Climate Change is a global phenomenon that is changing the way we live, work and play on Earth. The changes are happening faster than at any time in our history and are causing serious impacts on people, animals, plants, ecosystems and society as a whole.
The most important driver of climate change is human activity. Our carbon dioxide emissions are the largest contributor of the greenhouse gas that is causing global warming. During the last century, we’ve added more than seven billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This amount is the highest in 66 million years and it’s increasing at an accelerating rate.
CO2 causes climate change by trapping the sun’s heat in the atmosphere and reducing the amount of incoming sunlight reaching the surface. Without action to reduce CO2 emissions, we’ll see the world’s average temperature rise about 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.
Some impacts of climate change are positive, such as longer growing seasons for agriculture and more ice-free shipping on the Great Lakes. But others are negative, such as more frequent storms and wildfires that affect our health.
Forests, wildlife and water are among the most vulnerable to climate change. The destruction of forests causes a number of impacts, including loss of habitat and disruption to food chains for animals that depend on them.
For example, as forests die off, they release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. This gas combines with water in the atmosphere to make clouds and rain, which can lead to floods or droughts.
Our oceans are also threatened by climate change. They are becoming more acidic and warmer, making it harder for marine organisms to survive. This can harm or kill many animal species, such as corals and polar bears.
As the planet warms, sea ice and other natural barriers to ocean warming melt away. This causes ocean levels to rise, leading to more flooding and severe droughts in some places. This is especially damaging for the coastal areas where cities, businesses and farms are located.
Displacement of people is a major problem associated with climate change. As communities are moved due to hurricanes, tornadoes or wildfires, they often have to leave their homes and start over in a different place. This can be a stressful and depressing experience for people who have been used to a certain lifestyle or familiar surroundings.
Moreover, the effects of climate change are expected to become increasingly disruptive throughout this century and beyond. We must act now to avoid the worst impacts of this crisis, which will be felt by all humanity and the natural world.