What does the greenhouse effect say? Definition and simple explanation:
Of the greenhouse effect describes the effect of various gases on the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. Depending on the causes and characteristics, a distinction is made between two types. The atmospheric or natural greenhouse effect forms the basis for a warm climate on earth that makes life possible in the first place. The burning of fossil energy sources by humans leads to the so-called anthropogenic greenhouse effectwhich, as the cause of global warming, leads to an unnatural rise in temperatures. Global warming is instrumental in changing and destroying ecosystems and extinction of various animal and plant species.
Basics of the atmospheric greenhouse effect
In the air surrounding the earth, the so-called atmosphere, there are different gaseous substances, which develop their effect on the incoming sunlight. These gases include carbon dioxide or CO2, Water vapor and methane. Carbon dioxide is emitted naturally in the course of forest fires, the exhalation of humans and animals, volcanic eruptions and the decomposition of plant material. It gets into the atmosphere, remains there for about one hundred years and is gradually degraded by the metabolism of the plants, the so-called photosynthesis. Methane is also produced as a by-product of the decomposition of organic material by bacteria and rises from forests and waters as well as from bogs and swamps. Water vapor, another important natural greenhouse gas, is released through the water cycle and also accumulates in the atmosphere of the earth. These gases are responsible for ensuring that some of the sun's ultraviolet radiation is not reflected on Earth, but is already retained in the atmosphere. These long-wave rays warm the earth and cause the average temperature to be around 18 degrees Celsius. This process is similar to the warming of a glasshouse, which gave it the name greenhouse effect.
The absence of natural greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, temperatures of up to minus 18 degrees Celsius on Earth, and colonization by humans, animals and plants would be completely impossible. The natural or atmospheric greenhouse effect therefore acts as a temperature regulator that provides ideal living conditions for flora and fauna.
The anthropogenic greenhouse effect and its causes
The natural greenhouse effect is further intensified by humans and thereby assumes unnatural proportions. Responsible for this are the CO2 emissions that occur when consuming fossil fuels such as oil, coal or natural gas. Especially since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the emission of carbon dioxide is steadily increasing. In addition to industry, people's everyday energy consumption, especially heating, the use of electricity and heavy traffic also causes high levels of carbon dioxide emissions. Large-scale deforestation in favor of agriculture and livestock farming are other important factors leading to a significant increase in greenhouse gases. Especially the CO formed by humans2 accumulates next to the natural CO2 in the atmosphere and confuses the delicate balance. Nature can no longer neutralize these amounts of greenhouse gases. The anthropogenic CO2 keeps larger amounts of UV rays and thus solar heat back. This can be compared to a glass house whose glass panes are thicker and therefore retain more solar heat inside. This anthropogenic greenhouse effect is considered to be the main cause of global warming and leads to the climate change that has different negative effects on the environment.
Consequences of the anthropogenic greenhouse effect
Global warming due to the man-made greenhouse effect is associated with climate change, which has devastating environmental consequences. The first signs of a major change in the Earth's ecosystem have already become clear. The decline and melting of polar ice and glaciers not only causes species extinctions in the affected regions, but also increases sea levels by a few centimeters every decade. The warming and overacidification of the oceans cause, especially in the tropics, a rapid decline in coral reefs, which provide an important habitat for countless species of animals. Equally threatened are the tropical rainforests of the highland plains, where dehydration caused by climate change poses a significant threat to flora and fauna. Extreme weather conditions such as prolonged dry spells and heavy rainfall are also a direct consequence of the anthropogenic greenhouse effect. Tropical storms, irregular monsoon periods and forest fires caused by the drought cause destruction to a great extent as well as considerable damage and loss in agriculture. Since the negative effects on the existence of man and nature are becoming increasingly apparent, the drastic reduction of greenhouse gases in recent decades has become the subject of international political aspirations.