A warming planet is more than just hotter temperatures – it’s changing weather patterns and affecting our ecosystems, food and water sources. Whether you’re an expert or just starting out, it’s important to understand climate change so that you can help make sure our world doesn’t become too hot for life as we know it.
There’s no doubt that Earth has been getting warmer over the past century. The evidence includes temperature measurements from weather stations and ships that began in the mid-1800s, data from space-based observatories like satellites, and clues in geologic records. Scientists have also developed sophisticated computer models that can help explain what’s happening.
The most common cause of climate change is human activity. Since 1750, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has increased by more than 40%, causing the Earth to warm. Other gases produced when fossil fuels are burned, such as methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases, contribute to the warming effect by trapping heat in the atmosphere. In addition, changes in natural factors such as volcanoes and changes in solar output can influence temperatures as well.
The global surface air temperature has risen by about one degree Fahrenheit, and the oceans have warmed by even more. Arctic and Antarctic glaciers and ice sheets are melting, raising sea levels and making them more vulnerable to storm surges. Warmer temperatures increase the risk of wildfires and make it harder for animals to find enough food or water.
While some people still question the science, most scientists agree that climate change is occurring and that humans are the main cause. This consensus is reflected in the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015 by nearly every country on Earth. It aims to keep the global average temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In order to limit the effects of climate change, we need to change how we produce and use energy, including switching from dirty fossil fuels to cleaner, smarter options. This means reducing our energy and water consumption, and planting more trees.
Scientists have made many advances in understanding the science behind climate change, but there are still some uncertainties. This is because the Earth is complex and its behavior is affected by a wide range of forces that are hard to predict. Nonetheless, research suggests that more than 100% of the observed warming can be explained by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and other human activities.
It’s also important to remember that even small changes in climate can have big impacts on our lives. For example, a warming world may make it easier for mosquitoes to spread diseases that kill millions of people each year. This is especially true for poorer communities that are less able to adapt to the changes they’re experiencing.