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Friday, August 1, 2008

Climate Change Basics

by Mary Campbell, Pinellas County Extension Director, Urban Sustainability

Climate change and global warming are both used as terms to describe the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on our environment. They are both used to describe the environmental changes due to the build up of gasses that trap heat and warm the Earth. These gases are primarily from the burning of fossil fuels that give off carbon dioxide and other gases. Climate change has been described as both a natural and unnatural process. There is the natural variation in the Earth’s global or regional climates over time. Natural global climate change over time has occurred in response to fluctuations in the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth, changing ocean currents, formation or loss of ice sheets and many other causes.

Global warming refers to an increase in the average global temperature of the entire Earth’s atmosphere. Regional and seasonal variations can occur within that average and so we may experience cooling in local areas. Scientists now think that it is very likely (90% probability) that humans are contributing to global warming. Some of the impacts of global warming include sea level rise, droughts, floods and more severe weather events. As the science on climate change gets more accurate, we will be able to better predict the impacts and use technology to reduce those impacts.

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in the global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.” Fourth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


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