In an IELTS Reading passage:

In answer to the final question about the importance of rainforest conservation, the majority of children simply said that we need rainforests to survive. Only a few of the pupils (6%) mentioned that rainforest destruction may contribute to global warming. This is surprising considering the high level of media coverage on this issue. Some children expressed the idea that the conservation of rainforests is not important.

Does "contribute to global warming" mean to increase or to reduce global warming?

  • 3
    Are you confused because you believe 'contribute' has a positive meaning, but increasing global warming is a negative thing to do? Would you explain a little more why you're confused please?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 13:14
  • @Mari-LouA: I didn't vote, but maybe it's just because the question is clear and well-formatted. Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 13:27
  • @Mari-LouA - is a NNL expected to have the same understanding of a term as experience native speakers have?
    – user5267
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 15:37
  • @ColleenV I thought "contribute" would be some positive meaning.
    – Ming Wang
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 17:54
  • Would you edit your answer and explain what you were thinking? It helps us write better answers if we understand why you're confused.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 18:04

2 Answers 2


"Contribute to" refers to facts or behaviours that may increase the global warming.

Contribute to:

  • to be an important factor in; help to cause:

    • A sudden downpour contributed to the traffic jam.


  • To express the opposite concept, the sentence should say: .."rainforest destruction may contribute to the reduction of global warming" (however illogical that may sound).

Contributing to global warming means making it worse. It "helps to cause" global warming.

If you contribute ideas, or contribute money, you add those things. It may help you students to understand it in a different context.

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