What Is The Greenhouse Effect?

greenhouse effect

If we talk about the changes that the planet has undergone in the last century, without a doubt the most serious is the greenhouse effect. This is a natural process that occurs when solar radiation is absorbed by some gases in the atmosphere and is returned to the inner surface of the planet, resulting in an increase in average temperature.

This phenomenon is so called because it is similar to what occurs inside a greenhouse to increase the temperature. It is necessary to understand that the natural greenhouse effect makes life possible in our world, allowing us to maintain an adequate and pleasant temperature for living beings, retaining part of the sun’s energy and releasing another part into space.

But currently this balance is in danger due to human practices, mainly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, which have altered this process causing global warming due to the excess of insulating gases that are concentrated in the atmosphere and cannot return to space. , causing climate change.

Causes of the greenhouse effect.

The main causes of this effect are carbon dioxide and methane gas. Although these gases have always existed naturally on the planet, their presence in the atmosphere has increased by at least 35% with the use of fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil since the years of the industrial revolution, and it is estimated that the emissions of these gases into the atmosphere continue to increase each year by an average of 0.4%, causing serious damage to the Earth and life on it.

The effects can be more dire if our energy model is not changed and we stop abusing natural resources and destroying our ecosystems with excessive air, soil and water pollution.

In the last hundred years the average temperature in the world has increased by 0.7º C, but for 40 years the increase per decade has been about 0.15º C. In the event that the temperature continues to rise and becomes outside the adequate levels for the planet, the level of the oceans will continue to rise until it floods large regions of inhabited land and, furthermore, the climatic conditions will be unbearable for human beings.

The results left so far by the greenhouse effect are the melting of the polar ice caps, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, prolonged droughts, desertification, and deforestation, are part of the problems generated by this phenomenon.

Types of greenhouse gases.

  • Water vapor (H2O).
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • Methane (CH4).
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O).
  • Ozone (O3).
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Human activity generates emissions of four long-term greenhouse gases: CO2, CH4, N2O and halocarbons or Chlorofluorocarbons.

Consequences of the greenhouse effect.

  • The forecast that the average temperature of the Earth will increase 0.2 ºC every ten years.
  • Reduction of glaciers worldwide, which will increase the sea level.
  • The rise in the level of the seas and oceans will lead to flooding in some areas near the sea or on islands.
  • Ecosystems will be negatively affected, those that cannot adapt will end up becoming extinct.
  • Droughts and water evaporation will increase, which will change the climate of some areas, turning once fertile areas into deserts.
  • Droughts and increased water evaporation will inevitably affect agriculture in some areas.


In response, in 1997 the United Nations (UN) promoted the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in Japan. In this, the most industrialized countries that cause most of the planet’s pollution commit to adopt measures to minimize emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases by at least 5.2%, however, some countries have refused to consider that the measure would harm their economies.

For this, a kind of division of the atmosphere is made by country and each one has a maximum pollution “permit”, calculated according to the case of each nation. Until now, the Kyoto Protocol is the only international agreement to face and minimize the impact of the greenhouse effect.

This protocol aims to raise awareness and encourage governments to establish laws to meet the objective and that industries and companies are also required to have a responsibility towards the environment.

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