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Published on June 3rd, 2009 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

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5 Global Warming Facts: Learn About the Causes and Effects

meat wine brown bearIt’s hard to watch television, read the paper, or go online without coming across facts about global warming prevention. You may already feel like you’ve got the basics down. Some of the more interesting global warming facts may have escaped your attention, though, as they don’t get quite as much coverage. The more time you spend digging into global warming causes and effects, the more you’ll realize that climate change goes beyond some of the most catastrophic (and newsworthy) problems associated with it. Global warming will transform your life at basic levels that we’re just beginning to understand.

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Global warming causes you may not have known about

You’re likely aware that many of your daily activities — driving your car, cooling and heating your home, operating electronic devices — produce greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide. You may not, however, be aware of some other major global warming causes that you encounter regularly. For instance,

  • The meat on your plate: Deforestation, especially of tropical rainforests, is one of the major causes of global warming, and residents of countries such as Brazil and Costa Rica often destroy these forests to create grazing space for cattle. Choosing to eat less meat, and purchasing the meat you do eat from local sources, should be a part of your plan to lighten your own carbon footprint.
  • The food and yard wastes you throw away: When you send food wastes, grass clippings, and other organic materials to the landfill, they’re much more likely to end up producing methane because they’ll decompose in an anaerobic (or oxygen-free) environment. Composting those wastes, whether by sending them to a large-scale operation, or adding them to your own compost pile or bin, will allow for oxygen-rich decomposition… which prevents methane emissions, and “closes the loop” by creating material you can use for garden and plant fertilizer.

What effects will global warming have on the planet… and on people?

You’ve likely read about some of the actual and potential catastrophic effects of global warming, such as increased severe weather events, desertification, and water shortages. We’re already seeing the consequences of such problems: a recent report on the effects of global warming from the Global Humanitarian Forum “indicates that more than 300 million people are seriously affected by climate change at a total economic cost of $125 billion per year.”

In addition to large-scale humanitarian crises, climate change will have effects you may not have heard about, including

  • Harming wine production: Do you enjoy a glass of wine every now and then? It turns out that grape production is the “canary in the coal mine” for agricultural effects of global warming. Temperate zones that have produced some of the world’s great wines are already seeing significant changes in harvest times and the quality of the grapes grown. French wines, American pinot noir, and light and dry wines are all at risk.
  • Making it more likely you’ll be attacked by a bear: Huh? Seriously: changes in climate have affected animals’ normal patterns of migration and hibernation. In Russia, for instance, brown bears have become unusually aggressive during winter months, and it’s likely because they’re not able to hibernate as long as usual because Spring is coming earlier. Don’t you get cranky when you haven’t had enough sleep?
  • Make your allergies and/or asthma worse: Do you suffer from pollen allergies or asthma? Make sure you’ve got your meds on hand: increases in allergy and asthma attacks because of longer seasons for pollen production are just one potential health risk posed by global warming.

Global warming will affect all of us

Global warming isn’t just something that’s happening “out there”: rather, it will likely affect you in terms of your health, your access to resources, and your pocketbook. If you’re interested in finding out about more potential effects of a changing climate, check out the Center for American Progress’ “The Top 100 Effects of Global Warming.”

Image credits: Marshmallow, procsilas, and jenny downing at Flickr under a Creative Commons license



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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



  • http://www.regeneratebiogas.com Daniel Bida

    You’ve got it a little mixed up on the food and yard waste we throw away. This waste will decompose and release methane, no matter what. When it is decomposed in an anaerobic environment, the methane can be captured for re-use in the natural gas grid or for electricity and heat production. With composting, the waste will decompose in an aerobic environment and the methane is released into the atmosphere.
    Comparing the two processes:
    Anaerobic Digestion (AD) – produces biogas suitable for power/heat generation, captures methane (21x carbon), eliminates odours and pathogens, and leaves you with high-quality fertilizer at the end.

    Aerobic Digestion (aka Composting) – releases methane into atmostphere, stinks up the local neighborhood, and leaves you with fertilizer.

    As you can see, AD is the process which really “closes the loop” on waste, not composting.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Bobby B.

    A few comments:

    • Doesn’t most of the meat on plates in the United States come from the United States and receive USDA inspection and certification? You cannot really levee the blame for destroying rain forests for meat production on the US, and you really should not dictate how other nations choose to use their land.

    • Avoid creating food wastes by giving your dog the leftovers. Mow frequently and leave your grass clippings in the yard for natural decomposition, which coincidentally keeps your lawn greener.

    • Quit drinking wine or get used to wine of lesser quality. I used to work with a fellow that made wine out of everything (grapes, muscadines, blackberries, flowers, raisins, etc.). Satisfying one’s need for alcohol will always be viable.

    • Keep a gun close to shoot rampaging bears. Most humans don’t get enough sleep either and we just have to deal with it. Bears shouldn’t be allowed to be grumpy because they’re tired.

    • The cleanliness of the developed, industrialized world has become a prevailing theory for the prevalence of allergies and asthma in western societies. The claim is that infant children do not get exposed to enough triggers at an early age and subsequently develop sensitivities to those triggers as they mature. The prevailing method of treating allergies is for a physician to order a series of desensitizing shots to build the patient’s immunity to the offending triggers. It is a difficult course of action, but it beats being dependent on antihistamines, decongestants, antibiotics and/or steroids.

    To close, I fully expect global warming to impact my pocketbook as the taxing authorities find creative ways of separating me from my hard-earned cash to fund the supposed “fixes” for this theoretical warming.

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    @Joe — using methane (aka landfill gas) from landfills is a smart strategy, but it’s hardly in wide use at this point… when it is, the choice on throwing away food and yard wastes may be a wash (you’ll get CO2 emissions either way, but, as I’m sure you know, carbon dioxide isn’t nearly as powerful a greenhouse gas as methane). Aerobic digestion doesn’t release methane, though — it releases CO2. I should probably add “well-maintained” before “compost bin or pile,” because as long as that compost is aerated, it’s not going to smell or release methane. We had an interesting discussion on this topic in December: http://sustainablog.org/2008/12/02/compost-vs-landfill-does-it-really-make-a-difference/ And here are a couple of sources:
    http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/fundamentals/biology_aerobic.htm
    http://www.energysavers.gov/your_workplace/farms_ranches/index.cfm/mytopic=30003

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    Bobby–

    A couple of quick points…

    One your first point — no. The US is the world’s largest importer of beef (though also the world’s largest exporter). Trying to find recent stats on other meats, but here’s some data from ’05: http://www.nass.usda.gov/ia/bulletin/2005/pg137.pdf

    Second point: Feeding meat scraps to the dog is fine — you’re still dealing with methane issues, but you generally don’t want to put meat into compost bins and piles anyway (for a variety of reasons). I also “grasscycle,” but a lot of people don’t — they bag and toss…

    Third point (skipping to the allegies issue) — none of those points you make undermine the basic premise of climate change creating longer pollen seasons…

    On the pocketbook… you’ll pay for it one way or another… shrinking resources lead to higher prices… supply and demand… not to mention costs from damages from severe weather events, floods, etc..

  • http://www.yahoo.com Bobby B.

    • Did you look at your meat chart? It is no surprise that LAMB AND MUTTON appear on the import but not the export list. The surprise is that both BEEF AND VEAL and PORK imports remain statistically unchanged over five years, whereas exports of BEEF AND VEAL decreased dramatically and PORK increased significantly. What countries gave up eating beef in favor of pork?

    • I don’t restrict my dog’s table fodder to meat. He gets whatever he can stomach. Also, thanks for providing the term “grasscycle”. I may need it in the future.

    • I can’t believe that you didn’t bite on the booze or bear defense comments. You must be getting old! ;-)

    • Regarding pollen, you have to eliminate the first two quarters of 2009 from the basic premise to keep it valid. It has been quite cool this year and the high pollen count has come late, which is yet another reason that the term “climate change” has supplanted the term “global warming” in the lexicon.

    • On the pocketbook, why exacerbate the costs by forcing the few people still paying taxes to pay for problems that at this point rely on pseudo-scientific prophecy? At some point we might run out of money to donate to such causes, which will leave only an elite ruling class and large bunch of peasants. What happens to the great unwashed masses when this occurs? Past examples were not very pretty. Do you truly expect a similar future to be different? To borrow a couple of quotes from Churchill:

    1. “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

    2. “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

    Take care, buddy!

  • Chris King

    Typical of a liberal…..

  • http://n/a Mary Donnelly

    Excellent article, thanks!

    Note a koala is a marsupial not a bear.

  • http://www.sihagrc.tripod.com RC SIHAG

    This is one of the simplest effort to make a layman understand about the global warming,however, the effects shall be many more and very complicated.There will be climate change that will dramatically reduce your wheat and rice production, alongwith other crops.Animals will suffer behaviourally as well as reproductively.There will be rapid movement of tropical diseases(of human as wll as animals) towards temperate regions.Consiquently, more human sufferings and less animal production.and so many………..
    I cngratulate the author for nice attempt.Well done.

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  • robert

    Well, at rest the average person exhales 250ml of carbon dioxide per minute. If we can just slow down our metabolic rates or stop breathing we’ll have a future right? Mc Donalds here i come!

  • Craig Goodrich

    There is no argument that global temperature is rising at a rate of about 0.6 deg C/century, with an oscillation of about +/- 0.2 deg C in phase with the 60-year Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

    There is no evidence whatever, anywhere, in any article, however, that this warming is due to CO2, nor that it is anthropogenic, nor that it poses any threat to human habitation or civilization (nor to polar bears, nor to coral), nor that any possible human activity could stop it.

    In fact, the latest research appears to decisively rule out any significant role for CO2 in the current warming.

    Bandwagons are not science, they are politics.

  • http://politicalfarts.com PF

    Quick question…did you do some research on the deforestation model that was used to produce the estimates for the amount of CO2 produced? The model that you cite was based on satellite images from the 80’s and 90’s along with a terrestrial carbon model. Basically, both ends of this equation took the “best guess” from 20 to 25 year old pictures as well as a carbon model that, as of yet, has proved to be far from conclusive in any stretch of word prognostication. What sources and/or carbon models have you used in your research?

  • Ed

    It’s a hoax, and to prove it, it takes no more than simple observation of the US coastline.

    The beach at Cape Cod looks the same to me year after year. Where is the change in sea level? Where is the water that results from all the ice melting? Why isn’t the water creeping inland?

    The answer is crystal clear, and quite obvious to anyone with even the most basic observational skills. There’s no warming.

    “But all the temperature readings say so! All the research says the Earth has warmed!” That’s great. Show me the rise in sea level at the beach on Cape Cod.

    “But melting icebergs – most of the ice is underwater and ice takes up more space than water!” That’s great too. I ask again, show me the change in sea level at Cape Cod since 1750.

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  • dan the man

    i want to ask a question.. why are you sad enough to think i care?:)

  • John M. Quinn

    If one does a WEB search on the causes of Global Warming, one invariably finds that a very large list of anthropogenic CO2 sources that are linked to industrial and agricultural growth especially during the past 150 years is given. But this answer begs the question. As a physicist, I have yet seen convincing proof that CO2 of either natural or anthoopogenic origins is in fact the cause of Global Warming. What we have is known as the EnhancedGreenhouse Theory of Global Warming, with emphasis on Theory. I have some problems with this theory:

  • John M. Quinn

    Anthropogenic CO2 is generally pointed out as being the culprit for generating Global Warming. Everyone starts with this premis. But how do we know that this prremis is acutally true?

    Most often, we see three sets of data. One is the Global Temperature Anomaly (GTA)for the past 150 years of direct measurements, and the other is the 50 year direct CO2 measurments from the Mauna Loa, HI observatory. Longer term, we get both CO2 and GTA data from the 450,000 year and longer data records from Antarctic ice cores.

    The Mauna Loa data set (a data set that yields decade time scale information from 1957 to the present) actually shows that CO2 lags the Global Temperature Anomaly by about 9 years. These data were observed during a period of extreme anthropogenic activity.

    The Antarctic ice core yields information on the millennium time scale. These data show that on the meillennium time scale, CO2 lags the Global Temperature Anomaly by about 800 years, for the period covering the past 12,000 years, when anthropogenic activity was nil.

    Thus, on either the anthropogenically dominated decade time scale or on the nature dominated millennium time scale, there is a CO2 time lag relative to Global Temperature Change.

    So where do people get the idea that CO2 is driving Global Warming? It is certainly not from any scientifically observed data. Clearly, from this evidence CO2 can have nothing whatsoever to do with Global Warming. Consequently, the Enhanced Greenhouse Theory of Global Warming is based on a false premis, and is therefore wrong. In addition it is just too simplistic a theory.

    The fact is, Global Warming is a natural phenomenon arising from a very complex set of interacting factors.

    You may disscover more about my line of reasoning by reading my book:

    GLOBAL WARMING: Geophysical Counterpoints to the
    Enhanced Greenhouse Theory

    ISBN 978 – 1 – 4349 – 0581 – 9

    Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc., Pittsburgh, PA

    The book should be available through Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, etc. by Dec 2009 if not sooner.

    John M. Quinn

  • Emzy

    Very good accusations

  • abbie

    meat is bad!!!
    for everyone…

  • Gordon Brown

    John M. Quinn, where is your book?

  • John M. Johnson

    John Quinn, you need to check the math in your book.

  • http://www.globalwarming360.net/ Global Warming Facts

    When it is decomposed in an anaerobic environment, the methane can be captured for re-use in the natural gas grid or for electricity and heat production. With composting, the waste will decompose in an aerobic environment and the methane is released into the atmosphere.

  • http://www.journalmystery.wordpress.com elltimia

    Agree . Meat Industry – A very big cause of Global Warming .

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