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WHAT IS CLIMATE Change?

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Changes in climate have significant implications for present lives, for future generations and for ecosystems on which humanity depends. Consequently, climate change has been and continues to be the subject of intensive scientific research and public debate.

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Climate change on a global scale, whether natural or due to human activity, can be initiated by processes that modify either the amount of energy absorbed from the Sun, or the amount of infrared energy emitted to space.

 

There is strong evidence that the warming of the Earth over the last half-century has been caused largely by human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use, including agriculture and deforestation. The size of future temperature increases and other aspects of climate change, especially at the regional scale, are still subject to uncertainty. Nevertheless, the risks associated with some of these changes are substantial.

 

(Source: https://royalsociety.org/-/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/publications/2010/4294972962.pdf)

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What is climate Change?

Climate change describes a change in the average conditions — such as temperature and rainfall — in a region over a long period of time.

 

Global climate change refers to the average long-term changes over the entire Earth.

The Earth's average temperature is about 15C but has been much higher and lower in the past.  There are natural fluctuations in the climate but scientists say temperatures are now rising faster than at many other times.

This is linked to the greenhouse effect, which describes how the Earth's atmosphere traps some of the Sun's energy. 

 

The earth is warmed by solar energy radiating back to space from the Earth's surface is absorbed by greenhouse gases and re-emitted in all directions. This heats both the lower atmosphere and the surface of the planet. Without this effect, the Earth would be about 30C colder and hostile to life.

 

Earth’s climate has constantly been changing — even long before humans came into the picture. However, scientists have observed unusual changes recently.

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Weather VS Climate

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Weather describes the conditions outside right now in a specific place. For example, if you see that it’s raining outside right now, that’s a way to describe today’s weather. Rain, snow, wind, hurricanes, tornadoes — these are all weather events.

Climate, on the other hand, is more than just one or two rainy days. Climate describes the weather conditions that are expected in a region at a particular time of year.

Is it usually rainy or usually dry? Is it typically hot or typically cold? A region’s climate is determined by observing its weather over a period of many years—generally 30 years or more.

So, for example, one or two weeks of rainy weather wouldn’t change the fact that Phoenix in Arizona typically has a dry, desert climate. Even though it’s rainy right now, we still expect Phoenix to be dry because that's what is usually the case.

(source: https://climatekids.nasa.gov/climate-change-meaning/)

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How Will Climate Change Affect Us?

There is uncertainty about how great the impact of a changing climate will be. It could cause fresh water shortages, dramatically alter our ability to produce food, and increase the number of deaths from floods, storms and heatwaves. This is because climate change is expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events - though linking any single event to global warming is complicated.

As the world warms, more water evaporates, leading to more moisture in the air. This means many areas will experience more intense rainfall - and in some places snowfall. But the risk of drought in inland areas during hot summers will increase. More flooding is expected from storms and rising sea levels. But there are likely to be very strong regional variations in these patterns.

 

Poorer countries, which are least equipped to deal with rapid change, could suffer the most. 

Plant and animal extinctions are predicted as habitats change faster than species can adapt. And the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the health of millions could be threatened by increases in malaria, water-borne disease and malnutrition.

 

As more CO2 is released into the atmosphere, uptake of the gas by the oceans increases, causing the water to become more acidic. This could pose major problems for coral reefs.

 

Global warming will cause further changes that are likely to create further heating. This includes the release of large quantities of methane as permafrost - frozen soil found mainly at high latitudes - melts. 

 

To read more about the human impacts of climate change, read here (link: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-and-health)

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Further READING

If you’d like to read more about climate change, as well as the strong evidence that humans are causing climate change, there are many sources available, but I’d recommend some of the following:

 

> United Nations Climate Change (Link: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/)

> NASA Climate Change (link: https://climate.nasa.gov)

> National Geographic Climate Coverage (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/climate-change/)

> BBC Climate Change Site (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/cmj34zmwm1zt/climate-change)

It’s also ok to start simple, I did! This subject is complex, it's divisive and there is still much we are learning:

 

> NASA Climate Kids (Link: https://climatekids.nasa.gov/climate-change-meaning/)

 

> Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions  (Link: https://www.c2es.org/content/climate-basics-for-kids/)

For more detailed reading check out some of these:

> IPCC (https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.

The IPCC prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place.

 

An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.

And if you are dealing with doubters, check out:

> Skeptical Science (https://skepticalscience.com)

 

Skeptical Science is a non-profit science education organisation, run by a global team of volunteers. The goal of Skeptical Science is to explain what peer reviewed science has to say about global warming. When you peruse the many arguments of global warming skeptics, a pattern emerges. Skeptic arguments tend to focus on narrow pieces of the puzzle while neglecting the broader picture. The website presents the broader picture by explaining the peer reviewed scientific literature.

Books

Finally, while I have read much on climate change in recent years, the following books were invaluable for me personally when reading about the subject

‘What We Know About Climate Change’ by Kerry Emanuel
‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ by David Wallace-Wells
‘The End of Nature’ by Bill McKibben
‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben
‘Storms of My Grandchildren’ by James Hansen
‘The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis’ by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac
‘Merchants of Doubt’ by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
‘Losing Earth: The Decade We Could Have Stopped Climate Change’ by Nathaniel Rich
‘Why We Disagree About Climate Change’ by Mike Hulme
‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers

But I cannot recommend the following two books highly enough:

> There is No Planet B by Mike Berners-Lee

https://theresnoplanetb.net

 

> All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, & Solutions for the Climate Crisis. Edited by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Dr. Katharine K. Wilkinson

https://www.allwecansave.earth