Greenhouse effect: causes and consequences: Ecology articles ➕1, 2022-06-24

This is an increase in the planet’s surface temperature due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the lower atmosphere. Their moderate concentration is necessary for the existence of all living things. Greenhouse gases freely pass the sun’s rays that heat the earth, but retain a significant portion of the thermal radiation, which prevents it from returning to outer space. If they disappeared, the average temperature would be -18 ° C, plants would not grow anywhere.

As civilization developed, the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere began to increase. This caused the earth to warm up unsurpassed.


Carbon dioxide (carbon dioxide, CO2). It accounts for 80% of the total mass of greenhouse gases. Natural sources of CO2 are volcanoes, rotting plants and animal waste products, it is released during respiration by almost all living things. Other sources of carbon dioxide are anthropogenic, that is, associated with human activities. So since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the content of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere has increased by 149%.


Methane (CHfour). It remains in the atmosphere for about 12 years, but its effect on the climate is 25 times stronger than CO2. The sources of methane are the extraction and processing of hydrocarbons, livestock and rice plantations. Compared with pre-industrial levels, the concentration of CHfour increased by 262%.


Nitrous oxide (N2O). It is formed during agriculture, combustion of fossil fuels and waste. Nitrous oxide absorbs infrared radiation 310 times more than CO2therefore, even a small increase in its concentration is sufficient for a noticeable increase in the greenhouse effect.


Tropospheric ozone (O3). Unlike stratospheric ozone, which protects the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation, tropospheric O3 is an air pollutant that is part of smog and enhances the greenhouse effect.


Water vapor. Its concentration in the atmosphere depends on the air temperature: the hotter it is, the faster the moisture evaporates. Accumulations of water vapor (clouds) can absorb heat and reflect it to the ground.


Synthetic substances that are released into the atmosphere with emissions from the chemical industry. These include halogenated hydrocarbons, fluorocarbons and other types of chemicals.

The main reason for the surplus of greenhouse gases is the use of coal, oil and natural gas in industry. When they burn, a lot of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

An increase in livestock. Animal husbandry is called one of the important factors for climate change. Due to the peculiarities of digestion, ruminants emit about 20 grams of methane for every kilogram of food eaten. The 1.5 billion cows that live on earth thus affect the climate in the same way as 10% of the emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels.

To cut down trees and forest fires. Every year, the world’s forest area is reduced by an area corresponding to the UK’s area. This interferes with the natural uptake of CO2 plants, which mitigates the greenhouse effect.

Accumulation of rotting waste in landfills, whose area increases every year. Landfill gas contains 50-75% methane and 25-50% carbon dioxide.

Application of nitrogen fertilizers. Once in the soil, fertilizers are processed by bacteria that release N2O. whereas the largest contributors to global nitrous oxide emissions are India, China and the United States, where nitrogen fertilizers are abundant, and South America and Africa, where the main source of nitrogen2O is livestock manure.

Vehicle exhaust. Car exhaust contains about 10% carbon dioxide. Given that there are already more than 1 billion vehicles in the world, their contribution to global warming is significant.

Another reason for the greenhouse effect is population growth, which amplifies the impact of all previous factors.

Since the early 1960s, sea ice in the northern hemisphere has thinned by 40%. If the glaciers continue to melt, by the year 2100 they will finally turn into water. Due to this, many islands and coastal areas can be flooded. According to forecasts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sea levels in 2100 will rise by 28-55 cm with a favorable development of events and by 63-101 cm with an unfavorable one. And the intrusion of salt water into freshwater rivers can lead to the death of living organisms living there.

The greenhouse effect causes abnormal heat, due to which shallow rivers can dry up or turn into swamps. In addition, the risk of natural disasters increases: forest fires, tornadoes, floods in some regions and droughts in others.

During the last 40 years, the temperature on the planet has increased by 0.8 ° C and in Russia by 2 ° C. In some regions of our country, the climate is becoming more pleasant, but there are also negative consequences: frequent droughts in the south, a reduction in the coastline of the Arctic. The permafrost, which makes up two thirds of our country’s territory, is melting, the infrastructure is being destroyed, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the inhabitants of the north to maintain contact with the mainland.

Researchers from the University of Arizona believe that the problem of the greenhouse effect in just 50 years will lead to the disappearance of a third of the species of flora and fauna. The populations living in the tropics are the most vulnerable. But the nature in the northern regions is also threatened: for example, the number of emperor penguins may decrease by 90% by the year 2100.

Droughts and floods make the soil unsuitable for growing crops. According to experts from the Oxford Institute for Economic Policy, world GDP will fall by 20% to 2100 due to crop failure due to the harvest, the number of hungry will increase. According to the IPCC’s forecast, by 2080 there will be 600 million more people suffering from food shortages.

Excess CO2 increases the acidity of the seawater. These changes adversely affect the immunity of living organisms and also destroy their chitinous shells, which perform a protective function. Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the shells of crabs that live in different parts of the Pacific Ocean are partially dissolved in acidic water, making them an easy prey for other animals.

The impact of the greenhouse effect on the planet can be reduced. For this you need:

Reduce emissions from companies. In December 2015, 195 countries in the world and the European Union signed the Paris Agreement. Its goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 ° C (to a maximum of 2 ° C) this century. To date, the Paris Agreement has been ratified by 186 countries and the European Union. The international community plans to switch to alternative energy sources and modern equipment that will reduce the release of harmful substances into the atmosphere.

Use technology that reduces energy consumption, including energy-saving household appliances, fluorescent lamps or LED lamps.

Use environmentally friendly farming methods, including reducing the consumption of nitrogen fertilizers, and disposing of manure in a timely manner. You should also be sensible when it comes to eating meat. Excess meat products in the diet can harm not only the environment but also health.

Switch to zero-emission vehicles (powered by hydrogen and electricity). As early as 2030, Europe plans to reduce the number of “traditional” cars by 55% and by 2035 – completely abandon them.

Stop the process of deforestation, fight illegal logging and fires, which are often caused by fallen grass, discarded cigarette butts and blazing fires. Destroyed forests must be restored in time.

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Vera Zhikhareva


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