Putting It Together: Ecology and the Environment

At the beginning of this module, we talked about our environment, calling out climate change and loss of biodiversity as two major concerns in our world today. Now that we’ve learned more about these topics, what do you think you can do to help the environment?

Think about It

How can you combat climate change?

How can you help preserve and restore biodiversity?

We also mentioned eco-friendly organizations at the start of this module. One of these is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established by the United Nations in 1988.

The IPCC is responsible for reviewing the scientific literature on climate change and issuing periodic reports on several topics, including the scientific basis for understanding climate change, our vulnerability to observed and predicted climate changes, and what we can do to limit climate change and minimize its impacts.

The biggest anthropogenic contributor to warming is the emission of CO2, which accounts for 50 percent of positive forcing. CH4 and its atmospheric derivatives (CO2, H2O, and O3) account for 29%, and the halocarbon gases (mostly leaked from air-conditioning appliances) and nitrous oxide (N2O) (from burning fossils fuels) account for 5 percent each. Carbon monoxide (CO) (also produced by burning fossil fuels) accounts for 7%, and the volatile organic compounds other than methane (NMVOC) account for 3%.

CO2 emissions come mostly from coal- and gas-fired power stations, motorized vehicles (cars, trucks, and aircraft), and industrial operations (e.g., smelting), and indirectly from forestry. CH4 emissions come from production of fossil fuels (escape from coal mining and from gas and oil production), livestock farming (mostly beef), landfills, and wetland rice farming. N2O and CO come mostly from the combustion of fossil fuels. In summary, close to 70 percent of our current GHG emissions come from fossil fuel production and use, while most of the rest comes from agriculture and landfills.

With the information provided by the IPCC and other organizations, we can act to help preserve and protect the world we live in.


It is tempting to view different topics as completely separate, but in fact the ideas we cover in this course are often connected to one another. If you don’t retain the vocabulary from module to module, those connections can be missed. As you continue on, remember to come back and review the terms you’ve learned in order to increase your depth of knowledge.