The Roots of Global Warming

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Just what are humans doing to release all those greenhouse gases into the atmosphere? You can pin the blame on two main offenses: burning fossil fuels and deforestation.

Fueling global warming

When you burn fossil fuels, such as coal and oil (named fossil fuels because they're composed of ancient plant and animal material), they release vast amounts of greenhouse gases (largely, but not exclusively, carbon dioxide), which trap heat in the atmosphere. Fossil fuels are also a limited resource — meaning that humanity can't count on them over the long term because eventually they'll just run out.

The fossil fuel that produces the most greenhouse gas emissions is coal, and burning coal to produce electricity is the major source of coal-related greenhouse gases. The second-worst offender is using gasoline and diesel for transportation, followed by burning oil to generate heat and electricity. In fact, if people could replace the coal-fired power plants around the world and switch away from the internal combustion engine, humanity would have most of the problem licked. (Check out Chapter 4 for more fossil fuel info and Chapter 13 for the scoop on energy alternatives.)

Heating up over deforestation

Forests, conserved land, and natural habitats aren't important just for the sake of saving trees and animals. Forests and all greenery are important players in keeping the climate in check. Plants take in the carbon that's in the atmosphere and give back oxygen, and older trees hold on to that carbon, storing it for the duration of their lives. By taking in carbon dioxide, they're significantly reducing the greenhouse effect. (See Chapter 2 for more about how plants help the Earth keep atmospheric carbon at a reasonable level.)

Unfortunately, much of the world's forests have been cut down to make way for farmland, highways, and cities. Deforestation is responsible for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. Rainforests are especially good at soaking up carbon dioxide because they breathe all year round. Temperate forests, on the other hand, don't absorb much carbon dioxide over the winter, practically going into hibernation. (Chapter 5 has more about deforestation.)

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Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Your Alternative Fuel Solution for Saving Money, Reducing Oil Dependency, and Helping the Planet. Ethanol is an alternative to gasoline. The use of ethanol has been demonstrated to reduce greenhouse emissions slightly as compared to gasoline. Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know why choosing an alternative fuel may benefit you and your future.

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