Think about a time when your car was parked in the middle of a parking lot, in the middle of the day. The minute you opened the car door, you must have felt currents of hot air blowing past you. The moment you sat down, you might have felt as if your car was burning the heat! This is a small, yet effective example of a process called the GREENHOUSE EFFECT. This effect involves a certain body of matter, be it a car, or a green house in which plants are grown, or the earth itself GRIPPING heat or radiation from another body, in our case – the sun. In case of the car, the glass enables the assimilation of the heat, and traps the heat inside, and does not let it out. Similarly, the earth's atmosphere contains certain gases called GREENHOUSE GASES such as Carbon Dioxide or water vapor or Ozone or Methane, which absorb the radiations we receive from the sun, and trap the heat from it inside. In other words, our atmosphere, which contains the green house gases acts like a blanket; it absorbs heat from the sun, and prevents the heat inside from going away from the earth's surface. The more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the more the heat gets trapped, the more the temperature rises. This phenomenon of increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans is called GLOBAL WARMING.
So, what if the temperature rises? Due to global warming, there are serious, profound consequences that occur. These include:
1. Increased evaporation of water, which would increase the amount of water vapor (a green house gas) in the atmosphere, making the process of global warming even worse.
2. Heightened melting of the icebergs and glaciers in the Arctic Ocean and the icecaps and mountain snows of Antarctica, which will result in the rise in sea level.
3. Expansion of water on heating, which means the sea level, will further rise due to higher temperatures.
4. Organisms of certain species becoming extinct because they are being forced out of their habitats.
5. Warmer, wetter weather could increase the spread of malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever. The possible increase in flooding and damage to water and sewage infrastructure can further encourage the spread of disease.
And many other life-threatening consequences.
So, what's happening right now? Global warming has caused a 1 degree Celsius increase in average global temperature since 1880. This does not seem like a very high increase considering the time period however, due to the increase in the percentage of greenhouse gases because of industrialization and pollution, scientists expect the average global temperature to go up about 1.4 – 5.8 degrees Celsius by 2100, and the sea level to rise 15 – 95 centimeters. Experts also expect the Arctic Ocean to have ice-free summers by 2040, or earlier.
Other effects of global warming include polar bears and other organisms that live in cold temperatures suffering from a sea-ice loss. A certain species of Penguins has become endangered because global warming has caused a 22% decrease in their population. At least 70 species of frogs have gone extinct as a result of global warming. The number of Bengal Tigers in Bangladesh is projected to decrease as a result of rising sea levels. Apart from that, the hurricanes we are seeing are a direct result of climate change which is something that's caused due to global warming.
So… what can we do to stop or decrease global warming? One obvious way of decreasing the effect of global warming is by drastically cutting down on the greenhouse gas emissions. The amount of CO2 that is being produced by burning fossil fuels or by factory activities or processes is more than the amount of carbon dioxide that is being used up by plants. So, the lesser the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the lesser the green house effect will be. By planting more trees and reducing deforestation, we can effectively get rid of the existing CO2 present in the atmosphere.
If we use alternatives sources of energy instead of fossil fuels, we can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. Using recycled paper would help prevent deforestation, consequently decreasing CO2. When you have a car or a motorbike, get it checked positive for PUC. Repeat the procedure every 6 months.
Biodegradation of plastic materials in landfills emit greenhouse gases. So, say NO to plastic bags. When you go to the store, take your own bag, either paper bags or bags made out of jute. Try your best to use as little plastic as you can. Try to recycle paper instead of disposing them. When possible, use recycled paper.
When you are not using appliances such as your computer or you’re TV or radio or your DVD player, turn them off instead of leaving them on standby. Shutting those off would reduce the machine's CO2 emissions.
In the end, the best way to help is by spreading awareness. Tell everyone you know about the greenhouse effect and global warming. Make them see what is at stake, and ask them to help you save our planet.