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4.6. Greenhouse effect

The greenhouse effect

First of all, we must clarify that the greenhouse effect, which is good, should not be confused with the  increase in the greenhouse effect, which is bad.

Due to the distance from the Earth to the Sun, the average temperature of the Earth should be -18 ºC and life would not be possible. But thanks to the greenhouse effect, the average temperature is 15 ºC. This is due to the presence in the atmosphere of gases such as CO2 and methane (CH4) which, due to their high density, occupy the lowest part of the atmosphere. When the sun's rays hit the Earth, it heats up and emits infrared radiation to the outside, but the greenhouse gases absorb part of that radiation and send it back to the Earth's surface, thus increasing the average temperature of the Earth and allowing the existence of life. Therefore, the greenhouse effect is natural and beneficial.

The problem occurs when we pollute the atmosphere and emit gases such as CO2, from the combustion of fossil fuels, or methane (CH4) from intensive livestock farming, which produce an increase in the greenhouse effect. This increase in the greenhouse effect has been produced by human actions and is harmful.

The continuous destruction of forests also contributes to photosynthetic organisms absorbing less atmospheric CO2 .

The increase in the greenhouse effect is causing a greater retention of infrared radiation and global warming is being generated that affects the entire Earth, which is responsible for climate change.

Climate change produces alterations in rainfall and in the hydrological cycle, wind circulation, major droughts and floods, sea level rise, loss of ice from ice caps, disappearance of ecosystems, appearance of pests and diseases, etc.

Greenhouse effect is good

Life on Earth is possible thanks to the greenhouse effect that causes us to have an average temperature of 15ºC, instead of the -18ºC that we would have if it were not for this effect.

What is very dangerous is the increase in the greenhouse effect , which causes global warming and climatic changes with disastrous consequences.

An example that can make it clearer is what happens when we go to bed on a cold winter day when we don't have heating at home. The sheets are very cold, but we emit heat to the outside (just like the Earth), and after a while, we notice that the temperature has risen because the heat, instead of going outside, has been reflected and remains between the sheets. sheets and us. This would be similar to the greenhouse effect.

But if for whatever reason, instead of putting on a sheet or a thin blanket, I have miscalculated and put on several thick blankets, in addition to not being able to move because of their weight, I will be too hot and I will not be able to sleep. This would be similar to the increase in the greenhouse effect.