Global Warming and Climate Change

Greenhouse Gases

The atmosphere is a protective layer of gases that spreads all around the surface of the Earth. It acts like a greenhouse, keeping in the right amount of infrared radiation from the sun. This means that the Earth can have relatively warm and stable temperatures all the time.

A greenhouse gas is a gas that absorbs the Sun’s infrared radiation, therefore trapping it in the Earth’s atmosphere. Greenhouse gases contribute to the greenhouse effect, which raises the Earth’s average temperature, The main greenhouse gases are:

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Methane
  • Water vapour
  • Nitrous oxides
  • CFCs

The Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect is essential for life on Earth, but it also contributes to global warming.

1. The Sun emits heat (infrared radiation) down towards Earth.

2. Some of the heat is absorbed by the atmosphere, while the rest reaches the Earth’s surface.

3. Some of the heat that reaches the Earth’s surface is absorbed and the rest bounces back from the surface.

4. However, most of this heat does not get back into space, as the atmosphere absorbs it instead.

  • This increases the temperature of the atmosphere

Mainly due to human activity, there is a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. For example:

  • The combustion of fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide
  • Cattle release methane into the atmosphere

The more greenhouse gases there are, the greater the greenhouse effect is. This warms up the Earth over time and causes global warming.

Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface.

Consequences of Global Warming

Climate change is the change in long-term weather patterns and it is an impact of global warming. As weather conditions change, species that had perfectly adapted to their environment may be forced to migrate. Some species may migrate to a different environment and manage to survive. However, some may not adapt or migrate fast enough, causing them to become extinct. This will decrease biodiversity.

There are many consequences of global warming for the organisms on Earth. For example:

  • Global weather patterns will change
  • Rising sea levels

Changing global weather patterns

Weather events, such as floods, hurricanes and droughts will become more common and more severe. This will decrease the number of available habitats. It will also make food and water more scarce.

Rising sea levels

A rise in temperature will raise sea levels. This can happen in two ways:

  • More ice will melt, which will then flow into the ocean.
  • As the ocean heats up, seawater will expand, which will cause sea levels to rise.

Rising sea levels will lead to seasonal flooding, which will decrease the number of available habitats.