Climate Change is a global problem that affects everyone. But there are some countries, people, communities and industries that are more at risk than others. This is because they create and emit more greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gases blanket the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and warming it up. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds. Other gases, such as sulphur dioxide and aerosols, also impact the climate. The most important source of greenhouse gas emissions is the burning of fossil fuels, including oil, natural gas and coal. These are called non-biological or anthropogenic greenhouse gases because they are released into the air by human activities like power generation, transportation and agriculture.
There is now overwhelming scientific consensus that the Earth’s average temperature has risen rapidly over the last decade, and that the cause is mainly human activity, mostly through the use of fossil fuels. There is also strong evidence that reducing greenhouse gas emissions and switching to clean energy sources can slow this rate of increase.
Unmitigated climate change will lead to higher risks of local, regional and global impacts on humans and natural ecosystems. It will also have significant consequences for economies, social cohesion and biodiversity.
The most important way to reduce climate change is to switch to renewable, low-carbon forms of energy. We need to invest in renewables, such as solar and wind power, and promote electric vehicles and insulation. We also need to plant trees, which absorb carbon dioxide from the air and provide food and shelter for wildlife.
As our planet warms, heat waves will become more frequent and intense, increasing health risks for people, especially the elderly or very young. More frequent and severe storms could result in greater flooding, and droughts will become longer and more intense. Warmer oceans will make hurricanes stronger and raise sea levels, threatening islands and coastal areas.
Changing weather patterns threaten crops, water supplies and livelihoods in many parts of the world. Agricultural production could decrease as warmer temperatures limit crop varieties and increase pests. Changing weather conditions also cause wildfires, which can burn for weeks, and reduce water availability in dry regions.
Climate change will also disrupt the balance between ocean and land animals, leading to a loss of habitat, reduced food availability and extinction risks for some species. For example, polar bears will be at risk of disappearing as the ice they depend on melts, and elephants will struggle to find enough water in a warmer, drier world.
The world needs to take action on climate change, and everybody has a part to play. But wealthier countries need to do more, because they produce much more of the greenhouse gases that are driving climate change. They also need to help developing nations adapt to climate change and develop sustainable economic development plans. In addition, they need to pay their fair share of the costs of reducing climate change impacts. This includes funding for early warning systems, which can save lives and property.