Climate Change

What is it?

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Climate change is the long-lasting alteration of the global climate. While the process may occur naturally, the current changes are chiefly due to human activity. The average global temperature increased by 0.74°C in the past 100 years (essentially in the years following the industrial revolution). The northern hemisphere is now considerably warmer than in any other period in the last millennium. In addition, eleven of the past twelve years (1995-2006) posted the highest temperatures recorded since 1850.

What causes climate change?

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Scientists have advanced that the main cause of climate change, the greenhouse effect, is a natural phenomenon that is accelerated by human activity. The greenhouse gases (GHGs) released into the atmosphere increase the effect’s potential to capture heat (greenhouse effect), leading to higher global temperatures. Today, the atmosphere contains 32% more carbon dioxide (CO2)—one of the major GHGs—than it did at the start of the industrial age. This is largely attributable to the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. Deforestation and intensive modern agricultural methods also contribute to the problem.

What are greenhouse gas emissions?

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Greenhouse gases (GHG) are atmospheric gases that have the ability to trap the sun’s heat and warm the surface of the earth. The presence of a certain amount of these gases make the earth habitable, since it would otherwise be covered in ice. However, human activity has dramatically increased the concentration of certain greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, by releasing additional carbon that was previously stored in the ground as coal or unrefined oil.
The result is global warming. The Kyoto Protocol attempts to avert harmful climate change by creating a framework for the international regulation of the six most important greenhouse gases resulting from human activity: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons, (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride.

What are the effects?

Even a small increase in the earth’s average global temperature (0.74°C) has already had significant impacts.