Center for Biological Diversity
Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)

Ways to Reduce Global Warming

The Big Chill ©Thomas D. Mangelsen/ Polar bears are threatened with extinction because their sea ice habitat is melting away due to global warming.

The United States produces nearly one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas pollution, or about 15,000 pounds per year per person of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas. The average American is responsible for three times more greenhouse gas pollution than the average European and more than 100 times more than citizens of the least developed countries. To avoid the worst consequences of global warming, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions must be capped immediately and ultimately fall to approximately 80 percent below 1990 levels.

It is surprisingly easy and affordable to reduce your individual emissions on a comparable scale. Just follow these steps:

First, calculate your own emissions. There are a number of web-based calculators you can use, including at, Safe Climate and Resurgence.

Next, take steps to reduce your emissions. Focus first on eliminating or reducing your energy use in the first place, and obtain the energy you do need from carbon-free sources with measures like these:

1. Avoid air travel whenever possible, and if you must travel, choose a daytime flight instead of a nighttime flight, as air traffic at night has a higher net warming affect than air travel during the day.

2. Reduce car trips, carpool or take public transportation wherever possible. If all Americans between the ages of 10 and 64 substituted about three miles of walking or 12 miles of bicycling for an equivalent amount of driving each day, this would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 11 percent relative to 1990 net emissions.

3. Switch to the most fuel-efficient car possible. Hybrids are one of the best options currently available. Simply switching from a typical SUV to a Toyota Prius can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from your driving by 70 percent. Maintain proper tire inflation and lower your speed to increase fuel economy.

4. Reduce energy use in the home and office by turning off lights, appliances, computers and other items when not in use. Unplug items to eliminate energy waste from standby modes. Weatherize and insulate your home to lower both cooling and heating needs. Set the thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter. Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater, take shorter showers and wash clothes in cold water. Dry clothes on a clothesline instead of using an electric dryer. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. Reduce, reuse and recycle trash.

5. Buy locally produced food to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of food transport. The food choices you make can impact your overall greenhouse gas emissions as much as the car you drive.

6. Compost food waste use for home gardening.

7. Install solar panels at your home. In many areas, a system can be financed for the same amount as your current electric bill and will continue to provide free energy after the system is paid off. If you cannot install solar panels, you can still buy energy from renewable sources, either directly from your electricity supplier or via clean energy certificates, which pay for renewable energy elsewhere in the country. In California and Colorado, Real Goods provides an all-inclusive installation, making it simple, easy and cost-effective to utlize solar power.

The greenhouse gas emissions and cash savings of many of these steps can be calculated here.