Greenhouse Effects on the Environment

Anthropogenic global warming, also referred to as global climate change, is a dramatic rise in temperature caused by the use of fossil fuels and other chemicals that create the greenhouse effect. The environmental effects of global warming are numerous and could create serious and irreversible damage to ecosystems around the world. Man-caused global warming has many very deadly consequences.

  1. Greenhouse Effect

    • The greenhouse effect is the term given to heat trapped by gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are produced by human activities like driving, farming, running factories, producing electricity and other activities. Although greenhouse gases are necessary to maintain a temperature on Earth that can sustain life, a concentration of greenhouse gases that is too high can damage it. The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and water vapor.


    • As more greenhouse gases enter and remain in the atmosphere, they trap heat. Although greenhouse gases cycle through the atmosphere, this cycling process takes many years, and during that time the gases continue to trap heat. The Earth's heating and cooling cycle depends on a balance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that trap some of the heat from the sun while allowing some of it to escape. The more greenhouse gases are expelled into the air, the warmer the Earth becomes.

    Polar Ice

    • One of the major effects of anthropogenic global warming is the melting of the polar ice caps. These ice caps help reflect a great deal of sunlight and heat back into space. As they melt from higher temperatures, they are less able to reflect heat, which makes them melt faster.

      The polar ice caps are home to many animals, including polar bears and species they prey on, like seals. As the polar ice caps melt, polar bears will lose their habitats and could become extinct.

    Plants and Animals

    • As temperatures change, certain types of plants and animals are no longer able to survive in their habitat due to the environmental changes. Greenhouse gases not only increase the temperature, they also create pollution that can kill off plants and animals. The changing distribution of where these organisms live is a major consequence of global warming caused by the greenhouse effect, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.


    • Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are not only greenhouse gases, they are also pollutants that damage the air quality. Respiratory diseases, asthma, smog pollution and many other negative effects of these greenhouse gases can result from their presence. Acid rain results from the presence of greenhouse gases and pollutants in the atmosphere, which damages crops, ruins the soil and kills off forests over time.

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  • Photo Credit global warming image by Ken Marshall from

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