Global warming explained

Do scientists agree about global warming?

Scientists who study the climate are still arguing about how fast the earth is warming and how much it will warm, but they do agree that the earth is warming and that it will keep warming if we don’t do anything about it.  The most accurate way to measure temperatures on our planet, by the way, is with the help of orbiting weather satellites.

What is causing global warming?

Scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal cause greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), to escape into the air and that these gases are causing most of the warming. Another cause is deforestation (cutting down trees). Trees soak up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air. All humans contribute to global warming, by,  for example, driving a car or flying in an airplane; scientists often refer to the term “carbon footprint” when they refer to the impact an individual or business has on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced.

Carbon dioxide isn’t the only greenhouse gas causing global warming; another important greenhouse gas is methane, which is much more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, but, fortunately, has a much shorter life span in the atmosphere.  At the moment, the atmosphere still contains less than 1/10th of 1% of carbon dioxide, unlike the planet Venus for example, where it is 96.5%, with temperatures hot enough to melt lead!

What is the difference between “global warming” and “climate change”?

“Global warming” refers to the increase of the Earth’s average surface temperature, due to a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (also called the “greenhouse effect”).  The “atmosphere” surrounds our planet and protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation and reducing temperature extremes between day and night.

“Climate change” is a broader term that refers to long-term changes in climate, including average temperature and precipitation.

What will happen if global warming continues?

There are already some changes happening because of global warming. Sea level is rising and some animals are already moving to new homes. It’s already too late to stop global warming completely.

If the warming gets worse, as scientists expect, there may be some kinds of plants and animals that become extinct (disappear completely) because they can’t move to new homes. There may be more storms and floods due to melting ice caps. Sea level may rise so much that people have to move away from the coasts. Some areas may become too dry for farming.

What is being done about global warming?

Global warming is a very difficult problem to fix. People are having a hard time agreeing on what to do about it. For example, everyone agrees that wasting energy is a bad thing to do. But some people think that the federal government should make laws about it, while other people think it should be up to each person or business to decide what to do.   In 1997 the famous “Kyoto Protocol” was adopted in the city of “Kyoto”, and it entered into force on 16 February 2005. As part of this protocol, 36 countries are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Many states and businesses in the United States are not waiting until the federal government decides what to do. They have already started working on the problem. A number of companies such as Greatest Planet work on projects that reduce or avoid the greenhouse gases going into our atmosphere: such projects include, for example, treeplanting, windfarms (a windfarm is a group of 2 or more wind turbines which produce electricity), and solar energy (which turns sunlight into electricity).  The energy provided by windfarms, solar power, tidal and hydro power is often referred to as “renewable energy”

What can I do about global warming?

You don’t have to wait until you are grown to do something about global warming. Scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels is causing global warming. Since these fuels are burned for energy, and everyone uses energy, everyone can help stop global warming just by using less energy.

Think about the things you do each day that use energy. The lights in your house use electricity. The TV and computer use electricity. The washing machine, dishwasher and dryer all use gas or electricity. Every time you ride in your car, it uses gasoline.

There are some simple things that you can do to help stop global warming:

• Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Use fluorescent bulbs in your room.
• Turn off your computer or the TV when you’re not using it. Unplug chargers when not in use.
• Wait until you have a lot of clothes to wash before using the washing machine. Don’t use the machine for one item just because it’s your favorite shirt.
• Take shorter showers. Heating water uses energy.
• Close the blinds on a hot day if the sun is shining in. Dress lightly instead of turning up the air conditioning. Or use a fan.
• Dress warmly inside your house when it’s cold, instead of turning up the heat.
• Offer to help your parents keep the air filters on your AC and furnace clean.
• Walk short distances instead of asking for a ride in a car.

• Whenever you can, recycle paper, plastic, newspaper, glass and aluminum cans. .
• Plant a tree.
• Learn more about global warming so you can talk to people about it.


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