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Why the Greenhouse Effect Is Important: How It Works and Causes Global Warming

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The more I research the climate crisis as an adult, the more I wish I had paid better attention in science class as a child. Case in point: My teachers definitely taught me about the greenhouse effect, but I don’t remember what we learned at all. (I mostly just remember making dioramas out of shoeboxes.)

Back then, I had no idea just how important the science we were learning about the environment really was — not only in terms of my grades (don’t worry, I still did well in science class thanks to those dioramas), but also in terms of the future of humanity. Luckily, I’ve since woken up to that fact and started paying attention to science — and I’ve learned that one of the most important concepts to understand in this fight to protect the climate is the greenhouse effect.

Read on for all the basics you need to know about the greenhouse effect, how it causes global warming, and what we can do to reduce our impact in terms of emitting greenhouse gases.

How Does the Greenhouse Effect Work?

The greenhouse effect is the natural process of the sun warming the Earth’s surface. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (primarily carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and water vapor) trap the sun’s heat and cause the global temperature to rise, otherwise known as global warming.