As part of your study of GCSE physical geography, you will look at climate and climate change. Climate change is the result of natural and human factors, and has a range of effects. Since the late twentieth century, much of the talk of climate change has been about the greenhouse effect and global warming.
Global warming is the result of the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is created by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and even water vapour in the atmosphere. During the day, the surface of the Earth is warmed by the Sun's rays. At night, this heat is lost into space. Greenhouse gases reduce this heat loss and without them, the Earth would have an average temperature well below zero Celsius. There would be no liquid water at the surface, making things extremely difficult for life.
If the quantity of greenhouse gases in the air is too high, the balance between heat input and heat lost is disturbed and the average temperature rises.
This gives rise to climate change - there is much more energy in the atmosphere which creates greater extremes of weather. There will be more storms, greater extremes of temperature and stronger winds.
Energy generation by burning fossil fuels is the main way that humans are influencing the greenhouse effect. There are some scientists who believe that the current climate change is entirely natural, however, the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide cannot be denied. The timing of this increase corresponds to a significant increase in the use of motorised transport that has occurred since the end of the Second World War. Added to natural climate change, any human-made climate change could have a disastrous effect on the planet.
So management of the human contribution to the greenhouse effect is important. One of the most obvious methods is to reduce our use of fossil fuels since burning these puts carbon dioxide directly into the air. Using renewable sources of energy is one method to help to reduce the carbon footprint of MEDCs and LEDCs. The other way to reduce human impact is to use carbon capture in order to remove some of the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This involves planting trees to offset the carbon dioxide an individual or business emits. The problem here is that severe deforestation is taking place in certain parts of the world - it is likely that more trees are being destroyed than planted.
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