- Wastewater handling
- Waste incineration
- Field burning of agricultural residues
What preventive should be taken against greenhouse effect?
It would not be late today if we take an initiative to make the earth a reliable place to live in. to reduce the harmful effects of greenhouse gases on the earth and atmosphere, change must be brought in our daily routine and lifestyles. Here are some of the best suggestive steps to keep in mind to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:-
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Following the three Rs in your daily life can make a difference too. Buying products with minimal packaging will help in reducing waste. Through recycling half of your household waste, 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide can be saved from adding up in the atmosphere.
- Use less air condition and heat
Following these tips can help you cut down on your heating costs: -
- By adding insulation to the walls, installing caulking or weather stripping around doors and windows.
- Lower the heat while sleeping and keep the temperature moderate all the time.
- Installing a programmable thermostat can save a large amount of carbon dioxide from being released. By setting it just 2 degrees lower during winter and higher in summer can save approx. 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
- Replace the light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lights
It is better to use compact fluorescent light (CFL) than the usual light bulbs. By replacing just one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a CFL, over $30 will be saved over the life of the bulb. Also, the CFL gives off 70 percent less heat than the light bulbs and lasts 10 times longer than them too.
- Drive less and drive smart
Walking and biking are a great form of exercise. Not only they will keep you fit, but also make your contribution towards saving the planet, since less driving means lesser emissions. Every gallon of gas saved will keep 20 pounds of carbon dioxide away from the atmosphere.
- Use less hot water
Set your water heater at 120 degrees and wrap it in an insulating blanket if it is 15 years old. Also, use low flow showerheads to save hot water and approx 350 pounds of carbon dioxide every year.
- Buy energy efficient products
Home appliances now come in a wide range of energy efficient models, and compact fluorescent bulbs are designed to use much lesser amount of energy than the regular light bulbs.
- Plant a tree
Trees are the best solution to fight against the greenhouse effect and global warming. Not only they inhale carbon dioxide and release oxygen for us, plantation will also help in restoring the disturbed ecological balance.
- Use the ‘off’ switch
Save electricity and reduce global warming by using power only when you need it. Make a habit to switch off lights, television, computer and other electronic devices when they are not in use. Turn off the water tap when you do not need the water.
These simple steps will help you in reducing the energy usage and burning of fossil fuels. Less energy usage means less dependence on fossil fuels, which on burning contribute to the harmful greenhouse effect.
Greenhouse effect Essay Conclusion
Greenhouse effect and global warming are the biggest threat to human race and the biggest environmental challenge of 21st century that we need to tackle. It is important for all citizens to become fully aware of the causes and harmful consequences of greenhouse effect and global warming. The main culprits of greenhouse effect and global warming is the growing emission of harmful gases such as Methane, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide resulting from emissions of industrial activities, incomplete combustion of petrol and diesel from vehicles as well as growing emissions of CFCs from air conditioners. It is important for individuals to choose greener alternatives such as cycling, hybrid clean fuels and for industries and governments to choose environmental friendly production methods and energy sources. Immediate action on this greenhouse effect and global warming is necessary to tackle this environmental problem.
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