The Greenhouse Effect

Essential Energy

Greenhouse gases are a natural part of the atmosphere. They trap the sun's warmth, and maintain the earth's surface temperature at a level necessary to support life. The problem we now face is that human actions, particularly the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and land clearing, are increasing the concentrations of these gases, creating the prospect of global climate change. This is the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Illustration 1
The earth is covered by a blanket of gases which allow light energy from the sun to reach the earth's surface, where it is converted to heat energy. Most of the heat escapes our atmosphere, but some is trapped. This natural effect keeps the earth warm enough to sustain life.

Illustration 2
Human activity such as burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and land clearing is creating more greenhousegases. This traps more heat, so the earth becomes hotter.


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