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Causes of the Greenhouse Effect

Roy D'Silva
In the recent past, greenhouse effect has almost always been projected in a bad light, something that is harmful to the living organisms. It is true that greenhouse gases cause global warming which, in the long run, threatens the existence of life on Earth. However, this is the case only when their concentration is enhanced, but these gases are also essential to survive on this planet.
The greenhouse gases have a negative impact on our planet only when they are released in the atmosphere in more-than-normal proportions. More often than not, the reason for the same is human activities.

What is Greenhouse Effect?

When the Earth receives energy from the Sun, the surface absorbs 50% of it. The radiation absorbed by the atmosphere is radiated again in all directions; some part is radiated towards the space, whereas some is radiated back to the surface of the Earth.
The radiation that is re-radiated towards the surface of the Earth is because of the presence of greenhouse gases. This is called greenhouse effect ― a natural phenomenon that helps in keeping the temperature at the surface warm and balanced, which is suitable for all organisms.
Due to the increasing anthropogenic activities, such as burning of fossil fuels, the presence of greenhouse gases present naturally in the atmosphere exceeds the normal amount.

This results in an increase in the average temperature on the surface of the Earth, often termed as global warming.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (US), carbon dioxide released due to various man-made activities, like burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial processes, can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

Causes of Greenhouse Effect

Forests help in maintaining the balance of nature by absorbing the excess carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere. Cutting down of trees, thus, leads to an increase in the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere, eventually enhancing the greenhouse effect.
Greenhouse gases can also be released into the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels, oil, coal, and gas.
These materials are used increasingly and rampantly in industries. Most factories produce certain gases which last for a longer time in the atmosphere. Increase in the average temperature is then observed which amounts to global warming.
Other man-made causes of the increase in the greenhouse effect is the emission of greenhouse gases by electrical appliances.
These gases, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), are used on a large scale in the electronic industry. Some processes of the cement manufacturing industries also act as a cause towards the greenhouse effect.
Population growth is an indirect contributor and one of the major causes of the greenhouse effect.
With the increase in population, the needs and wants of people increase which consequently increases deforestation, manufacturing, and industry processes. This results in the increase of the release of industrial gases which catalyze the greenhouse effect.

Greenhouse Gases

Water Vapor - It is the most abundantly found greenhouse gas constituting around 36―70% of all the gases contributing to greenhouse effect. Increase in temperature results in a relatively high presence of water vapor in the atmosphere.
Carbon Dioxide - Although this gas is present in a small amount naturally, urbanization, industrial revolution, and other human activities have largely contributed to the levels of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere today. It roughly amounts to 9―26%.
Methane - Atmospheric methane is present as a result of both natural and anthropogenic sources. While manure of domestic livestock is one of the major natural contributors, landfills is the prime example of anthropogenic sources. Methane contributes 4―9% to the greenhouse effect.
Nitrous Oxide - This gas is produced by agricultural activities, landfills, and burning of fossil fuels.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) - CFCs have an entirely anthropogenic origin, primarily industries. Until recently, they were also used in refrigerators, aerosols, fire extinguishers, and air conditioners.
As mentioned previously, greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon. However, if the percentage of these gases increases to dangerously high levels, the repercussions are for everyone to see.