Global Warming and the Greenhouse Effect

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Global Warming and the Greenhouse Effect

Recently, global warming has moved to a serious scientific issue. Because sunlight is constantly falling on the earth, the law of physics say that the planet has to radiate the same amount of energy back into space. Infrared radiation is sent out by the earth through the atmosphere, where molecules (carbon dioxide) hold outgoing radiation for a while, warming the surface.1 The molecules are kind of like glass in a greenhouse which is why this process of warming is called the greenhouse effect.

The greenhouse effect has been operating since the beginning of time. Without the effect, the surface of the earth would be -20 degrees Celsius, oceans would have frozen, and there would be no life on earth. The Washington Post has reported that the earth is warmer than it has been in 1,200 years.2 Recently, the summer of 1999 set records for heat in much of the United States. The average world temperature has increased one degree Fahrenheit over the last 120 years, making the world hotter than it has been in 100,000 years. From the beginning of the industrial revolution, concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased by 30%, concentrations of methane have doubled, and nitrous oxide has risen by 15%. The increases of these chemicals have enhanced the heat trapping capability of the atmosphere of the earth. Sulfate aerosols, cool the atmosphere because they reflect light back into space, but sulfates do not live long in the atmosphere.

Scientists still do not know what exactly is heating up the earth. Some say the earth is going through a natural cycle because the earth has gone through cold periods as well as hot periods. Mounting evidence is saying that humans are to blame for the rise in temperatures over the past 120 years. When we burn fossil fuel, oil, gasoline, and natural gas to run power plants, cars, and heat homes, we produce carbon dioxide. An increase in carbon dioxide magnifies the greenhouse effect. All this energy accounts for 80% of society’s carbon dioxide emissions, 25% of methane emissions, and 20% of nitrous oxide emissions. In 1994, the U.S. emitted one fifth of all the greenhouse gases in the earth. Carbon dioxide amounts are now 360 parts per million today, verses 315 per million parts in 1958, when modern technology started, and 270 per million parts in pre-industrial times. Sc...

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...mate change means at a local and regional level.

Deforestation is another issue that is often discussed as a problem contributing to global warming that can easily be stopped. Deforestation has many negative effects such as ecological imbalance, bio-diversity loss, and climate change. Most areas in which deforestation is a problem are located in 3rd world countries. Deforestation leads to a massive extinction of species as well as vascular plant species, such as trees. When this happens, atmospheric carbon dioxide is increased because the carbon in forests is higher than in the agricultural areas which replace them.

In conclusion, global warming is an increase of the Earth’s surface temperature and the Earth’s lower atmosphere. Atmospheric greenhouse gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases) trap outgoing energy, and retain heat like the glass panels in a greenhouse. Many people believe that humans are causing the problem with emissions from things such as cars and trucks. Others say that the warming is just part of a trend and that the world goes through warm and cold periods. If the planet continues to warm, there could be many harmful side effects.
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