Earth's greenhouse effect is manifested as the difference between thermal infrared radiation emitted at the Earth surface and that emitted to space at the top of the atmosphere. This difference, which is due mainly to absorption and downward emission of radiant energy by atmospheric trace gases, results in global mean surface temperature about 32 K greater than what it would otherwise be for the same planetary absorption of solar radiation, and is thus of enormous importance to Earth's climate. This Resource Letter introduces the physics of the greenhouse effect and more broadly of Earth's climate system and provides resources for further study. A companion Resource Letter (GECC-2), planned for the following issue, examines the increase in the greenhouse effect due to human activities over the past 200 years and its consequences for Earth's climate system.

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