“There is no single solution to global warming, which is primarily a problem of too much heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. (Learn more about the causes of global warming.) The technologies and approaches outlined below are all needed to bring down the emissions of these gases by at least 80 percent by mid-century. To see how they are best deployed in each region of the world, use the menu at left.
Boosting energy efficiency: The energy used to power, heat, and cool our homes, businesses, and industries is the single largest contributor to global warming. Energy efficiency technologies allow us to use less energy to get the same—or higher—level of production, service, and comfort. This approach has vast potential to save both energy and money, and can be deployed quickly.
Greening transportation: The transportation sector’s emissions have increased at a faster rate than any other energy-using sector over the past decade. A variety of solutions are at hand, including improving efficiency (miles per gallon) in all modes of transport, switching to low-carbon fuels, and reducing vehicle miles traveled through smart growth and more efficient mass transportation systems.
Revving up renewables: Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and bioenergy are available around the world. Multiple studies have shown that renewable energy has the technical potential to meet the vast majority of our energy needs. Renewable technologies can be deployed quickly, are increasingly cost-effective, and create jobs while reducing pollution.
Phasing out fossil fuel electricity: Dramatically reducing our use of fossil fuels—especially carbon-intensive coal—is essential to tackle climate change. There are many ways to begin this process. Key action steps include: not building any new coal-burning power plants, initiating a phased shutdown of coal plants starting with the oldest and dirtiest, and capturing and storing carbon emissions from power plants. While it may sound like science fiction, the technology exists to store carbon emissions underground. The technology has not been deployed on a large scale or proven to be safe and permanent, but it has been demonstrated in other contexts such as oil and natural gas recovery. Demonstration projects to test the viability and costs of this technology for power plant emissions are worth pursuing.
Managing forests and agriculture: Taken together, tropical deforestation and emissions from agriculture represent nearly 30 percent of the world’s heat-trapping emissions. We can fight global warming by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and by making our food production practices more sustainable.
Exploring nuclear: Because nuclear power results in few global warming emissions, an increased share of nuclear power in the energy mix could help reduce global warming—but nuclear technology poses serious threats to our security and, as the accident at the Fukushima Diaichi plant in Japan illustrates to our health and the environment as well. The question remains: can the safety, proliferation, waste disposal, and cost barriers of nuclear power be overcome?
Developing and deploying new low-carbon and zero-carbon technologies: Research into and development of the next generation of low-carbon technologies will be critical to deep mid-century reductions in global emissions. Current research on battery technology, new materials for solar cells, harnessing energy from novel sources like bacteria and algae, and other innovative areas could provide important breakthroughs.
Ensuring sustainable development: The countries of the world—from the most to the least developed—vary dramatically in their contributions to the problem of climate change and in their responsibilities and capacities to confront it. A successful global compact on climate change must include financial assistance from richer countries to poorer countries to help make the transition to low-carbon development pathways and to help adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Adapting to changes already underway: As the Climate Hot Map demonstrates, the impacts of a warming world are already being felt by people around the globe. If climate change continues unchecked, these impacts are almost certain to get worse. From sea level rise to heat waves, from extreme weather to disease outbreaks, each unique challenge requires locally-suitable solutions to prepare for and respond to the impacts of global warming. Unfortunately, those who will be hit hardest and first by the impacts of a changing climate are likely to be the poor and vulnerable, especially those in the least developed countries. Developed countries must take a leadership role in providing financial and technical help for adaptation.”
About the Climate Hot Map Team
Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel is the UCS manager for this project. She conceptualized the web feature; ensured the overall quality and integrity of the scientific material; evaluated all the potential hot spots against our criteria; trained the external consultants; and oversaw the peer review process for this product. Also on the project team were UCS staff members Nancy Cole, director of outreach for the Climate and Energy Program, who supervised the consultants; Julie Ringer, Climate and Energy Program assistant, who obtained the photos and graphics used on this site; and Megan Rising, energy outreach coordinator, who synthesized the various solutions pages. Several interns and external consultants researched and drafted the hot spots, including Kristina Dahl, Tomar Hasson, Katie Lake, Laura Kiesel, Kathy Pillsbury, and Kathy Mulvey, to whom we owe special thanks. Shane Jordan and Dena Adler thoroughly checked references and links. UCS Web Manager Colleen MacDonald made all the technical and scientific pieces work together. We relied upon copy editors Bryan Wadsworth, Heather Tuttle, and Liz Page at UCS and consultant, Sandra Hackman to make the scientific information accessible to the general public. Appreciation goes to the scientists who generously reviewed sections of this site that feature their research to help ensure accuracy: Wenju Cai (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia); Martin Edwards (Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS), United Kingdom); Matthew Huber (Purdue University, United States); Jaime Ricardo Cantera Kintz (Universidad del Valle, Colombia); Victoria Lichtschein (R21 Scientific Advisory Board); Scott Power (Bureau of Meteorology Research Center, Australia); and Mathias Vuille (University at Albany, State University of New York, United States).