Global Warming Paper Topic 

Robert Harris
Version Date: December 22, 2011

There seems to be enough heat around the topic of global warming to cause global warming. Positions are frequently fixed and held with fervor. Opponents are greeted with anger or scorn. So if you have chosen or been assigned global warming or climate change as a paper topic, it's especially important to write in a calm, focused, reasonable way, using research support. In other words, write in the same way you should for any research paper topic.


If you are writing a research paper, search the usual places (online scholarly research sources such as ProQuest, JSTOR, InfoTrac, EBSCO Host, etc.), including a plain old Google search. If you want to find a list of available databases, just google "list of online databases" and you'll find lots.

Search terms should include global warming, climate change, and perhaps global cooling because it's always good to get contrarian ideas. In fact, when you search, in addition to the plain phrases, add the word controversy to your search string and see what you get.


Here are some questions that will help guide you. Depending on the length of your paper, any one of these questions could be the focus of the entire paper. With research papers, it's better to be thorough on a limited topic that attempt to cover ten aspects of a topic in a paragraph each.

1. Is global warming taking place?
This is an obvious starting point. But before we can begin to address the issue, we need to know whether it is real or not. Considerations here include:
2. If global warming is indeed taking place, does it reflect a permanent, ongoing increase, or is it a temporary upsweep in a rising and falling cycle?
There is quite a bit of controversy here, with some pointing to the past when temperatures were different--higher or lower than normal. Research points here include:
3. If global warming is permanent, is that bad?
Earth temperatures and carbon dioxide levels in the past (think about all that lush plant growth that we now pump out of the ground as oil). Earth was once a greenhouse, so what if that state returned? Research points:
4. If global warming is bad, is human activity contributing to it?
This question gets closer to the heart of the issue, because if global warming is taking place as a result of, say, sun spots, then there is no reason to get exercised about it since we can't do anything about it. But if mankind has contributed to it--and it's bad--then that opens the door for doing something. Research concepts:
5. If human activity is contributing to global warming, how significant is the contribution?
In addition to the tailpipes of automobiles, the back ends of cattle produce a lot of carbon dioxide, as do decaying plants and forest fires. So, what degree of the overall problem can be assigned to human activity? Research ideas:
6. If human activity contributes significantly to global warming, and if global warming is bad, should interventions be attempted?
Here we get to the stage of "let's solve this problem." And that's the time to paraphrase economist Thomas Sowell, who reminds us that there are no solutions to problems, only tradeoffs. So in your research and analysis of "solutions" to the global warming problem, remember that every solution is likely to have tradeoffs--negative consequences--whether or not the solution has a large, small, or nonexistent effect. Research ideas:
7. Global warming implies a global solution. How can this be accomplished?
It's not going to do much good if, say, the United States cuts its carbon dioxide output by 50% while China increases its output by 300%. So how does one get global cooperation for a global problem? Issues:

Philosophical Considerations

Think about these general questions as you research:

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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com