The greenhouse effect occurs when energy from the sun is trapped in the Earth's atmosphere rather than being absorbed by the Earth or deflected back into space. This trapped energy heats up the planet and can cause numerous problems.
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When carbon-based emissions from sources such as motor vehicles or coal-fired electric generating plants create greenhouse gasses, these emissions can trap heat within the atmosphere. The resulting greenhouse effect can then increase the planet's average temperature. Over time, the trapped heat can change climates and disrupt or destroy ecosystems that are not accustomed to the higher temperatures.
Increased temperature can lead to stronger and more destructive weather events, such as storms, hurricanes and tornadoes. These can be particularly damaging in parts of the world not used to dealing with severe weather.
The greenhouse effect also leads to the melting of the polar ice caps, important because they keep the Earth cool. When these caps melt, it increases the level of the oceans and the Earth loses its cooling mechanism.