Climate Change refers to the long-term average changes in Earth’s overall temperature and other climate-related variables. These changes are caused by human activities, including fossil fuel burning, that increase heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere and raise Earth’s surface temperature. In addition to our direct actions, climate change is also influenced by natural processes such as cyclical ocean patterns (like El Nino and La Nina), volcanic activity, and variations in the Sun’s energy output.
Currently, global air temperatures are warmer than they’ve been in thousands of years. Earth is also experiencing more frequent and intense extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods and droughts. These are all linked to climate change, which is affecting every region of the globe.
Scientists have a clear understanding of how human activities are contributing to climate change, and most of the current warming is due to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These are emitted through burning fossil fuels for energy, clearing forests, fertilizing crops, raising livestock, and certain chemical reactions. Other contributors to the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide include most animals that exhale it as a waste product, and some natural processes such as volcanoes and ocean-atmosphere exchange.
The Earth is heating up at a faster rate than ever before, and many regions are experiencing a much warmer and drier climate. Climate change is already causing sea levels to rise and is contributing to loss of freshwater in coastal areas, affecting the livelihoods of millions of people worldwide.
Climate change is expected to have a major impact on wildlife habitats as well. Warming air and water are disrupting their normal cycles, which can cause some species to die out completely or migrate to new places. Intense droughts and higher temperatures can also turn fertile lands into deserts that can’t support agriculture or sustain biodiversity.
A warmer world is a more inviting place for insect-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and West Nile virus, as they thrive in warm and wet conditions. It is estimated that 140 million people are displaced by weather- and climate-related events every year, and most of these people are forced to move into urban centers where they can’t grow their own food and may be exposed to increased risks from exposure to infectious disease.
All countries are affected by climate change, but the poorest and most vulnerable communities are on the frontlines of impacts. These include low-income communities of color, which contribute the least to the climate crisis and are most dependent on a healthy natural world for their livelihoods. To be successful, climate solutions must address intersecting social crises such as poverty, racism, and gender inequality that contribute to the root causes of the crisis.