The truth about the greenhouse effect and global warming

Curious about global warming as the rest of the world, I decided to look for a biologist for a holistic explanation. Christian Paredes accepted gladly, explained me that the greenhouse effect was an absolutely normal phenomenon and that, among other things, the global destruction that everybody is concerned about is perfectly avoidable.

What is the greenhouse effect: the truth

The first thing I could learn during my conversation with Christian is that the greenhouse effect is what allows us to be alive. In a planet without atmosphere, like Mercury, rays from the sun turn the side they touch into an oven and the side they do not, a freezer. Sun's energy touches the planet, is reflected and leaves. Temperatures cannot distribute evenly.

And something similar is supposed to happen in the Earth, but it does not. Theoretically, sun rays should come, reflect on the surface and leave; but our atmosphere plays a double game to permit and avoid it: On the one side, harmful energy is prevented from getting into the Earth and reflected directly by the atmosphere and its ozone layer. On the other, the energy that comes in is not allowed to leave as soon as it came. Water, carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere make this energy rebound in and outwards of the planet for a couple of times before saying good bye. These rebounds, which are properly called the greenhouse effect, allow the temperature of the planet to rise and stay even, except for the small variations we are used to.

Without it, the Earth would also be an oven where the sun touched it and a freezer where it did not.

Why are temperatures rising

If temperatures are rising nowadays, it is because the greenhouse effect has been exacerbated. The garbage we are throwing to the air, particularly carbon dioxide, is making the energy from the sun rebound some more times than it should before leaving the Earth. This is raising temperatures more than they need and causing global warming.

Is it really reversible?

By this moment, Christian and I agreed that finishing the technical explanations was the best for the conversation. What people really want to know is if global warming could be stopped, reverted or anyhow slowed. Christian's answer was a motivating "For sure!" followed by one of those smiles. He explained me that if we just stopped throwing garbage to the air, nature would be slowly able to process the gases that are causing this exacerbated greenhouse effect and clean them, just as it does with everything else.

Easier said than done? Maybe yes. given that the main pollutant we are throwing to the air is carbon dioxide, and specially as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, to achieve something important we would have to stop using petroleum derivatives as fuel; something that, according to our current life standards, is pretty unlikely... not to mention the huge economical interests around this.

How to stop global warming

The only thing we can do is to face this problem in a holistic manner. Individuals, societies, governments and mainly industries and international organizations would need to get together, forget their wallets and talk about the problem as they did less than thirty years ago to stop producing the ozone-layer-destructive CFCs. As a matter of fact, civil pressure can do a lot to move the governments. And consumer power can do a lot to motivate industries. I'm sure that if we could stomp a few mountains of indifference, we could get results much faster.

"Would there be any benefit for companies?", I asked.

"Of course there is money in recycling air! You can buy a machine, install it in the factory and make carbonates out of the carbon dioxide you filter, for example. And carbonates are not cheap in the market...", he replied.

And what about helping or supporting other environmentalist initiatives? Can that help to revert global warming, too?

"Yes, indeed", he said. "In nature, everything is linked. Picking up a paper from the floor and wasting it in a recyclable bin, though little, helps a lot".

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, because you are saving a little piece of tree", he sentenced.


Knowledge + Society + Environment