Earth Sciences and Ecology Question #1128

Michael Chen, a 16 year old male from Calgary asks on December 18, 2002,

Is there any evidence that the Green House Effect is not caused by industral gas emissions?

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The answer

Norman Donaldson answered on December 19, 2002

Here are the facts, as I know them. Pay careful attention to the words "slow" and "quick".

I know as an atmospheric scientist that the Green House Effect has been here for millions of years. Earth would be very cold without it. Levels of Green House gases changed slowly in the past, and the Earth has been either colder or warmer at some times in the distant past. The problem is that the Green House gases are now changing very quickly.

Nature and people both produce Green House gases. For millions of years nature has been taking these gases out of the air by creating oil, coal, natural gas and some other kinds of rocks. Some gas is also stored in trees and other plants. Nature can slowly get rid of extra Green House gases.

Now we are burning fossil fuels and quickly returning Green House gases to the atmosphere. This is undoing millions of years of natural storage. Cutting down large areas of trees and burning them is also releasing gases that took hundreds of years to store.

So to give my non-authorative answer; fossil fuel burning seems to be the main reason behind the FAST CHANGE in the Green House Effect. Other burning also helps the change. I know of no evidence that any natural sources are changing quickly.

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