Climate Change 101

1) What is the climate system and what are the forces that drive it?
The climate system consists of five major components: land, water and ice on the surface of the earth, the atmosphere that overlies and radiation from the sun that provides energy. The climate system continues to evolve over time, influenced by: its own internal dynamics, external forcings such as volcanic eruptions, solar variations, and human-induced forcing such as fossil fuel burning and land use change. The interaction between the five components and the forcings are what make up the climate system.

2) What is climate change?
This is any change in climate over time, whether resulting from natural causes or from human activity. These changes typically persist for decades or longer, and may affect either the mean state of the climate or its variability. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) draws a distinction between climate change attributable to human activities, and climate variability attributable to natural causes.

3) What is natural variability?
This is change due to natural causes. The changes occur naturally and are not because of human influence. Example, a volcanic eruption.

4) Greenhouse gases: the basics
A greenhouse gas is a gas in the Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs and reflects infrared radiation in all directions including downward to the Earth’s surface thus warming the lower atmosphere. These gases include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, ozone, and water vapor.

5) What are the human effects on climate?
Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth's climate. There has been an increase in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases due to human activities such as burning of fossil fuels, deforestation (clearing of forests to accommodate human settlements), and agriculture where the trees are cut down and burned releasing most of the carbon stored in vegetation immediately into the atmosphere. These gases are damaging to the earths climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth's history; however scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century.

6) Consequences of climate change.
The earth is getting warmer and warmer and this is causing glaciers and icecaps around the globe to melt thus increasing sea levels. The change in climate brings about extreme weather events include droughts, heat waves, heavy rainfall, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Extreme weather events have the potential to take lives and cause a great deal of damage which can carry heavy economic costs. As the Earth’s human population continues to grow over the coming century, many of these effects will become more dramatic. As humans stretch the planet’s resource base as far as it will go, we are also likely to find that we have become more vulnerable to some of the climate effects we have created.

7) Who will be affected by climate change?
In one way or another every country will be affected negatively by climate change. People living in Low economically developed countries will be at high risk because most of them will not be able to afford to relocate when extreme weather hits their area. Places such as Iceland will become extremely cold, that people will no longer be able to live there. Hot countries like Sudan will have longer and hotter summers causing droughts and heat waves. People in tropical countries will experience extreme rainfall which will cause floods. In its Fourth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes migration and displacement as being likely key impacts of climate change due to changing patterns of extreme weather and climate events.

8) Who’s to blame for climate change?
Developed countries have played a huge role in climate change. They have a high percentage of greenhouse emissions and have been a part of the fossil fuel pollution expansion. Over the course of the 20th century China accounted for 7% of the world's CO2 emissions. In contrast United States of America which accounted for 30%.

9) Can climate change be reversed?
It will take a worldwide effort in order to combat climate change. Scientists consider even the targets set by the Kyoto Protocol (the international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions) inadequate compared to the urgency of the problem. Enhanced national and international research and other efforts are needed to support climate related policy decisions. These include fundamental climate research, improved observations and modeling, increased computational capability, and very importantly, education of the next generation on climate change. "Science provides society with information useful in dealing with natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and drought, which improves our ability to predict and prepare for their adverse effects.

10) What can be done to save our planet?
International agencies, some governments, researchers and many campaigning organizations need to drastically reduce the levels of CO2 released into the atmosphere- a process of mitigation and improve land management practices. The global climate is changing and human activities are contributing to that change. Scientific research is required to improve our ability to predict climate change and its impacts on countries and regions around the globe. It is important to provide a basis for mitigating the harmful effects of global climate change. Technological advancement (e.g., removing carbon from the atmosphere) and finding ways for communities to adapt and become resilient to extreme events.