how can we solve problem of global warming

Climate, Sustainability, Technology

Climate of Change

How to Solve Global Warming

A Simple Question

Recently, there was a question asked very simply “What is the solution for global warming?”

The answer to this question is relatively simple: eliminate the use of fossil fuels in every area of society possible and stop greenhouse gas emissions from other sources such as deforestation and agriculture. However, the size of each of these pieces of the solution is often unclear, so here I will provide a breakdown of what climate change means and what the solutions are on a high level.  In future posts, we will dig more deeply into the solutions themselves.

What is Climate Change

Climate Change is the general term for a complex set of changes happening to the environment of our planet.

These changes in the environment primarily include:

More heat energy trapped in our planet means that the average overall temperature of the planet is rising over time, and thus the term “global warming.”

The reason for the additional heat trapped in the atmosphere and in the oceans is the creation of greenhouse gasses by humans. Greenhouse gasses prevent heat from escaping the Earth. Planet Earth has always had a greenhouse effect, however human activities have increased the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, leading to an increased amount of heat being trapped – this warms the planet.

Main causes of greenhouse gas emissions are:

A graph from NASA observations of the planet’s atmosphere shows the levels of Carbon Dioxide from the last 400,000 years:

how can we solve problem of global warming

Consequences of Climate Change

According to NASA, climate change has several main effects:

The Solution

Climate Change is driven primarily by the use of fossil fuels and secondarily by greenhouse gas emissions through deforestation, agriculture and other less prominent causes.

The primary way to solve global warming is to eliminate the role of fossil fuels in modern society wherever possible. This means transitioning to renewable and carbon-free energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro which cause less than 3% of the greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuel energy sources.

Secondarily, deforestation should be prevented and replaced with sustainable forestry and land-use practices. Because plants breathe in carbon dioxide and store it, they actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Therefore, in the simple sense, there are two ways to solve climate change.

In practice, preventing the emissions of greenhouse gasses means that the following actions must be taken:

The solution to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is a worldwide commitment that must be enacted across nearly every sector of industry and personal choice. Fortunately, the technology to switch to renewable energy such as solar and wind is readily available, and is now cheaper in most places than energy coming from fossil fuels such as coal and gas. The switch to renewable energy will solve a large piece of the puzzle, if we can act fast enough to implement.

In 2015, 195 parties signed the Paris Agreement, which is a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the worst aspects of climate change from ever taking place.

Governments, companies and individuals all play a role in solving climate change.

In addition to reducing our carbon footprints, we can all also take the additional step of offsetting the emissions we cannot prevent through  carbon offsets . Carbon offsets projects are projects that prevent greenhouse gas emissions and provide a mechanism for individuals and companies to take direct action on climate change.

We can all play a role in solving climate change in many areas of our lives: citizen, worker, individual. The fundamental premise is: reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Sources used in this article: NASA, EPA, NOAA

Graham Majorhart is the founder of Carby Box , the first way to become carbon neutral in 1-click through

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Humans have warmed the planet by approximately 1.0°C (1.8°F) in the past 150 years, which has increased the risk of wildfires, hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, and floods. Sea level is rising, and ice is melting. All of this is making life on Earth much more difficult.

We caused the problem by increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but we have the ability to keep the amount of warming low enough to be survivable. Communities and nations around the world are taking action to solve climate change. There’s much more that needs to be accomplished, so keep reading to learn what can be done to keep our planet as cool as possible.

Global Warming Targets

If we keep the amount of climate warming low enough, we can adapt, finding ways to live and even thrive. But what is low enough? The planet has already warmed 1°C. How much more can we handle?

Since the 1990s, scientists and policymakers around the world had considered the goal to be a limit of 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels (which was before we started burning fossil fuels). But in 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported on what we know about the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F) compared to 2°C.

They found that with a warming of 2°C, the impacts are more severe than 1.5°C. For example, heat waves would be hotter, rains would be heavier, and sea level would rise more. There are higher risks to health, the food supply, water, ecosystems, and economic growth with 2°C warming compared with 1.5°C. Overall, 1.5°C warming gives us a better chance of adapting to climate change, although there are impacts, like the loss of some ecosystems, which may be long-lasting or irreversible.

bike path in a city

Many communities are adding bike lanes and sidewalks to encourage residents to make transportation choices that help decrease emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. Credit:  Daniel Lobo

How Can We Tackle Climate Change?

There are several different strategies when it comes to dealing with climate change. Reducing greenhouse gases  is a direct way to help slow or stop climate change since excess greenhouse gases are what are causing the climate to warm. This can mean switching to power sources that don’t emit greenhouse gases and taking carbon dioxide out of the air by planting forests and conserving ecosystems. New research on ways to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere could potentially provide other solutions in the future. Researchers are also studying whether we could safely limit the amount of sunlight that gets to Earth in the future while we are reducing emissions.

Unfortunately, the planet is already warming and we are seeing the impacts of climate change. Even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases in the next decade or two, we will be facing more climate change this century, which is why finding ways to adapt to climate change is also important to keep our planet as livable as possible.  

How Can We Limit Warming to 1.5°C?

To keep the total warming limited to 1.5°C, we need to act quickly to change energy sources, how land is used, how industry operates, and our urban environments, including buildings and transportation. For example, industries can reduce emissions with new and existing technologies and practices, such as switching power sources, using sustainable materials like bioplastic, and capturing carbon emissions at factories so they don’t make it into the atmosphere.

There are many ways that we can do this. The IPCC 2018 report analyzed different scenarios that would help us meet the 1.5°C target. Below are descriptions of four scenarios that would meet the target, and a graph showing how much each could reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per year through this century for the four scenarios all have the ability to stop emissions

The graph above shows the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per year through the 21st century for each scenario that limits global warming to 1.5°C (described above: P1 to P4). The shaded area shows the full range of options studied in the IPCC 2018 report. Credit: IPCC

Can we slow or even reverse global warming?

Yes.  While we cannot stop global warming overnight, we can slow the rate and limit the amount of global warming by reducing human emissions of heat-trapping gases and soot (“black carbon”). 

If all human emissions of heat-trapping gases were to stop today, Earth’s temperature would continue to rise for a few decades as ocean currents bring excess heat stored in the deep ocean back to the surface.  Once this excess heat radiated out to space, Earth’s temperature would stabilize. Experts think the additional warming from this “hidden” heat are unlikely to exceed 0.9° Fahrenheit (0.5°Celsius). With no further human influence, natural processes would begin to slowly remove the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and global temperatures would gradually begin to decline.

Map of ocean heat trends from 1993-2020

Change in heat content in the upper 2,300 feet (700 meters) of the ocean from 1993-2020. Between 1993–2019, heat content rose by up to 6 Watts per square meter in parts of the ocean (dark orange). Some areas lost heat (blue), but overall, the ocean gained more heat than it lost. The changes in areas covered with the gray shading were not statistically significant. NOAA image, based on data from NCEI.

It’s true that without dramatic action in the next couple of decades, we are unlikely to keep global warming in this century below 2.7° Fahrenheit (1.5° Celsius) compared to pre-industrial temperatures—a threshold that experts say offers a lower risk of serious negative impacts. But the more we overshoot that threshold, the more serious and widespread the negative impacts will be, which means that it is never “too late” to take action.

In response to a request from the U.S. Congress, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences published a series of peer-reviewed reports, titled  America's Climate Choices , to provide authoritative analyses to inform and guide responses to climate change across the nation. Relevant to this question, the NAS report titled  Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change  explains policies that could be adopted to slow or even reverse global warming. The report says, "Meeting internationally discussed targets for limiting atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and associated increases in global average temperatures will require a major departure from business as usual in how the world uses and produces energy."

Photo collage of alternative energy sources

Transitioning to energy sources that do not emit greenhouse gases, such as solar, wind, biofuels, and nuclear, can slow the pace of climate change, though these energy sources face hurdles ranging from manufacturing capacity to debates about where to install some facilities. Images courtesy

Alternative methods to slow or reduce global warming have been proposed that are, collectively, known as "climate engineering" or "geoengineering." Some geoengineering proposals involve cooling Earth's surface by injecting reflective particles into the upper atmosphere to scatter and reflect sunlight back to space. Other proposals involve seeding the oceans with iron to stimulate large-scale phytoplankton blooms, thereby drawing down carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Such methods could work, in principle, but many climate scientists oppose undertaking geoengineering until we have a much better understanding of the possible side effects. Additionally, there are unresolved legal and ethical issues surrounding geoengineering.

Given these concerns, the  American Meteorological Society published a position paper  (readopted in January 2013) in which it said: "...research to date has not determined whether there are large-scale geoengineering approaches that would produce significant benefits, or whether those benefits would substantially outweigh the detriments. Indeed, geoengineering must be viewed with caution because manipulating the Earth system has considerable potential to trigger adverse and unpredictable consequences."

Martinich, J., B.J. DeAngelo, D. Diaz, B. Ekwurzel, G. Franco, C. Frisch, J. McFarland, and B. O’Neill. (2018). Reducing Risks Through Emissions Mitigation. In  Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II  [Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 1346–1386. doi:  10.7930/NCA4.2018.CH29 .

Allen, M.R., O.P. Dube, W. Solecki, F. Aragón-Durand, W. Cramer, S. Humphreys, M. Kainuma, J. Kala, N. Mahowald, Y. Mulugetta, R. Perez, M.Wairiu, and K. Zickfeld (2018). Framing and Context. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press.

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13 ways to save the Earth from climate change

Easy ways to help

We know you love watching videos on your phone. But modern activities— such as plugging in devices, driving cars, and cooling homes—often rely on energy sources such as natural gas, oil, and coal. Those energy sources release a gas called carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. When CO2 and other greenhouse gases trap heat that would otherwise escape Earth’s atmosphere, the planet’s temperature rises. That’s called global warming, which causes climate change .

Most scientists believe that climate change is happening and causing rising seas, stronger storms, and shifting habitats for wildlife and people. But you don’t have to give up videos or totally shut down the A/C to fight climate change. Read on to learn how you can help!

Used Goods Are Good

Reduce and reuse as much as possible. Factories emit carbon dioxide when making new products. So instead of buying new stuff, fix your appliances and clothes. Good thing holey jeans are back in style!

Send a postcard

Send a letter, postcard, or drawing to your mayor, government representative, or even the president asking them to do something about climate change.

Slay the vampire

"Vampire" appliances suck energy even when turned off. Kill these monsters by unplugging phone and laptop chargers when not in use, and use power strips for lamps and TVs. (Bonus: It’ll save your parents money on energy bills!)

Close the door

If you see a business with its door wide open in the summer, ask an adult to help you email or talk to an employee about closing it. An open door to an air-conditioned building can let 2.2 tons of carbon dioxide escape over one summer. That’s about as much as a car on a 5,000- mile road trip.

Season your fruit

Try to eat mostly inseason and locally grown fruits and vegetables. This cuts down on the energy used to grow and transport food, which reduces the release of heattrapping gases.Does your favorite ice-cream shop use plastic spoons? Ask an adult to help you talk to the owner about switching to a non-plastic option. Some kinds of spoons are even edible!

Calculate your impact

Use an online carbon footprint calculator to see how much carbon dioxide your actions release. If you know how you’re impacting the planet, you can take steps for change.

Eat your veggies

Livestock such as cows account for some of Earth’s heat-trapping gas emissions. (Yep, it’s the cow toots!) Eating more plants cuts down on the need for so much livestock.

Help out at the hotel

Hang up and reuse your hotel towels instead of washing them after each use. That saves water and energy.

Walk it out

Walk or bike as much as you can. Biking or walking just one mile a day for a year could save 330 pounds of carbon dioxide—that’s the same as planting four trees and letting them grow for 10 years!

Spread the word

Write a letter to the editor about climate change in your local or school newspaper. The more people talk about the issue, the better!

Wear a warm sweater instead of turning up the heat, and open your windows and turn on a fan instead of blasting the air conditioner.

Be a science champion

Not everyone understands climate change. Learn the facts and talk to your friends and family. If everyone gets the science, we can work together to find solutions.

Hang up your freshly washed clothes to dry. You’ll be saving energy by not using the dryer and helping with chores.

Photo credits: Adobe Stock / jzehnder (smokestack); Katalinks, Shutterstock (vampire); Nate Allred, Shutterstock (cow); Photograph by iofoto, Shutterstock (bikes); Alex Staroseltsev, Shutterstock (strawberry); Cookie Studio, Shutterstock (sweater); Mike Flippo, Shutterstock (clothes)

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Greenpeace UK

What are the solutions to climate change?

Climate change is already an urgent threat to millions of lives – but there are solutions. From changing how we get our energy to limiting deforestation, here are some of the key solutions to climate change.

Climate change is happening now, and it’s the most serious threat to life on our planet.  Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions to climate change, they are well-understood.

In 2015, world leaders signed a major treaty called the Paris agreement , to put these solutions into practice.

Core to all climate change solutions is reducing greenhouse gas emissions , which must get to zero as soon as possible. 

Because both forests and oceans play vitally important roles in regulating our climate, increasing the natural ability of forests and oceans to absorb carbon dioxide can also help stop global warming. 

The main ways to stop climate change are to pressure government and business to:

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and to feel that climate change is too big to solve. But we already have the answers, now it’s a question of making them happen. To work, all of these solutions need strong international cooperation between governments and businesses, including the most polluting sectors. 

Individuals can also play a part by making better choices about where they get their energy, how they travel, and what food they eat. But the best way for anyone to help stop climate change is to take collective action. This means pressuring governments and corporations to change their policies and business practices.

Governments want to be re-elected. And businesses can’t survive without customers. Demanding action from them is a powerful way to make change happen.

The fossil fuel industry is blocking climate change action

Major oil and gas companies including BP, Exxon and Shell have spent hundreds of millions of pounds trying to delay or stop government policies that would have helped tackle the climate crisis. 

Despite the effects of climate change becoming more and more obvious, big polluting corporations – the ones responsible for the majority of carbon emissions – continue to carry on drilling for and burning fossil fuels.

Industries including banks, car and energy companies also make profits from fossil fuels. These industries are knowingly putting money over the future of our planet and the safety of its people.

What are world leaders doing to stop climate change?

With such a huge crisis facing the entire planet, the international response should be swift and decisive. Yet progress by world governments has been achingly slow. Many commitments to reduce carbon emissions have been set, but few are binding and targets are often missed. 

In Paris in 2015, world leaders from 197 countries pledged to put people first and reduce their countries’ greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris agreement has the aim of limiting global warming to well below 2ºC and ideally to 1.5°C. 

If governments act swiftly on the promises they made in the Paris climate agreement, and implement the solutions now, there’s still hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change .

Global climate change activism

Around the world, millions of us are taking steps to defend our climate. 

Tens of thousands of school strikers and people from all walks of life have taken to the streets demanding a solution to the climate emergency. 

Over the years, Greenpeace has challenged oil companies chasing new fossil fuels to extract and burn. We’ve also called out the UK government for their failure to act fast enough on the climate emergency. Meanwhile, ordinary people have blocked tankers and fracking rigs, letting everyone know that renewable energy is the answer to fossil fuels. 

Indigenous Peoples are most severely affected by both the causes and effects of climate change. They are often on the front lines, facing down deforestation or kicking out fossil fuel industries that want to put their water supplies at risk from oil spills. 

Communities in the Pacific Islands are facing sea level rises and more extreme weather. But they are using their strength and resilience to demand world leaders take quicker climate action in global meetings, such as COP21 in Paris 2015. 

For many of these communities, climate change is a fight for life itself. And for many countries around the world, including the UK, climate change is having more and more of a negative impact on people. As a country with the wealth and power to really tackle climate change, it’s never been more important to demand that our leaders act.

Take action

While the UK government claims to be a climate leader, many of its policies are taking us in the opposite direction. Tell the prime minister it's time to lead by example.

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10 ways to stop global warming, want to help stop global warming here are 10 simple things you can do and how much carbon dioxide you'll save doing them..

Change a light Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. 

Drive less  Walk, bike, carpool or take mass transit more often. You'll save one pound of carbon dioxide for every mile you don't drive!

Recycle more You can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by recycling just half of your household waste.

Check your tires Keeping your tires inflated properly can improve your gas mileage by more than 3 percent. Every gallon of gasoline saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Use less hot water It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Use less hot water by taking shorter and cooler showers and washing your clothes in cold or warm instead of hot water (more than 500 pounds of carbon dioxide saved per year).

Avoid products with a lot of packaging You can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide if you reduce your garbage by 10 percent.

Adjust your thermostat Moving your thermostat down just 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Plant a tree A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

Turn off electronic devices Simply turning off your television, DVD player, stereo, and computer, when you're not using them, will save you thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

how can we solve problem of global warming

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How to Solve Global Warming: It's the Energy Supply

Carbon storage has to expand rapidly, or coal burning has to cease, if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change

The world is on track for dangerous climate change , having nearly lost room for further pollution in the mix of gases that make up the atmosphere. Despite a rise in clean, renewable energy supplies in certain countries, and a partial shift from coal to natural gas in others, global greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise—and at an increasing pace in the most recent years.   "Economic and population growth are drivers for emissions and they have outpaced the improvements of energy efficiency," said Ottmar Edenhofer, economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and co-chair of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Edenhofer spoke at an April 13 press conference in Berlin, where IPCC's Working Group III released its report on the subject of how to mitigate the climate problem.   Nations worldwide have to make major change in energy supply, soon, if they are to restrain climate change to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, Edenhofer and others said. That is a threshhold beyond which serious harm is likely to occur to human civilization as well as the natural world, by the IPCC and other's scientific judgment.   Geoengineering will probably also be required to solve the planet’s global warming pollution problem, Edenhofer and the report noted. The world will also need a crash course in technologies to capture carbon dioxide —the primary greenhouse gas— from the atmosphere to restrain global warming. Without such CCS hopes of restraining climate change to no more than 2 degrees C warming are "no longer feasible," Edenhofer argued. "In the end, two degrees means the phase out of fossil fuels without CCS entirely in the next few decades."   Energy mix Climate change is an energy problem. Burning fossil fuels to produce electricity or heat is responsible for roughly half of global warming pollution. Tacking on industry in general, including producing cement, steel, plastics and chemicals, accounts for 78 percent of greenhouse gases, which invisibly accumulate in the atmosphere and trap extra heat.  Such climate changing pollution continues to increase—in 2010, the world emitted some 49 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, thanks largely to increased coal burning in countries such as China. The number has continued to increase in recent years. In fact, human society added half of the global warming pollution that is in the atmosphere in just the last 40 years.   Restraining global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius will require changing how the world produces and uses energy to power its cities and factories, heats and cools buildings, as well as moves people and goods in airplanes, trains, cars, ships and trucks, according to the IPCC. Changes are required not just in technology, but also in people's behavior. "We can reduce through substantial behavioral change and lifestyle change the demand for energy and the consumption of energy," noted Ramon Pichs-Madruga, economist at Cuba's Center for the Investigation of the Global Economy and co-chair of the Working Group III report. And that change "allows for greater flexibility when we come to [choose] technology options. If we leave it all up to technology the costs and risks will be much greater."   The initial IPCC report in this series, released last September, noted that the atmosphere could bear only 800 to 1,000 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases , in order to restrain global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by century's end. The world has already emitted in total roughly 515 billion metric tons. At present rates of pollution then, human society would blow through its carbon budget in the next decade or so.   Such pollution has already doubled just since 1970 and the rates of pollution have been increasing by roughly 1 billion metric tons per year in recent years, a pace that must slow and stop soon. To hold global warming in check requires reducing current emission levels by as much as 70 percent by 2050, compared with 2010 levels, and nearly eliminating such pollution by 2100. Instead, "over the last decade, we have seen increasing use of coal," the fossil fuel that when burned results in the most CO2, Edenhofer noted.   That pace of pollution now needs to slow and then reverse, likely requiring technologies that could pull CO2, the primary greenhouse gas, back out of the atmosphere. Such geoengineering could include technologies ranging from burning trees or grasses and capturing and storing the resulting CO2 from smokestacks to artificial trees that suck CO2 out of the sky directly for storage or re-use. "This group of technologies is essential for low stabilization targets," Edenhofer said.   The problem is that none of this technology exists or, where it does as in the case of CCS, has not been deployed at a large enough scale, because it costs much more than the alternative: freely polluting the atmosphere. More aggressive geoengineering techniques—blocking sunlight and the like—remain too uncertain and fraught with risks to properly evaluate, this IPCC panel argued.   At the same time, emissions from traditional energy supplies must be zeroed out, either through CCS or replacement with less polluting energy sources, whether emissions-free wind and sun or lower carbon nuclear energy . Most of that change will have to take place in the developing world, whether replacing China's new coal-fired power plants or building wind, solar or geothermal facilities to power development in African countries. Fracking to free more natural gas from shale can help displace even more polluting coal in more developed countries such as the U.S. but can only serve as a bridge—and a very short bridge—to the zero-greenhouse-gas pollution future, unless also outfitted with carbon capture and storage to eliminate pollution. Fortunately, scientific surveys indicate that there is enough below-ground storage capacity in the Earth to accommodate humanity's swelling CO2 pollution.   Social change All of this will also require a major change in investment, reducing money that continues to pour in to dig up fossil fuels by 20 percent per year (thus devaluing those deposits as well) and growing investment in, say, renewables by 100 percent per year. The cost of this transformation is not entirely clear. The IPCC suggests that the median estimate of paying for the change would take off 0.06 percent from global economic growth per year, a small part of a predicted minimum 1.6 percent annual growth globally, but still a restraint. "It's a delay of economic growth but it is not sacrificing economic growth," Edenhofer noted, adding that this calculation does not take into account related benefits, such as a reduction in deadly air pollution and saved human lives , or salvaged nature. "It does not cost the world to save the planet."   Long-term climate stability would require "unprecedented" global cooperation, with countries agreeing to a plan that would set a global price on such pollution. As it stands, the countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have agreed to draft a global treaty by 2015 , which would take effect in 2020. At the same time, the 1.3 billion people without access to electricity and the 3 billion or so who still rely on burning wood or dung to fuel cooking or heating would need modern energy supplies, although this might prove to have minimal impacts on climate change through saving forests and other side effects.   Without any action, the world is on track to achieve at least 4 degrees C warming of global average temperatures by 2100, as the world hits 450 parts-per-million of greenhouse gases in 2030 and goes on to put out enough greenhouse gas pollution to achieve as much as 1300 ppm by 2100. Even restraining warming to just 3 degrees C would require substantial transformation. "What has to be done over the next 20 to 30 years or so does not change even if one relaxes the temperature target," Edenhofer said. "Irrespective of the long-term mitigation goal, we have to start to bring the mitigation train onto the track."   The IPCC suggests that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases should not exceed 450 ppm to meet nations' expressed aspiration to hold temperature rise to 2 degrees C or less. Already, atmospheric concentrations of just CO2 have reached 400 ppm at times and all greenhouse gases put together are now at 430 ppm. As a result, global average temperatures have already increased by 0.85 degree C. "If we really want to bring about a limit of the temperature increase to no more than two degrees," said IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri, "the high-speed mitigation train would need to leave the station very soon and all of global society would need to get on board."   The tracks that train would run on remain mostly unlaid and the exact route on the IPCC's map as presented here is not entirely clear. The route must go through the world's swelling cities , which provide the biggest opportunity to lock in pollution reductions, and the direction and speed—greenhouse gas pollution going down soon and fast—are apparent. This report "provides hope, modest hope," Edenhofer said. "We have the means to do this but it remains a huge, huge challenge."



David Biello is a contributing editor at Scientific American .  Follow David Biello on Twitter

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How Can Technology Help Combat Climate Change


Setting targets is only the first step. How can countries and companies make sure they hit them? Image:  Pixabay

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How researchers can help fight climate change in 2022 and beyond

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Devastating floods that hit Germany last July were made more likely by the warming climate. Credit: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty

Late last year, the major climate summit in Glasgow, UK — the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations climate convention (COP26) — injected much-needed momentum into the political and business community in the fight to stop climate change. The year ahead represents an opportunity for scientists of all stripes to offer up expertise and ensure that they have a voice in this monumental effort.

Science is already baked into the UN’s formal climate agenda for 2022. In February, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is scheduled to release its assessment of the latest research into how climate warming is affecting people and ecosystems; a month later, the panel is set to provide an analysis of the options for curbing emissions and halting global warming. Combined with last year’s report on climate science , the governments of the world will have a solid review of the state-of-the-art of research on climate change. But the research community’s work stretches far beyond the IPCC.

At the top of governments’ climate agenda is innovation. Existing technologies such as wind and solar power, whose price has plummeted over the past decade, and more-efficient lighting, buildings and vehicles will help to reduce emissions. But if green energy is to push out fossil fuels and fulfil the rising demand for reliable power in low-income countries, scientists and engineers will be needed to solve a range of problems. These include finding ways to cut the price of grid-scale electricity storage and to address technical challenges that arise when integrating massive amounts of intermittent renewable energy. Research will also be required to provide a new generation of affordable vehicles powered by electricity and hydrogen, and low-carbon fuels for those that are harder to electrify, such as aircraft.

Even in the most optimistic scenarios, such clean-energy deployments are unlikely to be enough to enable countries to keep their climate commitments. More innovation will also be needed — for example, in the form of technologies that can pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. These have yet to be tested and demonstrated at any significant scale. Governments and funders also need to support scientists in efforts to understand the safety and efficacy of various controversial geoengineering technologies — methods for artificially cooling the planet, such as the addition of particles to the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back into space — if only to determine whether there is sense in even contemplating such alternatives.

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Give research into solar geoengineering a chance

There are signs of renewed support for research and innovation in helping to address climate change. In Glasgow, 22 countries, as well as the European Commission (EC), announced plans to cooperate on innovation focused on greening cities, curbing industrial emissions, promoting CO 2 capture and developing renewable fuels, chemicals and materials. The EC has also announced efforts to drive new funds into demonstration projects to help commercialize low-carbon technologies. And China, currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is creating a vast research infrastructure focused on technologies that will help to eliminate carbon emissions.

how can we solve problem of global warming

China creates vast research infrastructure to support ambitious climate goals

In the United States, under President Joe Biden, the Democrats have also made innovation a linchpin of efforts to address climate change. A bipartisan bill enacted in November will expand green-infrastructure investments, as well as providing nearly US$42 billion for clean-energy research and development at the US Department of Energy over the next 5 years, roughly doubling the current budget, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank in Washington DC. Another $550 billion for climate and clean-energy programmes is included in a larger budget bill that Democrats hope to pass this year. Economic modelling suggests that the spending surge could help to lower emissions in the coming decade while teeing up technologies that will be crucial to eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions in the latter half of the century.

In addition to enabling green innovation, scientists have an important part to play in evaluating climate policies and tracking commitments made by governments and businesses. Many of the initiatives that gained traction at COP26 need science to succeed. That includes evaluating how climate finance — money that wealthy nations have committed to help low-income nations to curb emissions and cope with climate change — is spent. Research is also needed to understand the impacts of carbon offsets and carbon trading, for which new rules were agreed at COP26.

how can we solve problem of global warming

COP26 climate pledges: What scientists think so far

Climate science, too, must continue apace, helping governments and the public to understand the impact of climate change. From floods in Germany to fires in Australia, the evolving field of climate attribution has already made it clear that global warming is partly to blame for numerous tragedies. Attribution science will also feed into an ongoing geopolitical debate about who should pay for the rising costs of climate-related natural disasters, as many low-income countries seek compensation from wealthy countries that are responsible for the bulk of the greenhouse-gas emissions so far.

These and other issues will be discussed again in November at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, where it will be crucial to make sure that everyone has a voice and that research supports climate monitoring and innovation everywhere, not just in richer nations.

A new agreement made at COP26 that requires governments to report annually on their climate progress should help to maintain pressure on them to act on climate change. But science and innovation will be equally important to driving ever-bolder climate policies.

Nature 601 , 7 (2022)


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Climate Q&A

Why is global warming a problem.

The cost and benefits of global warming will vary greatly from area to area. For moderate climate change, the balance can be difficult to assess. But the larger the change in climate, the more negative the consequences will become. Global warming will probably make life harder, not easier, for most people. This is mainly because we have already built enormous infrastructure based on the climate we now have.

People in some temperate zones may benefit from milder winters, more abundant rainfall, and expanding crop production zones. But people in other areas will suffer from increased heat waves, coastal erosion, rising sea level, more erratic rainfall, and droughts.

The crops, natural vegetation, and domesticated and wild animals (including seafood) that sustain people in a given area may be unable to adapt to local or regional changes in climate. The ranges of diseases and insect pests that are limited by temperature may expand, if other environmental conditions are also favorable.

The problems seem especially obvious in cases where current societal trends appear to be on a “collision course” with predictions of global warming’s impacts:

In its summary report on the impacts of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated, “Taken as a whole, the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.”

(For specific information on the projected impacts of climate change in the United States, see the National Assessment Report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program.)

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 at 3:45 pm and is filed under Climate , Global Warming: Impacts . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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Global Warming 101

Everything you wanted to know about our changing climate but were too afraid to ask.

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how can we solve problem of global warming

What is global warming?

What causes global warming, how is global warming linked to extreme weather, what are the other effects of global warming, where does the united states stand in terms of global-warming contributors, is the united states doing anything to prevent global warming, is global warming too big a problem for me to help tackle.

A: Since the Industrial Revolution, the global annual temperature has increased in total by a little more than 1 degree Celsius, or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Between 1880—the year that accurate recordkeeping began—and 1980, it rose on average by 0.07 degrees Celsius (0.13 degrees Fahrenheit) every 10 years. Since 1981, however, the rate of increase has more than doubled: For the last 40 years, we’ve seen the global annual temperature rise by 0.18 degrees Celsius, or 0.32 degrees Fahrenheit, per decade.

The result? A planet that has never been hotter . Nine of the 10 warmest years since 1880 have occurred since 2005—and the 5 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2015. Climate change deniers have argued that there has been a “pause” or a “slowdown” in rising global temperatures, but numerous studies, including a 2018 paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters , have disproved this claim. The impacts of global warming are already harming people around the world.

Now climate scientists have concluded that we must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040 if we are to avoid a future in which everyday life around the world is marked by its worst, most devastating effects: the extreme droughts, wildfires, floods, tropical storms, and other disasters that we refer to collectively as climate change . These effects are felt by all people in one way or another but are experienced most acutely by the underprivileged, the economically marginalized, and people of color, for whom climate change is often a key driver of poverty, displacement, hunger, and social unrest.

A: Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and other air pollutants collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface. Normally this radiation would escape into space, but these pollutants, which can last for years to centuries in the atmosphere, trap the heat and cause the planet to get hotter. These heat-trapping pollutants—specifically carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, and synthetic fluorinated gases—are known as greenhouse gases, and their impact is called the greenhouse effect .

Though natural cycles and fluctuations have caused the earth’s climate to change several times over the last 800,000 years, our current era of global warming is directly attributable to human activity—specifically to our burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas, which results in the greenhouse effect. In the United States, the largest source of greenhouse gases is transportation (29 percent), followed closely by electricity production (28 percent) and industrial activity (22 percent). Learn about the natural and human causes of climate change .

Curbing dangerous climate change requires very deep cuts in emissions, as well as the use of alternatives to fossil fuels worldwide. The good news is that countries around the globe have formally committed—as part of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement —to lower their emissions by setting new standards and crafting new policies to meet or even exceed those standards. The not-so-good news is that we’re not working fast enough. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, scientists tell us that we need to reduce global carbon emissions by as much as 40 percent by 2030. For that to happen, the global community must take immediate, concrete steps: to decarbonize electricity generation by equitably transitioning from fossil fuel–based production to renewable energy sources like wind and solar; to electrify our cars and trucks; and to maximize energy efficiency in our buildings, appliances, and industries.

A: Scientists agree that the earth’s rising temperatures are fueling longer and hotter heat waves, more frequent droughts, heavier rainfall, and more powerful hurricanes .

In 2015, for example, scientists concluded that a lengthy drought in California—the state’s worst water shortage in 1,200 years —had been intensified by 15 to 20 percent by global warming. They also said the odds of similar droughts happening in the future had roughly doubled over the past century. And in 2016, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine announced that we can now confidently attribute some extreme weather events, like heat waves, droughts, and heavy precipitation, directly to climate change.

The earth’s ocean temperatures are getting warmer, too—which means that tropical storms can pick up more energy. In other words, global warming has the ability to turn a category 3 storm into a more dangerous category 4 storm. In fact, scientists have found that the frequency of North Atlantic hurricanes has increased since the early 1980s, as has the number of storms that reach categories 4 and 5. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season included a record-breaking 30 tropical storms, 6 major hurricanes, and 13 hurricanes altogether. With increased intensity come increased damage and death. The United States saw an unprecedented 22 weather and climate disasters that caused at least a billion dollars’ worth of damage in 2020, but 2017 was the costliest on record and among the deadliest as well: Taken together, that year's tropical storms (including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria) caused nearly $300 billion in damage and led to more than 3,300 fatalities.

The impacts of global warming are being felt everywhere. Extreme heat waves have caused tens of thousands of deaths around the world in recent years. And in an alarming sign of events to come, Antarctica has lost nearly four trillion metric tons of ice since the 1990s. The rate of loss could speed up if we keep burning fossil fuels at our current pace, some experts say, causing sea levels to rise several meters in the next 50 to 150 years and wreaking havoc on coastal communities worldwide.

A: Each year scientists learn more about the consequences of global warming , and each year we also gain new evidence of its devastating impact on people and the planet. As the heat waves, droughts, and floods associated with climate change become more frequent and more intense, communities suffer and death tolls rise. If we’re unable to reduce our emissions, scientists believe that climate change could lead to the deaths of more than 250,000 people around the globe every year and force 100 million people into poverty by 2030.

Global warming is already taking a toll on the United States. And if we aren’t able to get a handle on our emissions, here’s just a smattering of what we can look forward to:

Though everyone is affected by climate change, not everyone is affected equally. Indigenous people, people of color, and the economically marginalized are typically hit the hardest . Inequities built into our housing , health care , and labor systems make these communities more vulnerable to the worst impacts of climate change—even though these same communities have done the least to contribute to it.

A: In recent years, China has taken the lead in global-warming pollution , producing about 26 percent of all CO2 emissions. The United States comes in second. Despite making up just 4 percent of the world’s population, our nation produces a sobering 13 percent of all global CO2 emissions—nearly as much as the European Union and India (third and fourth place) combined. And America is still number one, by far, in cumulative emissions over the past 150 years. As a top contributor to global warming, the United States has an obligation to help propel the world to a cleaner, safer, and more equitable future. Our responsibility matters to other countries, and it should matter to us, too.

A: We’ve started. But in order to avoid the worsening effects of climate change, we need to do a lot more—together with other countries—to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and transition to clean energy sources.

Under the administration of President Donald Trump (a man who falsely referred to global warming as a “hoax”), the United States withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, rolled back or eliminated dozens of clean-air protections, and opened up federally managed lands, including culturally sacred national monuments , to fossil fuel development. Although President Biden has pledged to get the country back on track, years of inaction during and before the Trump administration—and our increased understanding of global warming’s serious impacts—mean we must accelerate our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite the lack of cooperation from the Trump administration, local and state governments made great strides during this period through efforts like the American Cities Climate Challenge and ongoing collaborations like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative . Meanwhile, industry and business leaders have been working with the public sector, creating and adopting new clean-energy technologies and increasing energy efficiency in buildings, appliances, and industrial processes. Today the American automotive industry is finding new ways to produce cars and trucks that are more fuel efficient and is committing itself to putting more and more zero-emission electric vehicles on the road. Developers, cities, and community advocates are coming together to make sure that new affordable housing is built with efficiency in mind , reducing energy consumption and lowering electric and heating bills for residents. And renewable energy continues to surge as the costs associated with its production and distribution keep falling. In 2020 renewable energy sources such as wind and solar provided more electricity than coal for the very first time in U.S. history.

President Biden has made action on global warming a high priority. On his first day in office, he recommitted the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement, sending the world community a strong signal that we were determined to join other nations in cutting our carbon pollution to support the shared goal of preventing the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. (Scientists say we must stay below a 2-degree increase to avoid catastrophic climate impacts.) And significantly, the president has assembled a climate team of experts and advocates who have been tasked with pursuing action both abroad and at home while furthering the cause of environmental justice and investing in nature-based solutions.

A: No! While we can’t win the fight without large-scale government action at the national level , we also can’t do it without the help of individuals who are willing to use their voices, hold government and industry leaders to account, and make changes in their daily habits.

Wondering how you can be a part of the fight against global warming? Reduce your own carbon footprint by taking a few easy steps: Make conserving energy a part of your daily routine and your decisions as a consumer. When you shop for new appliances like refrigerators, washers, and dryers, look for products with the government’s ENERGY STAR ® label; they meet a higher standard for energy efficiency than the minimum federal requirements. When you buy a car, look for one with the highest gas mileage and lowest emissions. You can also reduce your emissions by taking public transportation or carpooling when possible.

And while new federal and state standards are a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done. Voice your support of climate-friendly and climate change preparedness policies, and tell your representatives that equitably transitioning from dirty fossil fuels to clean power should be a top priority—because it’s vital to building healthy, more secure communities.

You don’t have to go it alone, either. Movements across the country are showing how climate action can build community , be led by those on the front lines of its impacts, and create a future that’s equitable and just for all .

This story was originally published on March 11, 2016 and has been updated with new information and links.

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Can Renewable Energy Solve the Global Climate Change Challenge?

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Maanasa Mendu is relying on innovation and electric charges to tackle the global energy crisis. The freshman at Mason High School in Mason, Ohio, will travel this month to St. Paul, Minnesota, as a top 10 national finalist in the 2016 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. While there, she’ll present her invention that helps make wind power a globally applicable energy source. “Wind power is a powerful and popular form of renewable energy with enormous potential,” says Mendu in her competition video. “We need to make wind power an efficient and globally applicable energy source.” Mendu has created a device that uses piezoelectricity materials that are eco-friendly and cost-efficient to provide wind power to the world.

Mendu’s invention and passion for the future of energy generation are well in tune with the critical needs of the global economy. The adoption of renewable energy, generated from natural resources like sunlight, wind, tides, plant growth and geothermal heat, is a key strategy in combatting greenhouse gas emission-fueled climate change, which the World Economic Forum identifies each year as a serious global risk. Traditional fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and petroleum – which renewables seek to replace — contribute to the air pollution that causes global warming.

An article published this month by our parent publication, [email protected], explores today’s market for wind and solar power and the realities of climate change. Says Wharton business economics professor Arthur van Benthem: “The renewable energy industry has experienced dramatic growth over the last couple of years.”

Here are some fast facts shared by van Benthem and other climate change experts about the global challenge to deal with greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Wind and solar power prices have plunged. As the cost of renewable generation nears the cost of fossil-fueled electricity, more people are likely to spend money to install this energy and use it.
  • Projections about future wind and solar deployment have become more optimistic, especially in the U.S. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a company that analyzes the energy system, expects total installed solar will more than quadruple between now and 2022, on the strength of continued cost declines. And the projection made in the year 2000 by the International Energy Agency of how much wind power capacity there would be in 2040 has been revised upward, fivefold.
  • Solar power use in the U.S. is on the rise in part because companies have found efficient ways to acquire customers, process the applications and install the panels on people’s roofs. SolarCity, based in Silicon Valley, Calif., is one of the country’s leading residential solar companies. Tesla, the electric-power car company founded by Elon Musk, is expected to acquire SolarCity in November.
  • The power generation industry is only responsible for a part of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. The other sectors combined — which include transportation, heating and cooling, cement making and industry — make up a larger share of emissions than power.
  • As part of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, reached in December 2015, every nation pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Electric vehicles can help nations meet their emissions-reductions targets, but not everyone is convinced just yet that they need to buy an electric car. Sales of electric vehicles have been far lower than what some of the more optimistic observers in the industry had projected a few years back.
  • Chevy’s Bolt and the upcoming Tesla 3 are expected to have ranges of 200 miles, for the same price at which cars were selling six years ago, which should help.
  • In order for a true renewable energy revolution, governments need to cap fossil fuel emissions – designate a level above which emissions can’t exceed. The oil industry opposes this move, but experts believe such drastic measures will lead to more green innovations and emissions-abatement technologies. In other words, more and more scientists and entrepreneurs will think like Maanasa Mendu.

Related Links

  • [email protected]: Solar and Wind Power Are Growing — but Won’t Solve Climate Change
  • 2016 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge
  • Elon Musk, Lyndon Rive, and the Plan to Put Solar Panels on Every Roof in America
  • Green Car Reports
  • [email protected]: What Are the Gains from the Paris Climate Accord?
  • The World Economic Forum

Conversation Starters

Can the growth in renewables like wind and solar alone solve the climate change challenge? Why or why not?

Do you have any personal experience with renewable energy? For example, solar panels on the roof of your house? Is renewable energy a topic of interest in your school or your community? What about the use of electric cars? Research some local strategies for fighting the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

Why do you think the oil industry opposes capping fossil fuel emissions? Similarly, The Obama administration attempted to cap emissions through the Clean Air Act, but the legislation is under review by the Supreme Court . Why would there be opposition to laws and changes that clean our air and help to save the planet? Discuss different dimensions of the relationship between business and the environment.

Using the “Related Links,” research SolarCity. Who is Lyndon Rive? What did you learn about him and the business of renewable energy deployment, in particular solar power?

2 comments on “ Can Renewable Energy Solve the Global Climate Change Challenge? ”

1750 is generally accepted as the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels were 278 PPM. CO2 levels are now 400 PPM. 67% of all electrical power in this country is produced from fossil fuels. BUT fossil fuels only accounts for 30% of all sources of carbon gas associated with Climate Change. 100% renewables is only 30% of the problem. The first power plant was built in 1882.

World population reached 1 billion in 1804, just under 3 billion in the 50s when CO2 begin to rise, just over 5 billion in 1992 when the UN Conference on the Environment and Development is held in Rio de Janeiro that resulted in the Framework Convention on Climate Change, 6 billion in 99 and 7 billion in 2011. Climate Change is the result of carbon gas emissions which are caused by Industrialization which is driven by Population growth. By 2023, world population will have increased 33% over 1999. Many scientists consider game over at 9-10 billion.

CO2 levels are now over 400 PPM. To reduce CO2 levels in our atmosphere ONLY 1 PPM requires the removal of 7.81 billion tons of CO2 PLUS THE AMOUNT WE ARE NOW ADDING. To put this in perspective, Ivanpah 400 Mwe Solar Power Plant will offset 400,000 tons/yr of GHG. It would require 19,525 Ivanpahs to offset CO2 levels 1 PPM.

Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a place and time as regards to heat, dryness, sunshine, wind, rain, etc. Climate is the weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period. Climate Change is a Long Term change in global or regional climate patterns. Climate Change does not 10-20 years make, to short of a period. The weather service uses super computers to predict the weather one day in advance and sometimes wrong. All of this complexity we experience as “weather” is simply the result of uneven heating of the Earth, and the atmosphere ‘trying’ to reduce the differences in temperature. Note hurricanes generally start near the equator. A hurricane’s source of energy or fuel is water vapor which is evaporated from the ocean surface and rises to the upper atmosphere where it condenses into clouds and heat radiated into space keeping the planet cool. Surface ocean temperatures are cooler after a hurricane. So even minor global temperature increases may not be the proof needed and one reason there isn’t any consensus among scientists. To determine Climate Change we need to observe Changes in migratory patterns of animals and changes in plant habitats.

We are a carbon cycle life, we exhale carbon dioxide and are flatulence is methane or CH4. Our plastics, pharmaceuticals, and just about everything we consume contains carbon. The amount of carbon in our atmosphere began its meteoric rise about the time of the beginning of the industrial revolution. Therefore carbon gases are the result of industrialization. Industrialization is production of cars and everything else that makes are life easier and is driven by Population growth. 68% of our elect power is from fossil fuels, but Power is only 30% of the carbon gas problem. But note from above, our problem is not carbon gases but with our explosive population growth we have reach the limit of the planet to support us without drastic changes in lifestyle.

RE was a Project Manager with engineering and construction of the world first utility scale solar power stations at Luz Kramer, pending solar direct steam patent and developer of several solar power plants. But I don’t sell cars

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Over the years, we have made significant developments in agriculture, energy and health that have contributed to human well-being. However, some of these improvements in our lives have resulted in changes to the environment around us.

Our environment is a hugely complex system that includes the air we breathe, the land we live on, the water we drink and the climate around us. We must work to ensure that our developments in some areas do not adversely affect our environment whilst also ensuring that we mitigate any damage that has occurred. Work by some researchers has shown that we are already at a tipping point that might lead to “non-linear, abrupt environmental change within continental- to planetary-scale systems”.

The good news is that politicians globally are looking at how to solve this. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals include universal calls to action to protect life on land and in water, producing clean water and tackling climate change.  Meanwhile, the EU’s Environmental Action Plan includes nine priority objectives that aim to ensure “we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits”.

As we strive towards a better world, we work to ensure chemistry’s contributions are realised. Chemistry can help us to understand, monitor, protect and improve the environment around us. Chemists are developing tools and techniques to make sure that we can see and measure air and water pollution. They have helped to build the evidence that shows how our climate has changed over time. And they can be part of the effort to understand and address new problems that we face like microplastics and the potential effects of the different chemicals that we are exposed to.

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Air Climate change

Chemical scientists have an important role to play in reducing air pollution (sometimes in unexpected ways), as well as in helping us to understand and monitor it.

The World Health Organisation reported that around 7 million people died as a result of air pollution in 2012. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, poor ambient air quality is set to be the world’s leading environmental cause of premature death by 2050 if we maintain current policies. By improving air quality, we can save millions of lives and improve our quality of living.

Cleaner air will also help us to protect the environment and preserve cultural heritage sites. Pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can form acid rain, which pollutes soil and water and damages buildings such as the Acropolis and the Taj Mahal.

Other pollutants, such as ground level ozone, affect vegetation and so reduce agricultural yields.

Air pollution is a concern for the whole world as pollutants can be carried long distances, even across countries. However, scientists and engineers worldwide are tackling this issue, and we aim to support chemistry’s vital role in understanding air pollution and developing solutions to reduce it.

How chemistry helps

Chemistry of air pollution.

Air is a mixture of gases and particles, some of which are reactive and undergo complex chemical reactions in the atmosphere to form air pollutants such as ozone. Other air pollutants are emitted directly - for example, sulfur dioxide. Air pollutants can be solid, liquid or gas and come from natural and man-made sources; the biggest contributors to air pollution today are power stations, road transport, industry and residential burning of fuels.

A detailed understanding of pollutants and their chemistry is important for interpreting health effects, regulating emissions, and developing pollution-reducing technologies. For example, chemists have created a " master chemical mechanism " that describes the chemical reactions involved in degradation of volatile organic compounds in the lower atmosphere. This helps policy makers to “test” how effective a piece of proposed regulation or legislation would be. In another example, chemists identified trees as the source of high levels of organic pollutants during heatwaves. This unexpected result has improved the air quality forecasts provided to the public in the UK by taking into account natural emissions.

Monitoring air pollution

Accurate measurements of pollutants are vital for checking that we comply with national and international air quality directives. In addition, measurements can help us to understand correlations between health problems and air pollution - for example, the relationship between different types of particulate matter and cardiovascular problems.

The UK has around 300  air quality monitoring sites  measuring a variety of pollutants, including ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulates. One such site is next to a busy road in central Cambridge and measures the concentration of nitrogen oxides from the traffic in real time  using chemiluminescence.

The graph below shows the output from one such measurement. The UK and EU air quality target for nitrogen dioxide is an annual mean of 40 micrograms per cubic metre, and the hourly concentration should not exceed 200 micrograms per cubic metre more than 18 times in a year.

Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations in Cambridge, UK during the first week of February 2015

Tackling air pollution

Tackling air pollution takes a combination of approaches, including regulation, land use planning, technological solutions (such as vehicle engine design), and consumer behaviour. Chemistry plays a role in developing technological solutions.

Chemists help to decrease emissions from transport in a variety of ways, ranging from developing cleaner fuels (such as low sulfur fuels) to increasing the efficiency of engines. Chemists are also working to enable new transport technologies – for example, batteries for electric vehicles and fuel cells for hydrogen vehicles, as well as systems to produce fuels from renewable energy sources rather than from fossil fuels.

Another way to reduce pollutant emissions is by fitting pollution control devices to the vehicle exhaust. For example, most petrol engines have three-way catalytic converters to reduce carbon monoxide, unburnt hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides from the exhaust.

Platinum or palladium catalysts oxidise carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons to produce carbon dioxide and water, while rhodium catalysts reduce nitrogen oxides to produce nitrogen and oxygen. Chemists, materials scientists, and engineers develop and improve the catalysts, absorbers, and particulate filters that reduce pollutant emissions.

In the future, even the clothes you wear and our buildings could purify the air. Photocatalytic clothing can break down nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds using just oxygen and light. The same technology has been used in paint and cement, allowing buildings to clean the air around them.

In 2013 we brought together atmospheric chemists to discuss the role of aerosols in the atmosphere at our Faraday Discussion:  Tropospheric Aerosol - Formation, Transformation, Fate and Impacts . You can read the papers published alongside the discussion in the Faraday Discussions journal.

Many of our members are actively engaged in understanding, monitoring and tackling air pollution. Our Automation and Analytical Management Interest Group hold an annual meeting on monitoring ambient air.

We awarded a blue plaque to Johnson Matthey PLC in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the world’s first commercial catalytic converters being manufactured on this site, and the subsequent development of catalysts and filters for gasoline and diesel vehicles that have cleaned billions of tonnes of pollutants from the environment worldwide. You can read more about the evolution of catalytic converters in Education in Chemistry , our magazine for teachers.

You can also see our public lecture given by Professor Alastair Lewis of the University of York, entitled 'Air pollution past, present and future'.

Climate change

In December 2015, nations around the world gathered in Paris to develop a new international climate change agreement.

In the lead-up to this important conference, we supported the chemical sciences community to discuss and contribute to our understanding of climate change (for example, through the  Faraday Discussions  series of conferences and publications) as well as its causes and impacts.

You can read more about causes and impacts of climate change in our special collection of research papers, review articles and themed collections . You can also read more about the role of atmospheric chemists in climate change research in Education in Chemistry.

We have also held scientific meetings and wider community engagement activities focused on the many ways in which chemistry will contribute to mitigating and adapting to climate change (for example, see our work on  energy ,  food  and  water ).

You can read more about how chemistry contributes to tackling global challenges in RSC News .

We have joined with the  Institution of Chemical Engineers  to reaffirm our own position on climate change. Read our joint statement below.

UK science communiqué on climate change

We are one of 24 of the UK’s professional and learned societies that have endorsed a communiqué on climate change calling for government action. The organisations involved represent a diverse range of expertise from across the sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities, medicine and engineering.

Together, we launched this statement in July 2015, which was covered in the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers.

Climate Communique

Our statement on climate change

The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence indicates that human activity is the predominant cause of recent climate change. It is clear that the increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution is the chief cause of observed global warming. Regional and year-on-year variations are expected within climate systems, but the evidence shows warming over the last half-century that cannot be explained by natural causes.

Carbon dioxide is already at levels much higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years, and continued emissions are expected to lead to significant further warming. Moreover, the speed of warming will be faster than during past natural climate change events, making adaptation more difficult. This change in climate is expected to bring changes in regional temperature and precipitation and to increase the frequency of heat waves, heavy rainfall, and some other types of extreme weather events. These will have a serious adverse effect on human wellbeing and the natural world.

The choices we make now will have far-reaching consequences. We need to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies to address the challenges that climate change poses. These strategies include developing and deploying low carbon technologies, improving energy efficiency, and changing behaviours to enable sustainable development.

The Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institution of Chemical Engineers are committed to supporting the chemical sciences community in their contributions to tackling climate change. The chemical sciences help us to understand, mitigate, and adapt to climate change. The best evidence based on the best science is essential to inform the right policy decisions on all three fronts. Already, chemists and chemical engineers contribute in a variety of ways, such as improving our understanding of atmospheric and ocean chemistry, investigating the consequences of climate change, developing new energy and carbon mitigation solutions, and helping crops to tolerate the changing conditions.

For more information read the Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences report  Climate Change: Evidence and Causes .

All sustainability policy summaries

All our environmental sustainability work, see all of our policies, reports and campaigns.

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Responding to Climate Change

NASA is a world leader in climate studies and Earth science. While its role is not to set climate policy or prescribe particular responses or solutions to climate change, its purview does include providing the robust scientific data needed to understand climate change. NASA then makes this information available to the global community – the public, policy- and decision-makers and scientific and planning agencies around the world.

city climate change

Climate change is one of the most complex issues facing us today. It involves many dimensions – science, economics, society, politics, and moral and ethical questions – and is a global problem, felt on local scales, that will be around for thousands of years. Carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that is the primary driver of recent global warming, lingers in the atmosphere for many thousands of years, and the planet (especially the ocean) takes a while to respond to warming. So even if we stopped emitting all greenhouse gases today, global warming and climate change will continue to affect future generations. In this way, humanity is “committed” to some level of climate change.

How much climate change? That will be determined by how our emissions continue and exactly how our climate responds to those emissions. Despite increasing awareness of climate change, our emissions of greenhouse gases continue on a relentless rise . In 2013, the daily level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history . The last time levels were that high was about three to five million years ago, during the Pliocene Epoch.

Because we are already committed to some level of climate change, responding to climate change involves a two-pronged approach:

  • Reducing emissions of and stabilizing the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (“mitigation”) ;
  • Adapting to the climate change already in the pipeline (“adaptation”) .

Mitigation and Adaptation

solar panels

Mitigation – reducing climate change – involves reducing the flow of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere , either by reducing sources of these gases (for example, the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat, or transport) or enhancing the “sinks” that accumulate and store these gases (such as the oceans, forests, and soil). The goal of mitigation is to avoid significant human interference with Earth's climate , “stabilize greenhouse gas levels in a timeframe sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner” (from the 2014 report on Mitigation of Climate Change from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, page 4).

Adaptation – adapting to life in a changing climate – involves adjusting to actual or expected future climate. The goal is to reduce our risks from the harmful effects of climate change (like sea-level rise, more intense extreme weather events, or food insecurity). It also includes making the most of any potential beneficial opportunities associated with climate change (for example, longer growing seasons or increased yields in some regions).

Throughout history, people and societies have adjusted to and coped with changes in climate and extremes with varying degrees of success. Climate change (drought in particular) has been at least partly responsible for the rise and fall of civilizations . Earth’s climate has been relatively stable for the past 10,000 years, and this stability has allowed for the development of our modern civilization and agriculture. Our modern life is tailored to that stable climate and not the much warmer climate of the next thousand-plus years. As our climate changes, we will need to adapt. The faster the climate changes, the more difficult it will be.

While climate change is a global issue, it is felt on a local scale. Local governments are therefore at the frontline of adaptation. Cities and local communities around the world have been focusing on solving their own climate problems . They are working to build flood defenses, plan for heat waves and higher temperatures, install better-draining pavements to deal with floods and stormwater, and improve water storage and use.

According to the 2014 report on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (page 8) from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, governments at various levels are also getting better at adaptation. Climate change is being included into development plans: how to manage the increasingly extreme disasters we are seeing, how to protect coastlines and deal with sea-level rise, how to best manage land and forests, how to deal with and plan for drought, how to develop new crop varieties, and how to protect energy and public infrastructure.

How NASA Is Involved


NASA, with its Eyes on the Earth and wealth of knowledge on Earth’s climate, is one of the world’s experts in climate science . NASA’s role is to provide the robust scientific data needed to understand climate change. For example, data from the agency’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) , its follow-on mission ( GRACE-FO ), the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), and the ICESat-2 missions have shown rapid changes in the Earth's great ice sheets. The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich and the Jason series of missions have documented rising global sea level since 1992.

NASA makes detailed climate data available to the global community – the public, policy-, and decision-makers and scientific and planning agencies around the world. It is not NASA’s role to set climate policy or recommend solutions to climate change. NASA is one of 13 U.S. government agencies that form part of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which has a legal mandate to help the nation and the world understand, assess, predict, and respond to global change. These U.S. partner agencies include the Department of Agriculture , the Environmental Protection Agency , and the Department of Energy , each of which has a different role depending on their area of expertise.

Although NASA’s main focus is not on energy-technology research and development, work is being done around the agency and by/with various partners and collaborators to find other sources of energy to power our needs.

Related Articles

For further reading on NASA’s work on mitigation and adaptation, take a look at these pages:

  • Earth Science in Action
  • Sustainability and Government Resources
  • NASA's Electric Airplane
  • NASA Aeronautics
  • NASA Spinoff (Technology Transfer Program)

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100 Practical Ways to Reverse Climate Change

You know some of them—use renewable energy, eat less meat—but others will surprise you.

At a time when the science of global warming is under attack and many people complain of climate change fatigue, some cheering news occurred last month: A book about climate change became a New York Times bestseller in its first week of publication.

Kolbert’s book warned of cataclysm; Hawken’s tries to prevent it. Bringing together geologists, engineers, agronomists, climatologists, biologists, botanists, economists, financial analysts, architects, NGOs, activists, and other experts, Drawdown offers 100 solutions to reverse global warming.

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