Carbon dioxide has received more attention from policy makers than any other greenhouse gas because it currently makes up the bulk of the greenhouse gases our society emits. Leading climate scientists, like James Hansen of NASA, have made it clear that the climate crisis cannot be solved without drastically curtailing our use of fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide when burned – particularly coal. James Hansen has warned repeatedly that unless we phase out coal use on a worldwide basis, first in industrialized nations and then in the developing world as well, anything else we do to try to stop global warming will be rendered insignificant. Other greenhouse gases surely are important, too, but without reducing carbon dioxide anything else we do will be useless.
Methane and water vapor are other products that are greenhouse gases, but even though they have far more insulating power per cubic meter than carbon dioxide, we just produce much, much, much more carbon dioxide than any other greenhouse gas. It’s like if your house is on fire and your cat is ill: both are serious problems, but one gets priority because it’s larger in scale.
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