Scientists understand better than ever before how the world’s climate is changing and what these changes mean for the planet’s weather, ecosystems, wildlife and people. The Earth’s average temperatures are rising and already causing significant changes around the globe. If global warming continues, the impact can be potentially devastating.
Scientific evidence confirms that much of global warming is directly caused by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal. Over 100 years ago, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius discovered that emissions of carbon dioxide were responsible for warming the Earth’s surface. Since then, scientists have confirmed that carbon dioxide is just one type of greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
Greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and haloalkanes, act as a blanket for the Earth when they are emitted into the atmosphere. The planet is heated by sunlight that travels through the atmosphere. Some of the heat is radiated back into the atmosphere, where part of it is trapped by greenhouse gases.
These gases act as a blanket, keeping the heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. As the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere builds, less heat is able to escape from the Earth, causing rising temperatures and climate change.
Humans can be both part of the cause of and solution to global warming. The key to reducing climate change is to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. Emissions can be reduced by increasing use of alternative fuels and energy sources like natural gas, solar, hydro-electric and wind power. Greenhouse gas emissions can also be reduced by sustaining existing forest cover, improving the management of land and planting new trees.
Changing conventional farming methods can have a significant impact on climate change. American food production accounts for almost 20 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. Greenhouse gases are emitted by the manufacture of fertilizers and pesticides, fuel used for equipment and transportation and electricity used in food production. In contrast, every acre of organic farmland can remove 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air every year. A consumer shift to locally grown foods can also help mitigate global warming because of a reduction in fuel used to transport the goods. These changes can begin to reduce the damage to the environment caused by other human activities.