Climate Change is the long-term average increase in Earth’s temperature and a change in weather patterns like drought, floods and storms. It is caused by a combination of natural forces and human activity, such as burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. These fuels release carbon dioxide into the air and cause the atmosphere to warm, leading to global warming and climate change.
Scientists agree that human activity is causing the planet to warm faster than ever before. They also agree that climate change is already harming wildlife and the natural environment in many ways, including spreading wildlife diseases, diminishing food supply and habitat loss.
The Earth gets energy from the Sun through sunlight. Our atmosphere reflects some of this energy, absorbs the rest and then re-emits it in the form of heat. Certain gases in our atmosphere, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane, trap this energy and make Earth warmer. This is called the greenhouse effect. The more of these gases there are, the warmer Earth gets.
Throughout Earth’s history, the temperature has fluctuated naturally as it cycles between warming and cooling. But scientists have determined that the current rate of warming is much faster than any in the past and can’t be explained by natural causes alone. The scientific consensus is that this rapid warming is mostly caused by human activities.
Warming is bad for animals and plants, but it’s even worse for people and the services they provide. For example, higher temperatures can lead to water shortages and wildfires that threaten homes and lives. They can raise the risk of disease by causing extreme heat and changing the behavior of some harmful bacteria. They can also increase flooding, drought and sea level rise. They can even disrupt ocean chemistry, affecting the habitat of marine life and altering the way that water flows around the world.
The effects of Climate Change are being felt most severely in poorer countries that contributed the least to its cause, as well as by some vulnerable populations. These include indigenous peoples, children, the elderly, socially isolated people and those with preexisting medical conditions. They are also the ones most likely to die from the impact of climate-related events and diseases.
A few key things you can do to help prevent Climate Change and the harms it brings are to reduce your energy use, take public transportation or ride a bike, and recycle. Plant a tree, since trees absorb carbon dioxide and are a crucial part of the natural climate balance. And finally, encourage your government to invest in clean, renewable sources of energy. Together, these actions will make a big difference. The most important thing to remember is that we won’t fall off a cliff if we go over 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming—but it will be harder to adapt, and the risks will become more severe. The best way to minimize these risks is to limit the amount of greenhouse gases we emit as quickly as possible.