The greenhouse effect is causing the rapid warming of the Earth. Actual greenhouses are designed to trap heat inside of them. Likewise, greenhouse gases trap the energy from the Sun, making things warm up quickly. The most common greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2); large amounts of which are being dumped into the atmosphere through industrial processes such as burning coal and natural gas for fuel.
How can we help? Well, we can stop making CO2 in the first place -- but world leaders aren't acting fast enough, and that wouldn't help with the massive amounts of CO2 already in the air. What if we could absorb CO2 straight from the air?
This method, called carbon absorption or sequestering, is a subject of research by many scientists around the world. Let's look at some of the most promising methods...
Trees are handy things to have around. They're a home for birds and they're climbable. More importantly they absorb CO2 from the air around them, and convert it into breathable oxygen -- which is exactly what we need to do to offset the greenhouse gas effect! According to Sierra Club:
"Plant one silver maple today, and in 25 years -- assuming it survives -- it will have sequestered about 400 pounds of CO2, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. However, don't feel too righteous if you plant just one tree, because the average US resident emits the equivalent of around 20 tons of CO2 a year."
Planting trees, though helpful and necessary, will not stop global warming alone. Another vital step we should take is protecting our existing forest resources. If it takes you 1 minute to read through this whole section, by the time you reach "PLANKTON" we will have lost 48 football fields' space of trees. Most of this tree loss is in the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil, which is being burned at an alarming rate to clear land for farming.
So planting trees is a good way to help. But we need more solutions...
Not all plants live on land. Far from it. Phytoplankton is what we call plankton -- ranging from algae to bacteria -- that photosynthesize. They take up a significant amount of the Earth's biomass, and what's more, phytoplankton are already responsible for about half of all CO2 absorption. That's good, right?
Well, not really.
Scientists say that plankton are more like a measuring-tool than a solution; they are very sensitive to minute changes in temperature or pH. But any carbon they absorb will just contribute to ocean acidification (which is largely responsible for the tragedy of coral bleaching.) Plankton is too unreliable to exploit to our advantage. Let's look at some human-made ideas...