Climate Change: The altering of the planet’s climate due to an increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activity. Effects of climate change include rising temperatures, leading to increased extreme weather such as heatwaves, floods, droughts, and storms, and resulting in reduced water and food security and social stability.
Climate change refers to long-term shifts and alterations in Earth’s average climatic conditions, including temperature, precipitation patterns, wind patterns, and other aspects of the climate system. These changes can occur at both regional and global scales and are primarily driven by human activities, particularly the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The primary driver of contemporary climate change is the increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). These gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, leading to a phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect. While the greenhouse effect is a natural process that helps maintain the planet’s temperature within a range suitable for life, human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), deforestation, and industrial processes, have significantly amplified the greenhouse effect and led to an accelerated warming of the planet.
Key aspects of climate change include:
Global Warming: The Earth’s average surface temperature has been increasing over the past century due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases. This warming has a range of effects on ecosystems, weather patterns, and sea levels.
Sea Level Rise: As temperatures rise, polar ice caps and glaciers melt, contributing to the expansion of seawater volume and causing sea levels to rise. This poses a significant threat to coastal communities and ecosystems.
Changes in Weather Patterns: Climate change can lead to altered weather patterns, including more frequent and severe heatwaves, storms, hurricanes, and droughts. These changes can have far-reaching impacts on agriculture, water resources, and human settlements.
Ocean Acidification: The absorption of excess atmospheric carbon dioxide by the oceans leads to a decrease in pH levels, causing ocean acidification. This has negative consequences for marine life, particularly organisms with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons, such as corals and certain shellfish.
Ecosystem Disruption: Shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns can affect ecosystems and species distribution. Some species may struggle to adapt or migrate, leading to disruptions in food chains and ecosystem services.
Efforts to address climate change involve international cooperation, policy measures, and technological innovations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, transitioning to renewable energy sources, enhancing energy efficiency, protecting and restoring forests, and implementing strategies for climate resilience. The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is a landmark international treaty that outlines global efforts to limit global warming and its impacts.
Climate change poses significant challenges to societies, economies, and the environment. Mitigating its impacts and adapting to the changing climate require concerted and sustained actions at local, national, and global levels.