Climate Change 101 (Part 1: What is it?)
Miranda Chubb takes us through everything you ever wanted to know about climate change, but didn't like to ask.
What is Climate Change?
Climate change is the term that is generally used to describe the long-term change in the planet's average temperatures and weather patterns. Scientific research has demonstrated that there has been a shift in the average temperature across the world since the industrial revolution in the mid-1800s. Climate change is now a threat to our safety as the impacts of global warming on the planet will make it unsafe for us and the animals we share the planet with.
Climate scientists have used historic records and estimate that human activities have already caused around a 1°C of warming above pre-industrial levels and say that this will increase as we continue to burn fossil fuels and cut down trees. Average temperatures could increase by up to 4.8°C by the end of this century.
In addition to the increase in air temperatures other likely impacts of climate change include warming of oceans, melting polar ice and glaciers, rising sea levels, flooding and more extreme weather events. You might think that an increase in temperature by a few degrees wouldn’t matter, however, the planet, weather and ecosystems that we rely on to provide a safe home, to support us, our food production and drinking water are very sensitive to temperature increases.
Every fraction of a degree makes a difference. Climate scientists advise that even the difference of half a degree in temperature is a big problem. An increase of 2°C on pre-industrial levels is agreed by scientists to be a point at which there is a high risk of dangerous and potentially catastrophic changes. This is why internationally there has been agreement that we need to keep warming below around 2°C and ideally below 1.5°C.
Is climate change real?
In the past there has been some debate on whether or not climate change is real. However, experts in climate change agree that the vast majority of scientific evidence shows that the planet is warming and that human activity is the main reason behind the increase in temperature.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. Their reports have advised that the human influence on the climate system is clear and that warming of the climate system is unequivocal. A study in 2019 also found that the consensus by research scientists on global warming existing and being caused by humans is now 100%. Scientific studies and experts from around the world agree that there is clear evidence that climate change is real and we are the cause of it. The climate change that has occurred so far is already affecting people around the globe. It’s on track to get much worse and it is a challenge that requires rapid and extensive action to address.
By Miranda Chubb
Next Week: Climate Change 101 (Part 2):
What Causes Climate Change?