Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Global Warming Effects and Causes: A Top 10 List

Global Warming Effects and Causes One of the biggest issues facing us right now is global warming. Its effects on animals and on agriculture are indeed frightening, and the effects on the human population are even scarier. The facts about global warming are often debated, but unfortunately, even if we disagree about the causes, global warming effects are real, global, and measurable. The causes are mainly from us, the human race, and the effects on us will be severe.

Global Warming Effects and Causes: A Top 10 List

global warming causes
1. Global Warming Cause: Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants
Our ever increasing addiction to electricity from coal burning power plants releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions come from electricity production, and burning coal accounts for 93% of emissions from the electric utility industry [EPA, pg. 10]. Every day, more electric gadgets flood the market, and without widespread alternative energy sources, we are highly dependent on burning coal for our personal and commercial electrical supply.
global warming causes
2. Global Warming Cause: Carbon dioxide emissions from burning gasoline for transportation
Our modern car culture and appetite for globally sourced goods is responsible for about 33% of emissions in the U.S. [EPA pg. 8] With our population growing at an alarming rate, the demand for more cars and consumer goods means that we are increasing the use of fossil fuels for transportation and manufacturing. Our consumption is outpacing our discoveries of ways to mitigate the effects, with no end in sight to our massive consumer culture.
global warming causes
3. Global Warming Cause: Methane emissions from animals,agriculture such as rice paddies, and from Arctic seabeds
Methane is another extremely potent greenhouse gas, ranking right behind CO2. When organic matter is broken down by bacteria under oxygen-starved conditions (anaerobic decomposition) as in rice paddies, methane is produced. The process also takes place in the intestines of herbivorous animals, and with the increase in the amount of concentrated livestock production, the levels of methane released into the atmosphere is increasing. Another source of methane is methane clathrate, a compound containing large amounts of methane trapped in the crystal structure of ice. As methane escapes from the Arctic seabed, the rate of global warming will increase significantly.
global warming causes
4. Global Warming Cause: Deforestation, especially tropical forests for wood, pulp, and farmland
The use of forests for fuel (both wood and for charcoal) is one cause of deforestation, but in the first world, our appetite for wood and paper products, our consumption of livestock grazed on former forest land, and the use of tropical forest lands for commodities like palm oil plantations contributes to the mass deforestation of our world. Forests remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and this deforestation releases large amounts of carbon, as well as reducing the amount of carbon capture on the planet.
global warming causes
5. Global Warming Cause: Increase in usage of chemical fertilizers on croplands
In the last half of the 20th century, the use of chemical fertilizers (as opposed to the historical use of animal manure) has risen dramatically. The high rate of application of nitrogen-rich fertilizers has effects on the heat storage of cropland (nitrogen oxides have 300 times more heat-trapping capacity per unit of volume than carbon dioxide) and the run-off of excess fertilizers creates ‘dead-zones’ in our oceans. In addition to these effects, high nitrate levels in groundwater due to over-fertilization are cause for concern for human health.
global warming effects
6. Global Warming Effect: Rise in sea levels worldwide
Scientists predict an increase in sea levels worldwide due to the melting of two massive ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, especially on the East coast of the U.S. However, many nations around the world will experience the effects of rising sea levels, which could displace millions of people. One nation, the Maldives, is already looking for a new home, thanks to rising sea levels.
global warming effects
7. Global Warming Effect: More killer storms
The severity of storms such as hurricanes and cyclones is increasing, and research published in Nature found:
“Scientists have come up with the firmest evidence so far that global warming will significantly increase the intensity of the most extreme storms worldwide. The maximum wind speeds of the strongest tropical cyclones have increased significantly since 1981, according to research published in Nature this week. And the upward trend, thought to be driven by rising ocean temperatures, is unlikely to stop at any time soon.”
global warming effects
8. Global Warming Effect: Massive crop failures
“Climate change is expected to have the most severe impact on water supplies. “Shortages in future are likely to threaten food production, reduce sanitation, hinder economic development and damage ecosystems. It causes more violent swings between floods and droughts.”" – Guardian: Global warming causes 300,000 deaths a year
global warming effects
9. Global Warming Effect: Widespread extinction of species
According to research published in Nature, by 2050, rising temperatures could lead to the extinction of more than a million species. And because we can’t exist without a diverse population of species on Earth, this is scary news for humans.
“Climate change now represents at least as great a threat to the number of species surviving on Earth as habitat-destruction and modification.” Chris Thomas, conservation biologist at the University of Leeds
global warming effects
10. Global Warming Effect: Disappearance of coral reefs
report on coral reefs from WWF says that in a worst case scenario, coral populations will collapse by 2100 due to increased temperatures and ocean acidification. The ‘bleaching’ of corals from small but prolonged rises in sea temperature is a severe danger for ocean ecosystems, and many other species in the oceans rely on coral reefs for their survival.
“Despite the oceans’s immensity — 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface with an average depth of almost 4km (2½m) — there are indications that it is approaching its tipping point. For reefs, warming waters and acidification are closing in like a pair of jaws that threaten to make them the first global ecosystem to disappear.” – Times Online: 21st-century Noah’s Ark needed to save coral reefs from extinction
Read more about global warming effects and causes:

The true causes of globel warming and the solutions

Welcome to CausesofglobalWarming.net. We are dedicated to bringing you up-to-date information Global Warming. There are several causes of Global Warming, it is important to learn about what is affecting our world. Global Warming is a very serious threat to our way of life.
There are many proven facts that demonstrate how global warming has affected certain parts of our planet. The future predictions of global warming are important to note also. Things don't look so good, but there are some things we can do to slow down the process.
A teacher I know recently asked a student what we could do to fight global warming. His response was it should be illegal for anyone on Earth to pollute. Children are much wiser then we sometimes give them credit for. As that is the correct answer, however humans are habitual in their nature. Giving up their automobiles, buses, trains, planes, gas lawnmowers, etc... is not an easy thing to ask them to do. We have created the causes of global warming, it's up to us to find the solutions.
However hard it may be for us to accept, that child's answer may be the one we will be forced to accept. We go more into detail on the Solution to Global Warming in our "The Solution" section in the menu on the left. Believe it or not there are still skeptics who still don't believe that Global Warming is really happening. For that story and more, just use our menu on the left. We also have graphs and data showing the effects and causes of global warming.
You can also learn about Future Predictions of the effects of Global Warming on our planet through our menu. And finally if you are interested in getting books or videos on the causes of global warming or the potential solutions we have a section for you to check out too. We hope you enjoy our website on the causes of global warming and the solution.
Remember the name Causesofglobalwarming.net

Fundamental Global Warming Causes

Global Warming Causes

What are the main global warming causes?
While there are several natural causes that may influence the temperature of our planet, a vast majority of climate scientists attribute the recently observed global warming phenomenon mostly to human activities.

A 2007 climate change report released by the global climate authority IPCC re-affirms in no uncertain terms that “there is very high confidence that the net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming” (1).

industrial global warming
Industry-Dependent Earth 
Photo: Steven Allen

It is, first of all, the types of technology and energy that we use to power our industrialized lifestyles, and, second, the way we use our land, that are causing pollution and driving the process of global warming.

Fundamental Global Warming Causes

It is no surprise that global warming is a result of human-induced pollution.
As we have seen before, there are many types of environmental pollution and specifically air pollutants, which negatively affect the health of the environment but do not directlycontribute to global warming.
Instead, the main immediate global warming cause is the increased concentration ofgreenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The greenhouse gases are the by-products of many human activities.
Once emitted, some of these greenhouse gases end up in the atmosphere, where they trap a certain amount of originally solar energy (which would have otherwise escaped to space), and thus radiate this energy back to the Earth raising the planet’s average temperature.
So, the first fundamental global warming cause is an absolute dependence of the modern human society on the burning of fossil fuels, which is the most important source of greenhouse gas emissions.
The focal point of this cause is the generation of energy for use both in industry andcommercial/private sector.
Fossil fuel combustion is especially heavily used as a source of energy for industry.
In fact, industry literally cannot exist without fossil fuels.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas emitted as a by-product of fossil fuel combustion. This gas is the most important immediate global warming cause.
Some amounts of carbon dioxide are removed from the atmosphere by thecarbon sinks, such as tropical rainforests and oceans, as part of the process ofcarbon exchange between the atmosphere and the Earth (“carbon cycle”).
This carbon exchange has been taking place for thousands of years. It is an implicit guarantor of the Earth’s climate stability since the amount of carbon on the planet is more or less constant.
Carbon is indeed “the chemical basis of all known life” (2).
The carbon content of past living organisms has been stored in the form of fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal (3), which we use in virtually every aspect of our lives.
But the problem is that, as Barry Commoner notes, (4):
“The amounts of these fuels burned to provide society with energy represent the carbon captured by photosynthesis over millions of years. So, by burning them…we have returned carbon dioxide to the atmosphere thousands of times faster than the rate at which it was removed by the early tropical forests.”
In other words, we now release very large amounts of carbon dioxide at a very high rate, and the nature is unable to remove it in good time.
This leads to the accumulation of extra carbon in the atmosphere and, consequently, to global warming.
We have some other industry-related activities (usually called industrial processes) which are also significant sources of greenhouse gases such as fluorocarbons, carbon dioxide as well as small amounts of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
The products whose manufacturing causes the emission of these gases include cement, minerals, chemicals, metals.
Many activities related to industrial processes use large amounts of energy and thus produce significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions through fossil fuel combustion.
But industrial processes also produce greenhouse emissions not related to fossil fuel combustion but rather related to the use of specific methods and materials for the manufacture of the products mentioned above.

So the first global warming cause is related to activities which are performed to generate energy for industry and commercial & private sector needs.

The second fundamental global warming cause is related to the way we use our land, i.e. land use.
Among other applications, most common land use activities include:
  • Modern agricultural practices employed to breed animals, grow cereals, fruits & vegetables and other foods, all for human consumption.
The two important greenhouse gases emitted by agricultural practices are methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20).
  • Clearance of land for timber sales or for the expansion of human settlements / cattle ranches.
Alongside a cocktail of pollution released as part of this process, the main greenhouse gas emitted is carbon dioxide (CO2).

A very important element of this area is tropical deforestation, especially by way of forest fires, which alongside other pollutants causes the release of carbon dioxide.
A significant component related to, but different from, land use is waste management.
The main greenhouse gas emitted as a result of waste management activities is methane, with some small amounts of nitrous oxide.

Natural Global Warming Causes

The following natural factors may cause an increase in the Earth’s temperature: (5)

Changes in solar energy output

Since the sun is the only source of energy for the functioning of the Earth’s climate system, any changes in solar output may lead to climate change and, specifically global warming.
It is predicted that a change in solar output by only 1% per century may change the average temperature of the planet by between 0.5 to 1.0°C.

Changes in the Earth’s orbital characteristics

Changes in the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun as well as the tilt of the Earth’s axis alter the total amount of solar energy received by the planet. This would also affect the planet’s temperature.

Summary of Important Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gases

Global Warming Pollution
Global Warming Pollution
So, among the most important anthropogenicgreenhouse gases we have:
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane (CO4)
  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
  • Fluorocarbons (incl. hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs))
  • Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)
Many of these gases come from natural sources.
But it is the human-caused contribution of these gases to global warming that we are interested in for the purposes of our discussion.
We will focus on three greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – since they are the main anthropogenic contributors to global warming.
Carbon dioxide is by far the most important past and current greenhouse gas, followed by methane and nitrous oxide.
According to the calculations of the potential impact of each greenhouse gas on the future global temperatures weighed by their global warming potential and based on the year 2000 emissions data, the contribution of each gas to the total temperature rise over the next 100 years is projected to be: (6)
  • carbon dioxide – 72%
  • methane – 19%
  • nitrous oxide – 9%
Although some non-greenhouse air pollutants do not directly contribute to global warming, once in the air they may be transformed into actual greenhouse gases (for example, carbon monoxide (CO) may be transformed into carbon dioxide (CO2) ) and thus indirectly contribute to climate warming.
Such non-greenhouse gases are called precursor gases.
Some of the most important precursor gases are carbon monoxide (CO)nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

How can we neutralize global warming causes?
One way to deal with this issue is by developing alternatives to fossil fuels.
Green investment is a new area that is devoted to actively exploring alternative renewable energy sources.

Major Economic Sectors Acting as Global Warming Causes

As we described above, energy and land use activities are the major anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gas emissions, complemented by industrial processes and waste management.
The pie chart below shows the shares of each sector in the total amount of global greenhouse gas emissions (weighed by their global warming potential).

Greenhouse Effect
The energy sector is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases (70%) followed by the land use sector (23%), waste management (4%) and industrial processes (3%).
Below we analyse exactly which sub-sectors within each sector are the biggest emitters of certain greenhouse gases.

Global emissions of greenhouse gases (weighed by their global warming potential) based on the year 2000 emissions data (EDGAR), in teragram (Tg) (7)

Global Warming Cause:


% of total
Power Generation
Industrial Sector
(excl. refineries etc)
Residential, Commercial, and Other Sector
Other Transformation Sector
(incl. refineries etc)
Gas Production & Transportation
Non-Energy Use and Chem. Feedstocks
(CO2 only)
Coal Production
Oil Extraction, Transportation and Handling
Intl. Shipping
Rail and other non-road
Biofuel Residential

As we can see, power generation is the biggest source of greenhouse gases (specifically, CO2) within the energy sector, with 31% of the energy sector’s total emissions.
Power generation includes public electricity and heat production, according to the UNFCCC emissions reporting guidelines. (8)
A very significant proportion of power plants around the world depends on fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, oil) as their sources of energy.
And as we know, fossil fuel combustion is the primary global source of carbon dioxide, the most powerful of all greenhouse gases acting as global warming causes.
Coal is a particularly dirty fuel.
It is not only a source of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide and methane.
It is also a source of other waste products such as heavy metals (including arsenic, lead, mercury etc) polluting the environment and resulting in radioactive waste. (9)
Many countries heavily depend on coal for power generation. For example, in 2006 coal was used to produce roughly 49% of total electricity capacity of the US. (10)
Developing countries such as Russia are especially dependent on coal as this resource is still in plentiful supply.
In addition to coal, natural gas- and oil- based power plants are also serious sources of greenhouse gases.
Industrial sector generates around 15% of the energy sector’s total emissions and includes fossil fuel combustion to power primarily manufacturing industries such as iron & steel, chemical, paper production and other industries.
Road transport is, of course, another major generator of greenhouse emissions (15% of the total amount), as still a vast majority of road vehicles around the world are currently powered by liquid oil.
Together these three sub-sectors – power generation, industrial sector and road transport – produce slightly more than 60% of the total greenhouse gas emissions related to the energy sector. Theforefore, they act as major global warming causes.
The biggest greenhouse gas emitted by the energy sector in general is, without doubt, carbon dioxide – it makes up 90% of all the greenhouse gas emissions.

Global Warming Cause:


% of total
Deforestation, incl. Tropical Forest Fires
Animals, Enteric Fermentation
Rice Cultivation
Arable Land, Fertilizer Use
Animal Waste Deposited to Soil
Leaching & Run-off
Crop Production
Animal Waste Management
Savannah and Shrubs Fires
Deforestation, Post-Burning Effects
Atmospheric Deposition

As for the land use sector, deforestation, animal enteric fermentation and rice cultivation are the top 3 sub-sectors with the largest greenhouse gas emissions.
Deforestation causes 31% of the total land use emissions and is a very serious problem not only from the point of view of global warming but also in respect of irreversible plant and animal diversity loss with negative consequences for many different groups of people and the planet as a whole.
Since forests are one of the largest storages of carbon, deforestation particularly through forest fires is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions globally.
This is especially true for many tropical countries which are host to tropical rainforests and all the natural resources coming with them.
Read more about deforestation in the case study below.
Enteric fermentation by farm animals (such as cattle, sheep, goats etc) is another important source of greenhouse emissions (21% of total land use emissions).
Enteric fermentation is a process through which animals produce methane in their digestive tract and then either belch it or pass it out as gas. (11)
It is one of the reasons why there are now global calls to start abandoning meat-based diets in favour of vegetarian ones.
Rice cultivation is one more major cause of methane emissions, producing 10% of total land use emissions.
There are several sub-sectors within the land use sector which emit significant amounts of nitrous oxide. This is specifically true because of a widespread use of artificial fertilizers in agricultural production.
The main greenhouse gases emitted by land use activities are methane and nitrous oxide, with a significant amount of carbon dioxide produced as a result of deforestation.

Global Warming Causes:


% of total
Building Materials
Iron & Steel
Solvent Use

For industrial processes, the most important sub-sector is building materials. It includes production of cement which generates a big share of the total global anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.

Global Warming Cause:


% of total
Human Wastewater Disposal
Waste Water Treatment

The main gas emitted by the waste management sector is methane.

Case Study:
Deforestation as One of the Major Global Warming Causes

There is no doubt that over the last several decades deforestation has become one of the greatest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, one of the most important contributors to global warming.
Read more about different causes of rainforest destruction leading to deforestation here.
As we have seen from the figures above, deforestation accounts for at least 7% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions (though many sources often refer to a figure of 20% here - that depends on particular methodology applied to derive this figure), with the main gas being carbon dioxide plus smaller amounts of methane and nitrous dioxide.
Tropical rainforests play a very important role in regulating global and regional climate patterns.
So their destruction inevitably causes disruptions in many environmental services as well.
An extremely important service provided by the rainforests is the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by photosynthesis. In other words, it acts as a pollution / carbon dioxide sink and storage.
So in global warming terms, deforestation leads to: (12)
  • release of carbon dioxide from the trees back into the atmosphere
  • release of carbon stores held in the soil into the atmosphere
  • destruction of forests as carbon sinks for future carbon dioxide removal (i.e. damage to the planet’s future “carbon-sequestration” potential), and
  • all of the above will further contribute to the global warming effect
However, the global warming effect from deforestation may be counterbalanced by the Earth’s increased albedo ratio. The higher albedo ratio means that the Earth will be able to reflect more solar energy back into space and thus contribute to global cooling.
The issue of deforestation has recently received a special international attention for several different reasons:
1. Deforestation is a source of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore global warming.
2. Environmental services provided by the rainforests benefit all the inhabitants of the planet rather than just citizens of the rainforest host countries.
3. It is very difficult to control deforestation on a local level.
4. The vast majority of Earth’s remaining forest cover is located in developing countries in the regions around the equator.
These countries desperately need resources provided by the rainforests for their own economic and social development.
The challenge to the international community is to find sustainable ways of rainforest management which would guarantee economic development for host countries as well as rainforests’ healthy functioning.

Global Warming Causes:
Conclusion - Are We Ready to Change the Way We Live?

To summarize it all, greenhouse gas emissions are the immediate global warming causes. And such emissions are produced by virtually every imaginable human activity.
So it is clear, that in order to eliminate the global warming causes we need to drastically cut our greenhouse gas emissions.
And for that we need to start changing our lifestyles to make them more economical and appreciative of the environmental health, and of course start developing new, renewable sources of energy.
There are probably a couple of “latent” global warming causes which we can attend to almost immediately if we really want to:
  • Our own lifestyles and lack of desire to change them.
For example, simple things like saving electricity at home, switching to more efficient technologies, or recycling can make a real difference.
  • Absence of political will to implement required changes.
Unfortunately, ubiquitous presence of vested interests (especially those of oil companies) prevents political leaders from driving the real change that we need forward.
It’s interesting to note that though global warming has been known to be a problem since the 1980s, we did not make much progress in the direction of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Ironically, by 2005 we actually witnessed an increase in global GHG emissions as compared to the Kyoto Protocol’s base year of 1990. (13)
Of course, it is no easy task to reverse the process of global warming.
But it surely does not mean that we should not at least try.