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The Greenhouse Effect – it’s a phrase that you are no doubt familiar with. Yet, do you know just what it is and what it means for our earth? If not, don’t worry – you’re not alone. In a recent survey 73 % of those questioned were unable to give an explanation of the Greenhouse effect. To help us to understand what it is, we can turn to a common phenomena that you are no doubt familiar with. Have you ever parked your car in the hot summer sun with all the windows closed? When you returned you got a taste of the greenhouse effect. The windows of your car are transparent to the sun’s rays, which warm the interior very rapidly. But the warm air has no way of escaping. Nor can the heat. The heat is given off in the form of infrared rays, which are invisible to the eyes but can be felt on the skin. The same glass that allows visible light in, makes it impossible for the infrared rays to get out. As a result the temperature inside your car goes up and up.

The earth’s atmosphere is similar to the glass in your car. It allows visible light to pass through, but filters out a great deal of harmful radiation, including infrared and ultraviolet light. This prevents the heat from the sun from rapidly escaping from the earth, and the temperature on the earth becoming too cold to sustain life. Of course all of this is part of the balance of nature. The problem is that man has steadily been releasing more and more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, therefore turning up the global thermometer. An increase of just one or two degrees can have a dramatic effect on the earth. The rise in global temperatures will not be even. The high latitudes will warm more quickly than the equator. This will mean a loss of quality in soil moisture in the mid latitudes of the northern hemisphere. This is where most of the worlds grain is grown.

Another major concern with global warming is the rising levels of the world’s oceans. Thermal expansion combined with the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers. A rise of just 0.6 meters would see such countries as Bangladesh, Egypt and the United States losing up to 25 % of their territory.

Such are the effects of man’s interfering with nature’s cycle. Let us as individuals take a hard earned lesson from the greenhouse problem – let us not take nature for granted but rather respect and cooperate with it in order to ensure that future generations can enjoy it as we can.