Climate change is a big issue that we are facing in the world today. With new technology and the demand for energy steadily rising, this can come at a big cost - the health of our planet.
What is climate change?
The term ‘Climate change’ can simply refer to the long-term change in the weather patterns across the world, but the way we often use the word now and the way the media uses it is different. When we talk about climate change now, we mean the sudden changes to the earth’s climate that have happened in the past 200 years.
These changes have been really big and very abrupt. They cannot be explained by the normal cycles of heating and cooling that the earth naturally undergoes, and there is a lot of evidence that shows that they are caused by some of our activities as human beings.
Why is climate change happening?
Climate change happens for a whole bunch of reasons, but the main reason is the increase in greenhouse gases we produce from lots of the activities we carry out on a daily basis.
The greenhouse effect is the natural process that warms up our planet. However, the extra greenhouse gases we’ve produced in the last 200 years have sped up the process so much that it has led to worryingly high temperatures, and a rise in the levels of the harmful gas, carbon dioxide.
How are we contributing to the problem?
In two ways:
- First, we create more greenhouse gasses: we rely on coal, oil, and gas to fuel our lifestyles. When burned, these fossil fuels release CO2 and other gases into the atmosphere.
- Second, we destroy natural biological processes that remove CO2 from the atmosphere. For example, we’ve been destroying rainforests and making them smaller and smaller, which means we have fewer trees to absorb all the CO2.
Why is this a crisis?
We’ve already started seeing some huge effects around the world.
The Australian bushfires in 2019 burnt almost 15 million acres of land, affecting hundreds of thousands of homes. In the same year, wildfires in California burned a total of 260,000 acres of land.
In East Africa, climate change has led to droughts and food shortages over the past few years.
In India, climate change contributed to the 2016 heatwaves which led to the deaths of thousands of people.
In Central Europe, 2018 and 2019 saw the biggest and most damaging drought on record in history.
If you want to find out more information about some of these examples, read more about the evidence, or even find some careers you could get into to help with the crisis, you can check our other guides on climate change!
Good stuff from elsewhere
Climate Change: How Do We Know?
Check out this resource by NASA which helps us understand the tell--tale signs of climate change.
The disarming case to act right now on climate change
Environmental activist Greta Thunbergexplains why, in 2018, she walked out of school and organised a strike to raise awareness of global climate change.