The greenhouse effect is the rise in the Earth's average temperature over time as greenhouse gases trap infrared radiation from the sun, which is retained as heat. The direct effects of this phenomenon are observable in delicate ecosystems such as coral reefs, and indirect effects are seen in otherwise more robust habitats, such as aspen forests in the American West. Greenhouse gases can also affect humans, in both observable ways and in ways traceable through two or more linked phenomena.
In addition to well-known greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide, greenhouse emissions from industry and transportation contain fine particulates. These pollutants are linked to asthma, emphysema and cancer in populations that are affected by high concentrations or long-term exposure. The spread of some diseases is linked to the greenhouse effect as well; for example, climate change is listed as a factor in the increased range of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, causing new infections and outbreaks in previously unaffected areas of East Africa, Indonesia and Afghanistan.
Loss of Natural Resources
In 2010, forestry services in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and California cataloged the decline of 500,000 acres of aspen trees due to the increased presence of parasites that thrive in warmer temperatures. The loss of these trees has caused the loss of indigenous grasses and habitats that grew beneath them, which held water utilized by nearby metropolitan areas. The affected populations must now expend additional energy in water treatment, jeopardizing the sustainability of their local drinkable water supply.
Indirect Threats to Life and Property
Flash floods, severe storms and droughts are sometimes attributable to climate change caused by the greenhouse effect. Human populations affected by droughts often experience long-term famine, weakened immunity to disease outbreaks and social or political collapse. Damage or loss of property, and even of life, are possible outcomes of extreme storms and flash floods. Some recent tsunami events have also been controversially linked to possible greenhouse-related causes. In an article from the India Daily, the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia was linked to climate changes and a 2005 article in Time examined the possibility that the severity of Hurricane Katrina could be linked to global climate change as well. These events killed or displaced tens of thousands of humans and devastated the infrastructures of the affected cities.
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