What causes the greenhouse effect? It is caused when the surface of the earth is warmed by water vapor and carbon dioxide and other trace gases in the atmosphere. The sun’s light gives heat to the earth’s surface and it is, in part radiated back into the atmosphere forming infrared radiation. This infrared radiation is absorbed by the molecules of carbon dioxide and water vapor and returned to the surface of the earth giving the surface of the earth more heat. The name greenhouse is in fact incorrect, since a true greenhouse is heated by the sun through panes of glass and is retained within the greenhouse and not emitted anywhere else.
The greenhouse effect can be made more intense with the use of fossil fuels, nitrous oxide and methane produced by human activity. It is assumed that human’s produce one fifth of all of the carbon dioxide and methane found in the atmosphere.
Global change has been going on for a long time but, as the various gases mix global temperatures fluctuate. What is different about the current global warming is that it is contributed to by human activity and at a faster rate. The actual consequences of global warming are not certain however, climate models predict such as loss of forestry, polar shifts and a decrease in vegetation and animal populations, changing sea levels and drought.
Greenhouse gasses and global warming is one and the same thing. Since the late nineteenth century scientists knew that changes in the climate, on a global scale, could happen with the change of the composition of atmospheric gasses. In 1824 the comparison of the greenhouse gasses to the actual greenhouse and its retention of heat through the sun’s heating of the greenhouse panels were first mentioned by a French scientist, hence, the beginning of the term “Greenhouse effect.” In 1899, it was thought that water vapor might create a positive feedback in changes with carbon dioxide and linking this to glacial changes in atmosphere. The interest in stopping the greenhouse effect has become political as every nation sets goals for the reduction of greenhouse gasses.