Anna Sheffer
December 18, 2017 9:55 am

Climate change: we’ve all heard of it, and it’s the subject of much controversy across the country. When talking about climate change, the greenhouse effect is often mentioned. But what exactly is that?

The greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring process — and without it, we’d freeze to death. When the sun shines down on the Earth’s surface, about two-thirds of the sun’s rays are absorbed by the surface of the planet and then radiated back toward the atmosphere where they are absorbed. This process warms the Earth and allows life to flourish.

The atmosphere is mostly made up of nitrogen and oxygen. But these two gases don’t trap much heat in the atmosphere. Instead, greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor, for example — help trap heat, creating the greenhouse effect.

There’s nothing inherently bad about greenhouse gases, but scientists say that there’s a 95 percent probability that human actions have caused the greenhouse effect to increase, contributing to climate change. In the last 100 years, humans have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through the use of electricity and automobiles. This has caused the temperature of the Earth to rise and keep rising.

President Donald Trump has long denied that human actions are causing climate change and increasing the greenhouse effect. In 2012, he tweeted that climate change was a hoax created by the Chinese. This climate change denial has had huge implications for national policy. In June, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, an agreement signed by almost all countries committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has also announced that it will roll back Obama-era caps on greenhouse gas emissions. And today, December 18th, Trump is expected to remove climate change from the list of threats to national security. All of these changes could cause the greenhouse effect to worsen.

But regardless of what the president says, empirical evidence shows that the global temperature is rising. And this has already had disastrous effects. Scientists say that the unusually destructive 2017 hurricane season could have been the result of climate change.

We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fast. There are ways individuals can combat climate change. But we also need our president to acknowledge that we are affecting the environment — before it’s too late.