To begin with a climate change is a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change fully realized by the mid to late 20th century onwards. Climate change is attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by mining and using fossil fuels.
As we all know, the earth has gone through warm and cool phases in the past, long before humans were around. Forces that contribute to climate change include the sun’s intensity, volcanic eruptions, and changes in naturally occurring greenhouse gas concentrations. But records indicate that today’s climatic warming is occurring much faster than ever before and can’t be explained by natural causes alone. According to NASA, “These natural causes are still in play today, but their influence is too small or they occur too slowly to explain the rapid warming seen in recent decades.”
The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions we humans generate are the leading cause of the earth’s rapidly changing climate. Greenhouse gases play an important role in keeping the planet warm enough to inhabit. But the amount of these gases in our atmosphere has skyrocketed in recent decades. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxides “have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.” Indeed, the atmosphere’s share of carbon dioxide the planet’s chief climate change contributor has risen by 40 percent since preindustrial times.
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) “Agriculture and fisheries are highly dependent on the climate. Increases in temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2) can increase some crop yields in some places.” But to realize these benefits, nutrient levels, soil moisture, water availability, and other conditions must also be met. Changes in the frequency and severity of droughts and floods could pose challenges for farmers and ranchers and threaten food safety. The EPA also states that “Meanwhile, warmer water temperatures are likely to cause the habitat ranges of many fish and shellfish species to shift, which could disrupt ecosystems. Overall, climate change could make it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals, and catch fish in the same ways and same places as we have done in the past. The effects of climate change also need to be considered along with other evolving factors that affect agricultural production, such as changes in farming practices and technology.”
Climate change affects people’s health in other ways, too. Deadly heat waves are becoming more common in parts of the world, creating conditions that endanger even healthy people. These heat waves, while felt universally, primarily threaten people in poverty who are unable to afford air conditioners and protection from water shortages. Rising temperatures are also expanding the ranges of pests like mosquitoes that carry life-threatening diseases, such as malaria, that have historically impacted people living in poverty. The growing health problems associated with climate change are magnified by the lack of health care around the world, especially in poor communities. An estimated 1 in 5 countries have a health care plan for coping with climate change, according to the United Nations . Meanwhile, more than half of the global population doesn’t have reliable access to health care, and nearly 100 million people are pushed into poverty every year because of health issues, according to the World Bank.
Smallholder farmers depend on their crops for both food and income. When droughts, natural disasters, or some other climate change-related event push them off their land, they often sink deeper into poverty. In wealthy countries, insurance acts as a safety net for farmers, allowing them to cope with bad crop yields and recover from disasters in a timely manner. Farmers in low-income countries, meanwhile, often don’t have this support. “Recovery for them means a longer, harder, more dangerous process,” said Eliot Levine, director of the environment technical support Unit at Mercy Corps. The same goes for small-scale fisheries in developing countries who depend on their daily catch to get by. Climate change is heating up the oceans far faster than land environments, destabilizing marine ecosystems, and causing fish populations to migrate. All of this makes it harder for fishers to meet their quotas.
Climate change is the most serious, common, and modern change is this century and it is very important to know its causes and consequences in the real world.