Shop Windows to the Universe

Earth Science Rocks! Select one of our four cool NESTA t-shirts from our online store, and express your love of Earth and space science!
Greenhouse gases are released into the air from many sources. This pie chart shows where they were coming from in 2004.
Click on image for full size
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.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Cool It! is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Earth's Greenhouse Gases

Even though only a tiny amount of the gases in Earth’s atmosphere are greenhouse gases, they have a huge effect on climate. There are several different types of greenhouse gases. The major ones are carbon...more

Earth's Greenhouse Effect

Energy from the Sun that makes its way to the Earth’s surface can have trouble finding its way back out to space. This is because of a natural process called the greenhouse effect. Without the greenhouse...more

Global Warming: Scientists Say Earth Is Heating Up

Earth’s climate is warming. During the 20th Century Earth’s average temperature rose 0.6° Celsius (1.1°F). Scientists are finding that the change in temperature has been causing other aspects of our planet...more

Carbon Dioxide - CO2

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a kind of gas. There isn't that much carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere, but it is still very important. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. That means it helps trap heat coming...more

A New Plan to Help Earth’s Changing Climate

Leaders from 192 countries are meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark December 7-18, 2009 to decide how the world will deal with climate change. They are trying to decide how to limit the amount of greenhouse...more

Effects of Climate Change Today

Over 100 years ago, people worldwide began burning more coal and oil for homes, factories, and transportation. Burning these fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere....more

“Missing” Heat May Affect Future Climate Change

As greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, more of the energy that gets to Earth from the Sun sticks around the planet. This means that the amount of energy coming to Earth is greater than the amount...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA