Science & Technology in Action

4th Edition

Climate Change


This lesson examines the over-use of fossil fuels and how this may enhance the the greenhouse effect. It also looks at the use of the earth’s non-renewable resources and considers how greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may be reduced.
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Lesson excerpt

In order to mitigate the effects of climate change governments and major international agencies throughout the world are prioritising steps to address aspects of the problem. These steps include:

  • reducing our use of fossil fuels
  • reducing or limiting global greenhouse gas emissions
  • developing alternative energy sources
  • making more efficient use of energy and reducing energy loss

Predicted effects of climate change, such as greater risk of flooding in low-lying areas, can be reduced by taking appropriate preventive measures. These strategies are all interrelated.

Reducing the use of fossil fuels
Certain gases in the atmosphere absorb infrared radiation emitted by the surface of the Earth. This warms the planet by about 30 °C; without thisgreenhouse effect the average global temperature would be an inhospitable -15 °C.

Since the industrial revolution the use of fossil fuels has risen dramatically. There has also been a rise in the average global temperature; this is known as the enhanced greenhouse effect. When coal, oil and gas are burned the main products are carbon dioxide and water – both greenhouse gases. Over the last two hundred years the average concentration of water vapour in the atmosphere has remained relatively constant while the concentration of carbon dioxide has risen from 280 ppm to about 360 ppm, contributing significantly to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Other gases are also significant, especially nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4); these have a greater greenhouse effect but are present in lower concentrations than CO2.

Reducing or limiting our production of greenhouse gases can be achieved in a number of ways:

  • reducing the consumption of fossil fuels
  • substituting renewable fuels, such as wood or other biomass, for fossil fuels

True or False?

  1. Reducing the use of fossil fuels will help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
  2. Due to the greenhouse effect the average global temperature will become -15 °C.
  3. The use of alternative energy sources has in itself no effect on energy demand.
  4. Fossil fuels are a renewable resource.
  5. CO2 storage is a way of reducing the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.
  6. Hydro-electric power uses the wind to produce energy.
  7. When hydrocarbons are burned the main products are carbon dioxide and water.
  8. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now more than 1 %.
  9. Most of the heat loss in houses occurs through windows and doors.
  10. Carbon capture’ is a way of saving energy.