Essentially, the greenhouse effect functions in the following manner. When sunlight pierces the atmosphere and hits the earth’s surface, not all of the sun’s solar energy is absorbed. Approximately a third of it is reflected back into space. Specific atmospheric gases serve in much the same way as does the glass of a greenhouse, thus the terminology. These gases allow sunlight to penetrate then trap some of the solar energy which heats the earth (Breuer, 1980). It is a delicate balance and because these greenhouse gases have been artificially augmented by man-made sources, more build up in the atmosphere has occurred thus trapping more of the sun’s energy and reflecting less back in to space. This occurrence is causing the earth to warm.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent of the greenhouse gases. Trees absorb CO2 and when they die, CO2 is restored to the atmosphere. The clearing of forests by mass burning, which is happening at a phenomenal rate in the tropical rain forests, is decreasing the amount of CO2 that is absorbed and increasing the amount that is added to the atmosphere. CO2 supplies about half of the total gases that create the greenhouse effect (Breuer, 1980). Since 1970, at least 20 per cent of Amazon rainforest has been lost from deforestation. This figure could be under-representative because it does not include trees that have been felled by selective logging techniques which are less noticeable than clear-cutting yet causes considerable harm. Ecologists and scientists warn that another 20 per cent will be lost within the next 20 years. If this were to occur, the ecological system that sustains the forest and thus the planet’s weather patterns will start to disintegrate. The rising temperature of the Earth, due to global warming, will exacerbate the situation and cause droughts which will lead to massive wildfires in the region. Instead of life-giving oxygen which