Leading Causes of Global Warming
by Dawn Walls-Thumma, Demand Media
Climate change can cause dramatic shifts in normal weather patterns.
Fossil Fuel Combustion
The widespread burning of fossil fuels began with the Industrial Revolution, when humankind discovered that the energy from burning fossil fuels like coal could power machinery that performed work faster and more efficiently than reliance on human labor. According to the IPCC, burning fossil fuels is the leading cause of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. (See References 2)
According to the EPA, more than half of the greenhouse gas emissions produced in the United States come from stationary sources, such as power plants (see References 1). In 2007, 48 percent of U.S. power plants burned coal, and 22 percent used natural gas (see References 3, page 5). Both coal and gas are fossil fuels, and burning them to generate electricity produces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change (see References 4 and 5).
In 2008, an additional 27 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions produced in the United States came from burning gasoline to power cars, trucks and aircraft. Furthermore, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are increasing more rapidly than emissions from other sources, according to the EPA. To trim greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, you can carpool and take public transportation, reduce the amount you drive and purchase fuel-efficient vehicles. (See References 6)
While burning fossil fuels accounts for large emissions of carbon dioxide, agriculture produces the most methane and nitrous oxide worldwide, according to the IPCC (see References 2). In the United States, agriculture accounted for about 7 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2005. Agricultural sources of greenhouse gases are myriad. Livestock grazing, waste management and digestive gases contribute half of the emissions produced by agriculture. Nitrogen fertilizers release nitrous oxide and comprise 35 percent of agricultural emissions. Burning fossil fuels to power farm equipment also produces greenhouse gas emissions but constitute only about 13 percent of all emissions. (See Resources 1, pages 1-3) The agriculture sector can employ rotational grazing, manage livestock feed and waste, and judiciously apply nitrogen fertilizers in order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from agricultural practices (see Resources 1, page 6).