Greenhouse Gases

What is the Greenhouse Effect?

Although most of the Earth’s atmosphere is made up of oxygen and nitrogen, a small part of it is made up carbon, methane and nitrous oxide that work like a blanket around the Earth, trapping in heat that radiates off the surface of the planet.  Like the glass in a greenhouse, they trap the energy beneath it.  Without these greenhouse gases, the Earth would be a frozen ball in space.  Since these elements have a direct impact on the temperature of the planet, a change in the balance of the elements results in a change in climate.

 

                                   greenhouse-effect

 

The vast majority of climate scientists agree that human activity has significantly contributed to or caused the current warming trends being experienced on our planet today.  One of the major contributors is the burning of fossil fuels.

 

Why is burning fuel bad for the planet?

Fossil fuels earned their name based on their formation from fossilized organic matter compressed by the Earth’s crust for 300-400 millions of years.  The organic matter was comprised of lush, prehistoric plant materials and algae, all rich in carbon.  Therefore, burning fossil fuels releases this carbon into the atmosphere.  An excess of carbon in the atmosphere alters the natural balance, increases the greenhouse effect and results in warming the planet.

 

How do trees reduce the greenhouse effect?

Trees absorb carbon – acting as nature’s purifier.  Cutting down trees not only eliminates the number of trees absorbing carbon, but since carbon is stored in their trunks, cutting them actually releases this carbon into the atmosphere as well.  Deforestation is the massive clearing of the Earth’s forests.  Swaths the size of Panama are lost each year.

                           trees

How much carbon in the atmosphere is “safe”?

“Scientists say that 350 parts per million in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity” according to www.350.org.  In 2013, we reached 400 – find out more about what this means by clicking here.

 

Increased humidity

The warming of the planet causes the temperature of the ocean to rise and water to evaporate.  This not only creates a more humid global climate, but also puts more water into the atmosphere which increases the greenhouse effect.

 

Ocean acidification

The ocean absorbs about 25% of the carbon that we put into the atmosphere.  Since the industrial revolution, carbon levels have significantly increased, resulting in a chemical change of the ocean’s seawater called “Ocean Acidification”.  A more acidic ocean could wipe out species, disrupt the food web and impact fishing and tourism. 

                                   ocean acidification