What Is Climate Change?

What is Climate Change?

Climate refers to the average weather over a period of time and includes factors such as average temperatures, wind patterns and amounts of rainfall. Natural changes in climate happen over a very long period of time which allows for plants and animals to adapt, however, human activity has increased the greenhouse effect which means the rate of global warming and climate change is speeding up. Now many species are struggling to adapt to the changing climate and are at serious risk.


What is global warming?

Global warming means that the temperature of the Earth’s surface is increasing. In fact the Earth’s surface has been steadily increasing since the last ice age 15,000 years ago but since the Industrial Revolution the Earth’s temperature has been increasing at a much faster rate. This is because of man-made green house gas emissions and something called the greenhouse effect.

What is the greenhouse effect?

The greenhouse effect is a natural process in which the atmosphere traps some of the energy we receive from the Sun and stops it being released back into space. This is essential as it makes the Earth warm enough for life. Without it the average temperature for the Earth’s surface would be around -18°c! The main gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect, known as greenhouse gases (GHG’s), are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. The greenhouse effect is a necessary natural process but unfortunately human activity has increased the level of green house gases in the atmosphere. As a result too much energy from the sun is being trapped which leads to global warming.



How is human activity causing climate change?

Many aspects of our modern way of life contribute towards climate change. The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas for activities such as manufacture and travel are pumping large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Other activities such as deforestation also contribute to global warming. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis but due to extensive global deforestation, less carbon dioxide is being filtered from the air which leads to an increase in the greenhouse effect.


(Learn about deforestation)


What are the effects of climate change?

Scientists predict that climate change could have a huge impact on our environment and our way of life. Environmental impacts include rising sea levels, extreme weather such as drought and flooding, increased acidity of the ocean and changing ecosystems. These physical impacts could lead to water shortages, food shortages, extinction of different species of plants and animals, and rising sea levels could threaten coastal communities.

(Click here to learn about the UK effects of climate change)


What can we do to help climate change?

Fighting climate change starts in our own homes. Over 40% of current CO2 emissions are caused by the choices we make as individuals. Simple actions such as switching off electrical appliances when they are not being used to insulating your home properly can save money and energy, and reduce your CO2 emissions.