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What Is Climate Change: Simple Definition

Jane Marsh - March 22, 2021

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Whether you realize it or not, the Earth’s climate is changing. Climate change has been occurring for many years now, but between various news channels, social media and scientists, it can be challenging to pinpoint an exact, simple definition. With that being said, climate change has undoubtedly been a topic of debate among politicians, making its definition all the more confusing. 

The rising temperatures and melting icebergs are hot topics among climate change experts, but there’s much more to climate change than that. Impacts of climate change are felt throughout the world. Becoming knowledgeable about the issue will allow you to inform others about climate change and what they can do to reduce its impact. 

After reading this article, you will have a better understanding of this global problem.  

A Simple Definition

You’ve heard the words plenty of times, but exactly what is climate change? Just like the weather changes, the climate as a whole changes, too. To put it simply, climate change is an alteration in the average weather conditions, like rainfall or temperature, in a specific region over time. On a global scale, climate change refers to long-term changes throughout the Earth.

Climate change has been going on for a long time, but with recent contributions to climate change, the rate has sped up exponentially. Some of the indicators of climate change include:

  • Melting glaciers
  • Rising sea levels
  • Ice melting faster in colder regions of the planet
  • Alterations in the blooming times of vegetation
  • Changes in birthing times of animals
  • Global temperature rise
  • Warmer oceans
  • Ocean acidification
  • Extreme climate events

These are just some of the many factors that make it noticeable climate change is real and that it’s a real problem that needs to be addressed and taken seriously. 

In the past 100 years alone, the Earth’s temperature has risen by about 2-degrees Fahrenheit, which is a much faster rate than ever before. Without any change from humans, this event is expected to continue and make conditions on Earth even worse. 

Contributors of Climate Change

Many factors, both natural and unnatural, have contributed to climate change. Human activity, though, is most likely the leading cause of the Earth’s rising temperatures over the past century. These activities create greenhouse gases, which cause the Earth to warm.

Here are some of the human activities that have contributed to climate change: 

  • Use of Fossil Fuels: Humans’ use of fossil fuels is a significant force behind climate change. When things like coal, oil and natural gas are burned, they release carbon dioxide and toxins into the atmosphere that get trapped and cause temperatures to rise. 
  • Deforestation: A lack of trees means there is a lack of items able to absorb carbon dioxide. All of the excess carbon dioxide also leaks into the atmosphere, which is a leading cause of climate change. 
  • Agriculture: Industrial agriculture and a need to meet food needs for a growing population have contributed to climate change. These traditional methods have contributed significantly to the changing climate between livestock releasing methane and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

While humans can be partially responsible for climate change, other, more natural factors add to climate change as well, such as: 

  • Volcanic Eruptions: When volcanoes erupt, they cause short-term cooling. The ash blocks out sunlight, causing a cooling effect. Additionally, gases are released into the atmosphere, which may slightly contribute to climate change.
  • Earth Orbital Fluctuations: Any sort of shift in Earth’s orbit around the sun will cause climates to change. This is what scientists believed to cause the various ice ages thousands of years ago. These are very gradual changes, though, so you likely won’t notice this in your lifetime.
  • Solar Variations: The sun’s energy is pretty constant, but just like with the orbit, over time, slight changes can cause climate change. Since the sun is where we get most of our energy, it makes sense that any changes in the energy pattern would cause changes in the climate.

Each of these factors combines to cause climate change. 

Impacts of Climate Change

As a result of climate change, the Earth’s environment, humans, society and the economy have felt the detrimental effects. More droughts are occurring, which has left people without a source of clean drinking water. In other areas, heavier rainfalls occur, which causes flooding.

The world’s food supply depends upon the climate as well. If the weather conditions aren’t right, food cannot grow, leaving thousands of people hungry. The food sector is a major part of the economy, so the economy suffers when food production is low.

Changes in the environment lead to more significant risks of human health problems. Ecosystems are also affected. Animals may have to migrate to cooler areas or to find food and water. Plants cannot survive when the temperatures are too hot and when there is little to no rain. These can lead to extinctions. 

Be Part of the Fight Against Climate Change

Fortunately, there are ways to can help the Earth in the fight against climate change. You can start by making more eco-friendly choices in your daily life. Choose to walk or bike to work instead of driving every day. Conserve water, and unplug devices when you’re not using them. Additionally, start a garden so you don’t have to rely on imported fruits and vegetables. 

These small changes make a big difference for the environment around you. The best thing you can do is further educate yourself and people you know about climate change. Join the fight today.

About the author

Jane Marsh

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.