Reduce Global Warming

by Deborah Mitchell
The Challenge

"Global warming" describes the rise in temperature of the earth's lower atmosphere due to the release of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. The impact of this greenhouse effect could be devastating.

Global warming causes ozone depletion, melting polar ice, and rising ocean levels.

Global Warming = Ozone Depletion

The ozone layer, which protects all life from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, is being destroyed by release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the atmosphere. The widening holes in the ozone layer allow in more UV rays, which can cause skin cancers, cataracts, and immune system damage. UV rays are detrimental to pollination, seed production, and marine life food supplies as well.

Global Warming = Melting Polar Ice

Ice sheets in the Arctic Ocean have receded to record lows, and Antarctic glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate, causing sea levels to rise and indigenous wildlife to lose its habitat. The huge ice sheet in Greenland experienced "record melting" in 2007, according to the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, NH, and lost at least 24 cubic miles of ice.

Nearly 90% of the permafrost in the Arctic could melt by 2100, which would not only extinguish wildlife, but also increase emissions of greenhouse gas 20 to 40 percent over and above what would be produced by all man-made and natural sources.

Global Warming = Rising Ocean Levels

Rising ocean levels could eventually cause worldwide flooding of coastal areas, forcing people and wildlife to migrate inland. Many experts believe global warming is behind the upswing in hurricane activity, and they also predict global warming will cause a dramatic increase in excessive precipitation in some areas and severe drought in others, resulting in floods, crop failures, and a rising number of forest fires and land slides.

Many of the world's most knowledgeable climate-change scientists forecast that the earth's temperature will rise from 1.44 to 6.3º F by the year 2100 if we don't take steps to reduce greenhouse gases. An increase of 1 to 3.6º F will occur even if we do act, because many gases have already been released.

You can join the growing number of people who want to put the brakes on global warming. Here's how...

How to Make a Difference I Did This!
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  • Reduce gasoline consumption: For every gallon of gasoline burned, about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide enter the atmosphere. So: bike, walk, take public transportation, or carpool whenever possible.
  • Unplug and strip: Many electronic devices draw power whenever they are plugged into an outlet, even when they are turned off or are fully charged. These energy hogs include adapters that come with rechargeable battery-powered cordless phones, cell phones, power tools, and digital cameras. Electronics that are on standby, such as TVs, cable boxes, and computer monitors, also waste energy. The solution? Unplug these devices and plug them into a power strip. Turn off the strip when these devices are not in use (the strip doesn't draw power).
  • Solarize your cookouts: Make your cookouts solar events by switching to solar ovens. Build your own solar oven or buy one ready-made.
  • Swap Bulbs: Replace incandescent bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescents, which are widely available in many sizes and shapes. Only 10% of the energy consumed by incandescent bulbs is released as light; 90% is heat. Fluorescents cost more initially, but they last up to 12 times longer and reduce electric costs.
  • Drink shade-grown coffee: Sun-grown coffee is produced in areas of devastated rainforest, while shade-grown varieties help preserve the rainforest, reduce the need for pesticides, and are ultimately beneficial for the planet.
  • Patronize green hotels. When you travel, stay at green hotels where the owners have programs that save energy and water and reduce solid waste.
  • Audit your home: Contact your utility companies (gas and electric) and ask for a free energy audit on your home, then institute their recommendations.
  • Eat more vegetables, less meat: Current meat production contributes up to nearly 8 billion tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouses gases every year compared with a strict plant-based diet. Reducing your meat and dairy intake by half can make a big difference.
  • Make saving energy a family affair: Assign each person an energy-saving task. For example, one child can gather vegetable scraps for the compost; another can turn off lights and power strips when they are not in use; and you can use cold water for the wash and hang out laundry to dry.
  • Re-energize your office: Help institute energy- (and money-) saving steps: use ceramic cups instead of disposable ones; encourage double-sided copying; "unplug and strip" (see above); start a carpool; turn down the lights.

If you'd like to do even more, you can volunteer with groups that are taking action against global warming, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and

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