Global warming and climate change

Many gases make up the chemistry of our atmosphere and some of these gases allow the energy from the sun to pass through the atmosphere and warm the earth. Heat is also emitted from the earth, which is then partially absorbed by the same atmospheric gases and re-emitted back towards the earth. This further warms the earth. This system allows the earth to maintain a temperature that is ideal for on earth life to flourish.

The system has been compared to a greenhouse where the suns energy passes through the glass and heat is also partially retained in the greenhouse. This comparison leads to the christening of the phenomenon as the Greenhouse Effect, which is now a common term.

Greenhouse Effect diagram

Over billions of years the temperature of the Earth has fluctuated frequently but these fluctuations have occurred over a long period, and the Greenhouse Effect has not presented a problem. Indeed, this phenomenon is necessary for life on Earth to continue.

However, since the beginning of the twentieth century there as been a global temperature increase of approximately 0.6°C. This is a relatively short period of time for such a temperature increase. The rapid increase in temperature suggests something unnatural is occurring. The increased use of fossil fuels for the rapidly developing industrial world over the last century, linked with the growing population, expanding transport systems and the depletion of the world's rainforests have tipped the balance, and the Greenhouse Effect is accelerating.

This acceleration of the Greenhouse Effect is now becoming apparent in extreme weather conditions - warmer, drier summers; wetter, harsher winters and rising sea levels. This unnatural increase in global warming is now commonly known as Climate Change.

In order to attempt to stall the acceleration of the Greenhouse Effect, and to halt Climate Change we all need to examine the way in which we affect the environment around us, our use of fossil fuels, and our attitude towards energy efficiency. There are many ways in which everybody can make a difference in our own lives:

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