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What is the

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What is the "greenhouse effect?" It is the behavior of solar radiation when it interacts with gasses in the Earth's atmosphere. The Sun gives off a wide spectrum of energy which we classify according to its wavelength. Among the types of energy given off by the sun are ultraviolet (UV), visible and infrared (IR) wavelengths. UV is short wavelength high-energy radiation, visible is mid-wavelength, mid-energy radiation, and IR is long wavelength low-energy radiation. The atmosphere is mostly transparent to UV and visible light, but some components of the atmosphere absorb IR energy on its way in toward the Earth's surface, warming the atmopsphere slightly. When the sun's energy reaches the surface of the Earth it is absorbed. This warms the surface, and causes the Earth to emit energy of its own. Unlike the Sun, however, the Earth does not emit UV or visible light, it ONLY emits IR energy.

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A balance between energy coming in from the sun in the form of visible radiation (sunlight) and energy constantly being emitted from the surface of the earth to space determines the temperature of the earth. The energy coming in from the sun can pass through the atmosphere almost unchanged and warm the earth, but the infrared radiation emanating from the earth's surface is partly absorbed by some gases in the atmosphere and some of it is re-emitted downwards. This further warms the surface of the earth and the lower atmosphere. The gases that do this naturally are mainly water vapour and carbon dioxide. An analogy is made with the effect of a greenhouse, which allows sunshine to penetrate the glass that in turn keeps the heat in, hence the greenhouse effect.

Without this natural greenhouse effect, the earth would be over 30°C cooler and would be too cold to be habitable.

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°C during the last 500 years, with about half of this warming occurring in the 20th Century.

The devastating floods, droughts and storms we have seen in the UK and across the world in recent years show all too clearly how vulnerable we are to climate extremes and how high the economic, human and environmental cost can be, particularly in developing countries.

The greenhouse effect causes trouble by raising the temperature of the planet. The actual rise is not very much, but the Earth's ecosystem is very fragile, and small changes can have large effects

Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that this rise of one degree will happen by the year 2025

The other serious worry is that rising 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),

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