Global Warming solutions include reducing the flow of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (mitigating climate change) and enhancing the “sinks” that capture and store these gases in Earth’s soil, forests and oceans. This can be achieved through a combination of actions, such as phasing out fossil fuel electricity, restoring forests and reforestation, limiting population growth to sustainable levels and increasing food production using improved farming techniques and fertilizers that do not increase the emission of greenhouse gases.
The most significant sources of global-warming emissions are burning coal, oil and natural gas to produce electricity, power vehicles, build homes and run factories. These combustion processes release carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. These gases are the primary causes of global warming. Scientists have measured the amount of these gases in the atmosphere over time and found that they are increasing rapidly. The levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have now surpassed those measured in ice cores dating back 800,000 years.
Human activities are responsible for this rapid increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases, but some of these effects are also due to natural processes that have become overshadowed by the actions of humans. Some of these natural effects include cyclical ocean patterns, volcanic activity and shifts in solar output.
Fossil fuel combustion is the most important source of emissions, but other major contributors are air travel and waste management. Many of these emissions are produced by people in wealthy countries, who demand and often receive the products that depend on this energy source. Cutting down on long-distance travel can reduce the need for fossil fuels.
Another key solution is re-thinking water use. It takes a lot of energy to pump, heat and treat water for consumption. Shorter showers and switching to WaterSense-labeled appliances can make a big difference, especially when we all do it together. Saving water can help slash energy-related carbon pollution and improve our quality of life.
Other significant solutions include investing in low-carbon and renewable electricity generation, improving agricultural practices, reforestation and restoring wetlands to protect our freshwater supply. Many of these solutions can be applied worldwide, but nations that produce the most emissions need to take the lead. The top 10 emitters contribute 68 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, so they have an especially important responsibility to get climate action moving now.
Some of the solutions are very technical, and some may seem like science fiction. In the early 1900s, a Swedish chemist named Svante Arrhenius figured out that when sunlight hits Earth’s surface, some of the light bounces back toward the atmosphere and becomes trapped close to the planet. His discovery, known as the greenhouse effect, led to an understanding of how a small change in heat-trapping gases could dramatically alter our climate. One such radical idea would be to release sulfate particles into the air, mimicking the cooling effect of massive volcanic eruptions; covering parts of Earth with reflective mirrors or lenses to reflect sunlight; or fertilizing the oceans with iron or other nutrients to enable plankton to absorb more carbon.