I have never really understood it before, but I found an article that does a pretty good job of dummying it down to my level. Basically, the sun heats the Earth, and the Earth radiates some of that heat back up into space. Carbon dioxide, water vapor and other gasses trap some of that heat, similar to how the panels of a greenhouse work. The gasses that trap the heat are called greenhouse gasses. The greenhouse effect refers to the warming that occurs due to the greenhouse gasses. As the amount of greenhouse gasses increase, so does the temperature of the Earth. Hopefully that helps-if not, just go to that section of the article; they do a much better job describing it!
What does this mean to us? As we as humans increase the amount of greenhouse gasses we emit, most notably carbon dioxide, more heat is trapped by the gasses leading to an increase in the Earth’s temperature. This is what is referred to as global warming. If you would like to read more about global warming, click here for the full article. It’s very long, and I skimmed a lot, but it is very informative and provides such a comprehensive overview. I will simply summarize some key points and how it affects us.
Global warming impacts sea levels, agriculture throughout the world, increases average global temperatures, leads to increased pests and disease, leads to super-storms and severe weather patterns, and drastically changes our eco-system. Among other things. Now guess what country produces the most greenhouse gases per capita? You guessed it-the US.
So how can we help? By reducing our “carbon footprint”. Basically-by going green. Some of the main sources of greenhouse gasses (caused by humans) include pollution, deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, and methane from farm animals. Can you and I directly impact many of those things? Probably not. But please, please, please don’t be the person that says just one person can’t fix it, so why bother. First of all, obviously if everyone says that, we will end up…well, where we are now…with a relative lack of awareness/concern for how are daily activities impact the overall environment. All we can do is our part, and encourage others to do the same. While I am not one to get involved in politics in a public forum or try to influence others political views, I would ask you to not discount how politicians approach environmental issues when you vote. I know a lot of people consider it a secondary issue, and there are certainly plenty of other issues to consider also, but this is a worldwide problem and the impact is not as far away as we would like to think.