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Climate Change: Where We Are Now

We can already observe and see the effects of climate change on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner.

2019 was the second warmest year on record and the end of the warmest decade (2010- 2019) ever recorded.  

Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to new records in 2019. 

Climate change is affecting every country on every continent. It is completely changing national economies and affecting everyone’s lives. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and weather events such as storms are becoming more extreme.

Demonstration on the city protesting against climate change - Global warming and environment concept

Although greenhouse gas emissions were expected to drop about 6% in 2020 due to travel bans and economic slowdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, this improvement is only temporary, though. Climate change is not on hold. Once the global economy starts to recover from the pandemic, emissions are expected to go back to even higher levels.

Scientists are quite sure that global temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come, largely due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes more than 1,300 scientists from the United States and other countries, predicts a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century.

Climate change vs. Global Warming

“Climate change” and “global warming” are often used interchangeably but have quite different meanings. Similarly, the terms “weather” and “climate” are sometimes confused.

What is Climate Change?

Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates. These changes have a broad range of observed effects that are related to the term.

What is Global Warming?

Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s climate system observed since the pre-industrial period due to human activities, mainly fossil fuel burning, which increases greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere that trap heat. It is most commonly explained as the average increase in Earth’s global surface temperature.

What Has Been Done So Far

The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The agreement also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Melting icebergs as a result of climate change floating in Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon. Iceland

Future Effects

• More Droughts and Heat Waves

Droughts and heatwaves (periods of abnormally hot weather lasting days to weeks) everywhere are projected to become more intense, and cold waves less intense everywhere.

By the end of this century, what has been rare, extreme heat days (one-day events) are projected to occur every two or three years over most of the United States.

• Hurricanes Will Become Stronger and More Intense

The intensity, frequency, and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest (Category 4 and 5) hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s. The relative contributions of human and natural causes to these increases are still uncertain. Hurricane and storm intensity and rainfall rates are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.

• Sea Level Will Rise 1-8 feet by 2100

Global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since humans have been keeping reliable records since 1880. It is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100. This is the result of added water from melting land ice and the expansion of seawater as it warms up.

• Long-term Effects That Vary

In Africa, it was predicted by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people were expected to be exposed to increased water stress and yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent in some regions by 2020. This means that agricultural production, including access to food, may be severely compromised.

While in Asia, coastal areas may be at risk due to increased flooding, and the death rate from disease associated with floods and droughts is expected to rise in some regions.

At the end of the day, each contribution no matter how small contributes to a better and healthier world around us. Our Earth deserves it.