Climate Change

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Climate Change

The Earth’s atmosphere keeps our planet’s temperature fairly constant. It suffers far less from extremes of temperature than our moon or other planets in the solar system. Life on Earth is dependent on this stability, but the Earth's climate is changing.

Our atmosphere consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and less than 1% carbon dioxide with the rest being made up of water vapour and other tiny amounts of other gases. The gases exist in perfect proportions to sustain life on Earth: oxygen for animals to breathe and carbon dioxide for plants to photosynthesise. They help to stabilise the planet’s temperature and absorb the harmful rays of the sun.

Environmental scientists have been aware of the fragility of this atmosphere for many years.  It is only in recent years that world leaders have acknowledged the extent of the damage caused by modern society and industrial processes and the effect of greenhouse gases on our climate.

 

Climate Change LOCATION

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Climate change will have varied impacts right across our planet. 

Since 1850 and the Industrial Revolution, global temperatures have been rising as more and more pollution has been released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. Most scientists believe that the increase in greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, is largely responsible for climate change. They predict that storms, flooding, heat waves and droughts will be more frequent and severe.

Around the world, the 1990s were recorded as the hottest decade in the past century. Temperature rises of just a few degrees will result in rising sea levels. Low-lying cities such as London, Venice and New York will be in danger of severe flooding and the Maldives and some parts of Bangladesh could disappear altogether.

There is little doubt that human activity is largely responsible for changes in our climate

Climate Change Facts

Climatic conditions are monitored worldwide by sophisticated scientific weather instruments.

The Earth has warmed by about 0.6°C in the last century. From the 1970s to 1990s warming was faster than over the century as a whole. Although this temperature rise has slowed recently there is evidence that overall the world is becoming hotter.

Rainfall patterns are changing across the globe; wet places are becoming wetter and dry areas are becoming drier. Flooding is responsible for crops being destroyed but in other regions once-fertile habitats are turning to desert.

Changes in the seasons may result in a lack of food at crucial times affecting wildlife breeding and migration behaviour. Plant and animal species cannot always adapt quickly enough to changing conditions bringing them into close contact with humans causing animal-human conflict as they compete for space, food and water.

The Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets, which between them store the majority of the world's fresh water, have both started to shrink. Arctic sea-ice has been declining since the late 1970s, reducing by about 0.6 million km² per decade - an area about the size of Madagascar.

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Trying to predict what will happen to our climate is a huge challenge.

Stop Climate Change

We can all play our part in helping to lessen the impact of our behaviour on our fragile planet.

Follow the three 'R's rule: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.

Reduce your carbon footprint: turn off lights, TV s, computers when not in use. Turn down the central heating by a few degrees. Walk or cycle rather that travel by car. or plane. Use our guide: 100 ways to save the planet.

Enter our art and poetry competition and share your ideas about how climate change is damaging our fragile planet and the plant and animal species with whom we share it.

 

Video © BBC Environment

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