Climate Change refers to the increase of average Earth temperatures due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and agricultural land clearing. These activities create greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere and cause Earth’s temperature to rise. Climate change threatens the world’s health, food supply, water quality, and biodiversity. It’s also a major factor behind extreme weather and natural disasters that are already devastating people around the globe. Without a swift and dramatic shift away from fossil fuels, we will continue to experience more frequent and severe hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, wildfires, flooding, and other climate-related events.
Over the past century, air temperatures have risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the fastest rate of warming in centuries. Temperatures will continue to rise over the coming century and beyond if we don’t curb emissions.
Warmer temperatures mean hotter days, and that means more heat-related deaths. This is especially true for the elderly, children, and people with preexisting health conditions like asthma or heart disease. In addition, warmer temperatures lead to more droughts, which can also hurt health by reducing available drinking and irrigation water for crops and people.
Rising temperatures also worsen the air quality of cities and rural areas, leading to higher concentrations of particulate matter from wildfire smoke and ozone smog triggered by warmer conditions. These pollutants can exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and they can be deadly to people who live in densely populated urban centers and are exposed to them over long periods of time.
Climate change is causing the seas to become more acidic and less oxygenated, which puts many marine life species at risk. Ocean acidification and oxygen loss also disrupts the natural balance of the water cycle, causing ocean levels to rise. Rising sea levels are expected to threaten low-lying coastal communities around the world, exacerbated by shrinking glaciers and melting sea ice.
Hundreds of millions of people are already facing climate-related challenges in their daily lives. The impact will be even greater if we fail to limit global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as agreed upon at the Paris Agreement in 2015.
As a result of climate change, people in wealthier nations will have more protections and services from natural disasters, and they may be able to afford to move or adapt to new conditions. The impacts of climate change, however, will be felt most intensely by the billions of people who lack these resources.
Many of the natural factors that influence climate change are changing at much faster rates than in the past. This includes changes in the sun’s intensity, volcanic eruptions, and naturally occurring changes in carbon dioxide levels. The rapid pace of climate change is unmatched in the geologic record, and can’t be explained by these natural factors alone.