Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version


Document Type



Published in Cornhusker Economics, 10-8-08. Produced by the Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska – Lincoln.


Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions trap solar heat in the atmosphere, increasing global temperature by an estimated 1.4 degrees. Increases in GHG emissions resulting largely from energy use have led to more heat being trapped in the atmosphere, leading to global warming. Major impacts of global warming include rising sea levels, higher temperatures and increased global migration of disease-carrying insects.

While there is continuing scientific discussion regarding how quickly the earth’s atmosphere will warm and when the adverse global warming impacts will occur, most scientists believe that GHG emissions must be reduced 50-80 percent in the next 50 years to minimize adverse impacts.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) accounts for over 80 percent of GHG emissions, and is the principal focus of GHG reduction programs. The United States, with 5 percent of the world’s population, generates 25 percent of global GHG emissions. The U.S. has recently been overtaken by China as the largest generator of GHGs. Electricity (generated from coal-fired power plants) is second only to deforestation as a global source of GHG emissions. One way to reduce global warming is to move to cleaner sources of electricity, such as solar energy and wind energy.