Global warming and the greenhouse effect

14.5 min readTags: , , , Categories: culture, ENVIRONMENTPublished On: October 21st, 2021
Global warming and the greenhouse effect

Global warming is one of the most discussed current topics and is arousing progressive interest. We apprehend with increasing awareness and concern what is happening to our planet.

In recent years global warming has perhaps become the broadest topic of discussion on a planetary level, because it forces all of us to make very important decisions about our present and our future.

Vital decisions, linked to the quality of life of animals and plants, and to the quality of our own survival, in any corner of our beloved Earth.

At evaneth, we have always been very sensitive to environmental problems. We want to offer our modest contribution to the disclosure of the topic, albeit within the limits of our specific knowledge. And since this post must be a reason for dialogue, let’s start by defining: “what is global warming”?

What is global warming?

Global warming (sometimes called climate warming or rather climate change) indicates the change in the earth’s climate that has developed from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day.

It has led to a significant increase in the global average temperature and the atmospheric phenomena associated with it, for example extreme phenomena related to the water cycle such as floods, or drought and desertification, the melting of ice and polar caps and the consequent sea level rise matching the reduction of the land surface.

In addition to this, we also witness frequent atmospheric heat waves that alternate with cold air waves which, sometimes dizzily colliding, raise increasingly extensive and violent heaps of steam, causing hurricanes capable of generating impressive calamities, never so gory and closely spaced as in recent decades.

Causes and effects

First of all, a premise: our planet is a set of very delicate complex ecosystems in which countless biodiversities live.

The Earth is able to solve all its possible critical issues on its own, as long as these are not exasperated by the hand of  Humans.

Throughout the history of the Earth, there have been several variations in the climate that have led our planet to cross different ice ages, alternating with warmer periods called interglacial ages.
These variations are mainly attributable to periodic changes in the orbital structure of our planet, with perturbations due to the periodic trend of the Sun’s activity and of volcanic eruptions (due to CO2 and dust emissions).

Even in the last 2000 years there have been natural variations such as the Warm Period at the time of the Romans, an Optimum Period in the Middle Ages and the Little Ice Age, which goes from the Renaissance until the mid-1800s. Since then until today, the climate has raised the temperature in a natural way with a natural climatic increase varying on average from +0.7 ° to + 1.5 °.

Apparently this may seem like a minimal variation, but it is enough to create significant changes to the environment, as we highlighted above.

In fact, in itself this variation, although natural, can mean the appearance of problems for humans and for some animal and plant species, but it does not represent a problem for the planet as a whole, as it has sufficient means to defend itself.

But unfortunately in the last 150 years there have been external factors caused by the hand of humans determining a whole series of problems, the first of which is an exasperated rise in the average global temperature and others that we mention below.

The fixing is here, it exists, and it can only pass consciously through the goodwill of all of us, but really each of us.

One of the predominant causes is to be found in the growing emissions of greenhouse gases (which we will deal with later) with a consequent increase in the greenhouse effect. They are factors attributable to human activities since the advent of industrialization, which consumes fossil fuels in increasing quantities.

The idea that human activities are probably responsible for most of the increase in global temperature (global warming) since the mid-nineteenth century reflects current world scientific thinking.

Human-caused global warming is expected to continue throughout the twenty-first century and beyond (Kyoto Protocol projections).

The variability on the constant increase in global warming is due in part to different projections regarding future greenhouse gas emissions. The scenarios envisaged and shared by the Kyoto Protocol are based on different possible social and economic developments, such as economic growth, demographic developments and energy policies, which could influence future greenhouse gas emissions.

 

All the above primary conditions have increased in the last century thanks to the exponential and constant growth of  the industrialization levels of the new developing countries.

 

In the past, the entire industrial economy was a prerogative of the two Superpowers and Western Europe, while in the last 50 years countries that have brought a massive increase in harmful to the atmosphere emissions have appeared forcefully in the market. With this we do not want to point the finger at all, everyone has the right to walk the road to economic stability and social well-being.

But the unrestrained race for “power”, the crazy races for economic and industrial primacy by all countries, from the “historical” to the developing ones, has led us to a deadline, from which it may be very difficult to go back.
Also because there are additional complementary causes.

It is also essential to give an answer to the most obvious of questions:

what is really achieved if the social-economic well-being obtained by the methods implemented until today leads to the destruction of the planet on which we live?

We do not want to be catastrophic, but let’s think about what world we would end up leaving to posterity …

Greenhouse effect and greenhouse gases

The greenhouse effect is the set of mechanisms that makes the surface temperature of a planet higher than that which would be for pure natural irradiation equilibrium (as pointed out above), it means an unnatural increase in the global average temperature due to causes defined as exceptional.

The natural irradiation effect, in itself, is a natural phenomenon that is anything but negative.
Let’s take a closer look: the sun’s rays heat the Earth’s surface by passing through the atmosphere. Once they arrive on earth, the rays are reflected in the form of infrared rays. In the atmosphere there are gases, such as CO2, Methane, Ozone, also known as “greenhouse gases” that filter the incoming sun’s rays and retain radiation.

These have an effect on the temperature of the planet, influencing its climate. Small parenthesis for good news: the infamous hole in the Ozone is now closed. According to scientists at the World Meteorological Organization, continued international action is needed to implement the 1987 Montreal Protocol banning ozone-depleting chemicals and as a result of which the situation has improved.

 

However, there are still enough substances in the atmosphere to cause ozone to be reduced every year, but the recovery is positive and a potential return of normal values over Antarctica to previous 1980 levels is expected by 2060. This is due to the long lifespan of chemicals and fossil fuels in the atmosphere.

 

The positive consequence of the natural irradiation effect is the mitigation of the climate of our planet: it is thanks to it that the earth’s temperature is mild and compatible with life. The greenhouse effect is based on a delicate balance: it all depends on the amount and percentage of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere.

The main cause that disturbs the balance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are unfortunately the exasperated actions of us human beings. Industrial, mining, deforesting and transport activities are in fact directly responsible for the excessive increase in gases in the atmosphere and their negative effects on our climate.

Fossil fuels and greenhouse gases

The first culprit of the greenhouse effect is the abuse of fossil fuels. They cause greenhouse gases.

Since industrialization, in fact, man has increasingly exploited fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, both for productive reasons and for individual use, for example as fuels for means of transport.

 

The massive and often indiscriminate use of fossil fuels has led to a huge amount of CO2 emissions, one of the main greenhouse gases. The concentration of CO2 and methane has increased by an estimated 36% and 148% respectively in less than two centuries. An optimistic estimate declared by eminent researchers…..

 

Deforestation and the greenhouse effect

Surriscaldamento globale ed effetto serra - deforestazione

Another factor that upsets the balance of the natural greenhouse effect is deforestation: the disappearance of forests and plants, caused by both agriculture and urbanization, has greatly reduced the ability of trees to absorb CO2.

As we know, in fact, through chlorophyll photosynthesis trees absorb carbon dioxide in the air and release oxygen.


An excessive increase in the global average temperature is causing catastrophic consequences in the areas of the middle latitudes, especially between the two Tropics.

In fact, these are the regions most subject to desertification events, by virtue of the prolonged absence of atmospheric precipitation, which in turn cause drought phenomena and increasingly frequent heat waves.


Let’s think about what is happening due to human actions to the green lungs of the planet: the Amazon rainforest.

The Amazon rainforest is an invaluable natural heritage on which the entire existence of our planet depends. The high and constant temperature all year round, the periodic rains are the perfect conditions that guarantee very high levels of biodiversity, from plants to animals.

The Amazon rainforest is not only a set of ecosystems of enormous rich in biodiversity extension, but also plays a very important role in regulating the climate and biological cycles that affect the whole planet.


In the last 30 years we have lost on average an area of tropical forest equal to 9,000 square kilometers per year, but on some occasions we have even lost 12,000 square kilometers.

Deforestation is the main cause that threatens the survival of the green lungs of our planet: only in the Brazilian territory we are losing an area of rainforest equivalent to over three football fields every hour!

Historically in this region one of the techniques used to expand the areas for crops, livestock and mines is the use of fire.

The technique is called “slash and burn”, it cuts and burns and proceeds hectare after hectare because, once the forest is eliminated, the soils remain clayey, they are washed away by rain and become sterile for crops for entire months. In addition, the use of fire causes fires that are difficult to manage, which extend over huge surfaces leaving scars that last for years.

Crazy. We are witnessing a multitude of very worrying exploitation plans.

Exploitation of timber, exploitation of other natural resources above and below the ground, land that shamelessly becomes buildable, guaranteed free of charge pastures for the exclusive and powerful lobbies of livestock breeders, both on legal and clandestine markets, granting of licenses of any kind …. in short, a nightmare not only for the Amazon forests and for those who live there, but for our entire planet.


Deforestation increases by 20% from one year to the next, with an average destruction of almost 10,000 square kilometres, equal to the entire surface of the island of Cyprus. But how much longer can this havoc continue?

Greenpeace recalls that during the last G7 (August 2019), Europe had declared that it wanted to defend the Amazon rainforest by allocating funds against fires, but it drew up an action plan against deforestation that does not address the environmental and human costs of trade policies. And it reiterates that forests, not only the Amazon, capture about a third of the carbon dioxide released each year due to the combustion of gas, oil and coal.


If we want to avoid rising temperatures beyond one and a half degrees, we must demand that what remains of the forests be protected.

To make a long story short, the Amazon rainforest is progressively depleted in an abominable way and, referring to our topic, releases more CO2 than it can absorb. We will discuss the situation of the Amazon rainforest in more depth in one of our next posts.

Thus, the inevitable consequence of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to increased emissions and deforestation is the uncontrolled modification of the earth’s climate.

Imagine entering a greenhouse whose malfunction due to a hypothetical wrong human regulation, causes too much heat retention.


The greenhouse effect is having a major impact on climate change.

As we have previously mentioned – and here we reiterate – the consequences on the natural world are many: the increase in the earth’s temperature is leading to the dramatic melting of mountain glaciers and of the ice of the Poles and the inevitable and worrying rise of sea level with a consequent reduction in land surfaces.

In general, in addition to this, an increase in temperature means an increase in the energy present in the atmosphere, so we are witnessing extreme weather events, such as cyclones, floods, droughts, heat and frost waves, storms, hurricanes and fires in increasing numbers and with increasing energy.

Rising temperatures cause serious damage to the plant world as a whole, resulting in increasing damage to terrestrial, volatile and marine animal species.

Eminent world scientists environmental studies agree that the coincidence of glacier retreat with the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases is often cited as evidence of global warming.

Earth-wide mountain chains and polar ice caps are showing signs of the greatest glacial loss of all time. In addition, the chemical alteration of the atmosphere due to global warming is causing a worrying chemical alteration of all ecosystems.

Possible remedies

Surriscaldamento globale e natura

The consequences of climate change, currently underway, compromise the natural balance and some results are in front of our eyes. Fortunately, we can act concretely to remedy, adopting sustainable lifestyle choices for the planet, as required by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, Agenda for 2030, Sustainable Development Goals; Editorial: affordable and clean energy, August 2021).

There are more and more scientific projects by individuals and companies that want to restore habitats, protect the environment in a sustainable perspective. Recent research, for example, shows the important role of fungi in CO2 absorption.

When we burn fossil fuels, we pollute the air with nitrogen, which precipitates on forests and acts like fertilizer. This accelerates the activity of fungi on decomposing whatever is found on the forest floor. This way the carbon dioxide is no longer stored but is released back into the atmosphere.

It is possible to remedy all this by protecting woods and forests whose presence on the planet allows a correct absorption of carbon dioxide, allowing the spread of biodiversity and not their disappearance.

In conclusion, we can say that we can and must stop these outrages against Nature, which inevitably fall on all forms of life. It is right that all the countries of the world and the world associations take action, that even more severe measures are to be taken in the coming years to limit the damage that is already taking place.


As the activist – voice of us all – Greta Thunberg says, each of us can make a difference with gestures determined by goodwill and awareness.

How? Stopping the race to industrialization that still uses fossil fuels indiscriminately, finding the greenest strategies to orient industry, transport and the large masses of the population to choose green and renewable energy, opting for viable ecological mobility.


We must all learn to exploit the planet’s resources in a conscious and non-destructive way, learn to reduce energy waste (and not only), know how to recycle correctly and limit the use of plastics.

Absolutely prohibit the indiscriminately generated clandestine fires to burn and eliminate toxic waste with a very high polluting power, as well as the spilling of the same in the canals. Avoid the use of polluting particles such as aerosols (chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, which are responsible for the hole in the ozone, a factor that makes solar radiation penetrate more, thus increasing the greenhouse effect).

The conscious and correct use of energy in our homes can guarantee an extremely positive impact on the environment.


Sustainable actions are many, by changing our small and big daily habits we can support together a concrete change, as long as in our heart always dwell the good will, the awareness of the risks we are already experiencing, the certainty that we can do it and the respect for our beloved Earth.

The goal of reducing CO2 emissions is of primary importance: the European Union has in fact set itself the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. This can be done through economic policies that favor green development and with binding agreements, such as the Paris Agreement. (The Paris Agreement is the first universal and legally binding agreement on climate change, adopted at the Paris climate conference in December 2015.)

It establishes a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below +2ºC and continuing with efforts to limit it below +1.5ºC. It also aims to strengthen countries’ capacity to address the impacts of climate change and to support them in their efforts (European Commission>Energy, Climate Change, Environment>Seas Climate Action>EU action).

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