“Climate change” refers to long-term changes in the average climate, such as changes in average temperatures.
There is widespread agreement among the worlds’ leading scientists that:
* Climate change is underway
* The changes are occurring ever-more rapidly
* Human activities, most importantly the burning of fossil fuels, are the primary cause of the climate change we are experiencing now.
These human activities have increased the amount of "greenhouse gases" in the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. This in turn is causing a rapid rise in global temperatures and altering the climate.
Climate change is already causing large, measurable impacts on the entire planet.
For example, there is already evidence of:
* Rising temperatures
* Shrinking glaciers and ice sheets
* Increasingly violent storms
* Altered weather patterns
These changes have been extremely rapid and are already producing profound challenges worldwide.
Moreover, unless we act immediately to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, climate change will continue to intensify long into the future.
The range of likely future effects of climate change includes:
* Continued increases in average global temperatures
* Rising sea levels
* Increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events
* Widespread plant and animal extinctions
* Impacts to human health
* Threatened water supplies
* Economic disruptions
Meeting the challenge posed by climate change will require action at multiple levels. National governments around the world must work together to craft comprehensive international climate agreements and national policies. State and local governments must examine what can be done in their respective areas of responsibility. Most importantly, each of us must take steps to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and thereby our impact on the climate.
THE CLIMATE SYSTEM
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