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What is the Greenhouse Effect?

Have you ever realized the greenhouse effect in your area? You may be wondering how does it concern you?

The greenhouse effect is the process of heat-trapping by greenhouse gases. It won’t be wrong to say that the major contributor to climate change is the greenhouse effect.

In this article, we will see what is the greenhouse effect, what are the major causes and how can we address this issue?

Origin of the Term “Greenhouse”

The greenhouse effect is how greenhouse gases trap heat near the surface of the earth.

A French mathematician Joseph Fourier 1824 observed the similarity between the functioning of a greenhouse and the earth’s atmosphere.

Later on, a Swedish physicist and physical chemist, Svante Arrhenius has the credit for the origin of the term in 1896.

He publishes the hot-house theory of the atmosphere, later known as the greenhouse effect.

Snowball and Slushball Earth Hypothesis

The Snowball Earth hypothesis proposes that during the icehouse climate, the earth was completely frozen about 650 million years ago. This refers to that ice sheets covered the planet in the past.

The proponent of that is the Slushball hypothesis, which says that the earth was not completely frozen in Precambrian times.

How does a Greenhouse Effect Work?

The greenhouse effect works just like a greenhouse. A greenhouse is a building made of glass partitions and a glass rooftop. It is used to grow plants, tomatoes, etc.

Sunlight falls onto the glass walls and keeps the greenhouse warm inside, even during winter. As the glass walls trap heat so keep it warm at night.

The greenhouse effect works the same way on earth. Greenhouse gases form a blanket just like glass walls and glass roofs. These gases trap the earth the same way glass walls trap heat. This heated atmosphere increases the temperature on earth. 

Causes of Greenhouse Effect

Greenhouse gases absorb rays trapping the heat is the main cause of the greenhouse effect. Now let’s see how human activities are causing the greenhouse effect:

  • Burning of fossil fuels –Continuous burning of fuel releases more CO2 into the atmosphere.

  • Deforestation-Cutting of forests causes more CO2 to accumulate in the air.

  • Farming– NO in fertilizers cause the greenhouse effect.

  • Industrial waste and landfills-Harmful gases from landfills (CO2, CH4) cause the greenhouse effect.

What are Greenhouse Gases?

Greenhouse gases trap heat into the atmosphere and keep our planet warm. The greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapours and fluorinated gases. What amount of  a greenhouse gas influences global warming depends on three factors:

  • Concentration in the atmosphere (measured in ppm or ppb)

  • Lifetime in the atmosphere

  • Efficiency to trap heat(referred to as global warming potential)

Major Greenhouse Gases

Major greenhouse gases that are causing the greenhouse effect are the following:

Carbon dioxide

  • Carbon dioxide accounts for about 76 percent of human-caused emissions around the world.

  • Once emitted, some percentage is still present after thousands of years.


  • Methane accounts for about 16 percent of human-caused gas emissions.

  • It remains in the air for a short time (about a decade).

Nitrous oxide

  • Nitrous oxide is a powerful gas.

  • It accounts for almost 6 percent of human-caused emissions and its lifetime is more than a century.

Fluorinated gases

  • Fluorinated gases are man-made and are emitted from industrial processes.

  • They account for 2 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.

  • They have a longer lifetime in the air.

Water Vapours

  • The most abundant greenhouse gas is not linked directly to human activities.

  • As warm air holds more water, more water absorbs more heat and results in greater warming.

What is the Greenhouse Effect?

Global greenhouse gas emission data

Consequences of the Greenhouse Effect

Today, the concentration of greenhouse gases is increasing rapidly. According to IPCC, since pre-industrial times, the average temperature of the earth has increased up to 1 degree Celsius. The two-third increase occurred in the last few decades alone. All five years from 2014 to 2018 were recorded as the hottest years worldwide.

It is estimated that at this current rate, global temperature will be increasing up to 1.5 degrees Celsius in some next years. Greenhouse gas emissions is changing the climate on the earth.

Global Warming

The major consequence of the greenhouse effect is global warming. The increase in earth’s temperature around the world is a major concern as it is causing health issues for humans and making survival difficult here on earth.

  1. Extreme weather patterns- It causes extreme weather patterns like heat waves, hurricanes, droughts, floods, etc.

  2. With rising sea levels due to increasing temperature, glaciers are melting. The temperature of the ocean is increasing which causes warm water to expand and contributes to sea-level rise.

  3. Loss of natural habitat–Various seasonal activities, geographical changes and shifting of land is a consequence of the greenhouse effect.


Do you want to know how lucky you are to be on this planet? You can listen to the story of Venus.

According to geologists, one of the earth’s neighbours’, Venus, once became a victim of the greenhouse effect that turned Venus into hell. Venus had an atmosphere and was inhabitable. But now it is an extremely hot and dry planet with a temperature of about 450 degrees Celsius.

A runaway greenhouse effect is certain to happen here on earth. Although only a few scientists believe that this is likely to happen.

The question is whether we can kick off the runaway states by reducing greenhouse gases emission. There is an idea that most scientists do not believe in this runaway state on earth. But that does not mean we should let greenhouse emissions go easily.

The Greenhouse Effect Solution

  • To solve the issue, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It requires implantation at both individual and international levels.

  • In 2015 at the United Nations organized summit COP 21, 196 parties from the whole world signed an international treaty known as Paris Agreement.

  • The strategy to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and climate change was adopted in this accord. The target was to keep the warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

Measures we can take to solve this issue

We, humans, are the problem but we may be the solution. One can decide on several ways to maintain the balance on earth. Some of the individual behaviors that can be adopted are

  • Feasible transport(walking, bicycles, or hybrid cars)

  • Reducing your food waste

  • Recycling of waste materials

  • Energy-efficient technologies


The warming of the earth due to greenhouse gases has gained much importance on international forums. Yet, it is still a controversy about what needs to be done and how it will be implemented. There is a need for an international response to potential warming due to greenhouse gases.

We need to implement globally effective strategies. Efforts on behalf of all countries are required to tackle this issue.

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