Greenhouse Effect


When one starts a car or burns wood, the last thought on their mind is the
consequences to these actions. Unfortunately, the daily dangers to earth are not
widely know. Due to the constant change of society, this planet must cope with
various problems. One of the most important ecological structures is the ozone
layer. The same shield that protects us from the sun’s deadly radiation, can
also act as a blanket engulfing us in heat. This situation is know as the
greenhouse effect. What is the greenhouse effect, what causes it, and what can
be done to control it?

The problem of global warming has been around for some time now. Though not
until recently has it become a priority. So important, that figures such as Vice
President Al Gore have spoken out. Many are realizing that the greenhouse effect
is not something to be put aside, yet rather something to be worked on and
studied. "The greenhouse effect displays that nature is not immune to our
presence" (Kralijic, 1992). Ways must be found to lessen the threat of this
growing crisis. If this effect were to continue and grow, the earth’s population
would be exposed to serious threats.

Carbon dioxide is essential for plants who use it for photosynthesis, yet too
much can lead to serious threats. The problem lies in the disruption of the
balance between how much carbon dioxide plants intake, and what our population
produces. If this natural filtering process is unbalanced, the atmosphere will
receive too much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Once these gases
form in the atmosphere, they act as barriers trapping in heat and warming the
earth.

This process is not new. In fact, without the greenhouse effect, the average
surface temperature of the earth would be about 59 Fahrenheit degrees lower than
it is today. "Long before civilization intervened , the thin blanket of gases
that surround the earth was efficiently trapping a tiny portion of the sun’s
heat and keeping it near the surface to warm up the air just enough to prevent
temperatures from plunging to frigid extremes every night- which, of course, is
exactly what happens on the moon and on planets like Mars that have very thin
atmospheres" (Gore, 1992).

The greenhouse effect received its name because the atmosphere of the earth acts
much like the glass roof on a greenhouse. Sunlight enters the greenhouse through
the glass as it heats up the plants. Then, the warmth is trapped as the glass
slows the withdraw of heat. Similarly, the earth’s atmosphere lets most of the
sun’s light enter and heat the surface. The earth then sends this energy, called
Infrared Radiation, back into the atmosphere (showed in the diagram on page 7).
This is when the actual effect takes place. Not all of the Infrared Radiation is
sent freely into space. Certain gases in the atmosphere absorb it and send it
back toward earth. Such gases are Carbon Dioxide, Ozone, and water vapor. As
stated earlier, this process becoming more important. Due to the burning of
fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, carbon dioxide is increasing
thus increasing the amplitude of the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect
would have disastrous on this planet’s population. "Climate changes will
threaten agriculture and our food supply, probably eliminating the Great Plains
or prairies of North America as a region in which crops may be grown, for
example. Also, melting of parts of the Antarctic ice sheet will cause flooding
of coastal cities such as London , New York, Beijing, Amsterdam, St. John’s,
Halifax, Vancouver , even Montreal and of entire countries, such as Bangladesh"
(Johnson, 1990). The greenhouse effect is not limited to certain countries or
states. The entire world will suffer if it is allowed to grow. "Some scientists
think that from the late 1990’s to the late 2000’s the amount of carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere could double. If this doubling were to occur, it would
intensify the greenhouse effect and result in an increase of 2.7 to 11
Fahrenheit degrees (1.5 to 6 Celsius degrees) in the earth’s average
temperature" (Gille, 1988). The results are real and quite intense. The outlook
is not good.

Something must be done quickly to slow the growth of the greenhouse effect. It
is not a hopeless situation. "Reverse your oxygen debt. The less fuel you burn
and the more oxygen-producing plants you grow, the more you will add oxygen to
the atmosphere and lower your output of greenhouse gases" (British Columbia
Medical Association, 1990). Solar power also plays a part in this. Although just
recently taking hold, solar power could