The climate is the average weather conditions over a period of time. A changing climate or climate change is a change in global or regional climate change patterns, this can be in the form of changing temperatures, rainfall, wind, etc.
Our climate has changed many times, and has ranged from ice ages to periods of high temperatures leading to drought conditions. These can be the result of a number of natural causes, including slow changes in the Earth’s orbit of the sun, which can change the sun’s intensity, volcanic eruptions, and natural processes in the climate system.
Unlike previous periods, our current climate is changing due to human activities that significantly contribute to climate change through emissions of greenhouse gasses and pollutants. This has led to, for example, an increase in both air and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, melting ice caps, increased rainfall and flooding.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that:
“Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions”
Examples of human activities contributing to climate change include:
- Carbon dioxide emissions through burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gas and peat.
- Methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture and transport.
- Emissions through land-use changes such as deforestation and urbanisation.
Mitigation and Adaptation
In order to tackle climate change, two approaches are required to tackle climate change:
Climate mitigation consists of actions that will reduce current and future GHG emissions; examples of these include reductions in energy use, switching to renewable energy sources and carbon sinks.
Climate adaptation consists of actions that will reduce the impacts that are already happening now from our changing climate and those that are projected to happen in the future. These include flood protection, reduced impact of rising sea levels, increased resilience of infrastructure, and emergency response planning.
The approaches are interconnected and should be planned together.