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Mitigation of global warming

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Mitigation of global warming involves taking actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to enhance sinks aimed at reducing the extent of global warming.[1] This is in distinction to adaptation to global warming which involves taking action to minimize the effects of global warming. Scientific consensus on global warming, together with the precautionary principle and the fear of a climate surprise[2] is leading to increased effort to develop new technologies and sciences and carefully manage others in an attempt to mitigate global warming.

The energy policy of the European Union has set a target of limiting the global temperature rise to 2 °C [3.6 °F] compared to preindustrial levels, of which 0.8 °C has already taken place and another 0.5 °C is already committed. The 2 °C rise is typically associated in climate models with a carbon dioxide concentration of 400-500 ppm by volume; the current level as of January 2007 is 383 ppm by volume, and rising at 2 ppm annually. Hence, to avoid a very likely breach of the 2 °C target, CO2 levels would have to be stabilised very soon; this is generally regarded as unlikely, based on current programs in place to date.[3] The importance of change is illustrated by the fact that world economic energy efficiency is presently improving at only half the rate of world economic growth.[4]

At the core of most proposals is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through reducing energy use and switching to cleaner energy sources. Frequently discussed energy conservation methods include increasing the fuel efficiency of vehicles (often through hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric cars and improving conventional automobiles), individual-lifestyle changes and changing business practices. Newly developed technologies and currently available technologies including renewable energy (such as hydrogen fuel cells, solar power, tidal and ocean energy, geothermal power, and wind power) and more controversely nuclear power and the use of carbon sinks, carbon credits, and taxation are aimed more precisely at countering continued greenhouse gas emissions. More radical proposals include geoengineering techniques ranging from carbon sequestration projects such as carbon dioxide air capture, to solar radiation management schemes such as the creation of stratospheric sulfur aerosols. Population control has also been suggested,[citation needed] although this is an indirect technique and would be a long-term measure, having little immediate impact.

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