Climate change is a global phenomenon that is already impacting every part of our planet. It is causing sea levels to rise, temperatures to increase, and extreme weather events to become more frequent and severe. These changes affect all living things, from polar bears and koalas to farmers and communities. But the most important thing to understand is that climate change is much more than just higher temperatures. It is also about melting glaciers, rising oceans, longer and more intense droughts, and the loss of habitat.
The main cause of climate change is human activities, specifically our burning of fossil fuels. These activities have produced large amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide acts a bit like the glass in a greenhouse, trapping the sun’s heat and stopping it from escaping back into space. This process is called the Greenhouse Effect. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased significantly since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This has primarily occurred because of our use of fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas), but also from deforestation and agriculture.
In addition, changes in land and ocean surface temperatures are occurring at a faster rate now than ever before. This is because of the warmer air and water absorbing more solar energy. The warmer surface waters are also absorbing more and more saline (salty) water from the deep ocean, which is raising ocean levels.
Warmer temperatures lead to drought, which is causing crops and wildlife to die. Drought and heat also lead to wildfires, which are burning more and more land. This is contributing to the loss of habitats for animals and plants, which is leading to a decline in biodiversity and affecting our food supply.
A warming climate is expected to reduce global crop yields, making life more difficult for people who depend on farming for a livelihood. In addition, it is predicted to cause 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 from malnutrition and insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. It will also result in increased respiratory illnesses from heat stress and air pollution.
The climate is changing because of humans, and we must act now to avoid the most dangerous impacts. To slow down the warming trend, we need to reduce our carbon emissions by using renewable energy sources, reducing our waste and promoting conservation. We also need to rethink the way we live our lives and the products we buy.
The IPCC’s most recent report (the Fifth Assessment Report, released in 2013) stated that it was “extremely likely” that more than half of the observed warming over 1951-2010 was caused by humans. But the more we act to limit our carbon footprint, the less damage we will do.