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What is Climate Change?

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Climate Change: Basic Information

How is the climate changing in the U.S.?

Observations across the United States and world provide multiple, independent lines of evidence that climate change is happening now.

Climate change is happening

Our Earth is warming. Earth's average temperature has risen by 1.5°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 0.5 to 8.6°F over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.

The evidence is clear. Rising global temperatures have been accompanied by changes in weather and climate. Many places have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves.

The planet's oceans and glaciers have also experienced some big changes oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. As these and other changes become more pronounced in the coming decades, they will likely present challenges to our society and our environment.

What are climate change and global warming?

View of Earth from space

Global warming refers to the recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth's surface. It is caused mostly by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Global warming is causing climate patterns to change. However, global warming itself represents only one aspect of climate change.

Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among other effects, that occur over several decades or longer.

Learn more about the signs of climate change in the United States.

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Humans are largely responsible for recent climate change

Over the past century, human activities have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The majority of greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels to produce energy, although deforestation, industrial processes, and some agricultural practices also emit gases into the atmosphere.

Emissions at sunsetGreenhouse gases act like a blanket around Earth, trapping energy in the atmosphere and causing it to warm. This phenomenon is called the greenhouse effect and is natural and necessary to support life on Earth. However, the buildup of greenhouse gases can change Earth's climate and result in dangerous effects to human health and welfare and to ecosystems.

The choices we make today will affect the amount of greenhouse gases we put in the atmosphere in the near future and for years to come.

Learn more about the causes of climate change.

Climate change affects everyone

Our lives are connected to the climate. Human societies have adapted to the relatively stable climate we have enjoyed since the last ice age which ended several thousand years ago. A warming climate will bring changes that can affect our water supplies, agriculture, power and transportation systems, the natural environment, and even our own health and safety.

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Take a Quiz

How much you know about the health impacts of climate change? Take our new online quiz and share your score with friends!Climate Change and Human Health quiz

Some changes to the climate are unavoidable. Carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for nearly a century, so Earth will continue to warm in the coming decades. The warmer it gets, the greater the risk for more severe changes to the climate and Earth's system. Although it's difficult to predict the exact impacts of climate change, what's clear is that the climate we are accustomed to is no longer a reliable guide for what to expect in the future.

We can reduce the risks we will face from climate change. By making choices that reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and preparing for the changes that are already underway, we can reduce risks from climate change. Our decisions today will shape the world our children and grandchildren will live in.

Learn more about the impacts of climate change and adapting to change.

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Hands on a globe

We can make a difference

You can take action. You can take steps at home, on the road, and in your office to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the risks associated with climate change. Many of these steps can save you money; some, such as walking or biking to work, can even improve your health! You can also get involved on a local or state level to support energy efficiency, clean energy programs, or other climate programs.Link to EPA’s Household Carbon Footprint Calculator

Calculate your carbon footprint and find ways to reduce your emissions through simple everyday actions.

EPA and other federal agencies are taking action. EPA is working to protect the health and welfare of Americans through common sense measures to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and to help communities prepare for climate change.

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Source: https://www.epa.gov/climatechange/climate-change-basic-information#main-content


Global collaboration on climate change legal toolkit

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Global collaboration on climate change legal toolkit

2 December 2016
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Legal experts from key international organisations, including the Commonwealth Secretariat, are meeting to develop a climate change legal toolkit to help countries carry out the Paris Agreement.

The two-day consultation is taking place between 1 and 2 December at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London. Academics, think tanks and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are exchanging knowledge and pooling resources to explore how to best support the legal needs and priorities of countries for climate mitigation, adaptation and finance.

Partners include the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and UN Environment. Participants include representatives from six United Nations entities and the World Bank. The Paris Agreement was signed by 193 countries and aims to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.


Marking the One Year Anniversary of the Paris Climate Change Agreement Celebration and Reality Check

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Marking the One Year Anniversary of the Paris Climate Change Agreement
Celebration and Reality Check

 Paris Climate Change Agreement

Bonn, Germany, 12 December 2016 – One year after the world adopted the Paris Climate Change Agreement, climate action across governments, business and societies continues to scale new heights. The challenge now is to take this to an even higher scale with a speed and an urgency that reflects the scientific reality.

“2016 was an extraordinary year in many ways. In less than 12 months the Paris climate agreement entered into force and almost weekly, more countries ratify. Meanwhile nations, cities, regions, businesses and investors continue to signal their unwavering support through practical action, shifts in investments and ever more ambitious pledges, “said Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“This urgency and this action needs not only to continue but to go to scale and gather ever more speed over 2017 and the years and decades to come—because current ambition still falls short of what is needed. In 2016 the UN’s World Meteorological Organization announced world-wide average temperatures had risen 1-degree Celsius in 2015 and that concentrations of the key greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, reached past the significant milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere over the entire year, “she added.

Ms Espinosa said achieving the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement will also rest on the speed and urgency of realizing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015.


Marrakech Climate Summit Continues Momentum Towards Low-Carbon Future

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Marrakech Climate Summit Continues Momentum Towards Low-Carbon Future

by The Nature Conservancy / Press Statement

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO | November 18, 2016

Marrakech Climate SummitOver the past two weeks, leaders from around the world reaffirmed their commitment to taking decisive action together on climate change, and to advancing the landmark Paris Agreement. That Agreement, reached last December, established for the first time a strong framework in which all countries agreed to take national action to address the threat of climate change. Throughout this year’s climate conference in Marrakech, known as COP 22, negotiators began the tough work of implementing that agreement, by developing guidance to support countries’ efforts. By the close of COP 22, more than 100 countries had formally joined the Agreement.

The Marrakech conference followed closely other key advances in recent months, such as the speedy entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the recent aviation emissions reduction agreement from Montreal, and the Kigali agreement to reduce heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons used in air conditioning and refrigerators.

The results of the U.S. election of a candidate who has expressed skepticism about climate change occurred during the COP 22, and governments, businesses and civil society, including those in the United States, responded with renewed determination to advance management of the risks presented by climate change and to continue to develop a clean energy, low-carbon future. On November 16, more than 360 global companies and investors stated their continued support for previously agreed limits on global warming and to accelerating efforts to seize the opportunities of moving to a low-carbon economy.


Environmental Justice in Action

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Environmental Justice in Action

Nov 15, 2016

Finding My Place as a Climate Justice Activist

About the Author: Hodan Hassan is a Climate Justice Organizer for Got Green. She gained skills as a political organizer while working on group of college and university campuses as a Washington Bus Fellow.

Got Green4

I was an underemployed college graduate looking for a job when I was invited to be part of the Climate Justice Committee, organized by Puget Sound Sage and Got Green. I had never really thought about climate-related work. I was much more concerned with racism and I wanted to work mostly organizing with black communities. Climate was not my thing and I didn’t see the connection between a warming climate and the immediate challenges facing my community and other communities of color, but I said yes.

Climate Justice Steering CommitteeIn our first committee meeting, I was in a room full of young people of color from all backgrounds. We immediately started talking about climate change: what it is, what it isn’t and what it means to live in the kinds of environments that many people of color live in around our country.

Still, I wasn’t ready to punch my ticket to “climate justice activist land” just yet.

As a black Muslim woman living in the United States, in my mind, there were things that were much more pressing than climate change.  And to be honest, every time I had ever heard the words climate change, I still couldn’t relate.

Then a fellow committee member explained to me how climate threatens our livelihoods, especially as communities of color. I learned that a majority of African Americans live near coal plants and other polluting industries, which hurts their health while contributing to climate change.

This was when I realized that climate justice was an important journey that I wanted to be part of.

Got Green3

Led by young adults and people of color, Got Green is a grassroots organization that promotes movement towards an equitable, green economy as a strategy for fighting poverty and global warming.

I served as a member of the Climate Justice Committee for five months, learning new information every day, like how the environments where we live impact our health and opportunities. I was also growing as an organizer, working with different people on how to engage communities of color in climate work. In June 2015 the opportunity to work for Got Green as their climate justice organizer presented itself.

Climate Justice Steering Committee3Within Got Green I can incorporate all of the passions I care about under the umbrella of climate justice work. I can be a black Muslim woman who is concerned about racial disparities while also working on climate-related issues to prevent displacement of communities of color from things like a lack of preparedness to extreme weather events and inequitable development.

Our People ReportLast year, Got Green launched the Climate Justice Project, a community-based participatory research project surveying individuals and communities about their climate change priorities. This project, contracted by the City of Seattle’s Equity and Environment Initiative, found that only 24 percent of participants thought people of color and low income people are most impacted by climate change. This tells us that the current climate activist narrative is not working. We are not talking about climate change in a way that’s culturally relevant to people of color.

Here at Got Green we are working to change that.

Like with our most recent work as a project partner with El Centro de la Raza. As a result of receiving an Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) Cooperative Agreement from the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, we will be assisting El Centro to improve the environmental health of the Beacon Hill neighborhood through educational outreach, engagement and capacity building.

Climate Justice Steering Committee Mtg1It is projects like these where we start by localizing the impacts and connecting people of color to what’s going on in our communities so that people, like me, can see themselves in climate work.

And it is this work that has taught me that only through an inclusive and diverse movement can we truly hope to ensure all people are protected from a warming and destabilizing climate.

Source: https://blog.epa.gov/blog/category/environmental_justice/


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