The burning of fossil fuels leads to the release of carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere. Once in the atmosphere, these gases act like glass walls and trap heat on the Earth's surface. If the rise in carbon emissions goes unchecked, the planet's average temperature could rise by as much as 3.5C, say scientists. The effects of global warming are already being manifested in many ways: heat waves, melting polar ice and rising seas. Scientists say that local impact is not easy to predict: some areas could suffer stronger storms and other places severe drought.
Global hot spots
The effects of global warming has taken its toll on people, animals, birds and habitat: no continent has been spared
1. antarctica: Shrinking sea ice has reduced the population of the Adelie penguin by 33 per cent in 25 years
2. canadian arctic: From 24,000 in 1961 to 1,100 in 1997, the Peary caribou population has declined due to heavy snowfall
3. Australia: During August 15-17, 1998, a storm dumped nearly 30 cm of rain on Sydney -- three times more than the total rainfall of that month
4. Colombia: Mosquitoes carrying dengue in the Andes that were limited to altitudes no higher than 1,000 metres, now appear even at 2,195 metres
5. kenya: In 1997, hundreds of people die due to malaria in the highlands, where people had previously not experienced
6. Spain: More than 506,000 hectares of forests went up in flames during a severe drought
7. Indonesia: Up to 800,000 hectares of land burned in 1998, including parts of the already rainforest habitat of the Kalimantan orangutan
8. England: 31 per cent of 65 bird species studied in 1995 laid their eggs earlier than in 1971 by an average of 8.8 days
9. New Hampshire: The length of time Mirror Lake is covered with ice has declined about half a day per year during the past 30 years
10. Tibet: In 1998, Lhasa had its warmest June on record. Temperatures exceeded 25C for 23 days
11. New York City: In 1999, the city had its warmest and driest July on record, with temperatures climbing above 35C for 11 days
12. India: The Gangotri glacier is retreating by 30 metres per year
13. Russia: In the Caucasus mountains, half of all glacial ice has disappeared in the past 100 years
14. Alaska: In Barrow, the average number of snowless days in summer has increased from fewer than 80 in the 1950s to more than 100 in the 1990s
15. arctic ocean: Between 1978 to 1995, the area covered by sea ice has declined by about 6 per cent
16. Antarctica: Nearly 2,980 sq km of the Land B and Wilkins ice shelves collapsed from March 1998 to March 1999
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