Delta Power Station, fueled by coal. Wallerawang, New South Wales © Adam Oswell / WWF

A coal fired power station in Queensland © James Morgan / WWF

Causes of global warming

Keywords
  • carbon pollution
  • climate change
  • energy

Global warming is caused by human activities like burning fossil fuels, deforestation and farming.

Burning fossil fuels

When we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to create electricity or power our cars, we release CO2 pollution into the atmosphere.

Australians are big producers of CO2 pollution compared to the rest of the world. Our level of CO2 pollution per person is nearly double the average of other developed nations and more than four times the world average.

Electricity generation is the main cause of carbon pollution in Australia because 73% of our electricity comes from burning coal and 13% from burning gas . The remaining 14% comes from renewable energy sources like hydro, solar and wind, which do not emit carbon pollution .

Reducing the amount of electricity generated from coal and gas, and increasing the amount of electricity from clean, renewable energy sources like solar and wind, means less carbon pollution is emitted. This is one of the main ways we can address global warming.

 

A large coal power station in the UK with barbed wire in the foreground © Global Warming Images / WWF

 

 

Deforestation

Plants play an important role in regulating the climate because they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen back into it. Forests and bushland act as carbon sinks and are a valuable means of keeping global warming to 1.5°C.

But humans clear vast areas of vegetation around the world for farming, urban and infrastructure development or to sell tree products like timber and palm oil. When vegetation is removed or burnt, the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere as CO2, contributing to global warming. Up to one-fifth of global greenhouse gas pollution comes from deforestation and forest degradation.

Preventing deforestation as well as planting trees, through reforestation and afforestation, are important actions in the fight against global warming.

 

A huge peat swap is burnt in Indonesia © WWF-Indonesia / Samsul Komar

Farming

Animals, particularly livestock like sheep and cattle, produce methane, a greenhouse gas. When livestock are grazed at a large scale, as in Australia, the amount of methane produced is a big contributor to global warming.

Some fertilisers that farmers use also release nitrous oxide, which is another greenhouse gas.

Australian farming contributes 16% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. Using different fertilisers and different stock feeds can help to reduce farming's contribution to climate change.

 

Cows gather around a 4WD on a farm © Monique Isenheim / WWF-Aus

© Sian Breen / WWF-Aus

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