In January 200l the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of scientific experts assembled by the United Nations, released a frightening report on the potential consequences of the climate phenomenon known as global warming. The panel found that the 1990s had been the warmest decade on record and predicted that temperatures will rise anywhere from 2.5 to 10.4 degrees around the world over the next century, causing changes to global weather patterns. Indeed, unusual and frequently destructive weather had been occurring around the globe: twenty-seven inches of rain in one day in Hilo, Hawaii; an unheard-of thunderstorm in Barrow, Alaska; a huge ice storm in Atlanta, Georgia; massive floods in Europe; and an unprecedented
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The atmosphere on Mars does not contain enough carbon dioxide to trap much solar energy, causing the average surface temperature of the planet to stay about 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Venus, on the other hand, has a much thicker atmosphere than earth, consisting of approximately 96 percent carbon dioxide. This massive greenhouse blanket results in a surface temperature of 860 degrees Fahrenheit. Maslin's example reveals that the precise combination of greenhouse gases in earth's atmosphere maintains a delicate balance that keeps the planet from getting too hot or too cold.
What does the greenhouse effect have to do with global warming? According to the IPCC's 2001 report, human activities are causing an increase in the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. An increase in greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, means more heat is being trapped by the atmosphere, leading to higher temperatures around the globe and the potential for global climate changes. Concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases have been steadily increasing since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century. The use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal has increased carbon dioxide levels by 30 percent. Fossil fuel use, waste dumps, increased agricultural production, and massive livestock operations have increased levels of methane by 240 percent. Modern industries such as