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After years of debate, consensus among most of the world's scientists holds that we are warming

the planet. Unless we take steps now to curb global warming, our way of life, our planet, and our
children are all in grave danger. There is hope. Each us can make simple decisions that will reduce
global warming pollution. The Sierra Club is working with churches, labor unions, mayors and state
governments to bring about a cleaner, smarter energy future.
The links below contain information related to charitable activities of The Sierra Club on behalf of
this issue. Only activities which qualify as charitable activity are funded by The Sierra Club
Foundation.

The Basics of Global Warming


We've put together these basic frequently asked questions to give you a starting point in your
global warming education. When you're done reading up on the basics, check out our solutions
page to learn more about how you can curb global warming.
1. What causes global warming? Is it part of a natural cycle?
Global warming is caused by the build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere such as
carbon dioxide and methane, which form a sort of blanket over the Earth, trapping in heat
that would normally escape the atmosphere. The leading greenhouse gas is carbon
dioxide, a pollutant emitted from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural
gas. While it is true that there has always been some natural climate variability, record
levels of carbon dioxide are having a far reaching change over our weather, sea levels, and
climate.
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Throughout ice ages, higher concentrations of carbon dioxide have correlated with higher
temperatures. Humans are exacerbating global temperatures through industrial activity
which dramatically increases carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. In its
recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that 2005 carbon
dioxide levels significantly exceed average concentration levels over the past 650,000
years.
○ Click here to read the report on global warming science by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, the world's leading scientific body on global warming.
2. How can Global Warming affect our lives?
We do not yet fully know how radical climate change will affect our way of life, but we do
know that the effects of growing carbon dioxide emissions already occurring are
staggering: the eleven years ranging between 1995 and 2006 rank among the twelve
warmest years recorded since 1850. Sea level rise will likely increase 20-50 inches (.5 -
1.4 m) above 1990 levels by 2100, dramatically altering coastal communities and natural
habitats.
Leading scientists assert that a rise of two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial
temperatures would leave hundreds of millions of people around the world "exposed to
increased water stress," decrease air quality in cities, increase ocean acidification leading
to the destruction of calcifying marine life (including coral and dependent species),
negatively impact farmers and fishers, increase the likelihood and severity of wildfires, and
dramatically escalate mortality rates resulting from drought, floods, and heat waves. Few
ecosystems could adapt to such a dramatic temperature change, potentially resulting in
the extinction of 30 percent of species and the loss of 30 percent of coastal wetlands. In
North America specifically, higher temperatures will decrease snow pack in the western
mountains, reducing summer water supplies and exacerbating chances of drought.
To avoid such catastrophes, scientists say that we must reduce our carbon emissions by at
least 80% by 2050 to prevent global temperatures from rising above two degrees Celsius
over pre-industrial averages.
Read the IPCC's definitive report on the possible impacts of global warming.
3. Does the rise in the earth's temperature cause more intense storms and
hurricanes? If so, how?
Yes. Hurricanes are powered by warm water on the surface of the ocean. As global
warming heats the surface of the water, hurricanes will increase in speed, power, and
severity.
In its most recent report, IPCC found that tropical storms have become more intense in
the North Atlantic since 1970, during which time period carbon dioxide levels have
increased by 80 percent. The report also found that future tropical typhoons and
hurricanes will likely become more intense as measured by higher wind speeds and heavier
precipitation. More powerful cyclones will lead to crop damage, power outages, increase
risk of food and water-borne diseases, population migration, and property loss.
4. What are the largest sources of global warming pollution in the world and in the
United States?
According to 2005 figures by the Department of Energy, the US produces 21.1% of all CO2
emitted into the atmosphere, at 5,957 million metric tons. While it was second to the U.S.
in 2005, China took over first place in mid-2007, emitting roughly 28 percent of the
world's CO2. But that does mean that the U.S. emits more CO2 than India (4.1 percent),
Russia (6 percent), Japan (4.4 percent), Australia (1.4 percent), and more than all of
Europe (16.6 percent).
The U.S. emits roughly 30 percent of its carbon dioxide from the transportation sector and
40 percent from power plants. We burn coal and natural gas to produce electricity for our
homes, businesses, and factories. Most of the oil is burned to power transportation --
planes, buses, and cars. Unfortunately, nearly all of the technology that produces this
energy is outdated and inefficient. We can continue to live our lives by putting more
efficient technology to use, and by generating more energy from clean sources like wind
and solar.
5. Can we curb our emissions of global warming pollution without hurting our
economy?
Absolutely. America's current energy policy is terribly expensive, requiring large subsidies
while taking a heavy toll on consumers. Studies show that by investing in clean, renewable
energy and energy efficiency, we can reduce our greenhouse emissions by at least the
necessary 80 percent by 2050 while creating new jobs and saving consumers money, and
we can do so without producing dangerous and expensive electricity from nuclear reactors.
While many countries in Europe and Asia are recognizing the need to curb emissions,
America's industries are falling behind. America needs policies and programs that will
stimulate green power industries so we can ensure that America will once again lead the
world in technology and manufacturing. And by making simple choices in the kinds of
products we buy, such as compact florescent light bulbs and hybrid cars, we can all save
money and protect the environment by consuming less energy.
○ Read the latest report that proves we can curb global warming and create jobs.
○ Read the Sierra Club's official roadmap to achieving at least 80 percent carbon
reductions by 2050 without nuclear power.
○ Read Energy [R]evolution: a Blueprint for Solving Global Warming
○ Read the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research's Carbon-Free and
Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap For U.S. Energy Policy
○ Find out how many jobs a robust investment in renewable energy can create in
your state.
6. How is the International Community Addressing Climate Change?
Recognizing the urgency of the threat posed by climate change, developing countries
agreed at recent UN climate change negotiations in Bali to complement developed country
mitigation targets with nationally appropriate mitigation actions of their own. This
represents a significant change of position on the part of developing countries. The U.S.
has the opportunity to capitalize on the momentum of Bali if we act quickly to put in place
the necessary legislation to reduce domestic emissions.
○ Read the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Bali Final
Results
○ Read the Club of Madrid and United Nations Foundation Framework Proposal

7. Is it too late to stop Global Warming?


While it is true that global warming is already occurring and affecting the way we live, we
can prevent global temperatures from reaching dangerous levels if we take steps now to
begin dramatically reducing our carbon emissions. If we do not begin to shift to clean
energy, the heat waves and hurricanes that we have already suffered through will worsen.
Thankfully, we have all the tools necessary to curb our emissions of greenhouse gases -
tools like clean energy, energy efficiency, and cars that go farther on a gallon of gas. Click
here to learn more about global warming solutions.

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Responsible Choices
The choices we make and the products we buy test our commitment to maintain a healthy planet.
When we burn fossil fuels—such as oil, coal, and natural gas—to run our cars and light our homes,
we pump carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air. This thickens the heat-trapping blanket that surrounds
the planet, causing global warming.
Choosing modern technology can reduce our use of fossil fuels and help protect the planet. These
ten steps will help curb global warming, save you money, and create a safer environment for the
future.
Drive Smart!
A well-tuned car with properly inflated tires burns less gasoline—cutting pollution and saving
you money at the pump. If you have two cars, drive the one with better gas mileage
whenever possible. Better yet, skip the drive and take public transit, walk, or bicycle when you
can.
Buy Local and Organic
Did you know the average American meal travels more than 1,500 miles
from the farm to your plate? Think of all the energy wasted and pollution
added to the atmosphere—not to mention all the pesticides and chemicals used to
grow most produce! So go to your local organic farmer to get your fruits and
veggies.
Support clean, renewable energy.
Renewable energy solutions, such as wind and solar power, can reduce our
reliance on coal-burning power plants, the largest source of global warming
pollution in the United States. Call your local utility and sign up for renewable energy. If they don't
offer it, ask them why not?
Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.
Especially those that burn the longest each day. Compact fluorescents
produce the same amount of light as normal bulbs, but use about a quarter
of the electricity and last ten times as long. Each switch you make helps clean the air today, curb
global warming, and save you money on your electricity bill.
Saving energy at home is good for the environment and for your
wallet.
Start with caulking and weather-stripping on doorways and windows. Then
adjust your thermostat and start saving. For each degree you lower your
thermostat in the winter, you can cut your energy bills by three percent. Finally, ask
your utility company to do a free energy audit of your home to show you how to
save even more money.
Become a smart water consumer.
Install low-flow showerheads and faucets and you'll use half the water
without decreasing performance. Then turn your hot water heater down to 120°F and see
hot-water costs go down by as much as 50 percent.
Buy energy-efficient electronics and appliances.
Replacing an old refrigerator or an air conditioner with an energy-efficient model will save
you money on your electricity bill and cut global warming pollution. Look for the Energy Star
label on new appliances or visit their website at www.energystar.gov to find the most energy-
efficient products.
Plant a Tree, protect a forest.
Protecting forests is a big step on the road to curbing global warming.
Trees "breathe in" carbon dioxide, but slash-and-burn farming practices,
intensive livestock production, and logging have destroyed 90 percent of the
native forests in the United States. And you can take action in your own
backyard—planting shade trees around your house will absorb CO2, and slash your summer air-
conditioning bills.
Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!
Producing new paper, glass, and metal products from recycled materials saves 70
to 90 percent of the energy and pollution, including CO2, that would result if the
product came from virgin materials. Recycling a stack of newspapers only four feet high
will save a good-sized tree. Please... buy recycled products!
Mount a local campaign against global warming.
Educate your community about how it can cut global warming pollution. Support measures
at the national, state, and local level that:
• Make automobiles go further on a gallon of gas;
• Accelerate the use of clean, renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind;
• Increase energy efficiency and conservation; and
• Preserve forests around the world.
Interested in helping your city become a "cool city"? It's easy! Click here for details and you'll be
on your way to helping your city be Cool!
S GLOBAL WARMING?
dioxide and other gases warm the surface of the planet naturally by trapping solar heat in the
ere. This is a good thing because it keeps our planet habitable. However, by burning fossil fuels such
gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the
tmosphere and temperatures are rising.
majority of scientists agree that global warming is real, it’s already happening and that it is the
our activities and not a natural occurrence.1 The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable.
ready seeing changes. Glaciers are melting, plants and animals are being forced from their habitat,
number of severe storms and droughts is increasing.

The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has


almost doubled in the last 30 years.2
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2 climatecrisis

Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like


the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level.3 E-Mail Address

The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more Bottom of Form
than doubled over the past decade.4

At least 279 species of plants and animals are


already responding to global warming, moving closer
to the poles.5

arming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences.


Deaths from global warming will double in just 25
years -- to 300,000 people a year.6

Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with


the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica,
devastating coastal areas worldwide.7

Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense.

Droughts and wildfires will occur more often.

The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by


2050.8

More than a million species worldwide could be


driven to extinction by 2050.9

no doubt we can solve this problem. In fact, we have a moral obligation to do so. Small changes to
y routine can add up to big differences in helping to stop global warming. The time to come together
this problem is now – TAKE ACTION

g to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this era of global warming "is unlikely to be entirely natural
and "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence of the global climate."
, K. 2005. Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature 436: 686-688.
ealth Organization
W., E. Hanna, P. Huybrechts, W. Abdalati, J. Cappelen, B. Csatho, E. Frefick, S. Manizade, C. Martin, J, Sonntag, R. Swift,
s and J. Yungel. 2004. Greenland Ice Sheet: Increased coastal thinning. Geophysical Research Letters 31.

ealth Organization
ton Post, "Debate on Climate Shifts to Issue of Irreparable Change," Juliet Eilperin, January 29, 2006, Page A1.
mate Impact Assessment. 2004. Impacts of a Warming Arctic. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Also quoted
agazine, Vicious Cycles, Missy Adams, March 26, 2006.
gazine, Feeling the Heat, David Bjerklie, March 26, 2006.
v