What Is the Greenhouse Effect?

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The greenhouse effect is extremely important in maintaining the temperature of the earth. Without it, the earth would not be warm enough to support human life. On the other hand, if the greenhouse effect becomes too strong, the temperature of the earth rises enough to disrupt growth and weather patterns and increase sea levels.


When energy from the sun reaches the Earth, some is absorbed into the Earth's surface, and the rest is reflected back into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases prevent the warmth from this energy from escaping the Earth's atmosphere. This is called the greenhouse effect.

Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse gases are what keep the heat from the sun from passing back into space. Water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and ozone are the most significant greenhouse gases. Water vapor is responsible for 36- to 70-percent of the greenhouse effect.

Global Warming

We have greatly increased our emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases into the atmosphere in the past 50 years. When there is a higher concentration of these gases, particularly carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere, the Earth becomes warmer than it should because the greenhouse effect becomes stronger. This is called global warming or climate change.


The two major effects of global warming are the increase in the temperature of the Earth and the rise of sea levels from melting ice sheets and glaciers. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, sea levels could rise 10 to 23 inches by 2100; this would greatly affect all coastal areas.


In order to mitigate global warming, the greenhouse effect must be reduced. This means that human beings must stop causing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This can be done by minimizing the burning of fossil fuels such as gas and oil, as well as encouraging the use of alternative sources of energy, such as solar power and windmills.