Since the late 19th century, researchers have found that the planet is steadily growing warmer, and temperatures are expected to rise another one to five degrees over the next fifty years. Greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide released by the burning of fossil fuels, contribute to global warming. Climate change affects all aspects of the environment, and climatologists believe temperature changes will cause more frequent heat waves, droughts, wildfires and extreme weather events. During the past century, global warming has caused the polar ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise 4 to 8 inches. To address climate change, the global community must work together. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol established a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Although the United States rejected the Protocol, some states such as California and Oregon have enacted plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Individuals are doing their share to reduce global warming by “going green,” driving hybrid vehicles and measuring the environmental impact of their actions.
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