Climate change: the basics

The Greenhouse Effect

The Greenhouse effect is a natural process which is fundamental to life on earth. An invisible layer of gases in our atmosphere allow through heat from the sun but absorb some of the heat coming back from the Earth’s surface.

Greenhouse gases act like a blanket and keep the surface of the earth warm. In fact, without these gases the earth would be more than 30°C colder than it is!

Our Greenhouse Impact

Since the industrial revolution started around 200 years ago, mankind has been burning fossil fuels. These are underground stores of energy such as coal, oil and natural gas which were formed from the remains of dead plants and animals over millions of years.

Burning fossil fuels releases large amounts of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon Dioxide is one of the most significant greenhouse gases and this man-made emission increases the greenhouse effect and disrupts the natural balance of the earth’s climate.

We use fossil fuels for all aspects of our lives: to generate electricity, to generate heat, to travel and to make the products we use every day.

This activity has directly increased the size of the greenhouse gas “blanket”, trapping more of the sun’s energy inside our atmosphere and causing climate change.

In fact, the amount of Carbon Dioxide emitted by man’s activities has had such a significant effect that the earth’s temperature has increased more rapidly in the last few years than it has for many thousands of years.