Climate Change refers to the average increase in Earth’s temperature, but it also includes many other changes, such as sea level rise, changing weather patterns like drought and floods, and more. These changes are impacting things we use and value, such as water, energy, transportation, food, ecosystems and people’s health. Some of these changes are caused by natural events, but most are caused by human activity, such as burning fossil fuels like coal and oil.
The human contribution to global warming is caused by adding extra heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide. These gases act like a blanket around the Earth and trap the Sun’s heat. Over time, these gases have increased to record levels. They are the leading cause of the Earth’s recent warming.
Our burning of fossil fuels adds two hundred billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year. The Earth absorbs this carbon dioxide, and it becomes part of the air’s chemical makeup. Other greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere by deforestation and other human activities.
Some scientists think the Earth will keep warming, and that will have a major effect on our lives. Warming causes more melting of ice and snow, higher ocean temperatures, drier and warmer dry and wet seasons, and less precipitation in some places and more in others.
Many parts of the world are already experiencing climate impacts, including extreme weather, sea level rise, and a loss of valuable habitats for wildlife. These impacts will continue to get worse if we don’t slow down.
Vulnerable populations face disproportionate effects from climate change. These include low-income communities, some communities of color, individuals with limited English proficiency or immigrant groups, children, seniors, and those with preexisting health conditions. Vulnerable communities often don’t have the resources to adapt.
The climate science community is working to understand the changes that are happening and figure out how they will affect us. There are many factors in the changing climate, but most experts agree that humans have made a significant contribution to them.
Scientists are studying the changes using tools that look at Earth’s land, oceans, and air. They are analyzing historical data and looking at the future. They are developing policies that will help the planet avoid a warmer future and to adapt to any changes that occur.
A key step is to reach a target of stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. These targets are ambitious, but are needed to protect the planet and its people from harm. They will require the combined efforts of all nations, companies, and individuals to reduce emissions and remove existing ones from the atmosphere. The most realistic ways to do this are through renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, and conservation measures. These targets must be achieved by 2050 at the latest, and most countries are aiming for them sooner than that.