The greenhouse effect is closely associated with global warming. Temperatures have been increasing by 0.5 degrees per century, and the increase has become more greatly felt recently. Ice at the Arctic and Antarctic melts. Water level rises and causes floods in low-lying areas. A less talked-about phenomena associated with the greenhouse effect is dry areas becoming drier. Famines and dust storms are an inevitable outcome.
The major cause of the greenhouse effect, according to scientists, is the increase in carbon dioxide concentration. The amount of carbon dioxide increased from 310 parts per million in 1958 to 340 parts per million in 1980, and is likely to have doubled by now. Carbon dioxide is produced by all living things, and is removed from the air by plants in a process called photosynthesis. With the massive felling of trees for fuel and timber, there are fewer plants to remove carbon dioxide from the air. Subsequently, the proportion of carbon dioxide in the air rises. When there is more carbon in the air, more infra-red rays or heat is trapped in the air, leading to an overall increase in temperature.
Agricultural and industrial activities contribute to the greenhouse effect because they generate heat. In agriculture, the size of herds is increasing the world over in response to greater demand for protein. More animals means more heat and carbon dioxide. In the same way, with more industrial activities, more heat is generated from the burning of fuel. The smoke and fumes emitted by factories and industries warm the air. The world is getting warmer also because of increased use of motor vehicles which emit hot combustion gases containing chiefly carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
The depletion of the ozone layer also leads to the greenhouse effect. The ozone layer above our atmosphere filters out ultra-violet rays in the sunlight and blocks a certain amount of heat from reaching the Earth’s surface. However, due to the excessive use of chlorofluorocarbons, more popularly known as CFCs, holes are created in the ozone layer. This results in direct penetration of sunlight in some places, and warmer temperatures.
Patching up the ozone layer seems unlikely. Nevertheless, people could reduce their use of aerosol sprays to prevent future damage to the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Perhaps the best solution to keep the greenhouse effect in check is by increasing the plant population on this Earth.