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Geography

Greenhouse effect

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The emission of greenhouse gases - such as carbon dioxide and methane - as by-products of industry and agriculture is having a global impact on temperature and weather systems.

Consequences of resource exploitation

When fossil fuels are burned - by industry, in power stations and by vehicles and planes - gases (as unwanted by-products known as carbon emissions) enter the atmosphere [atmosphere: The envelope of gasses that surround the Earth. The important gasses in the atmosphere are nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide. ]. Carbon dioxide (CO2), in particular, is given off when fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, are burned. Although these gases have always been present in the world's atmosphere, their concentration is gradually increasing as more and more fossil fuels are burned.

The inequality in the use of resources between MEDCs [MEDC: A More Economically Developed Country (MEDC) has high levels of development based on economic indicators such as gross domestic product (the country's income). ] and LEDCs [LEDC: A Less Economically Developed Country (LEDC) has low levels of development, based on economic indicators, such as gross domestic product (the country's income). ] is shown by measuring and comparing their carbon emissions per capita. Countries that use a lot of fossil fuels [fossil fuel: Fuels such as coal, gas and oil which are mined from the earth and burned to produce energy. They are formed from broken down animals and plants that died a very long time ago. ] to produce energy to power industry, produce electricity and heat homes, also produce a lot of carbon gasses.

Greenhouse gases

Scientists believe that the build-up of so-called greenhouse gases [greenhouse gas: Naturally occurring gases in the atmosphere such carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. They are believed to have increased through burning more oil, petrol, and coal. ] in the atmosphere acts like a blanket or greenhouse around the planet; heat is trapped inside the Earth's atmosphere. This is the greenhouse effect, and the resulting increase in global temperatures is called global warming.

  • Plants and trees need CO2 and use it up. However, if there is too much CO2 in the atmosphere - due to factories and power stations, combined with a reduction in the number of trees, through deforestation - CO2 builds up in the atmosphere.
  • This build-up of CO2 is believed to contribute to global warming [global warming: The rise in the average temperature of the Earth's surface. In the last 100 years it is believed to have risen by 0.6°C. ] through the greenhouse effectgreenhouse effect: The absorption of heat energy by gases in the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide and methane.. This is why CO2 is called a greenhouse gas.
  • The biggest producers of CO2 in the world are the United States (USA), China, Russia, Japan, India, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy and Mexico.
  • The largest producers by far are the USA and China.

The diagram below shows the countries that contribute the biggest percentage of the world's carbon emissions.

Countries contributing to carbon emissions

Countries contributing to carbon emissions

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