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What is the Greenhouse Effect?

The "greenhouse effect" often gets a bad rap because of its association with global warming, but the truth is we couldn't live without it.

The greenhouse effect mechanism

By S.M. Enzler MSc
Everyone knows the prediction that 'the greenhouse effect' will modify climate around the world. But what exactly is the greenhouse effect? This page explains the mechanism. Greenhouse effect - the mechanism The sun radiates solar energy on earth. The larger part of this energy (45%) is radiated back into space. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (table 1) contribute to global warming by adsorption and reflection of atmospheric and solar energy. This natural phenomenon is what we call the greenhouse effect. It is agreed that the greenhouse effect is correlated with global temperature change. If greenhouse gases would not exist earthly temperatures would be below 18 oC. Table 1: natural and anthropogenic greenhouse gases Natural greenhouse gases H2O (water vapor) CH4 (methane) CO2 (carbon dioxide) O3 (ozone) N2O (nitrous oxide) Anthropogenic emissions CO2 (carbon dioxide) CH4 (methane) N2O (nitrous oxide)

After the industrial revolution of the 1700s the greenhouse effect was enhanced by greenhouse gas emissions of anthropogenic nature (table 1). The main source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions is fossil fuel combustion. The contribution of greenhouse gases to the greenhouse effect varies (figure 2).

Figure 2: relative contribution of greenhouse gases to the greenhouse effect (2004) Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) are attempting to predict and project the severity and consequences of global climate change caused by the greenhouse effect. The IPCC expects that annual greenhouse gas emissions will double in the next 50-100 years. This results in a cascade of environmental effects. Examples include: - Melting of polar ice and oceanic expansion. This results in flooding of coastal areas, swamps, wetlands and river deltas. Some small islands may even vanish completely consequential to flooding - Cold and warm gulf stream alteration caused by desalination of the Atlantic Ocean, possibly causing a new Ice Age - Increase in number and severity of tropical storms and cyclones - Flooding and erosion of agricultural plots. This damages crops and soils and decreases harvest - Major shifts in ecosystems and decreasing biodiversity - Evaporation of water supplies, causing drinking water scarcity - Saltwater penetration of groundwater zones - More extreme weather, causing hotter and drier summers and colder winters - More contagious diseases because the environment is more positive for pathogens and some dangerous insects, such as the malaria mosquito Ironically, an increase in greenhouse gases has been predicted to cause a cooling of the stratosphere. This phenomenon would occur because most thermal infrared is absorbed at low altitudes, and little is left over to warm the stratosphere. Additionally, at stratospheric temperatures CO2 emits more thermal infrared to space than it absorbs. The greenhouse effect not only impacts the environment. It also has social and environmental consequences, such as large-scale migration and mitigation issues

between countries. Both political and environmental NGOs try to gain support for the introduction and execution of solutions to the greenhouse effect. But despite the many actions of environmental organizations not every country accepts the greenhouse effect as a global environmental problem. Many believe that the theory holds some truth, but the consequences are largely exaggerated.

Read more: What Causes the Greenhouse Effect? Life on earth depends on energy from the sun. About 30 percent of the sunlight that beams toward Earth is deflected by the outer atmosphere and scattered back into space. The rest reaches the planet's surface and is reflected upward again as a type of slowmoving energy called infrared radiation. The heat caused by infrared radiation is absorbed by "greenhouse gases" such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone and methane, which slows its escape from the atmosphere. Although greenhouse gases make up only about 1 percent of the Earth's atmosphere, they regulate our climate by trapping heat and holding it in a kind of warm-air blanket that surrounds the planet. Burning fossil fuels is responsible for environmental issues that are high on the political agenda these days. Examples are greenhouse gas accumulation, acidification, air pollution, water pollution, damage to land surface and ground-level ozone. These environmental problems are caused by release of pollutants that are naturally present in fossil fuel structures, such as sulphur and nitrogen. Currently, oil burning is responsible for about 30% of all carbon dioxide emissions to air. Natural gas does not release as much carbon dioxide because of its methane structure. The largest emissions are cause by coal combustion. Coal may result in underground fires that are virtually impossible to extinguish. Coal dust can even explode. This makes coal mining a very dangerous profession. Oil may end up in soil or water in raw form, for example during oil spills or wars. This has caused many natural disasters in the past. This phenomenon is what scientists call the "greenhouse effect." Without it, scientists estimate that the average temperature on Earth would be colder by approximately 30 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit), far too cold to sustain our current ecosystem.

How Do Humans Contribute to the Greenhouse Effect? While the greenhouse effect is an essential environmental prerequisite for life on Earth, there really can be too much of a good thing. The problems begin when human activities distort and accelerate the natural process by creating more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than are necessary to warm the planet to an ideal temperature.

Burning natural gas, coal and oil -including gasoline for automobile engines-raises the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Some farming practices and land-use changes increase the levels of methane and nitrous oxide. Many factories produce long-lasting industrial gases that do not occur naturally, yet contribute significantly to the enhanced greenhouse effect and "global warming" that is currently under way. Deforestation also contributes to global warming. Trees use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen in its place, which helps to create the optimal balance of gases in the atmosphere. As more forests are logged for timber or cut down to make way for farming, however, there are fewer trees to perform this critical function. Population growth is another factor in global warming, because as more people use fossil fuels for heat, transportation and manufacturing the level of greenhouse gases continues to increase. As more farming occurs to feed millions of new people, more greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere.
Ultimately, more greenhouse gases means more infrared radiation trapped and held, which gradually increases the temperature of the Earth's surface and the air in the lower atmosphere. The Average Global Temperature is Increasing Quickly Today, the increase in the Earth's temperature is increasing with unprecedented speed. To understand just how quickly global warming is accelerating, consider this: During the entire 20th century, the average global temperature increased by about 0.6 degrees Celsius (slightly more than 1 degree Fahrenheit). Using computer climate models, scientists estimate that by the year 2100 the average global temperature will increase by 1.4 degrees to 5.8 degrees Celsius (approximately 2.5 degrees to 10.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

Not All Scientists Agree While the majority of mainstream scientists agree that global warming is a serious problem that is growing steadily worse, there are some who disagree. John Christy, a professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville is a respected climatologist who argues that global warming isn't worth worrying about. Christy reached that opinion after analyzing millions of measurements from weather satellites in an effort to find a global temperature trend. He found no sign of global warming in the satellite data, and now believes that predictions of global warming by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century are incorrect. What are the effects of global warming and the greenhouse effect? Scientists agree that even a small increase in the global temperature would lead to significant climate and weather changes, affecting cloud cover, precipitation, wind patterns, the frequency and severity of storms, and the duration of seasons.

Rising temperatures would raise sea levels as well, reducing supplies of fresh water as flooding occurs along coastlines worldwide and salt water reaches inland. Many of the worlds endangered species would become extinct as rising temperatures changed their habitat. Millions of people also would be affected, especially poor people who live in precarious locations or depend on the land for a subsistence living. Certain vector-borne diseases carried by animals or insects, such as malaria, would become more widespread as warmer conditions expanded their range.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions are the Biggest Problem Currently, carbon dioxide accounts for more than 60 percent of the enhanced greenhouse effect caused by the increase of greenhouse gases, and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing by more than 10 percent every 20 years.

If emissions of carbon dioxide continue to grow at current rates, then the level of the gas in the atmosphere will likely double, or possibly even triple, from pre-industrial levels during the 21st century.

Climate Changes are Inevitable According to the United Nations, some climate change is already inevitable because of emissions that have occurred since the dawn of the Industrial Age. While the Earths climate does not respond quickly to external changes, many scientists believe that global warming already has significant momentum due to 150 years of industrialization in many countries around the world. As a result, global warming will continue to affect life on Earth for hundreds of years, even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and the increase in atmospheric levels halted. What is Being Done to Reduce Global Warming? To lessen those long-term effects, many nations, communities and individuals are taking action now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, increasing the use of renewable energy, expanding forests, and making lifestyle choices that help to sustain the environment. Whether they will be able to recruit enough people to join them, and whether their combined efforts will be enough to head off the most serious effects of global warming, are open questions that can only be answered by future developments.

What Is Global Warming?

The term "global warming" refers to the increase in the average temperature of global surface air and oceans since about 1950, and to continuing increases in those temperatures. Another term for "global warming" is "climate change." "The global surface temperature is an estimate of the global mean surface air temperature. However, for changes over time, only anomalies... are used, most commonly based on the area-weighted global average of the sea surface temperature anomaly and land surface air temperature anomaly."

Per Wikipedia, "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that... greenhouse gases are responsible for most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the twentieth century, and that natural phenomena such as solar variation and volcanoes probably had a small warming effect from pre-industrial times to 1950 and a small cooling effect afterward. "These basic conclusions have been endorsed by more than 40 scientific societies and academies of science, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries." Greenhouse gases are defined by the IPCC as "gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and emit radiation at specific wavelengths within the spectrum of thermal infrared radiation emitted by the Earths surface, the atmosphere itself, and by clouds."

Why Do We Care About Greenhouse Gases? The IPCC explains "... Greenhouse gases effectively absorb thermal infrared radiation, emitted by the Earths surface, by the atmosphere itself due to the same gases, and by clouds. Atmospheric radiation is emitted to all sides, including downward to the Earths surface. Thus, greenhouse gases trap heat within the surface-troposphere system. This is called the greenhouse effect." Summary of "What Is Global Warming?" Global warming refers to the increased temperature of Earth's surface, including land, water and near-surface air. Per most of the scientific community, Earth has warmed significantly since the mid-20th century due to an increase in greenhouse gases that trap heat on Earth.

The Causes of Global Warming

Global warming is caused by excessive quantities of greenhouse gases emitted into Earth's near-surface atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are both man-made and occur naturally, and include a number of gases, including:

carbon dioxide methane nitrous oxide chlorofluorocarbons

water vapor Optimal amounts of naturally occurring greenhouse gases, especially water vapor, are necessary to maintain the Earth's temperature at inhabitable levels. Without greenhouse gases, Earth's temperature would be too cold for human and most other life. However, excessive greenhouse gases cause Earth's temperature to warm considerably which cause major, and occasionally catastrophic, changes to weather and wind patterns, and the severity and frequency of various types of storms. Greenhouse Gases Generated by Mankind The scientific community as a whole has concluded that naturally occurring greenhouse gases have remained fairly constant over the past several hundred years. Greenhouse gases directly and indirectly generated by mankind, though, have increased radically for the past 150 years, and especially in the past 60 years. Major sources of greenhouse gases generated by mankind are:

Burning of fossil fuels, which includes oil and gas, coal and natural gas. Chlorofluorocarbons, commonly used in refrigeration, cooling and manufacturing applications. Methane, which is caused by emissions from landfills, livestock, rice farming (which uses methane-emitting bacteria), septic processes, and fertilizers.

Deforestation Per, "The largest (manmade)contributor to the greenhouse effect is carbon dioxide gas emissions, about 77 percent of which comes from the combustion of fossil fuels and 22 percent of which is attributed to deforestation." Vehicles Burning Fossil Fuels Are Primary Source

The largest single contributer to the rise of man-made greenhouse gases is, of course, the burning of oil and gas to power vehicles, machinery, and produce energy and warmth. TheUnion of Concerned Scientists observed in 2005: "Motor vehicles are responsible for almost a quarter of annual U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary global-warming gas. The U.S. transportation sector emits more CO2 than all but three other countries' emissions from all sources combined. And motor vehicle emissions will continue to increase as more vehicles hit America's roads and the number of miles driven grows. "Three factors contribute to CO2 emissions from cars and trucks:

Amount of fuel used Amount of CO2 released when a particular fuel is consumed

Number of vehicle miles traveled." Deforestation Is Also Major Source But deforestation is also an important, if lesser known, culprit for causing greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) observed in 2006: "Most people assume that global warming is caused by burning oil and gas. But in fact between 25 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year 1.6 billion tonnes is caused by deforestation... "Trees are 50 percent carbon. When they are felled or burned, the C02 they store escapes back into the air... Deforestation remains high in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia." And the situation is worsening, per Science News Daily, which wrote in late 2008, "Decreasing forest cover, almost exclusively from deforestation in tropical countries, was responsible for an estimated 1.5 billion tons of emissions to the atmosphere above what was gained through new plantings." Summary of "Causes of Global Warming" Global warmming is cuased by greenhouse gases, which occur both naturally and are directly and indirectly generated by mankind.

While optimal amounts of greenhouse gases are necessary for Earth to be habitable, a profusion of greenhouse gases create disturbances in weather and storm patterns that can be catastropic. Man-made greenhouse gases have increased greatly in the last 50 years. Among the largest sources of man-made gases are fossil-fuel burning vehicles, worldwide deforestation, and sources of methane such as sandfills, septic systems, livestock, and fertilizers.

Global Warming Facts and Evidence

Physical evidence of global warming is widespread and startlingly significant. The respected National Geographic Society summarizes evidence of global warming, which includes:

"Average (Earth) temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "The rate of warming is increasing. The 20th century's last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies. And the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that 11 of the past 12 years are among the dozen warmest since 1850.

"Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. Polar bears and indigenous cultures are already suffering from the sea-ice loss. "Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly meltingfor example, Montana's Glacier National Park now has only 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. " An upsurge in the amount of extreme weather events, such as wildfires, heat waves, and strong tropical

storms, is also attributed in part to climate change by some experts." SOURCE - National Geographic News: Global Warming Fast Facts Also read President Obama's Speech at U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Global Warming Evidence: Scientific Resources The following are a few of the scientific organizations that catalog extensive evidence of global warming:

U.S. Global Change Research Program "Supports research on the interactions of natural and human-induced changes in the global environment and their implications for society. The USGCRP began as a presidential initiative in 1989 and was codified by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-606)... "Since its inception, USGCRP-supported research and observational activities... have:

documented and characterized important aspects of the sources, abundances, and lifetimes of greenhouse gases; mounted extensive space-based systems for global monitoring of climate and ecosystem parameters; begun to address the complex issues of various aerosol species that may significantly influence climate parameters; advanced understanding of the global water and carbon cycles;

taken major strides in computer modeling of the global climate." National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration("NOAA") The National Climatic Data Center of the NOAA "contains the instrumental and paleoclimatic records that can precisely define the nature of climatic fluctuations at time scales of a century and longer. "Among the diverse kinds of data platforms whose data contribute to NCDC's resources are:

Ships, buoys, weather stations, weather balloons, satellites, radar and

many climate proxy records such as tree rings and ice cores." "The National Oceanographic Data Center contains the subsurface ocean data which reveal the ways that heat is distributed and redistributed over the planet. Knowing how these systems are changing and how they have changed in the past is crucial to understanding how they will change in the future." Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme ("AMAP") "The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme is one of five Working Groups of the Arctic Council. "The primary function of AMAP is to advise the governments of the eight Arctic countries (Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States) on matters relating to threats to the Arctic region... "

Founded jointly in 1991 by the eight countries, AMAP's major reports include its Arctic Climate Impact Assessment: Impacts of a Warming Arctic. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ("IPCC") Established as a scientific body by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization, the IPCC's "role is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic literature produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change, its observed and projected impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation." The IPCC was jointly awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Vice President Al Gore for "their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

The Effects of Global Warming

The effects of global warming are both consequential and widespread, and will continue to be catastrophic. "Global warming is well recognized by scientists around the world as a serious public health and environmental concern," observed the American Lung Assocation. Melting Glaciers and Polar Ice Caps Melting glaciers, polar ice caps and other frozen grounds are causing, and will continue to cause, a plethora of problems for mankind and all living species. The most pressing problems include:

Rising sea levels, which lead to flooding and displacement and death of possibly millions of people. Per the Inconvenient Truth website, "Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide."

Fresh-water polar ice caps melting into salt-water oceans alter the ocean gulf-stream patterns that regulate temperatures. This process leads to major temperature-pattern changes around Earth. The changing landscapes and higher temperatures in polar regions will endanger countless animal and plant species, and irretreivably alter the balance of the ecosystem. Ice caps and glaciers serve as sunlight reflectors, bouncing high-temperature sun rays back into space and away from Earth. When these natural structures have diminished greatly or vanished, Earth will be further

warmed as the darker oceans absorb much of the sun ray heat. Extreme Weather-Related Effects of Global Warming

As a result of global warming processes, extreme weather-related effects will continue to impact Earth:

Droughts and heat waves - Per Environmental, "Although some areas of Earth will become wetter due to global warming, other areas will suffer serious droughts and heat waves. Africa will receive the worst of it, with more severe droughts also expected in Europe. Water is already a dangerously rare commodity in Africa..."

Hurricane intensity and frequency - Time magazine reported in September 2008: "All these hurricanes in such a short period of time begs the question: are storms getting stronger, and if so, what's causing it? According to a new paper in Nature, the answer is yes and global warming seems to be the culprit. "Researchers... at Florida State University analyzed satellite-derived data of tropical storms since 1981 and found that the maximum wind speeds of the strongest storms have increased significantly in the years since... They believe that rising ocean temperatures due to global warming are one of the main causes behind that change." "The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years," reports the Inconvenient Truth website.

Global Warming Effects on Mankind Among the direct effects on mankind of global warming are:

Homeless refugees displaced by flooding, hurricanes and drought. Increased hunger due to food shortages because of loss of farmable land Spread of diseases, such as malaria and lyme disease, due to the migration of disease-carrying insects with warmer, wetter weather and more standing bodies of water in the northern hemisphere. Economic hardships caused by catastrophic conditions, such as those in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

War and conflicts over shrinking resources. Summary Global warming will continue to affect Earth through increased ocean levels which cause flooding, as well as altered weather patterns. Mankind will be negatively affected in a number of vital ways.

Solutions to Stop or Slow Global Warming

Solutions to slowing or stopping global warming lie in mankind's ability to slow and stop activities that inject greenhouse gases into Earth's atmosphere.

Burning of Fossil Fuels: Oil and Gas, Coal, Natural Gas The largest single contributer to the rise of man-made greenhouse gases is the burning of oil and gas to power vehicles, machinery, and produce energy and warmth. Per the Union of Concerned Scientists, "Motor vehicles are responsible for almost a quarter of annual U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary global-warming gas. The U.S. transportation sector emits more CO2 than all but three other countries' emissions from all sources combined." Solutions to reduce reliance on vehicles that burn fossil fuels include:

Taking mass public transportation whenever possible, rather than use of individual cars Alternative fuels, rather than fossil fuels, in vehicles Hybird vehicles, which are vehicles that combine two types of power, typically internal combustion engines , which burns fossil fuels, and electrical power

Vehicles that achieve high miles per gallon of gas consumed Solutions to reduce reliance on fossil fuels to produce energy and warmth include alternative energy sources such as: Solar power, which is usually generated by solar panels or a solar tower Wind power, which is usually generated by groups of wind turbines

Biomass energy, which is derived from "lumber mill wastes, urban wood waste, forest and agricultural residues and other feed stocks" as well as waste from factories and landfills.

Geothermal energy, which is derived from steam and hot water found deep beneath the Earths surface For others, see Top 7 Renewable Energy Sources by Larry West,'s Guide to Environmental Issues. Deforestation London newspaper The Independent asked in May 2007, "In the next 24 hours, deforestation will release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as 8 million people flying from London to New York. Stopping the loggers is the fastest and cheapest solution to climate change. So why are global leaders turning a blind eye to this crisis?" The Independent continued on to dissect the challenge, and to propose one solution to this complex international dilemma: "No new technology is needed, says the GCP, just the political will and a system of enforcement and incentives that makes the trees worth more to governments and individuals standing than felled. 'The focus on technological fixes for the emissions of rich nations while giving no incentive to poorer nations to stop burning the standing forest means we are putting the cart before the horse,' said Mr Mitchell." (NOTE - The GCP is the Oxford-based Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of leading rainforest scientists, which is headed by Mr. Andrew Mitchell.) "International demand has driven intensive agriculture, logging and ranching that has proved an inexorable force for deforestation; conservation has been no match for commerce. "The leading rainforest scientists are now calling for the immediate inclusion of standing forests in internationally regulated carbon markets that could provide cash incentives to halt this disastrous process."

Top 10 Things You Can Do to Reduce Global Warming

Burning fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal, oil and gasoline raises the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect and global warming. You can help to reduce the demand for fossil fuels, which in turn reduces global warming, by using energy more wisely. Here are 10 simple actions you can take to help reduce global warming. 1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Do your part to reduce waste by choosing reusable products instead of disposables. Buying products with minimal packaging (including the economy size when that makes sense for you) will help to reduce waste. And whenever you can, recycle paper, plastic, newspaper, glass and aluminum cans. If there isn't a recycling program at your workplace, school, or in your community, ask about starting one. By recycling half of your household waste, you can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. 2. Use Less Heat and Air Conditioning Adding insulation to your walls and attic, and installing weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows can lower your heating costs more than 25 percent, by reducing the amount of energy you need to heat and cool your home. Turn down the heat while you're sleeping at night or away during the day, and keep temperatures moderate at all times. Setting your thermostat just 2 degrees lower in winter and higher in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. 3. Change a Light Bulb Wherever practical, replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Replacing just one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a CFL will save you $30 over the life of the bulb. CFLs also last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, use two-thirds less energy, and give off 70 percent less heat. If every U.S. family replaced one regular light bulb with a CFL, it would eliminate 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road. 4. Drive Less and Drive Smart Less driving means fewer emissions. Besides saving gasoline, walking and biking are great forms of exercise. Explore your community mass transit system, and check out options for carpooling to work or school.

When you do drive, make sure your car is running efficiently. For example, keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage by more than 3 percent. Every gallon of gas you save not only helps your budget, it also keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. 5. Buy Energy-Efficient Products When it's time to buy a new car, choose one that offers good gas mileage. Home appliances now come in a range of energy-efficient models, and compact florescent bulbs are designed to provide more natural-looking light while using far less energy than standard light bulbs. Avoid products that come with excess packaging, especially molded plastic and other packaging that can't be recycled. If you reduce your household garbage by 10 percent, you can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. 6. Use Less Hot Water Set your water heater at 120 degrees to save energy, and wrap it in an insulating blanket if it is more than 5 years old. Buy low-flow showerheads to save hot water and about 350 pounds of carbon dioxide yearly. Wash your clothes in warm or cold water to reduce your use of hot water and the energy required to produce it. That change alone can save at least 500 pounds of carbon dioxide annually in most households. Use the energy-saving settings on yourdishwasher and let the dishes air-dry. 7. Use the "Off" Switch Save electricity and reduce global warming by turning off lights when you leave a room, and using only as much light as you need. And remember to turn off your television, video player, stereo and computer when you're not using them. It's also a good idea to turn off the water when you're not using it. While brushing your teeth, shampooing the dog or washing your car, turn off the water until you actually need it for rinsing. You'll reduce your water bill and help to conserve a vital resource. 8. Plant a Tree If you have the means to plant a tree, start digging. During photosynthesis, trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. They are an integral part of the natural atmospheric exchange cycle here on Earth, but there are too few of them to fully counter the increases in carbon dioxide caused by automobile traffic, manufacturing and other human activities. A single tree will absorb approximately one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime. Ads Energy newsletterGet Latest News in Power Industry Direct To Your Inbox, SIGN UP Tire Recycling PlantOffer Complete Tire Recycling Line Efficient &Economic&

9. Get a Report Card from Your Utility Company Many utility companies provide free home energy audits to help consumers identify areas in their homes that may not be energy efficient. In addition, many utility companies offer rebate programs to help pay for the cost of energy-efficient upgrades. 10. Encourage Others to Conserve Share information about recycling and energy conservation with your friends, neighbors and co-workers, and take opportunities to encourage public officials to establish programs and policies that are good for the environment. These 10 steps will take you a long way toward reducing your energy use and your monthly budget. And less energy use means less dependence on the fossil fuels that create greenhouse gases and contribute to global warming.