Climate Change has become a bit of a buzzword in today's media. In the 1980's and 1990's, we often heard reporters and scientists refer to "Global Warming", implying that our planet was getting warmer. That seems fairly obvious, and is an accurate description of what seems to be happening. However, warming may only be a catalyst for a change in the overall climate of our planet. Thus, the term "Climate Change" was born. Rather than a sweltering sauna of a planet, there may be distinct shifts and alterations in various climates around the world.
Climate change is a scary thought. To think that our planet may be in the beginnings of a radical shift in weather patterns that may be irreversible is frightening. However, the key to understanding and preparing for any event is to get an idea of what is the potential cause.
The scientific community tends to focus on greenhouse gases as the driving force in climate change. An incomplete list of greenhouse gases would be: water vapor, methane gas, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. The two getting the most press are methane gas and carbon dioxide. Methane is found naturally as it is excreted from farm animals and their waste, as well as existing in large deposits in permafrost and other sources. Carbon dioxide is by and large man made, being emitted from cars, boats, engines etc. Nearly all energy expenditure that is dependent on the burning of f="/Fos sil Fuels">fossil fuels such as coal and oil, results in the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
As atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases continue to rise, they function to trap the heat and energy coming from the sun. As an important side note, there is a school of thought that solar variations are playing a large part in climate change on earth. In reality, it is likely that there is at least some combination of solar variations and greenhouse gases. The important factor though, is that greenhouse gas emissions are an issue we have at least some control over. We have no control over what the sun does, but we have a choice as to what car we drive, how often and far we drive it etc.
Now that we have a passing understanding of what the two major greenhouse gases are, and what some potential sources for them are, we can move into potential effects of climate change.
If you are living in a cold environment, the prospects of a warmer climate sound appealing. Unfortunately, whatever benefits may be derived from a slightly warmer climate, would likely be offset. Rising seas due to glacial melting, disruptions to ocean currents, potential long term droughts and the impact on wildlife, wilderness, and human populations are all real possibilities as both short and long term effects of climate change. The good news is that we can be prepared, and if enough people begin to take action, including governments, we can hopefully slow down if not stop climate change as we currently understand it.
It is a tall order, but the steps necessary to begin countering climate change start with the individual. Often, people look to their governments to take action. However, governments tend to have a short-sighted outlook considering they must answer to the populace for their decisions. Each person must be conscious of their ecological and environmental "footprint" that they are leaving. It may not be too late to have an impact and leave a better world to the next generation.