What is climate change?

1 Answer
Dec 17, 2016

Climate change refers to changes in our planet's climate over a very long period of time.


Brief answer:
Climate change refers to changes in our planet's climate that happen over a very long period of time. Climate change is important because the impacts of climate change will be incredibly detrimental to humans and the planet and have already begun.

Extended answer:

Climate change refers to changes in our planet's climate that happen over a very long period of time. Note that climate change is not the same as changing weather.

Presently, when we refer to climate change, we are typically referring changes that are anthropogenic in origin (caused by humans). This is because there is overwhelming evidence supporting that current effects of climate change are caused by humans.

The process:

Increases in greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), result in the atmosphere retaining more heat. Gases are trapped in the atmosphere and heat leaves the planet at a much slower rate. This retention of heat in the atmosphere causes the planet to experience warmer global temperatures on average.


While the climate does change naturally, the rate and magnitude of current changes are unprecedented and anthropogenic in origin. Burning fossil fuels such as CO2 contributes to climate change. CO2 is emitted when we drive our vehicles, heat our houses with coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane, another greenhouse gas, is emitted from our landfills. Trees store carbon thus deforestation contributes to climate change.

Global warming, sea level rise, increases in ocean acidification, increases in the frequency of extreme weather events, coral reef bleaching, and loss of glacial area are all effects of climate change.



Given the above mentioned effects of climate change, this is a process worth thinking about. The effects of climate change are already being felt in some places. Small island nations are losing their land. Unable to adapt quickly enough, some species have already begun to go extinct. Poor air quality is expected to lead to increasing health problems and disease spread.


Agricultural practices and production will be greatly affected:


Related Socratic questions:

Climate change and its effects on animals
How can greenhouse gases harm us?