Weather describes the daily conditions of a particular place. It may be sunny, rainy, cloudy, windy or all of these in a day. Weather changes everyday and according to the season. The Earth’s weather naturally varies. When these weather patterns are averaged over a long time, it is called the climate. Climate change is a change in the long term weather patterns. At the moment Earth is experiencing climate change due to global warming (an average increase in the Earth’s temperature) from greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2).
Greenhouse warming is likely to cause more extreme events, such as heat waves and heavy rainfall, and an increase in the risk of droughts, floods and landslides around the world. Tropical cyclones could also become more severe, with greater wind speeds and more intense precipitation.
Climate change could affect your health in a number of ways. The World Health Organisation estimated that climate change will increase the risk of diarrhoea, malaria and malnutrition.
Deaths and injuries caused by natural disasters due to coastal and inland floods and landslides will also increase. Climate change could also affect your health due to changes in air pollution levels, effects on food production (crop failure, drought and increasing plant pests and diseases), water shortages and more.
Climate change is causing the amount of snow and ice to decrease in many places around the world. The oceans are also becoming warmer which causes coral to die; this is known as ‘coral bleaching’.
The International Panel for Climate Change has found evidence that the global sea level is now rising faster than ever before because of thermal expansion of the oceans (water expands as it warms) and melting land-based ice.
Precipitation is the general term for rainfall, snowfall and other forms of frozen or liquid water falling from clouds. Some places, such as Australia, will continue to get drier, while others, such as northern Europe, will get wetter. Some areas have also had an increase in both floods and droughts.
Temperatures around the world are warmer than they have been in the last five hundred or even a thousand years. Most of the warming of the last 50 years is because of human activities such as burning fossil fuels for electricity. The average global temperature will continue to rise so long as we use fossil fuels for energy. Even if we stopped using all fossil fuels today, the global temperature could still continue to rise for a while afterwards, sometimes even for centuries afterwards as the atmosphere and the ecosystem began to regain balance. Every little thing we can do now to minimise climate impact will help achieve this balance sooner.
Ecosystems will be badly affected with the continued climate change. As the climate changes we will see more floods and droughts. Other human impacts including pollution and over use of natural resources will also impact on ecosystems.
Plant and animal species are at an increased risk of extinction because of global warming. For example, the pygmy possum in Australia’s snowy mountains is reducing in numbers because there is not as much snow anymore.
Ways to Help
The problem of climate change is big, but not so big it cannot be fixed. You can make a difference! For example, you could use energy efficient appliances and light globes, recycle, use renewable electricity and walk, cycle or take public transport instead of taking the car.
For more information about climate change, including ways you can help prevent it, check out our Partners & Friends.