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Greenhouse Effect; Advantages and Disadvantages

UserMark time31 October,2014

This term was no where in the past century and in this century it is present in every discussions.

Well, Tsunami like floods, Earthquakes and rapid changes in weather and climate was not so frequent in the past decades, as it is now. Moreover, we cannot ignore the massive rise in respiratory problems like bronchitis,asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases in this decades, owing to Green house gases.

According to European Respiratory Review

“A rapid rise has been observed in the number of hot days, such as the 2003 heat wave where temperatures of ≥35°C were reached resulting in ∼40 000 excess deaths across Europe, mostly for cardiopulmonary causes.” 

As stated by National Geographic, Green house effect is not a new phenomena.

Greenhouse Effect

The roots of the greenhouse effect concept lie in the 19th century, when French mathematician Joseph Fourier calculated in 1824 that the Earth would be much colder if it had no atmosphere. In 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius was the first to link a rise in carbon dioxide gas from burning fossil fuels with a warming effect. Nearly a century later, American climate scientist James E. Hansen testified to Congress that “The greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now.”

Only that , in the present decades, its significance has increased massively and we are standing at the brink of worldwide disaster if the Green House Emmisions are not kept under check.

Lets delve a little bit into the topic Green House Effect , which is now the part of major discussions being held worldwide.

This will help us better understand how it can be beneficial and harmful for us.

Greenhouse – The Paradise for plants

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. The purpose of the Greenhouse is to shield crops from excess cold or heat.

The greenhouse buildings are made mostly of translucent material that offers plants in the building maximum access to sunlight.  Plants generally need warm temperature, certain humidity and light for growth.

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  out 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.

This way we are able to enjoy juicy strawberries or warm coffee even in off seasons.

Our Earth is just like a Greenhouse..

When Sun rays fall on the earth , a part of it is absorbed and a major amount is reflected back into the atmosphere thereby letting the earth cool. Green house gases envelop the earth and doesnt allow the heat to be released back in the atmosphere.

So the condition of the Earth becomes like…

Green House

In case of earth the glass house is substituted by envelop of Gases like

Ozone ,Carbon dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, CFCs  etc.

Some major greenhouse gases that cause the greenhouse effect. They include:

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

According to National geographic “ Atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are now higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years”.

So, we are finding the earth more warm in the current decades.

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:

Greenhouse Effect; the positives

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 . Thanks to the greenhouse gases, the earth is warm enough to sustain life. It has been estimated that without the presence of atmosphere and gases, the temeparture of the Earth would have been somewhere around -18 degree centigrade, quite unbearable, isnt it?
  2. 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.
  3. 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 causing cancers, sunburn, damaging immune system and eyes.

Ozone has already depleted 4% since 1970, creating chances for an ozone hole.

For millennia, the greenhouse effect has helped the planet keep a perfect balance between the amount of absorbed energy and the reflected energy.

The Major contributors to GreenHouse Effect are

  • Increase in use of fossil fuels in the last decade owing to increased industrial activities, increasing use of vehicles etc.
  • Large Scale Forest Fires decreasing the green cover and increasing emmisions
  • Deforestation on a large scale
  • “Volcanic eruptions and variations in solar radiation from sunspots, solar wind, and the Earth’s position relative to the sun also play a role”. ( Source: National Geographic) 

Greenhouse Effect; The Negatives

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:

Temprature Change
  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.
  2. 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.
  3. Rising water levels: Because of the greenhouse effect and global warming the water levels are rising and polar caps are threatening to melt, putting millions of lives in danger.
  4. Loss of Flora and Fauna: The rapid increase in rise of temperature owing to Greenhouse gases is called as Global Warming. With Climate change caused by Greenhouse emissions induced Global warming, there are increasing chances of floods, droughts, and destruction of natural habitats, risking entire biotic life. 

Some Facts hard to ignore…

  1. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has confirmed that the average Global temperature on the Earth has increased by about 0.8 degree Celsius, since 1880. 2018 was mentioned the 4rth hottest year by NASA since 1880s.
  2. The concentration of carbon dioxide contributing to Global warming is at alarming levels
Facts

( This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2    record.)

  1. Climate change owing to Global Warming by Green house gases can cause this super common clouds ( Stratocumulus clouds) to go extinct. ( Source: Tapio Schneider, Colleen M. Kaul & Kyle G. Pressel,)

Nature Geoscience Volume 12, pages163–167 (2019)

So, you may not be able to see these type of beautiful puffs in the sky.

Our Efforts to mitigate this problem….

IPCC – “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.

“ The First Assessment Report (FAR) of Climate change by IPCC (1990), as well as a supplemental report prepared in 1992, created demand for the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). This was commonly known as “The Earth Summit” . The Conference was held at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the year 1992.” 

Environmentalists has come up with various solutions after this reports.

  • Increased usage of renewable and alternative energy to light up the homes- Renewable Recharge
  • Making Vehicles with clean energy options like CNG – Green Commute
  • Keeping a check on the carbon footprints of organisation-
  • Afforestation ( Planting trees) – Green the Earth
  • Keeping large scale construction works under check.- Doomsday builders
  • Educating the people to reduce their fossil fuel energy dependance- Green Future
  • Recycle more of household and industry waste- Rs of Future
  • Making nations adhere to emmision cut targets on a just basis

 The Paris Agreement on Climate Change reaffirmed the urgency to stop green house emmisions and regulate temperature at inter- country levels. The Agreement marks a turning point in the battle against climate change and controlling Green house emmisions. With more than 175 countries signing the agreement, future looks a little brighter.

So, we can rightfully expect our future generations to live in a catastrophe free world where they have clean air to breathe and sunlight to bath in plenty.

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