© Imaginis – Fotolia.com

Climate change is a very polarizing topic, and one that is also riddled with many misconceptions and much confusion. At the core of the debate is the the scientific principal of the greenhouse effect and how it effects the environment. The greenhouse effect has been known to scientists since the nineteenth century (WATER VAPOR FEEDBACK AND GLOBAL WARMING), and has been since been established and a foundational fact of atmospheric science. However, the greenhouse effect is actually very simple to understand.

The atmosphere enveloping the earth acts like the glass of a greenhouse. Radiation from the sun enters the atmosphere, heats the surface of the earth and the air thereby trapping the energy as extra heat. Certain gasses, such as carbon dioxide and methane, trap this kind of energy very well. The greenhouse effect is something that has always been occurring on our planet, and in fact, is crucial to our existence. If there were now greenhouse effect, the oceans would freeze solid, making the earth uninhabitable for most life on earth. A moderate greenhouse effect keeps the earth warm enough for us to live.

Since the industrial revolution, more greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide have been released into the atmosphere. This lead some scientists to consider that pollutants introduced into the atmosphere could have a warming effect on the atmosphere. In the 1970s, many researchers began to predict that the atmosphere would gradually warm due to the introduction of such gasses. In recent years, based on numerous studies (Declaration of the World Climate Conference [PDF]), scientists of many disciplines have reached a consensus that global warming has been due to additional greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. (Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report [IPCC])

Anyone who owns a greenhouse in their backyard knows the importance of regulating the temperature of the environment. The solution of global warming is likewise just as simple: the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere. The good news is that industry and attitudes are already changing. As the world warms, clean energy and green technology is presently being developed. In the future, the new economy will have no choice but to consider the cost of the global greenhouse effect.