Climate Change Science

Climate Change Science

AIRS Global Map of Carbon Dioxide from Space



Although generally in equilibrium, the global carbon cycle on earth has been knocked out of balance over the last 100 years due to the burning of fossil fuels by human society. The excess production of carbon-based gases (primarily carbon dioxide and methane) has resulted in a 40% increase over pre-industrial CO2 concentrations and a doubling in atmospheric methane concentrations. These atmospheric changes contribute to an anthropogenically enhanced greenhouse effect and measurable global warming evidenced by an increase in the global average temperature and many other indicators. 

The National Research Council released a report last year that stated:

"Scientific evidence the earth is now warming is overwhelming. There is also a multitude  of evidence that this warming results from human activity, especially burning fossil fuels  and other activities that release heat trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the  atmosphere."

Individual behavior regarding the use of electricity, transportation choices, and dietary preferences all contribute to the carbon emissions for which an individual is directly and indirectly responsible (one’s carbon footprint). About 1/3 of an individual’s carbon emissions are due to transportation, 1/3 due to residential uses (mainly heating and cooling, and 1/3 due to indirect sources such as food, clothing, and electronics. 


An individual’s choices regarding daily activities, habits, and norms directly affect the amount of one’s carbon emissions. An individual’s knowledge of the carbon cycle, renewable energy, and climate can ultimately lead to more informed choices and lower carbon emissions. 


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1049317.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.