What is the greenhouse effect, and why is the problem closely linked to large scale industrial society?
The greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring process that aids in the heating of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. The rising temperatures of the earths surface, although the actual rise is not very much, but the Earth's ecosystem is very fragile, and small changes can have large effects. This is causing a rise in sea levels from the melting of the polar ice caps could severely flood many countries. A rise in sea levels of one metre, which many experts are predicting by the year 2100 (and some as soon as 2030), would flood 15 percent of Egypt, and 12 percent of Bangladesh. The Maldives in the Indian Ocean would almost completely disappear.
It results from the fact that certain atmospheric gases, such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane are able to change the energy balance of the planet by absorbing longwave radiation emitted from the earth's surface. As the suns energy passes through the atmosphere several things happen. A portion of this energy is reflected back into space by clouds and other atmospheric particles. Some more of the energy is absorbed by clouds, gases, and other particles in the atmosphere. On an average about half of the sun's radiation reaches the earth’s surface. The radiation that makes it to the earth’s surface is used in several ways, including the heating of the ground surface, the melting of ice and snow and evaporation of water, and plant photosynthesis.
Because the earth's surface is heated by the suns radiation it becomes a radiator of energy in the longwave band, or infrared radiation. The energy is reflected back into space, however only a small portion actual makes it. A larger portion is absorbed by the greenhouse gases. The absorption of infrared radiation by the atmosphere adds extra heat energy to the earth's atmospheric system. The now warmer atmospheric greenhouse gas molecules began radiating infrared...