What is Climate Change?

Climate change is a loaded term, but the Washington State Department of Ecology notes that climate change really means a change in global or regional weather patterns over a period of time. However, the past is no longer an indicator of the future when it comes to climate, as change is progressing more quickly than ever due to a multitude of factors.

NASA notes that in order to understand what climate change is, an understanding of the word “climate” is necessary. Climate is more than weather. It is more encompassing and includes the usual overall trend of weather in a particular place.

Climate change is always happening, and historically has happened throughout our history, but it has become more rapid due, at least in part, to energy produced by humans, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

Facts and Statistics

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions has several charts and graphs showing the correlation between emissions and climate change. For example, since 1980, the average global land and ocean temperature has risen, and since 2010, it has risen consistently.

Between 2030 and 2050, continued climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 deaths per year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It has also been noted that all but one of the sixteen hottest years in NASA’s 134-year record have occurred since 2010.

For additional facts and statistics about climate change, you can visit:

Polar Bears International: Climate change

Increasing Rate of Climate Change

Climate change is increasing at a rapid rate. According to Climate Central, in 2016, for the second year in a row, carbon dioxide concentrations recorded jumped at record speed. Think Progress also notes that studies indicate the rate of climate change will soar by the 2020s. The 2020s are only 2.5 years away, which should give us pause!

The National Ocean Service gives another startling statistic concerning the increasing rate of climate change. Global sea levels continue to rise rapidly – in 2014, the global sea level was 2.6 inches above the 1993 average, and they are rising at an average rate of a 1/8th inch per year. What does this mean? Storm surges can reach further inland, coastal cities are in danger, and flooding is becoming more frequent. Nuisance flooding, such as seasonal flooding of low-lying areas, has risen hugely in the past few decades, according to the Falmouth Enterprise.

For more on the increasing rates of climate change, please visit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Climate change indicators.

Causes of Climate Change

If climate change is occurring so rapidly, what is driving this change? There are several factors, all of which are produced by humans, that play into this change. The Union of Concerned Scientists gives direct evidence of human contribution to climate change in the last century, and the factors below are a part of that contribution.

Burning Coal, Oil, and Gas

Burning fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change. Greenpeace notes that emissions from burning coal contribute to climate change, as does coal mining, which produces methane. Coal burning power plants produce significant amounts of carbon dioxide emissions as well.  End Coal notes that 46% of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal!

Cars and trucks are also users of gas, a fossil fuel. According to the US Department of Energy, highway vehicles contribute hugely to climate change by releasing billions of tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere each year. Cars are also an easy indicator of the impact of industry and fuel-burning inventions on carbon dioxide emissions, as they are a somewhat recent invention when compared to our overall time on this planet.

Deforestation

In addition to burning coal, oil, and gas; deforestation contributes to climate change. CarbonBrief has examined the rate of deforestation in the tropics and found that it deeply impacts climate change. It appears that the loss of forests is a factor in continuing climate change.

Increased Livestock Farming

Fossil fuels and the destruction of forests are key factors in climate change, but another, an increase in livestock farming, is also present. New Harvest notes that while many know about the animal cruelty issues surrounding livestock farming, most do not know that livestock farming contributes huge percentages to the world’s greenhouse gas numbers. Livestock farming is just another human-led cause of climate change.

Nitrogen Based Fertilizers

In addition to livestock farming, other farming factors impact climate change. The University of California-Berkeley posits that using a 2012 study, nitrogen in fertilizers has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Fertilizer is unavoidable, but nitrogen based fertilizers are releasing gases that contribute to climate change.

Fluorinated Gases

Fluorinated gases are not easy to see, but are all around you. According to What’s Your Impact, they’re inside products like refrigerators and aerosol cans. The gas leaking during manufacturing and use can contribute to climate change. Humans are, again, contributors to this pollution, as fluorinated gases, like cars, are newer technologies.

Impact of Climate Change

When many people think of climate change, they think of global warming – a misleading phrase, as climate change can mean hotter or cooler climate patterns. No matter what the change, it can have a serious impact on the world. While warmer temperatures are a trend, The Nature Conservancy also notes that changing precipitation and rising temperatures are changing where plants grow, which can impact the survival of species dependent on those plants.

The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts has a slideshow of potential climate change effects, and the United States Forest Service notes that mammals may be impacted by changing weather and

temperature patterns. Long-term temperature change is hard to comprehend, but species running out of food or having to inhabit new areas is a concrete result of climate change.

For additional resources on the impact of climate change, please see the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: Health impacts of climate.

Climate Change Solutions

Although changing the large-scale production practices of our society is beyond the reach of most average citizens, there are many small things anyone can do to help reduce emissions and lessen climate change. The National Resource Defense Council gives tips on how to reduce your own emissions and speak up about climate change.

Everyone can also educate themselves through a variety of educational materials. The MacArthur Foundation has a great portal for information on climate change, solutions, and impacts. In addition, although there is no quick fix for climate change, Grist offers some quick solutions that can make a huge impact on your own personal contribution to climate change.

For additional resources on climate change solutions, please visit the Local Government Coalition: Communicating climate change solutions.

Quotes about Climate Change

Climate change has been much discussed in the media and by scientists. According to Climate Action Reserve, in 2014, then-President Barack Obama said that climate change, “is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now. Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires — all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak.”

On the irrefutability of climate change, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, noted American sociologist and politician, said that “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” (Southern Methodist University)

Resources for Kids

As climate change is likely to be a long-term problem, one of the best ways to fight human-led climate change is through educating children. Global Warming Kids has a lot of great activities, articles, and resources for kids, and Climate Classroom Kids has learning and action activities just for kids.

Another way for kids to get involved is through charities and community service. Checking out a website like Volunteer Match is a great way to find local groups, service opportunities, and philanthropic movements for the entire family to get involved with!

To learn more about teaching kids about climate change, see the National Park Service: Everglades climate change activities.

Resources for Educators

Educators also have an important responsibility in teaching children and young adults about climate change. One of the best ways to talk to children about climate change is to avoid scaring them but to make it clear that action is needed, and this list from the Rainforest Alliance is a great way to do so.

Global Change, part of the U.S. Global Change Resource Program, offers several resources for educators to teach children about climate change, and the National Center for Science Education has links to resources across the web for educating children about climate change.

For more resources for educators looking to teach about climate change, please visit:

Additional Resources on Climate Change

Climate change impacts us all, and it is becoming more apparent that action needs to be taken. Climate change can be something everyone works to prevent and hopefully reverse. Here are some additional resources on climate change and the effects: