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Greenhouse gases are released into the air from many sources. This pie chart shows where they were coming from in 2004.
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IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group 3

Tackling the Global Warming Challenge

Earth’s climate is warming and we humans are mostly to blame.  By releasing greenhouse gases into the air we have made Earth’s greenhouse effect stronger, causing warming.

If we want to keep Earth a livable place we need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases and slow global warming declares a statement released in December 2007 by a group of about 200 climate scientists.  “There is no time to lose,” they wrote.

There are technologies that can help. Getting electricity from gas, nuclear power, or renewable energy instead of coal can help decrease greenhouse gas emissions according to the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Driving cars with good gas millage or using public transportation makes a difference too. And getting from place to place by bicycling or walking doesn’t release any greenhouse gases.

Thinking about the choices we make about how much energy we use and the types of energy we use is a good way to start considering how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Check out the Energy Choices and Climate Change online module to explore how our choices impact greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently many groups have set a goal to not add carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere.  This is known as being “carbon neutral.” One way that groups are achieving their goal when they have to burn fossil fuels is by purchasing carbon offsets which support projects that build wind farms or plant trees, hopefully cancelling the effect of their fossil fuel use. You can figure out how much carbon dioxide you are responsible for with an online carbon calculator.

For almost two decades world leaders have been working together to reduce the amount of global warming caused by humans. Representatives from 192 countries signed a treaty in 1992 called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. A few years later they developed the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries. Now a new global climate treaty is being discussed to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

There are also inventions that are in development which could help like advanced wind turbines, solar power, and biodiesel fuels.  New hybrid and electric cars are in development and so are airplanes that use less fuel. Scientists are also looking for ways to get carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Slowing global warming won’t happen overnight.  However, according to the IPCC, by taking steps today we could prevent some of the more catastrophic impacts of warming in the future.

Last modified December 4, 2009 by Lisa Gardiner.

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