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The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Greenhouse Effect

There’s a lot of discussion regarding greenhouse effects. While some people believe greenhouse effect is important for a sustainable environment, some believe it is responsible for putting our lives in danger. But what is this greenhouse effect, and why should we care? Before we can decide whether the impact of the greenhouse effect is beneficial or harmful, it is important to learn what it is and why the greenhouse effect is important.

What is a greenhouse?

A greenhouse is an air-tight glass building that is used extensively by commercial plant growers, gardeners and botanists to grow plants which otherwise would not survive cold weather. Greenhouse buildings are usually used in the countries with cooler climates.

Advantages of Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse buildings are made mostly of translucent material that offers plants in the building maximum access to sunlight. When the sunlight touches the solid surface inside the greenhouse, the surface absorbs some of the energy and converts it into heat (infrared energy).

While light can easily pass through the glass walls, the infrared energy (heat) cannot escape through the glass walls due to a longer wavelength. Being trapped inside the building, the heat warms the air inside the greenhouse and creates a favorable atmosphere for the plants inside the building.

There are several benefits of a greenhouse. Using this greenhouse advantage, we are growing various crops in an artificial atmosphere. Also, the solar powered water heaters are utilizing the greenhouse effect to warm up waters, saving 20-30% of the energy bills at home.

What is the natural “greenhouse effect?

Quite similar to the mechanism of greenhouse buildings, the earth’s atmosphere also cloaks the surface of the earth while allowing the sunlight to reach earth’s surface. While some energy is absorbed by the surface, the majority of the heat gets reflected. However, the greenhouse gases present in earth’s atmosphere reabsorb the reflected energy and direct it back to surface, keeping the planet’s atmosphere warm.

There are 5 major greenhouse gases that influence the greenhouse effect. They include:

  1. Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  2. Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
  1. Ozone (O3)
  2. Water vapor (H2O)

However, the list has several other greenhouse gases that are commonly found in earth’s atmosphere. Chlorodifluoromethane (CHClF2), Dichlorodifluoromethane (CCl2F2), commonly referred to as Freon-12, Tetrafluoromethane (CF4) and Hexafluoroethane are some of the greenhouse gases that are worth mentioning.

Now if you are wondering why is the greenhouse effect important or is the greenhouse effect good or bad, here’s what you need to know: 

Are there any benefits of the greenhouse effect?

You’ll be surprised the know that the presence of the greenhouse gases, which most of us despise for contributing to global warming, is one of the major reasons why life can be sustained in this planet. Some of the most positive effects of greenhouse gases include the following:

  1. The greenhouse effect helps to maintain a certain temperature level on Earth’s surface, making it habitable for the living beings (humans, animals, plants and other organisms). Thanks to the greenhouse gases, the earth is warm enough to sustain life. Otherwise, the heat would have escaped the atmosphere, making earth’s surface way cooler than what it is.
  1. The greenhouse gases help block the harmful solar radiation from reaching planet’s surface. These gases work like a filter and bounce back most of the unwanted and damaging energy into space.
  1. Ozone, which is one of the crucial greenhouse gases, absorbs the harmful ultra-violet (UV) rays of the sun. If there wasn’t any Ozone layer in our atmosphere, the UV rays could reach the surface directly and affect the life on earth on a massive scale.
  1. The greenhouse effect has allowed the planet to maintain its water level on the surface. Thanks to the moderate temperature, the planet’s ice has not been melted completely, and the polar ice caps are restricted to the polar regions of the planet.

These points tell us why are greenhouse gases important for our planet. For millennia, the greenhouse effect has helped the planet keep a perfect balance between the amount of absorbed energy and the reflected energy.

Unfortunately, the increase in the use of fossil fuel in the recent years has raised the amount of greenhouse gases in earth’s atmosphere, causing more absorption of infrared energy. This is what heats up the planet’s surface, causing an anomaly in the environment, we know as “global warming”.

Why is the Greenhouse effect bad?

Well, the surge in the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is undeniable, and we have already seen some critical changes in the climate due to the greenhouse effect. Some disadvantages of the greenhouse effect are quite evident:

  1. Global warming: As mentioned previously, the increasing amount of greenhouse gases are causing a gradual rise in the earth’s temperature. As a result, the ice in the Polar Regions has started melting and resulting in massive climate changes.
  1. Increased level of CO2: The concentration of CO2, which is one of the common greenhouse gases, is not only affecting the marine lives but are also disrupting the photosynthesis process of plants.
  1. Rising water levels: Because of the greenhouse effect and global warming the water levels are rising, putting millions of lives in danger.

As you can see, the greenhouse effect has both positive and negative sides. We have all enjoyed the benefits of this natural phenomenon for long, but now our own deeds are wrecking havoc on the planet. We, humans need to be more careful with how we treat our environment. Otherwise, no one can save us from our impending doom.

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