Two issues that worry many geologists are global warming and the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is a natural process that keeps the earth at temperatures that are livable. What does the greenhouse effect have to do with global warming? When humans release gases into the air, the greenhouse effect will alter the temperature of the earth. More gases in the atmosphere means the earth will start to get warmer, and the result is global warming. On the other hand, if there was no greenhouse effect, the earth would be too cold for humans to comfortably exist.
In order to talk about global warming, we must first learn what causes the greenhouse effect. The three most common greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane. Many of the sun's rays are absorbed by water vapor. Water vapor is a natural atmospheric gas and it accounts for "80 percent of natural greenhouse warming; the remaining 20 percent is due to other gasses that are present in very small amounts" (Murck, Skinner, and Porter 488). A greenhouse gas known as carbon dioxide is the second biggest absorber of the sun's heat rays. Humans affect the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in many ways. Every time fossil fuels are burned, more carbon dioxide is released into the air. Car exhaust emissions also increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, and more carbon dioxide means more heat rays being absorbed. This will cause the earth's temperature to warm. Another greenhouse gas is methane. "Methane absorbs infrared radiation 25 times more effectively than carbon dioxide, making it an important greenhouse gas despite its relatively low concentration" (Murck, Skinner, and Porter 490). Many studies have been performed on how methane is released into the atmosphere. Results have shown that methane is "generated by biological activity related to rice cultivation, leaks in domestic and industrial gas lines, and the digestive process of domestic livestock,...
Cited: "Fast Facts." Environmental Media Services. 10 July 2001. 23 Nov. 2001
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New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996
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