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10Climate change 101 Climate change is caused largely by the release of carbon dioxide (C02), methane and other gases. When we burn fossil fuels (like coal, natural gas and oil) to make electricity, drive cars, heat and cool our homes, this strengthens the natural phenomenon called the greenhouse effect, which has probable dire consequences. The greenhouse effect is what keeps our planet warm. The amount of C02, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere has increased exponentially in a relatively short amount of time. Before the Indus- trial Revolution there were 280 parts per million (ppm) of C02 in the atmosphere, and recently, we have reached 400 ppm (Source: NOAA, 2013). This increased strength of the greenhouse effect will warm the surface of the Earth by radiating more thermal energy down from above. Or, equivalently, will absorb more of the outgoing radiation from the surface (not directly from the sun), and warm the entire system. The Earth’s temperature has now risen almost 1 degree Fahrenheit, and although that doesn’t seem like a lot, for the Earth it is substantial. One degree can alter the lifecycles of millions of different organisms and humans too. It’s predicted that due to global warming by 2080 almost three billion people may not have access to water and nearly 30% of all species on the planet may face extinction, Why? Because the temperature of the Earth is connected to weather patterns like rain, sun or snow that affect our food supply, our living conditions and our overall quality of life. CLIMATE CHANGE 101 Climate change refers to the observed phenomena of any significant or lasting change in the earth’s weather patterns, temperature rise and extreme climate fluctuation. • Extreme weather events (increased flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, heatwaves and droughts) • Displacement and migration of both human and animal species when regions become uninhabitable from climate change • Species extinction from intolerable living conditions • Reduced food supplies as a result of floods and droughts • Decline in drinking water quantity and quality • Higher risk of infectious disease The effects of climate change are now widespread and are becoming evident with the increase in severe storms and irregular weather. Some impacts include: