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

  • carbon pollution
  • climate change
  • energy

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Global warming is an aspect of climate change, referring to the long-term rise of the planet's temperatures. It is caused by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mainly from human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation and farming.


1. 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 as 73% of our electricity comes from burning coal and 13% from burning gas. The remaining 14% comes from renewable energy sources such as hydro, solar and wind, which do not emit carbon.


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



  • Reducing the amount of electricity generated from coal and gas

  • Increasing the amount of electricity from clean, renewable energy sources like solar and wind

  • Join the movement for stronger action on climate change and urge key Australian politicians to get us back on track to meeting our Paris Agreement targets. 


2. Deforestation & Tree-Clearing

Plants and trees 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 such as 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.


Bushfire and deforestation in Australian outback © Shutterstock / Jamen Percy / WWF



  • Prevent deforestation and tree-clearing
  • Plant more trees through reforestation and afforestation


3. Agriculture & 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.


Cattle in Cairns, Australia © WWF-Aus / Monique Isenheim



  • Use different stock feeds can help to reduce farming's contribution to climate change

  • WWF is working with leading beef producers through ‘Project Pioneer’ to develop, trial and validate improved livestock and pasture management that can deliver significant economic, social and environmental gains. Find out more...

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