The greenhouse effect is a scientifically proven, natural process that is essential to maintaining
the planet's climate. The term refers to the insulating effect produced by several important gases
in the earth's atmosphere ? carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, other trace gases
and water vapour.
Surrounding the earth like a giant greenhouse, these gases allow short-wave solar radiation to
pass through to the earth's surface, where it is absorbed. The gases then trap some of the
energy radiated by the earth. This energy heats the earth's surface and the lower atmosphere.
If not for these "greenhouse gases," the heat would escape into space, and the planet would be a
frigid, lifeless world (about 33?C colder). They keep the earth's surface and lower atmosphere
comfortably warm ? with a global average surface temperature of 15?C ? and maintain the
proper moisture levels.
Life on earth has developed in all its abundance and diversity through a close relationship with
the global climate, and local variations in heat and moisture. Major climate changes have
occurred, but rarely have they been so extreme or sudden that life could not adapt or survive ?
and never have they been caused by human beings.
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. 1995. Global Climate Change: A Science Update. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks
Keywords: greenhouse gas, greenhouse effect, global warming, climate change, GHG
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