The discussion on greenhouse effects revolves around the debate whether it is truly harmful to us or whether it is an essential element in providing a sustainable environment for us. There is a side that argues that without greenhouse gases, it would not be possible to maintain the atmosphere required to sustain life on Earth. On the other hand, there is a side arguing that the greenhouse effect is ultimately a hazard created by man and is putting our lives in danger. Before forming an opinion on the actual impact of the greenhouse effect, it is necessary to understand exactly what it is and why it is important to us.
What is “natural greenhouse effect”?
Simply defined, the greenhouse effect is the trapping of the heat radiated onto the Earth’s surface by the sun by various gases present in the atmosphere. This process is quite similar to how the glass walls of a greenhouse prevent the heat from escaping the atmosphere. While heat can easily get inside, it cannot escape from the structure.
The gases majorly responsible for the greenhouse effect include:
- Water vapor,
- Carbon dioxide
- Nitrous oxide
- Ozone among others.
They are together called greenhouse gases. However, nitrogen and oxygen, which constitute the majority of the Earth’s atmosphere, are both not greenhouse gases.
Here is a list of several other greenhouse gases that are commonly found in the earth’s atmosphere.
- Chlorodifluoromethane (CHClF2),
- Dichlorodifluoromethane (CCl2F2), commonly referred to as Freon-12,
- Tetrafluoromethane (CF4)
The temperature of a planet is to a great extent determined by the amount of greenhouse effect that happens on the planet via these greenhouse gases. For example, Venus has a high temperature due to the high presence of greenhouse effect while Mars gets its super cold surface temperatures due to having no greenhouse effect.
How does the greenhouse effect work?
- Electromagnetic radiation of different wavelengths from the sun passes through the Earth’s atmosphere.
- The Earth absorbs the electromagnetic radiation with short wavelengths, which are responsible for the earth warming up.
- High wavelength infrared radiation is radiated from the earth surface.
- Part of the infrared rays radiated is absorbed by the greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere.
- As a result of this, the atmosphere begins to warm up.
Greenhouse Gases – The Hero of the Story
It is common knowledge that greenhouse gases cause global warming via the greenhouse effect. But people do not realize that these greenhouse gases are also responsible for sustaining life on Earth.
Let’s see how:
Greenhouse Gases as Barrier-Filter:
The greenhouse gases causing the greenhouse effect work as a barrier-filter for the atmosphere. The sun radiates solar energy on the earth and greenhouse gases make sure that 45% of these harmful solar radiations do not reach the surface of the planet by bouncing back most of the damaging UV radiation back into space.
Greenhouse Gases Maintain Ideal Temperature:
Greenhouse gases help maintain an ideal habitable temperature on the earth surface. The reason Earth is habitable is due to the fact that the temperature level on Earth is maintained at an ideal level. This makes it possible for humans, plants, animals and other organisms to thrive. It is thanks to the greenhouse gases that the Earth is warm enough to achieve this ideal temperature. Without them, the Earth’s surface would have ended up being a lot cooler than its current temperature.
Greenhouse Gases and Ozone:
Ozone is one of the most crucial greenhouse gases. It is also the only gas that can prevent harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Without the Ozone layer, UV rays could easily reach the surface and cause widespread damage, including various skin diseases.
Greenhouse Gases Maintain Water Level:
It is thanks to the greenhouse effect that the Earth is able to maintain the water levels that exist on the surface. The planet has not melted completely due to the moderate temperature that exists on it. The polar ice caps also remain restricted to just the two polar regions of the Earth.
Agriculture and Greenhouse Gases:
The greenhouse effect has enabled human agriculture practices to overcome the boundation of climate.
- Greenhouse gases allow farmers to grow seasonal crops whenever they want to.
- Greenhouse gases with the variations in temperatures synthetically create whichever season the farmer chooses.
- Help in heating water.
Hence, the greenhouse effect has helped maintain the perfect balance between the amount of absorbed energy and the amount of reflected energy in the atmosphere. However, it is due to the sudden increase in the use of fossil fuel since the industrial revolution that there has been an alarming rise in the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere of the Earth like carbon dioxide by 40%. This has led to the increase in the amount of energy absorbed and trapped in the atmosphere. This is also the reason for the anomaly termed as ‘global warming’ to come into being.
How do you approach a paper on the Advantages of the Greenhouse Effect?
The discussion of environmental issues is increasingly gaining relevance and with it its importance in the academic sphere. The advantages of the greenhouse effect have become a regularly given topic in various academic spheres. If you have to prepare an assignment on the same, you should research every aspect from what the effect really is, how it can affect life and the positive effects it can bring about. It is always best to list the causes of greenhouse effects and the advantages it brings in separate points. It can help to elaborate on the recent developments on the same.
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