Key Questions Page

Key Questions

Do scientists agree about global warming?

Scientists who study the climate are still arguing about how fast the earth is warming and how much it will warm, but they do agree that the earth is warming and that it will keep warming if we don’t do anything about it. 

What is causing global warming?

Scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal cause greenhouse gases to escape into the air and that these gases are causing most of the warming. Another cause is deforestation (cutting down trees). Trees soak up carbon dioxide (one of the greenhouse gases) from the air and when they are cut down release all of that carbon dioxide back into our atmosphere.

What is the difference between "global warming" and "climate change?"

"Global warming" refers to the increase of the Earth's average surface temperature, due to a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. "Climate change" is a broader term that refers to long-term changes in climate, including average temperature and precipitation.

What will happen if global warming continues?

There are already some changes happening because of global warming. Sea level is rising and some animals are already moving to new homes. It’s already too late to stop global warming completely.

If the warming gets worse, as scientists expect, there may be some kinds of plants and animals that become extinct (disappear completely) because they can’t move to new homes. There may be more storms and floods. Sea level may rise so much that people have to move away from the coasts. Some areas may become too dry for farming.

What is being done about global warming?

Global warming is a very difficult problem to fix. People are having a hard time agreeing on what to do about it. For example, everyone agrees that wasting energy is a bad thing to do. But some people think that the federal government should make laws about it, while other people think it should be up to each person or business to decide what to do.

Many states and businesses in the United States are not waiting until the federal government decides what to do. They have already started working on the problem.

What can I do about global warming?

You don’t have to wait until you are grown to do something about global warming. Scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels is causing global warming. Since these fuels are burned for energy, and everyone uses energy, everyone can help stop global warming just by using less energy.

Think about the things you do each day that use energy. The lights in your house use electricity. The TV and computer use electricity. The washing machine, dishwasher and dryer all use gas or electricity. Every time you ride in your car, it uses gasoline. By cutting back the amount of energy you use each day, you’ll be reducing your contribution to global climate change.

What is a carbon offset?

An offset is used to reduce and balance your carbon footprint. Daily activities that contribute to your footprint are things like riding the bus to school or watching TV. In fact, most of the energy we use creates greenhouse gases (GHGs) like carbon dioxide so it is important to balance your impact on the environment.

While an individual’s first goal should be to reduce his or her personal carbon footprint as much as possible, it is often impossible to reduce it completely. An offset helps reduce, remove and avoid GHG emissions by supporting an environmental project that naturally absorbs CO2. An offset project could be planting new forests, capturing GHGs from landfills or even from a herd of cows (cows release methane in their waste). These projects create other benefits too, like jobs, healthy forests, clean water and watersheds, and protection of endangered species.