Gases Around the Earth Trap Heat

by Alana Ringen, age 9

People talk about climate change all the time. You can see the effects of it everywhere you go, but some people don’t really know what it is, or why it’s happening.

The Earth was formed a long time ago, about 4.5 billion years ago to be exact. The climate on Earth during its first billion years was very different than it is today. The sun was cooler, but the Earth was much warmer because there were higher levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. These gases are called greenhouse gases. 

These gases, also known as heat trapping gases, exist naturally in the atmosphere. They trap heat in the atmosphere to keep Earth warm enough for plants and animals to live.

When photosynthesis became common two million years ago, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere decreased. During photosynthesis, plants take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and replace it with oxygen. This process reduced the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, making Earth’s climate cooler.

For at least the last 650,000 years, the Earth’s temperature has increased and decreased in a cyclical pattern. Although the climate has always experienced these fluctuations, people weren’t around to cause these changes. Instead, they occurred naturally.

In the 1900s, however, people started burning coal and other fossil fuels. People use these fuels to power their homes, factories and vehicles. This created a lot of pollution and released extra amounts of gases like carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The extra greenhouse gases humans put into the atmosphere are causing the climate to warm more rapidly than it does during its natural cycle.

If humans continue releasing these gases into the atmosphere, the Earth will get even hotter, and climate change will become more severe. This could have serious impacts on the environment and society. We should find ways to reduce the burning of fossil fuels and get rid of excess greenhouse gases!

[Source: The Environmental Protection Agency]

Amazing article. It's great to know about the environment. – Cecilia GonzalesVerona, WI (2014-06-11 19:24)
You did a great job of making this science article easy to understand. It was very informative and thought-provoking! – MelodyLaFollette HS (2014-07-08 15:49)
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