How Global Warming Works

Can We Stop Global Warming?

Hydrogen-powered cars, the increased use of solar cells, and hydro-electric power plants are possible ways to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
Courtesy BMW AG, Munich, Germany; DOE/NREL; SunLine Transit Agency

Though scientists warn that global warming will likely continue for centuries because of the long natural processes involved, there are a few things we can do to decrease the effects. Basically, they all boil down to this: Don't use as much of the stuff that creates greenhouse gases. On a local level, you can help by using less energy. The electricity that operates many of the devices in our homes comes from a power plant, and most power plants burn fossil fuels to generate that power. Turn off lights when they're not in use. Take shorter showers to use less hot water. Use a fan instead of an air conditioner on a warm day.

Here are some other specific ways you can help decrease greenhouse-gas emissions:


  • Make sure your car is properly tuned up. This allows it to run more efficiently and generate fewer harmful gases.
  • Walk or ride your bike if possible, or carpool on your way to work. Cars burn fossil fuel, so smaller, more fuel-efficient cars emit less CO2, particularly hybrid cars.
  • Turn lights and other appliances off when you're not using them. Even though a light bulb doesn't generate greenhouse gas, the power plant that generates the electricity used by the light bulb probably does. Switch from incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent bulbs, which use less energy and last longer.
  • Recycle. Garbage that doesn't get recycled ends up in a landfill, generating methane. Recycled goods also require less energy to produce than products made from scratch.
  • Plant trees and other plants where you can. Plants take carbon dioxide out of the air and release oxygen.
  • Don't burn garbage. This releases carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.

To really stem the emission of greenhouse gases, we need to develop non-fossil fuel energy sources. Hydro-electric power, solar power, hydrogen engines and fuel cells could all create big cuts in greenhouse gases if they were to become more common.

At the international level, the Kyoto treaty was written to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Thirty-five industrialized nations have committed to reducing their output of those gases to varying degrees. Unfortunately, the United States, the world's primary producer of greenhouse gases, did not sign the treaty.

Al Gore's book and documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" got a lot of people talking about global warming.
Photo courtesy Consumer Guide Products

In March, 2007, former Vice President Al Gore testified in front of Congress and urged them to make some very challenging changes in national policy. These include:

  • Freeze carbon production at the current level and create programs to reduce carbon production by 90 percent by 2050
  • Shift taxation from employment and production to a taxation upon pollution
  • Create an international treaty that would effectively comply with the Kyoto treaty without carrying the same perceived political baggage
  • Halt the construction of all new coal-based power facilities unless they comply with restrictions on carbon production
  • Increase emission standards across the board for both the automobile industry and power facilities
  • Ban incandescent light bulbs

Gore admits that the decision to enact these and other proposed responses to global warming can be difficult. He also says that climate change is not just a crisis, but the most important crisis mankind has ever faced.

For more information on global warming and related topics, check out the links below.

Relate­d HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • Alley, Richard et al. "Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis - Summary for Policymakers." Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Earth Observatory: Global Warming
  • The EPA Global Warming Kids Page
  • Flavin, Christopher and Tunali, Odil. "Climate of Hope: New Strategies for Stabilizing the World's Atmosphere." Worldwatch Institute, 1996. ISBN 1-878071-32-7.
  • Jones, Laura, editor. "Global Warming: The Science and the Politics." The Fraser Institute, 1997. ISBN 0-88975-184-6.
  • Kruglinski, Susan. "What Caused the Biggest Kill of All?" Discover Magazine, 2003.
  • NOAA: Global Warming
  • RealClimate
  • Science Daily: Earth and Climate
  • Singer, S. Fred. "Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming's Unfinished Debate." The Independent Institute, 1998. ISBN 0-945999-78-x.
  • Tesar, Jenny. "Global Warming." Facts On File, 1991. ISBN 0-8160-2490-1.