What is Climate Change?

There has been a lot of debate among certain groups about what climate change actually is.  Debate is normal among the scientific community, yet there is surprising agreement about climate among the vast majority of the community. The basic definition of climate in simple words is: long term changes in a region’s weather patterns.

Climate Change Definition

The dictionary definition is more complicated: “a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.”

Reference to climate change over the last 20years has been fairly focused on the evidence of rapid changes in climate caused by human activity.  The discussions have shifted from the term “global warming” to “climate change”  because changes in weather patterns over the years have gone beyond just temperature to include rain, humidity, winds, drought, and other atmospheric conditions as well as ocean currents and sea level rise. There have been shifts in patterns where some places are getting wetter while other places are getting dryer.  In some instances, there may even be cooling in some regions.

Climate vs Weather

In general, the main difference between climate vs weather has to do with space and time.  Climate refers to atmospheric conditions of a large region measured over a long-term period while weather refers to atmospheric conditions of a certain area measured over a short-term period.

Climate Definition

The atmospheric conditions, (temperature, pressure, humidity, sunshine, wind, rain, etc),  of a region measured over a long-period of time, (usually 30+years).

Weather Definition

Atmospheric conditions of a certain place and time (usually hours-10 days)

The Köppen climate classification

The Köppen climate classification divides climates into five main climate groups, with each group being divided based on seasonal precipitation and temperature patterns. The five main groups are A (tropical), B (dry), C (temperate), D (continental), and E (polar).

Is climate change real?

Yes. The body of evidence collected by thousands of studies conducted by countries all over the world including the data that has been collected by weather satellites, ice core samples, ocean buoys, etc.. have the scientific community conclude definitively that rapid climate change is indeed happening and there is a 95% probability that it is being caused by human activity.  Although it is common for scientists to debate on the specific details, there is surprising agreement on the reality that it is happening.

“Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Climate Change 2019

According to the World Meteorological Organization, 2015-2019 will be the hottest five-year period in recorded history.  Greenhouse gas concentrations have increased more than ever before to over 410pm causing the earth to warm a net increase of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial period.  CO2 growth rates are nearly 20% higher than the previous five years.

90% of the excess heat is stored in the ocean which has caused  the largest rise in water temperature and sea level rise ever measured.  This has led to an increase in  intense heatwaves, droughts, floods, storms and other severe weather events such as the unprecedented, back-to-back tropical cyclones that devastated Mozambique in March and April of 2019.  Oceans absorb 30% of the annual anthropogenic emissions of CO2, and caused an overall increase in ocean acidity of 26% disrupting marine ecosystems resulting in events like mass coral bleaching,  Severe droughts and heatwaves increase the conditions for wildfires which have led to mass deforestation and wildlife loss in 2019. WMO Global Climate Report 2015-2019

What causes climate change

Gases released in the earth’s atmosphere which block heat from escaping such as Nitrous oxide (N2O), Water vapor (H2O), Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC).  These gases cause a “greenhouse” effect that causes unprecedented changes in the atmosphere.

Although there are natural events like fires that lead to greenhouse  gases  being released in the atmosphere, studies have concluded that the dramatic increase in GHG over the last 50years has been caused by human activity, particularly from industrial factories, transportation vehicles, agriculture, and other events.  As temperatures increase, there is more likelihood of wildfires and melting of sea ice which release more GHG emissions and exacerbate the problem of climate change.

IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report – Summary for Policymakers

Climate Change and Exxon

The burning of fossil fuel for energy has been determined as the largest contributor of GHG emissions.  Exxon funded a study 1977 that concluded that fossil fuel caused an increase risk to climate change .  The company then tried to cover up the findings of their own scientist. In 2014, Exxon released another report acknowledging the risks of fossil fuels in causing climate change, but downplaying the long-term implications.  The issue continues to cause controversy for the  the company.

Youth Climate Strike

There has been an increase in activism putting  pressure on politicians to take action to curb climate change and hold fossil fuel companies and other industries accountable.  A global youth movement inspired most notably by Greta Thunberg has grown in strength.  Youth Climate Stikes have been coordinated in cities and towns in countries across the world.

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