What Causes Climate Change?
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the biggest drivers of climate change. CO2 and other gases from cars, factories, electricity production and agriculture trap excess heat near the earth's surface creating warmer temperatures and shifting weather patterns.1 These changes have broad impacts on air pollution, allergens, extreme weather and wildfires.
However, carbon pollution is not the only driver of climate change. Methane, nitrous oxides and even ozone are some of the other gases that fuel warming temperatures and weather pattern changes.
Major National Efforts to Fight Climate Change
The nation has begun action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from some key sources—power plants and oil and natural gas extraction and processing.
- Carbon Pollution from Power Plants
In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever national plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants—one of the single largest sources. Under the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. would have cut carbon pollution by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Unfortunately, in 2019 EPA repealed the Clean Power Plan, replacing it with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE) that set very limited steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electric utilities. That rule is currently facing legal challenges in court. Nevertheless, many states across the country have continued progress by adopting plans to reduce their own carbon emissions.
- Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas Extraction and Processing
Reducing emissions from oil and gas extraction can help fight climate change and emissions of other toxic air pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Federal action to reduce methane emissions from new sources in the oil and gas sector has been put on hold by EPA. Several states began steps to reduce methane emissions from these sources, using proven technologies to clean up these sources.2 The public strongly supports cutting methane pollution.
- Transportation Sources
Changes to cars, trucks and other vehicles have begun to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from tailpipes and improve fuel efficiency. But more work is still needed.
Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report
U.S. EPA. Oil and Natural Gas Air Pollution Standards: Regulatory Actions. Accessed August 27, 2015.
Page last updated: March 14, 2020