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Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming

Abhijit Naik Feb 17, 2020
Global warming occurs when the thermal radiations coming from the Sun are trapped within the atmosphere of the Earth by various greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane. In this, we explore the relationship between greenhouse effect and global warming.
Most of the people are bound to get confused if asked how green house effect is related to global warming, which is not surprising considering that we have always looked at it as a separate environmental issue.
While greenhouse effect is not harmful for the planet, 'enhanced greenhouse effect' definitely is. Sadly though, this and other such facts about this phenomenon have been eluding the brightest minds of the world for quite some time now.

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Greenhouse Effect: Facts and Myths

Basically, the thermal radiations coming from the Sun are reflected back to the space after they come in contact with the surface of the Earth. At times, some atmospheric gases restrict their reflection and trap them within the Earth's atmosphere.
The entire process of these thermal radiations entering the Earth's atmosphere and getting trapped in it is known as the greenhouse effect, and the atmospheric gases that trap these radiations are known as the greenhouse gases (GHGs).
Some of the most abundant greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, etc. Besides these, the list of GHGs also includes nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), sulfur hexafluoride, etc.
Overall, the greenhouse effect is a perfectly normal phenomenon, which is necessary for the existence of life on the Earth. In fact, its absence can leave the planet absolutely cold and thus, unsuitable for human habitation.

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Its Relationship With Global Warming

While GHGs are necessary for the existence of life on our planet, too much of them can spell disaster for us. The presence of 'too much' GHGs in the atmosphere is what we call the 'enhanced greenhouse effect'.
When we say that the conditions on Earth are conducive for presence of life, the average temperature prevailing on the planet has a crucial role to play.
Simply put, global warming is an abnormal increase in the average near surface temperature of the planet. This 'abnormal rise' can be attributed to several underlying factors, including pollution and deforestation, which amount to enhanced greenhouse effect.
When the Sun's thermal radiations are trapped by GHGs within the Earth's atmosphere, they add to the near surface temperature of the planet and cause it to rise. More recently, the concentration of these gases has increased by a significant extent.
This, in turn, results in increase in the amount of heat trapped within the atmosphere and eventually contributes to global warming.
The causes of greenhouse effect can be broadly categorized into natural and anthropogenic. While natural causes include presence of water vapor, release of methane from wetlands, volcanic eruptions, etc., anthropogenic causes include human-induced environmental pollution, deforestation, cattle rearing, and other activities.
However, natural causes help in maintaining the balance of greenhouse gases, while anthropogenic causes disrupt this balance and cause global warming.
After going through all these intricate details about the two concepts you realize that there is a lot more to know about the cause-effect relationship they share, with the 'greenhouse effect' acting as a cause and the phenomenon of 'global warming' acting as its effect.
So the onus is on us to ensure that we refrain from contributing to the greenhouse effect―either directly or indirectly―and do our bit to tackle incessant warming and related problems.