Advantages of the Greenhouse Effect and Disadvantages
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, greenhouse gases are chemical compounds found in the earth’s atmosphere. These greenhouse gases absorb infrared radiation from the sun. The heat from that radiation gets trapped in the atmosphere. It’s the trapped heat that creates the greenhouse effect. In turn, the greenhouse effect causes global warming and climate change, which continue to fuel growing global concern. Greenhouse gases threaten human existence in many ways. However, the greenhouse effect offers a few benefits. This article considers the advantages of the greenhouse effect and disadvantages.
The Main Greenhouse Gases
Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and industrial gases are the main greenhouse gases that keep environmentalists awake. Human activity is the main generator of these gases. That means humans can do something about global warming and climate change.
You are likely surprised that ozone (O3) is not on the main greenhouse gases list. Ozone affects global warming. Technically, that makes ozone a greenhouse gas. However, the U.S. and many other countries do not view ozone as a worrying greenhouse gas. Ozone prevents ultraviolet light from harming animal and plant life on Earth. Perhaps that is why the U.S. and other regions do not count ozone as one of the main greenhouse gases. It seems reasonable to think of ozone as a good greenhouse gas.
Water vapor is also a greenhouse gas. That might seem somewhat surprising. Why is water vapor not counted among the main greenhouse gases considering it is the most abundant greenhouse gas?
The U.S. Energy Information Administration does not estimate water vapor emissions. The reason EIA does not focus on water vapor is that human activity generates an insignificant amount of water vapor. Now, let us examine the advantages of the greenhouse effect and disadvantages.
Advantages of the Greenhouse Effect
The greenhouse effect offers several advantages. The benefits explained here are some and not all of the advantages of this phenomenon. Here are the benefits:
The Greenhouse Effect Supports Life
Enormous temperature variations make the moon a hostile place that does not support life. Night temperatures can drop to as low as -244 degrees Fahrenheit. In comparison, daytime temperatures can rise as high as 273 degrees Fahrenheit. That would translate to a diurnal temperature range of roughly 517 degrees Fahrenheit. Those are extreme temperatures.
Consider the hottest and driest place on Earth, the Death Valley in California. The highest temperature ever recorded there was 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, this might sound unbelievable, but it is possible to fry an egg there using the sun’s heat. Experts think human activity would cease if temperatures ever hit 150 degrees. Thanks to the greenhouse effect, temperatures on planet Earth have generally stayed within tolerable limits. With day temperatures of up to 273 degrees and terribly cold nights, the moon naturally does not support life.
Fortunately, the greenhouse effect makes life on Earth possible. Without the greenhouse effect, the sun’s heat would end life on Earth. Earth would become a desolate place, pretty much like the moon. Ozone acts as a blanket that shields plants and animals (including human animals) from ultraviolet radiation.
The Greenhouse Effect Supports Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is the natural process through which plants make their own food. Without carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight, there would be no photosynthesis. Plants convert CO2, water, and sunlight from the atmosphere into useful organic compounds that support growth. As a result, humans and animals get food for survival.
The Greenhouse Effect May Result in Increased Food Production
The greenhouse effect results in increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A review of existing literature indicates that higher CO2 levels cause plants to grow faster. Additionally, such plants tend to grow bigger than those growing under conditions with lower CO2 levels.
Besides, such crops may mature faster than they normally do. As a result, farmers would see increased yields which might translate into improved returns. Experts predict that if the current levels of atmospheric CO2 doubled, the world would likely see up to 32 percent increase in agricultural yields.
The Greenhouse Effect May Increase the Ability of Plants to Resist Drought
Water is among the most critical components of agricultural production. Increased global warming would make water an even more critical factor for farming.
Studies find that increased CO2 concentrations may cause plant leaf stomates to close partly. As a result, plants may experience improved resistance to comparative water loss. Additionally, transpiration rates may decrease. Besides, plants in conditions of elevated CO2 tend to use water more efficiently than they normally do. Elevated CO2 levels from the greenhouse effect may give plants greater resistance to drought and other stresses related to water.
The Greenhouse Effect May Lead to Increased Rainfall Amounts
Predicting how global warming might affect regional and local weather patterns might be difficult. However, it is reasonable to expect drastic climatic changes in the future.
The greenhouse effect causes temperatures to rise. Higher temperatures sometimes mean more rainfall across different regions. While too much rainfall might destroy crops in the fields, improved rains generally lead to higher agricultural productivity.
Disadvantages of the Greenhouse Effect
While the greenhouse effect may offer some advantages, it also poses several challenges. Here are some of the disadvantages of the greenhouse effect:
The Greenhouse Effect May Decrease Yields
Experts predict that the greenhouse effect will eventually warm the Earth by up to 4.5 degrees centigrade. When that happens, farmers may expect to contend with the effects of increased evaporation. Wilting of crops would be a natural consequence of increased temperatures. Consequently, farmers would get much lower yields than would normally be the case.
Stronger Storms Accompanied by Fast-moving, Damaging Winds
Higher temperatures from global warming may result in stronger storms and winds. Many storms have come and gone, and the world has seen just how destructive they can be. It is hard to imagine of harsher of storms than the deadly ones recently seen in different places.
The worst U.S. hurricane happened more than 100 years ago in Galveston, Texas, according to Forbes. It killed about 25 percent of the population on that island. Aside from destroying almost every structure there, the hurricane resulted in a 15-foot storm surge. What’s more, the location saw 120 mph winds. Thanks to the greenhouse effect, the world may in the coming days witness stronger storms and winds than humanity has ever seen.
Seasons May Become Unpredictable
Irrigation is a critical factor affecting food production globally. There are no indications that agriculture will in the future stop relying on rainfall. Seasons have informed farming decisions in some way since the appearance of the first known civilization. Farmers in many countries plan their farming activities to coincide with the rainy season.
Farmers who rely on rainfall assume that seasons are predictable and that they will always follow the same pattern. But global warming continues to change the predictability of seasons in many places across the world. In the future, it will become even harder to predict seasons. If the rainy season were to stop arriving when it usually does in a given place, farmers would find it difficult to plan. Maybe people would stop talking about seasons altogether. Farmers would likely plant whenever rains come instead of waiting for a specific season. They would then have to wait, hoping that an extremely hot summer wouldn’t follow quickly afterward.
Global warming may cause more frequent droughts and floods in the future. It is also likely that major changes may happen in the way farmers practice agriculture. New methods and technologies may emerge, and there might be less overreliance on rainfall. Ideas such as greenhouse farming may become more entrenched across the world, with governments investing heavily in food security.
Diseases and Death
Deadly heat waves have at different times killed people in different countries. If the predictions made by scientists come true, summers in the future will be much hotter than they have ever been. People and animals may not withstand abnormally high temperatures. Elevated temperatures may lead to many heat-related deaths across regions.
Additionally, malaria may become a much greater problem in tropical areas as a result of increased temperatures. Malaria kills. Each year, over a million people succumb to malaria. According to UNICEF, the world currently loses one child every second to malaria. That number translates into around 2,900 children every 24 hours. That is worrying. But the situation would grow even worse if mosquitoes, thanks to the greenhouse effect, had a more conducive breeding environment.
Species Might Become Extinct
Many studies have predicted that climate change will be among the main causes of species extinction in the coming 100 years. Several studies suggest that decreased physiological tolerance to increased temperatures may threaten the survival of species. However, a review of existing literature revealed that factors other than reduced heat tolerance may cause that extinction.
Climate is the main factor that may lead to eventual extinction. However, there may be other factors that play a significant role in the process. For instance, climate change may cause pathogens or competitors to thrive. Another proximate factor may be the loss of host and pollinator species resulting from climate change. Additionally, heat avoidance behavior of species may lead to negative impacts that speed up local extinction. No one knows the exact factors that might have the biggest impact. Millions of animal and plant species face eventual extinction due to the greenhouse effect.
Final Thoughts on the Advantages of the Greenhouse Effect and Disadvantages
Evidently, the greenhouse effect has several advantages and disadvantages. Greenhouse gases support photosynthesis while keeping plant and animal life safe from harmful ultraviolet rays. Additionally, the greenhouse effect may boost agricultural productivity through increased rainfall, faster plant growth, and shortened maturity period. Besides, climate change may improve the ability of crops to withstand water-related stresses.
However, the greenhouse effect may also cause a few challenges. Some of the problems may be unpredictability of seasons, extinction of species, death and diseases, harsher storms and decreased yields. Greenhouse gases are a serious problem that needs more focused action than it receives currently. To save the Earth, individuals, non-governmental organizations, and governments need to start doing more than they are. Luckily, humans can do something to delay the negative effects of the greenhouse effect. But who will win the end? Nature or humans?