Humans Burning Fossil Fuels

The evidence is clear about climate change being a real thing and this is mostly the result of burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal.  Earth gets warmed up by the Sun and some of the incoming sunlight is reflected directly back into space, especially by bright surfaces such as ice and clouds, and the rest is absorbed by the surface and the atmosphere.  Much of this absorbed solar energy is re-emitted as heat (longwave or infrared radiation).  The atmosphere in turn absorbs and re-radiates heat, some of which escapes to space.  If all heat energy emitted from the surface of our planet passed through the atmosphere directly into space, Earth’s average surface temperature would be approximately zero degrees Fahrenheit.  Our moon doesn’t have an atmosphere, so it doesn’t have a method to trap heat, thus it has temperatures of minus 378 degrees Fahrenheit up there.  Strictly speaking, outer space has no temperature since it has no mass.

A greenhouse gas will absorb and emit radiant energy within the thermal infrared range, causing the greenhouse effect (trapping of the Sun’s warmth in our lower atmosphere).  Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, act to make the surface much warmer than this because they absorb and emit heat energy in all directions, keeping Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere warm just like the glass roof on a greenhouse does.  Without this greenhouse effect, life as we know it could not have evolved on our planet.  Adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere makes it even more effective at preventing heat from escaping into space.  When the energy leaving is less than the energy entering, Earth warms until a new balance is established.

Having established that greenhouse gas can be a good thing, right now it seems to be getting out of control.  I want to live on a planet where it is warm, but the increased greenhouse effect is causing changes in our planet that can potentially destroy everything, and Earth could end up being like Venus where no life exists.  The increased greenhouse effect will not go away unless we do something about it, as we have reached a point where it just keeps accumulating and this is a serious problem.  Even if human-caused greenhouse gas emissions were reduced to zero, global temperatures may continue to rise for centuries afterward, as some scientists think that we have already gone past the point of no return.  We may need some genius to invent a way to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it underground, which would make Earth’s surface brighter.  If we had our own storage container of greenhouse gas, then we could heat our planet up again, if it ever got cold.

Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Tale Weaver – Climate Change – hosted by Stephanie Colpron of Word Adventures.

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