What is Climate Change?


Introduction

Climate change is probably the most urgent problem facing our society. We know that human activity is causing the earth to warm, but we also know that we can solve this problem. It’s a complex issue and there is a lot of information that gets circulated, not all of it very helpful. Here we will try to boil it down to the most relevant facts.

 

Our planet’s atmosphere is part of a global system that keeps the temperature of our planet within a habitable range. Over the last 200 years or so, humans have been altering the composition of the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas. When these are burned, CO2 is produced and builds up in the atmosphere, creating what is known as the greenhouse effect. Other ‘greenhouse gases’ that contribute to this effect include methane produced from livestock and N2O from nitrogen-based fertilizers, although CO2 is the most prevalent. The greenhouse effect traps energy from the sun, and raises the temperature of the earth; it is similar to what happens when a car is left in the sun. This rising temperature is what most people are referring to when they say ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’.

 

The impacts of climate change are wide-ranging and are going to be felt ecologically, economically, and socially. All of these impacts are interlinked; a worsening of one problem can also exacerbate another. However, this also means that tackling one area can create overlapping benefits in other areas as well. To learn more about the impacts of climate and ways we can adapt to it, click here.

 

There is still time for us to choose a future without the worst of climate change. The solution is to move away from fossil fuels in every aspect of our lives, and adopt renewable energy sources. This is critical, because a rising temperature on earth is going to have profound effects on all life, including humans. Entire ecosystems are  changing, and many species are going extinct because they cannot adapt quickly enough. Our civilization will have to undergo profound changes both to mitigate the worst of climate change, and to adapt to the global impacts that have already started to occur. 

 

Love Bill Nye? Check out this video from the Climate Reality Project where he gives a really helpful explanation of climate change:

CLIMATE 101 from The Climate Reality Project on Vimeo.