The climate is the long-term average of the weather in a particular place. It is usually measured over a 30-year period. Climate is different from weather, which is the day-to-day conditions of the atmosphere.
The Earth’s climate has been changing throughout its 4.5 billion-year history. Climate change refers to a broad array of environmental degradation that is predicted to result from increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
Over the past century, the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has released enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases form a “blanket” around Earth that trap energy from the sun. This trapped energy makes the Earth’s atmosphere warm and disturbs the Earth’s climate.
Climate change is already causing a wide range of harmful impacts on our planet, including more extreme weather events, sea level rise, and reductions in the quantity and quality of our water resources. Climate change is also making it more difficult to grow crops and access clean water.
Ultimately, climate change threatens our health, our food and water supplies, our homes, our economy, and our way of life. To protect our planet and our way of life, we must take action to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
The greenhouse effect and climate
The greenhouse effect is a natural process that warms the Earth’s surface. When the Sun’s energy reaches the Earth’s atmosphere, some of it is reflected back to space and the rest is absorbed and re-emitted as heat. This keeps the Earth’s average temperature at a livable level.
The greenhouse effect is named after a physical analogy, in which the atmosphere is likened to the glass panels of a greenhouse. Greenhouse gases allow sunlight through to the Earth’s surface, but they trap the heat that is radiated back from the surface. This trapped heat makes the Earth’s atmosphere warm and regulates the Earth’s temperature.
The main greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Greenhouse gases are transparent to sunlight, but they absorb and emit infrared radiation.
The greenhouse effect is essential to life on Earth. Without it, the Earth would be too cold to support life as we know it. However, the greenhouse effect can also have harmful consequences.
Climate change is the long-term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns in a place. Climate change could refer to a particular location or the planet as a whole. Climate change has been connected with damaging weather events such as more frequent and more intense hurricanes, floods, downpours, and winter storms. Together with expanding ocean waters due to rising temperatures melting polar ice, the resulting rise in sea level has begun to damage coastlines as a result of increased flooding and erosion. The cause of current climate change is largely human activity, like burning fossil fuels, like natural gas, oil, and coal. There, these gases trap heat from the sun’s rays inside the atmosphere causing Earth’s average temperature to rise.
Climate change has become a major point of contention in recent years. Those who believe that human activity is causing climate change point to the rise in average global temperatures as evidence. They also point to the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, like hurricanes, floods, and downpours, as further evidence of a climate in flux. And they note that the world’s oceans are rising at an unprecedented rate due to melting polar ice, which is causing coastline flooding and erosion.
The debate over climate change is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. But the evidence does seem to be mounting that human activity is playing a role in climate change. And the consequences of a changing climate are becoming more and more difficult to ignore.
What can we do about climate change?
Most people agree that climate change is happening and that human activity is at least partly responsible. But what can we do about it?
There are a number of things we can do to reduce our impact on the environment and help mitigate climate change.
1. Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels
Fossil fuels like coal and oil are major contributors to climate change. Burning them releases greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which trap heat and cause the Earth’s average temperature to rise.
We can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by using more renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and water power. We can also use more efficient technologies that use less energy overall, such as LED light bulbs and energy-efficient appliances.
2. Reducing our waste
Waste also contributes to climate change. When we throw away food or other organic materials, they decompose and release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
We can reduce our waste by recycling and composting. This helps keep methane out of the atmosphere and reduces the need to produce new materials, which requires energy and emits greenhouse gases.
3. Protecting and restoring forests
Forests play a crucial role in mitigating climate change. They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen back into it.
We can help protect forests by reducing our consumption of wood products, choosing products made from certified sustainable wood, and supporting organizations that work to protect and restore forests.
4. Changing our diets
The way we produce food also contributes to climate change. Animal agriculture, for instance, emits large amounts of greenhouse gases.
We can reduce our impact by eating less meat and dairy, and choosing products from more sustainable sources. Plant-based diets require less land, water, and energy to produce, and generate fewer greenhouse gases.
5. Driving less
Transportation is another major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Driving less, whether by carpooling, taking public transportation, or simply walking or biking more, can help reduce these emissions.
These are just a few of the things we can do to help mitigate climate change. Every little bit helps, and