The Ozone Layer, Greenhouse Effect, and Global Warming

The Ozone Layer, Greenhouse Effect, and Global Warming
Energy is the capacity for doing work, generating heat, and producing light. We use energy from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep at night. Without energy we would not be able to perform the daily functions of life. Although energy is useful to us, energy has a down side. One of the topics discussed in class was electromagnetic energy. During the lecture on electromagnetic energy, the concept of the ozone layer and global warming was discussed. We briefly talked about how the ozone layer was disappearing because of the increasing amount of greenhouse gases. These topics of electromagnetic energy and the atmosphere struck me. Therefore, I decided to explore the subjects of the ozone layer, greenhouse effect, and the dangers of global warming. Electromagnetic energy travels by wavelengths of radiation and moves at the speed of lightThere are many forms of electromagnetic energy that we use, including X- rays, microwaves, television, and radio. Another form of electromagnetic energy that we do not usually think about is ultraviolet radiation, which is produced by the sun. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun has the capacity to seriously harm the planet Earth and all of its life forms. To prevent this from happening there is a layer of oxygen in the atmosphere called the ozone layer. The ozone layer is responsible for absorbing almost all of the ultraviolet radiation, causing temperatures at the top layers to reach about 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Atmospheric oxygen is then turned into ozone by the energy of the ultraviolet light, ?which is oxygen with three atoms in each molecule.? Normally oxygen has only two atoms to a molecule (Ultraviolet Radiation 2005). Due to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other pollutants from factories, the ozone layer has been thinning out or even disappearing over some parts of the world. History seems to go back thirty years: ?In the mid-1980?s scientists discovered a ?hole? ? an area where the ozone is up to 50% thinner than normal? (Ozone Layer 2005). If this continues to occur the ozone layer will disappear and skin cancer, certain eye diseases, and other harmful effects could become more prevalent. Although the ozone layer captures ultraviolet radiation, the atmosphere does allow visible light from the sun to enter the Earth?s surface. The visible light passes through a ?blanket? of greenhouse gases made up of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. This is beneficial because it allows the Earth?s surface to be heated. Some of this energy is taken up by the Earth?s surface in the form of infrared radiation, which is absorbed by molecules of carbon dioxide and water vapor in the atmosphere (Greenhouse Effect 2005). Infrared radiation does not pass through the blanket of gases; it is trapped and kept on the Earth?s surface. This phenomenon is known as the greenhouse effect. By trapping the infrared radiation, the Earth prevents heat from escaping to the outer atmosphere. Without the greenhouse effect, temperatures on Earth would be only about -73 degrees Celsius. Temperatures this low would cause all of the oceans to freeze and Earth as we know would no longer exist. Because of the rise of carbon dioxide and other combustion of fossil fuels, the greenhouse effect on Earth is being ?intensified? (Greenhouse Effect 2005). This is where the idea of global warming comes into effect. Although the greenhouse gases are effective in warming the Earth, too many of them can be very harmful. In fact, too many greenhouse gases increase global temperatures. An increase in global temperatures could cause polar ice caps and mountain glaciers to melt which would then cause an extreme rise in sea levels. This puts great harm to small islands and people living along coastal regions. Higher global temperatures could also throw off precipitation causing ?new patterns and extremes of drought and rainfall, seriously disrupting food production in certain regions? (Greenhouse Effect 2005). After researching these topics, I was severely disturbed. I always have found myself to be environmentally conscious. I now realize that I have been contributing to both the destruction of the ozone layer and global warming. Every time I start my car or buy a product that was produced by a factory, I am causing harm to the environment. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans make up just 4 percent of the world?s population, but we produce 25 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution. We produce more carbon dioxide than China, India, and Japan combined (Global Warming Basics 2004). The United States needs to be an active participant in creating advancements to decrease the amount of emissions released into the atmosphere each year. It is very simple ? all we have to do is reduce pollution from vehicles and power plants. This can be achieved by building cleaner cars, using more electricity generators, and relaying on wind, sun, and geothermal energy sources.

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