Learn the Basics: What is Climate Change? Why is it changing? What are the factors?

Why the climate is changing?

Climate changes over the time. This change is natural and the process is very slow. But right now due to external factors the climate is changing really fast. During the 20th Century Earth’s average temperature rose 0.6° Celsius (1.1°F). While climate has changed throughout Earth’s history, this is the first time that we humans are the main cause for this gradual and significant change in our climate.

How is it happening?

There are several causes of recent climate change:

  • Our lifestyle and things that we do everyday like driving cars, heating homes, running factories, and transforming forests into towns etc contribute to global warming. Our landfills and farm animals are to blame for recent climate change too.
  • Burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas releases greenhouses gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere which was suppose to go on its way out to space and this is causing Earth’s greenhouse effect to grow more intense, warming the climate.
  • We cut down our trees to make room for more houses, markets and roads. We cut down the trees to use the wood for various purposes like fuel, furniture, construction material etc. When tree becomes less in number; we have more carbon dioxide in air. So the climate becomes warmer.
  • Our method of agriculture also adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Farm animals release methane, a particularly strong greenhouse gas, as they digest food. Factory-made fertilizers release nitrous oxide into the air and this nitrous oxide is another strong greenhouse gas which is released in to the atmosphere.


Why Does Climate Change?

Some factors for the climate change are natural, like volcanic eruptions and changes in the amount of solar energy. Other factors that are changing climate today are caused by humans. This is also known as anthropogenic actions, like the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
The Sun: Since the Sun is the source of almost all the energy on, changes in the cycle of solar activity can cause small changes in Earth’s climate. These changes in the Sun are too insignificant to be the cause of recent climate change. There are also large slow changes to the amount of solar energy that gets to Earth. Over tens to hundreds of thousands of years, changes in the way Earth orbits the Sun have caused large changes in climate such as the Ice Ages.
Volcanic Eruptions: Erupting volcanoes discharge red-hot lava and ash into the air. The lava falls to the ground straight away and the ash settles to the ground in a few days. Neither of those have much impact on climate, but there are also tiny particles of sulfur dioxide that discharge from volcanic eruptions. They get into the atmosphere and reflect solar radiation back out to space, shading the Earth and causes cooling. The cooling is temporary, lasting usually a year or two. Sooner or later the particles fall out of the atmosphere to the ground.
Greenhouse Gases: Even though greenhouse gases make up less than 1% of the atmosphere they have a major effect. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere through a process called the greenhouse effect. Having some greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is natural. Their heat-trapping abilities keep Earth from being uncomfortably cold. However, the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere has increased over the past 150 years as people burned fossil fuels releasing more green house gas and changed landscapes such as causing deforestation, for which earth heats up as plants that naturally take the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide out of the air through photosynthesis are reducing in numbers.
Snow and Ice: Because snow and ice are light in color, they have the ability to reflect most of the sunlight that hits them out to space. When snow and ice melt as Earth’s climate warms, less energy is reflected out to space so more trapped around Earth, which causes even more warming. White and green colors are good reflector of sunlight hence presence of trees, snow and ice are important.
Other Impacts: There are also other aspects of our planet that have an impact on climate too. Scientists are studying the impact of clouds and tiny particles in the atmosphere called aerosols on climate in hopes of adding more detail to models used to predict future climate. Scientists are also keeping track of how water moves through the world’s ocean. As the amount of sea ice in the Arctic melts, the flow of ocean water could change. Since the water transports heat from place to place this could have a large effect on climate in different regions of the world.


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