Fluctuations in the Earth’s climate are normal and have happened throughout history (take the ice ages, for example). However, those changes took place over the span of thousands to millions of years. Currently, climate change is taking place within decades, which is much faster than the historical trend.
What's the difference between global warming and climate change?
The term "global warming" refers to the observation that the Earth is getting hotter with each passing year. Climate change, on the other hand, refers to the long-term changes in weather patterns around the world. Many people assume global warming means milder winters and hotter summers. While this may be true in some cases, it isn’t true for everyone because the Earth’s weather patterns are complex. An overall increase in atmospheric temperature can affect wind and ocean currents that are able to move heat around the world, causing some places to be warmer and others to be colder.
What is causing global warming?
Most scientists believe that one of the major factors contributing to global warming is the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. CO2 is a greenhouse gas (GHG). GHGs function by trapping heat from the sun, similar to how a greenhouse traps heat from the sun to help plants grow. GHGs are present within the normal atmosphere, but are a problem when concentrations are too high.
Atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing since the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s, when machines were invented to do everything from manufacturing to transportation. More sophisticated machines used fossil fuels as an energy source. Our primary source of energy still comes from the burning of fossil fuels, such as natural gas and gasoline for vehicles. New technologies are being used to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, a non-renewable resource, which could help reduce CO2 emissions.
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