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The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming

The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming

We need the greenhouse effect. Without it, the planet would be too cold for us to survive. But pollution is making the effect more powerful. This is the likely cause of global warming.

The earth has an atmosphere- a layer of gases which surround the planet. Sunlight travels through the atmosphere and warms the Earth. The Earth then radiates energy to cool down. Some of this energy is trapped close to the Earth’s surface by gases in the atmosphere. These gases include methane, water vapour and carbon dioxide. This is the greenhouse effect. It is responsible for making the Earth much warmer than it would otherwise be, so far from the Sun.


Global temperatures go up and down naturally as a result of changes in the Sun’s output and volcanic activity. Since the 19th century, however, the average surface temperature of the planet has increased by about 0.6 oC. Most scientists think this rapid rise is due to an enhanced greenhouse effect. Deforestation and the burning of carbon-rich fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) have increased the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and therefore the power of greenhouse effect.

The Forecast

How our climate will change is difficult to forecast precisely. Climatologist (scientists who study the weather) estimate a further global temperature increase of from 1.4 oC  to 5.8 oC within the next 50 years. This global warming is predicted to have huge consequences for life on Earth. Some places will have more rain; other places will become drier. Most areas will become warmer and there may be many storms, floods and droughts in different parts of the world. Plants and animals all over the world will be affected as their habitats get warmer and change. For example, in the Artic, the polar bear is already struggling to survive because its habitat is melting. It is now listed as a threatened species.



  • Glaciers are melting. This will cause sea levels to rise and flood low-lying coastal areas and islands around the globe.
  • Polar bears need Artic ice floes to catch their food. As the ice disappears, many are starving.



Hough. R. 2007. You can save the planet. A&C Publishers Limited : London, UK. Pp. 15-16