How can we protect and restore our climate, to create a healthy planet for all life and all of humanity?
What is the simple definition of climate change?
Basically, climate change refers to significant shifts in Earth's long-term weather patterns (either warming up or cooling down). For example, our planet has experienced several ice ages. The climate crisis we’re facing today has been caused by rapid warming.
Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil for energy spews out carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the Earth's atmosphere. For most of our planet's long history, carbon has gone through its cycle in the environment and the atmosphere at a steady rate. There is now far more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the ocean, than these natural systems can handle and cycle back through.
What are some impacts of climate change?
Around the world, we're already experiencing more extreme weather conditions: longer, hotter heat waves; heavier rainfall; frequent, severe droughts; persistent wildfires; and more violent hurricanes.
Rising temperatures also affect many regions that grow food. When certain regions become hotter than their average temperature, many crops can no longer survive there, which often displaces the farmers whose livelihoods depend on crop cultivation.
Sea levels are also rising. Polar ice caps and glacier are melting at an alarming rate due to the Earth's warming. Normally, the Earth's ice acts as a natural defense mechanism against warming, since the white color of the ice reflects the rays of the sun. Darker surfaces, like younger ice and ocean water, absorb more heat. So rising ocean temperatures are melting the adjacent ice, in a vicious cycle.
The Artice Ice Project is working to restore the ice in the Arctic by using an organic substance, that is white, as a coating on the ice to help build its capacity to stay frozen.
What are the main factors affecting how the climate is changing?
Climate change is happening globally, but it looks different depending on where you are. There are six main factors that affect this, and you can remember them using this handy acronym: LOWERN.
L is for Latitude
The closer you are to the latitude line of the equator, the hotter the region is. Temperatures become cooler as you move away from the equator toward the North and South Poles. There, the curvature of the Earth’s surface spreads the sun’s energy out over larger areas.
O is for Ocean Currents
Ocean waters travel in predictable paths called ocean currents. Some ocean currents are warm and others are cold. The temperature of an ocean current affects the temperature of the air that passes over it: warm ocean currents raise the temperature of nearby land, while cold currents lower the land's temperature.
W is for Wind (& Air Masse)
Wind is created by differences in air pressure in the atmosphere (winds move from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure). Low-pressure systems are the outcome of warm air rising; associated with condensation (the forming of clouds) and precipitation or rain. High-pressure systems are formed by cool air sinking.
An air mass is a large volume of air that drifts over an area of land and brings with it the weather conditions of the area the air mass formed over. Air masses are characterized based on their temperature and moisture content.
E is for Elevation
A region's average height (or altitude) above the Earth’s surface is its elevation. In general, the higher you go up, the colder that area's micro-climate is.
R is for Relief Precipitation
Relief precipitation happens when air condenses as it rises up a mountainside. The side of the mountain that's getting wind gets a lot of relief precipitation, while the other side receives little, if any. The likelihood of a region experiencing relief precipitation depends on the direction of wind currents and the difference in elevation of that region in comparison to the elevation and positioning of nearby areas.
N is for Nearness to Water
Any area near any large body of water such as the ocean or a large lake experiences a change in their climate as a result of their proximity to that body of water. Because bodies of water are a source of moisture, winds are able to carry that moisture over nearby land, creating a moderating effect on climate.
Bodies of water can also affect locations seasonally. In the summer, bodies of water often remain cooler than the surrounding land. Wind that blows over the surface of the water creates a cooling effect for nearby land. In the winter, bodies of water retain their heat and are often warmer than surrounding areas of land. When winds blow over the surface of the water, the nearby land is warmed.