Credit: Ivan Bandura via unsplash

The basics of the environment 

By Claire Thomson

A deeper look into the basic concepts of environmentalism

In recent years, discussions surrounding climate change have escalated from murmurs to urgent calls for action. The impacts of a warming planet are becoming increasingly evident, from rising temperatures to extreme weather events, yet with such a pressing and complex issue, the basics are often misunderstood and many still need to grasp the imperative need for action. So, what exactly is climate change, and why should we care? 

What is climate change?

In simple terms, climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperature, precipitation patterns, and other atmospheric conditions on Earth. While natural factors like volcanic eruptions and variations in solar radiation have influenced the climate throughout history, human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, have accelerated these changes in recent decades. The result is a rapid and unprecedented warming of the planet, commonly referred to as global warming.

Global warming: rising temperatures

One of the most noticeable effects of climate change is the steady rise in global temperatures. According to NASA, the Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by about 1.2 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, with the majority of this warming occurring in the past few decades. This might not sound like much considering the air temperature fluctuates more than that daily, but even small temperature increases can have significant consequences for ecosystems, weather patterns, and human livelihoods.

Extreme weather events

Climate change is intensifying and exacerbating extreme weather events across the globe. From devastating hurricanes and cyclones to severe droughts and heat waves, communities worldwide are experiencing the negative impacts of a changing climate. Warmer ocean temperatures fuel stronger hurricanes, while altered precipitation patterns contribute to more frequent and severe floods and droughts. These events not only pose immediate threats to human lives and infrastructure but also have long-term socioeconomic implications.

Melting ice and rising seas

The warming climate is causing ice caps and glaciers to melt at alarming rates, leading to rising sea levels. Melting ice contributes to sea-level rise, threatening coastal communities and ecosystems. Small island nations and low-lying coastal regions are particularly vulnerable, facing the potential displacement and loss of land. Additionally, the loss of reflective ice surfaces exacerbates warming by absorbing more sunlight, further amplifying the cycle of climate change.

Biodiversity loss

Climate change poses a significant threat to global biodiversity. Rising temperatures, habitat destruction, and changing precipitation patterns disrupt ecosystems and threaten the survival of countless plant and animal species. Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to warming ocean temperatures, leading to mass bleaching events and declines in biodiversity. The loss of biodiversity not only diminishes the beauty and resilience of our planet but also jeopardises essential ecosystem services upon which humans rely.

Human health impacts

Climate change also affects human health in various ways. Heat-related illnesses, made worse by rising temperatures, pose risks to vulnerable populations, including the elderly and individuals with pre-existing health conditions. Changes in precipitation patterns can influence the spread of vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever, while air pollution resulting from fossil fuel combustion contributes to respiratory problems and cardiovascular diseases. Addressing climate change is therefore not only an environmental need but also a public health priority.

Why should we care?

The consequences of climate change are far-reaching and affect every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat, to the air we breathe. Ignoring the problem only amplifies its severity, increasing the likelihood of irreversible damage to ecosystems and communities. By taking decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to renewable energy sources, and adapt to changing climatic conditions, we can mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and build a more sustainable future for generations to come.


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