Global Climate Change

Global Climate Change


Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. Global climate change has already resulted in a wide range of impacts across every region of the country and many sectors of the economy that are expected to grow in the coming decades.

Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. Global climate change has already resulted in a wide range of impacts across every region of the country and many sectors of the economy that are expected to grow in the coming decades. 

The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), developed by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), is a state-of-the-science synthesis of climate knowledge, impacts, and trends across U.S. regions and sectors to inform decision making and resilience-building activities across the country. It is the most comprehensive and authoritative assessment to date on the state of knowledge of current and future impacts of climate change on society in the United States.

Scientific evidence is clear that our climate is changing.

We know this from:
  1. Direct surface temperature measurements
  2. Changes in rainfall and weather patterns
  3. An increase in the frequency of extreme weather events
  4. Loss of Arctic sea ice
  5. Sea level rise
  6. Melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, and from the NZ Southern Alps
  7. Shifts in the geographic ranges distribution of some plant and animal species
  8. Earlier unfolding of new leaves in spring 
  9. Changes in bird migration patterns.
Many of these changes pose serious risks to human life and property. Exposure to extreme drought, heat, rainfall, and coastal inundation are projected to worsen in many parts of New Zealand and around the world.

Understanding climate change


Earth’s atmosphere is made up of oxygen, a large amount of nitrogen and a small percentage of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane.

Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around the Earth. They trap warmth from the sun and make life on Earth possible. Without them, too much heat would escape and the surface of the planet would freeze. However, increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes the Earth to heat more and the climate to change.

This process is often called global warming, but it is better to think of it as climate change. This is because it is changing other aspects of climate as well as temperature. Changes in weather patterns are also occurring, and the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as heavy rain, heatwaves and droughts, are changing in many regions.

Climate change and the impact of humans

Since the industrial revolution, there has been a marked and growing increase in greenhouse gas producing activities such as industry, agriculture and transportation. These activities are increasing the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. They are causing the Earth to heat up at a rate unprecedented in recent history. This recent warming can only be explained by the influence of humans.

Studies of ice cores tell us that greenhouse gases are at their highest levels in at least 800,000 years. 

The worst effects of climate change can be mitigated if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to net zero over the course of this century.

As the climate warms, it changes the nature of global rainfall, evaporation, snow, stream flow and other factors that affect water supply and quality. Specific impacts include: Warmer water temperatures affect water quality and accelerate water pollution.

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