Greenhouse effect

is a warming of the lower atmosphere and surface of a planet by a complex process involving sunlight, gases, and particles in the atmosphere. On the earth, the greenhouse effect began long before human beings existed. However, recent human activity may have added to the effect. The amounts of heat-trapping atmospheric gases, called greenhouse gases, have greatly increased since the mid-1800's, when modern industry became widespread. Since the late 1800's, the temperature of the earth's surface has also risen. The greenhouse effect is so named because the atmosphere acts much like the glass roof and walls of a greenhouse, trapping heat from the sun.

Causes of climate change
Impact Global Warming
Limited Global Warming
Agreement on global warming
Analyzing global warming
Kyoto Protocol
Greenhouse effect
Scientific research
Why climates vary
Ocean problems
Southern Ocean
Pacific Ocean
Ozone hole
Environmental problems by petroleum
Changes in the atmosphere
Increasing Temperatures
Can Earth Explode ?
NASA Study
El Nino
The Procedure Of Implementation Afforestation And Reforestation Project Under The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) In Indonesia
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing countries


Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement to decrease the rate at which carbon dioxide (CO2) and five other gases are released into the atmosphere. The underlying purpose of the protocol is to limit climate change caused by global warming, an increase in the average temperature of the earth's surface. The six gases are involved in the greenhouse effect, a process that warms the surface. For that reason, they are known as greenhouse gases.

The amounts of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have been increasing, and so has the surface temperature. Continued warming could harm the economy of certain regions and damage ecosystems (the living organisms and physical environment in particular areas).

Provisions of the protocol

The protocol would take effect when ratified (formally approved) as a treaty by at least 55 countries. In addition, the industrialized countries ratifying the protocol would have to meet a special requirement: Those countries' emissions (releases) of CO2 in 1990 would have to equal at least 55 percent of the 1990 emissions of all industrialized countries. The protocol considers 38 countries to be industrialized. By early 2003, more than 100 countries, including nearly all the countries classified as industrialized under the protocol, had ratified the agreement. Ratification by Russia or the United States would bring the protocol into force.

Emissions targets. The protocol would restrict emissions that occur only as a result of human activities. The 38 industrialized countries would be required to limit their emissions from 2008 through 2012. Different countries would have different emissions targets. But as a whole, the 38 countries would need to restrict their emissions to a yearly average that would be about 95 percent of their 1990 emissions. The remaining nations, all of which are developing countries, would not have to limit their emissions unless they took part in certain special programs. Under those programs, they would receive economic aid from industrialized countries.

Emissions credits. Special programs also would enable industrialized countries to earn credits that they could use to reduce the amount by which they are required to cut their emissions. Those programs would include: (1) the trading of emissions permits; (2) project-based credit trading; (3) a plan known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM); and (4) the granting of credit for increases of carbon sinks-that is, forests and other systems of vegetation that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

The trading of emissions permits would enable industrialized countries to sell credits called emissions permits to one another. Suppose an industrialized country cut its emissions to an amount less than its target. That country could then sell permits to other industrialized countries. Each permit would allow the buying country to release a specified amount of emissions beyond its own target amount.

Project-based credit trading would give an industrialized country credit for supporting a project that cut emissions in another industrialized country. For example, one country might modernize a factory in another country so that the factory used energy more efficiently.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). One part of the CDM would extend project-based credit trading to developing countries. An industrialized country could earn a credit for a project that helped reduce a developing country's emissions.

Another part of the CDM would enable industrialized countries to buy credits from an international board. The board would use the money from the sales to cut emissions in developing countries and to help developing countries that are harmed by climate change.

Increases in carbon sinks would boost the amount of CO2 absorbed by vegetation. Methods of increasing sinks would include the planting of new forests and changes in forest-management techniques.

Penalties. The Kyoto Protocol would penalize a country that missed its target. For every 1 ton of gas that the country emitted over its target from 2008 through 2012, the country would have to cut an additional 1.3 tons between 2013 and 2017.

Michael D. Mastrandrea, B.S., Graduate Fellow, School of Earth Sciences, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University. Stephen H. Schneider, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Sciences, Stanford University.

Additional resources

Christianson, Gale E.Greenhouse: The 200-Year Story of Global Warming. Walker, 1999. Godrej, Dinyar.The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change. Verso, 2001. Johansen, Bruce E.The Global Warming Desk Reference. Greenwood, 2002. Stein, Paul.Global Warming. Rosen Pub. Group, 2001. Younger readers. -

Source : World Book 2005.