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What is the greenhouse effect?

Posted on 14 November 2017

At Co-operative Energy, we think it’s important you see the bigger picture when it comes to climate change. We care about the world we live in, and we think you should too, which is why we’re always looking for new ways to help our customers live more sustainably. One way to do this is to offer insight into environmental change, and the practices that are having a negative effect on the planet.

Global warming is a growing environmental issue, which has recently become a big priority. By signing the Paris Agreement, almost 200 nations have vowed to reduce rising global temperatures - the cause of increasing sea levels and climates. But what has triggered global warming? To help you further understand climate change, we’re highlighting one if its key components -  the greenhouse effect.

What is the greenhouse effect?

The greenhouse effect is the natural process of gases from the Earth’s atmosphere trapping the Sun’s energy.

Step-by-step: How does the greenhouse effect occur? 

What is the greenhouse effect?

1. Electromagnetic radiation from the Sun passes through the Earth’s atmosphere.

2. The Earth absorbs a proportion of the Sun’s energy, which warms up the planet, while some is radiated back into space as Infra-Red (IR) energy.

3. As it makes it way out of the atmosphere, a proportion of the IR energy is trapped by a layer of greenhouse gases, and is re-radiated back into the Earth’s atmosphere.

4. The trapped IR atmosphere then warms up the atmosphere.

What are the greenhouse gases?

The layer of greenhouse gases surrounding Earth includes water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, plus more – all of which contribute to the warming of the planet. 

How is the greenhouse effect contributing to climate change?

Many human practices, from deforestation to cement production, have caused greenhouse gas emissions. It’s simple; the more greenhouse gases that are released, the more heat energy that is reflected to Earth. Since the Industrial Revolution, where burning of fossil fuels was dependable, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, has drastically increased. It has been reported that since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the atmospheric CO2 levels have grown by over 40%.

How to reduce your carbon footprint

In order to reduce the level of greenhouses gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, we can simply break a few old habits. The truth is, living greener isn’t as difficult as you might think, and even the smallest of changes can make a big difference. Here are a few pointers to help you reduce your carbon footprint:

  • Eating less meat: Did you know that pigs, cows and sheep emit methane? By cutting back on how much meat you consume, you can substantially reduce your carbon footprint, and its effect on the world. Adopting a vegan diet could reduce your footprint by up to 20%.
  • Car share: For a new car, reducing your annual mileage by 5,000 miles will reduce the average person’s carbon footprint by an impressive 15%.
  • Adopting renewable energy initiatives: Green initiatives will provide the energy you need by using an environmentally-friendly method. At Co-operative Energy, we’re proud to offer a 100% green energy tariff, helping to cut back on emissions.

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