By Aggeliki Hala and Thalia Sfaelou (B class)


Global warming is primarily a problem of too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere—which acts as a blanket, trapping heat and warming the planet. As we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas for energy or cut down and burn forests to create pastures and plantations, carbon accumulates and overloads our atmosphere. Certain waste management and agricultural practices aggravate the problem by releasing other potent global warming gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide.

The Consequences of a Warming World

Over the last century, global average temperature has increased dangerously. The 2001-2010 decade is the warmest since 1880—the earliest year for which comprehensive global temperature records were available. In fact, nine of the warmest years on record have occurred in just the last 10 years. This warming has been accompanied by a decrease in very cold days and nights and an increase in extremely hot days and warm nights. The continental United States, for example, has seen record daily highs twice as often as record daily lows from 2000 to 2009. While the record shows that some parts of the world are warming faster than others, the long-term global upward trend is unambiguous.

Of course, land and ocean temperature is only one way to measure the effects of climate change. A warming world also has the potential to change rainfall and snow patterns, increase droughts and severe storms, reduce lake ice cover, melt glaciers, increase sea levels, and change plant and animal behavior.

Solutions to global warming

  • Greening transportation: The transportation sector’s emissions have increased at a faster rate than any other energy-using sector over the past decade. A variety of solutions are at hand, including improving efficiency (miles per gallon) in all modes of transport, switching to low-carbon fuels, and reducing vehicle miles traveled through smart growth and more efficient mass transportation systems.
  • Revving up renewables: Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and bioenergy are available around the world. Multiple studies have shown that renewable energy has the technical potential to meet the vast majority of our energy needs. Renewable technologies can be deployed quickly, are increasingly cost-effective, and create jobs while reducing pollution.
  • Managing forests and agriculture: Taken together, tropical deforestation and emissions from agriculture represent nearly 30 percent of the world’s heat-trapping emissions. We can fight global warming by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and by making our food production practices more sustainable.
  • Ensuring sustainable development: The countries of the world—from the most to the least developed—vary dramatically in their contributions to the problem of climate change and in their responsibilities and capacities to confront it. A successful global compact on climate change must include financial assistance from richer countries to poorer countries to help make the transition to low-carbon development pathways and to help adapt to the impacts of climate change.