Climate change is change in average weather over time and over a region. Climate change includes changes in temperature, wind and ocean patterns and precipitation. In recent usage, especially in the context of environmental policy, the term “climate change” often refers to changes which are caused by human activitiy.
Certain gases that are naturally present in the atmosphere help our planet maintain its comfortably warm environment: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapour. However, in the 120 years since industrialization we have been supplementing this natural “greenhouse effect.” By burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests which absorb CO2, we have been dramatically increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases while adding new ones such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The results are rising global temperatures and ocean levels and an increase in extreme weather events, such as intense tropical storms, floods and droughts.
|What are the worldwide implications?
• The average global temperature will rise 1.7 to 4.0 degrees Celsius by the year 2100 if current emission trends continue, according to the International Panel on Climate Change.
• The ocean is predicted to rise 13-94 cm this century, swamping several ocean states and threatening coastal and delta areas.
• Weather patterns will shift and extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, tornados, floods and droughts will become more common, causing food shortages, destroying buildings and municipal infrastructure, and threatening human lives.
• Malaria and other insect-borne diseases will spread, respiratory problems will become more common, and thousands more people will die annually from heat.
• Local ecosystems will change, threatening animal populations.
• If air pollution were halted instantly, it would take an estimated 200 years for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to return to pre-industrial levels.
• In the United States alone, medical researchers estimate that some 64,000 people each year die from cardiopulmonary disease as a result of breathing particulates. In sub-Saharan Africa, the toll is between 300,000 and 500,000deaths per year.
Transportation Fast Facts
• Every litre of gasoline fuel produces almost 2.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide. The voluntary fuel efficiency standard for passenger cars is 8.6;, for a sport utility vehicle (SUV) it’s 11.4 litres/100km.
• From 1990 to 1996, use of public transit dropped 13%, while the number of passenger cars and trucks on the road increased 9%. High density and mixed-use developments reduce the need for cars.
• On average, food on supermarket shelves in North America has travelled 2,000 miles from where it was produced!
Energy Fast Facts
• Switching your furnace from oil to natural gas will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.
• Air leakage accounts for up to 40% of household heat loss.
• Replacing an incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent saves 125 kg of carbon dioxide over the bulb’s lifetime.
• It takes 2/3 less energy to make a recycled aluminum can than it does to make it from virgin materials, and 50% less energy to make recycled paper and plastic.
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