While the greenhouse effect is an essential environmental prequisitefor life on Earth, there really can be too much of a good thing.The problems begin when human activities distort and accelerate thenatural process by creating more greenhouse gases in theatmosphere than are necessary to warm the planet to an idealtemperature.
•Burning natural gas, coal and oil -including gasoline forautomobile engines-raises the level of carbon dioxide in theatmosphere.•Some farming practices and land-use changes increase thelevels of methane and nitrous oxide.•Many factories produce long-lasting industrial gases that donot occur naturally, yet contribute significantly to theenhanced greenhouse effect and "global warming" that iscurrently under way.
•Deforestation also contributes to global warming.Trees use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen in itsplace, which helps to create the optimal balance ofgases in the atmosphere. As more forests are loggedfor timber or cut down to make way for farming,however, there are fewer trees to perform this criticalfunction.•Population growth is another factor in globalwarming, because as more people use fossil fuels forheat, transportation and manufacturing the level ofgreenhouse gases continues to increase. As morefarming occurs to feed millions of new people, moregreenhouse gases enter the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning power plantsOur ever increasing addiction to electricity from coal burning powerplants releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into theatmosphere. 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions come from electricityproduction, and burning coal accounts for 93% of emissions from theelectric utility industry.Every day, more electric gadgets flood themarket, and without widespread alternative energy sources, we arehighly dependent on burning coal for our personal and commercialelectrical supply.
Carbon dioxide emissions from burning gasoline for transportationOur modern car culture and appetite for globally sourced goods is responsiblefor about 33% of emissions in the U.S.With our population growing at analarming rate, the demand for more cars and consumer goods means that weare increasing the use of fossil fuels for transportation and manufacturing. Ourconsumption is outpacing our discoveries of ways to mitigate the effects, withno end in sight to our massive consumer culture.
Deforestation, especially tropical forests for wood, pulp, and farmlandThe use of forests for fuel (both wood and for charcoal) is one cause ofdeforestation, but in the first world, our appetite for wood and paperproducts, our consumption of livestock grazed on former forest land, and theuse of tropical forest lands for commodities like palm oil plantations contributesto the mass deforestation of our world. Forests remove and store carbondioxide from the atmosphere, and this deforestation releases large amounts ofcarbon, as well as reducing the amount of carbon capture on the planet.
Increase in usage of chemical fertilizers on croplandsIn the last half of the 20th century, the use of chemical fertilizers (as opposed tothe historical use of animal manure) has risen dramatically. The high rate ofapplication of nitrogen-rich fertilizers has effects on the heat storage of cropland(nitrogen oxides have 300 times more heat-trapping capacity per unit of volumethan carbon dioxide) and the run-off of excess fertilizers creates ‘dead-zones’ inour oceans. In addition to these effects, high nitrate levels in groundwater due toover-fertilization are cause for concern for human health.
1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle2. Use Less Heat and Air Conditioning3. Change a Light Bulb4. Drive Less and Drive Smart5. Buy Energy-Efficient Products6. Use Less Hot Water7. Use the "Off" Switch8. Plant a Tree9. Get a Report Card from Your Utility Company10.Encourage Others to Conserve