Two terms – climate change and global warming – point to the same existential threat: global temperatures have risen dramatically over the past 150 years or so and scientists say they are on the verge of drastically altering life on Earth in the decades to come.
Temperatures on our planet have fluctuated based on natural processes many times in the past, but experts say this extraordinary round of warming is different.
- Global temperatures have already risen by around 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since about 1850, according to NASA.
- In the past, it took about thousands of years for global temperatures to change so much.
- Such rapid change is alarming and is already disrupting the delicate balance of life on Earth.
The global warming trend comes as the human population has exploded over the past few centuries and technological advancements have released huge amounts of chemicals and gases into the atmosphere. Some of them, called greenhouse gases, are excellent at trapping heat.
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Here’s what you need to know about climate change:
Is winter cold proof that climate change is wrong?
Winter isn’t going away just because average temperatures are on the rise, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
A single cold day, a cold snap, or even a cold winter in a particular region are all examples of weather conditions. It takes years and years of daily weather data to understand the global climate and how it is changing.
Is climate change the same as global warming?
Yes and no.
The terms have different meanings, although they are often used interchangeably, according to NASA.
While the term “global warming” was used frequently in the past, the term “climate change” is used more often today because it includes the cascading consequences of rising temperatures occurring around the world: melting glaciers, rising seas, drought, etc. “Global warming” refers more narrowly to the trend of rising temperatures.
What causes climate change?
Earth’s climate changes through a variety of natural processes, but federal scientists say the rapid warming experienced over the past 150 years is primarily caused by human activities that emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
This is why global efforts to combat climate change are so focused on eliminating the burning of fossil fuels, the most notable source of greenhouse gas.
What are the 5 effects of climate change?
- rising seas: Warming temperatures are heating up the oceans, causing the water to expand and melt huge amounts of ice. Sea level rise is not only felt on the coast, but also far inland along the rivers.
- Drought: A “mega-drought” in the West has been supercharged by warmer temperatures and a lack of rain.
- Forest fires : The drought provides ideal conditions for forest fires. Worse still: the fires release huge amounts of greenhouse gases, further fueling climate change.
- Rain: A USA TODAY analysis of a century of precipitation data shows how, east of the Rockies, more rain is falling — and in more intense gusts.
- Hurricanes: Evidence shows climate change is causing wetter hurricanes, but scientists say more data is needed before questions about future frequency can be settled.
Contributor: Dinah Voyles Pulver