A Warming Trend


Courtesy Diane Finlayson


Just how does carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases trap heat in our atmosphere?

The easiest way to understand it is to imagine the as a giant greenhouse. Just as the glass in a small greenhouse maximizes the effect of sunlight, so the layer of carbon dioxide and other naturally occurring gases found in the earth’s atmosphere retain some of the light energy the earth receives from the sun, heating our planet and making life possible.

So what's the problem?

As shown in the illustration below, when too much carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases pollute the atmosphere, things get too warm.























By burning fossil fuels to produce our electricity and power our transportation, we have added billions of tons of carbon dioxide and other gases to the atmosphere. These additional gases act like a blanket over the earth, trapping much more of the heat from the sun than the atmosphere would naturally retain. The result is an unprecedented and dangerous warming of our planet which is changing our climates, our weather patterns, and our sea levels.


Published March 2007