How do Consumer Practices Impact Global Warming?

Global warming is a scientifically observed change in the Earth's climate, characterized by an overall increase in temperature all over the world. While the effects of global warming are not fully understood, most scientists suspect that drastic climate change may result in a catastrophic situation. Many scientists have suggested that the recent spike in global temperatures has been caused by human activities, and many organizations are lobbying consumers to modify their practices before it is too late. Numerous consumer practices have been shown to contribute to global warming, and huge global change is necessary to at the very least, halt, global warming. Much larger scale changes would be needed to reverse global warming.

Global warming is caused by an increase of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” in the Earth's atmosphere. These gases trap warmth within the atmosphere, rather than allowing it to escape, and this is slowly causing the global temperature to rise. Global warming has been blamed for the global shrinkage of glaciers and ice caps, with some scientists predicting complete disappearance of many glaciers by 2050. Global warming has also been suggested as the cause for many catastrophic weather events, as changes in the Earth's atmosphere alter weather patterns.


If global warming continues, it could devastate global agriculture by causing drought conditions in some regions and flooding in others. In addition, it is feared that global ice melt will cause a rise in the sea level, flooding many port cities, some of which have very large populations which would be forced to relocate. Most scientists agree that the recent spike in global temperature is uncomfortably correlated with the Industrial Revolution and the accompanying radical changes in human lifestyle.

Global warming became a subject of hot debate in the late twentieth century, with varying groups exaggerating or dismissing the effect of human activity on the environment. It does seem clear that increased human activity has resulted in a historically unusual amount of greenhouse gases, as ice cores tens of thousands of years old have indicated. Consumers are often confused about their role in global warming, and are unsure about what they can do to reduce their footprint on the earth.

Consumers produce greenhouse gases, sometimes directly by burning fossil fuels in their vehicles and sometimes indirectly by supporting industries which create greenhouse gases. For example, millions of acres of South American rain forest are burned every year to support the beef industry, which is responding to consumer demand for cheap meat. It is generally agreed that if consumers would take steps to reduce their carbon emissions, it would have profound effects on global warming.

The first step in reducing man's carbon footprint is to use carbon emitting technology less, and to promote alternative forms of energy. Solar, wind, and hydroelectric power are all excellent alternatives to coal and petroleum burning energy generation. In addition, consumers can reuse and recycle products rather than throwing them away, causing the market for new goods made using carbon emitting technology to shrink. Furthermore, recycling reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released while objects decay in landfills.

Better management is also needed for agricultural and forest lands. In addition to creating carbon when land is burned, biomass which could filter the carbon is also reduced. Trees and plants are an important part of the carbon conversion system, along with marine algae, and could help to correct the situation if allowed to flourish.

Additionally, consumers can pressure companies to engage in more environmentally sound business practices, including reduction of carbon emissions. At the same time, citizens could encourage their nations to enact more stringent laws in regards to greenhouse gas emissions, in the hopes of promoting a society with minimal carbon emissions. Purchasing from “green” companies indicates that there is a market for ecologically sound products, and more companies will follow suit if encouraged to do so.

Some nations are also promoting the idea of carbon offsets. A carbon offset is usually an investment in tree planting, development of alternative energy, or some other carbon reducing activity. A consumer could determine, for example, that he or she is going to fly from London to New York, an activity that will result in a heavy carbon emission from the engines of the aircraft. A carbon offset could be purchased, whereby trees are planted somewhere else in an attempt to compensate for the carbon emission created. While carbon offsets do not actually reduce the carbon emissions of one person to zero, they do help to mitigate the effects.

Consumers can have an impact on global warming by reducing their footprint and thinking consciously about the decisions they make. Simple actions like taking public transit instead of a car, or purchasing goods from a green company, can make a huge difference, especially when magnified globally.



Discuss this Article

Post 4

This is biased writing. Global warming is not proven to be from human activities. The article spends uses more words on reducing an unproven cause. It does not mention the results of solar effects and doesn't look at historical data of past global warming, etc. It is not a good article on global temperature trends. As I said, the article starts with a foregone conclusion. The bulk of the writing is on prevention.

Post 3

@Babalaas- You have been fed some misinformation. You cannot trust every article you read on global warming. You would be wise to check sources because much of the negative information that is trying to debunk global warming is published by firms and organizations funded by polluting and emitting industries. These types of sources are far from credible because the companies behind the organizations will benefit economically by defeating accepted science.

If you read some of the reports put out in all kinds of credible sources (economist, IPCC, UN, union for concerned scientists etc.) you will see that the economic costs of doing nothing is far greater than working to stabilize the climate. Furthermore, the longer we wait, the smaller this

economic benefit becomes.

Savvy businesses are taking advantage of uncertainties in their business environments and embracing the fact that things are changing. The first businesses that adapt to tighter environmental regulations will be the ones that benefit the most. The dinosaur CEOs that continue to take risks fighting environmental regulations will be surpassed by foreign companies or smaller companies that recognize change is inevitable.

Post 2

@georghesplane- Before we work ourselves up about who should shoulder the burden of mitigating global warming effects, we should determine if they are worth mitigating. What will be the cost of global warming and on whom will the burden fall? Additionally, we do not even know if global warming is caused by human actions, or if it is a result of natural causes.

I have to question if the investment required to reverse global climate change is worth the cost of dealing with its consequences. I do not want to see anyone suffer, but I do not think that we should be responsible for paying for something that affects the rest of the world more than the United States.

Besides, other countries like China and India are going to surpass the United States in Emissions soon anyway. We would be lucky if our investment in mitigating climate change even equates to a zero sum game.

Post 1

Business and industry has a much higher impact on global warming and climate change than consumers do. They also have more economic clout than consumers do.

Everyone always says that businesses respond to the demand for cheap goods, but it takes cheap gods to enter the marketplace first for people to drive that demand. Furthermore, consumers do not advocate for destroying the environment or preventing environmental protection regulation. Companies and their investors do the majority of this. From what I learned in business school, the primary obligation of any company is to its investors.

Think of all the businesses that lobby to prevent environmental protection laws or emissions regulations. These interests are much larger than the voice of millions of

voters who simply do not have the capital backing to change these laws. Companies with revenues the size of small national economies is much more powerful than the average voice or consumer. Real change is not going to happen if the focus is solely on consumer behavior. The change needs to happen from the top down, not from the bottom up.

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