Climate Change and Global Warming: An Objective Overview

Climate Change

Climate change refers to long-term fluctuations in climate patterns that can disrupt the delicate balance of natural ecosystems. While variations are expected in climate patterns as a general rule, when the changes take place over an extended period and affect the natural environment as a result, climate change becomes a serious cause for concern. Today, many agencies and organizations worldwide are committed to monitoring climate change and finding solutions for potential consequences that may result as weather patterns change on a permanent basis.

Climate Change and Global Warming

Global warming and climate change are terms often used interchangeably, but this does not accurately describe the two very different processes. Global warming specifically refers to an increase in global temperatures, which can lead to climate change. Global warming also takes place on a global scale, which means indications of global warming can be seen throughout the world.

On the other hand, climate change may refer to a wider range of fluctuations, which can take place locally or globally. Because climate change may look different, depending on the location, it can impact specific regions in various ways. For example, climate change might be indicated through variations in rainfall amounts, temperatures or sea level.

Scientists are convinced that global warming is leading to significant climate change. Over the past century, the average temperature of the earth has increased by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. It is predicted that the temperature will rise another two to 11 degrees over the next 100 years. While this increase may not seem large on the surface, it can have a profound impact on the earth overall, from melting ice caps to rising sea levels.

Indications of Climate Change

In monitoring climate change, scientists have a number of indicators at their disposal, including the following:

  • Global Surface Temperature – According to scientific research that has been conducted for decades, the surface temperature of the earth has been steadily increasing since 1880, when the first data was recorded.
  • Carbon Dioxide Concentration – Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere. Scientists have found that carbon dioxide levels have been steadily increasing in recent years.
  • Sea Level – Rising sea levels recorded in recent years can be attributed to melting land ice, which may indicate global warming. The levels have been on a steady incline since 1870, but the increase has picked up somewhat over the past two decades.
  • Arctic Sea Ice – Ice in the Arctic is decreasing at a steady pace, with the level in September, 2010, the third lowest on record.
  • Land Ice – Land ice in frigid regions like Greenland and Antarctica are also declining, losing mass at around 24 cubic miles each year for the past decade.

Consequences of Climate Change

If climate change continues at the rate it appears to be tracking currently, serious consequences could begin to occur across the globe. Early effects, which have already been recorded, include rising sea levels and increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, due to increases in global temperatures. Other potential effects might include extreme weather conditions, ranging from severe droughts to significant flooding. Natural ecosystems, such as coral reefs, forests, wetlands and grasslands could be threatened. This in turn threatens all of the animals and creatures that depend on those ecosystems for survival.

The hardest hit would be poor, developing countries that already are in a struggle for survival. Climate change could directly impact their ability to grow food and find clean, safe water. Disease could begin to run rampant, and starvation would increase on a global scale. Because of the extreme risks to poor countries, many organizations are committed to monitoring climate change and finding solutions that can help these countries survive before it is too late.

The Fight Against Climate Change

Because climate change has global implications, organizations worldwide are working together to protect the environment and find answers for the potential effects. Agencies and organizations in the United States, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA are partnering with global groups like the World Bank, United Nations and Greenpeace to study climate change and find ways to change its path. While solutions are difficult, many organizations working together are sharing a hope that solutions will be found before climate change becomes a deadly force to be reckoned with.

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