- BBC News World
Global temperatures are rising due to human activity and climate change now threatens all aspects of our lives.
If this increase is not controlled, humans and nature will experience a warming catastrophic, with increasingly severe droughts, a greater rise in sea level and the massive extinction of species.
We face a great challenge, but there are possible solutions.
What is climate change?
Climate is the average weather in a place for many years. Climate change is a change in those average conditions.
The rapid climate change we are seeing now is caused by humans, who we use oil, gas and coal for their homes, factories and transportation.
When these fossil fuels are burned, they release greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2). These gases trap the sun’s heat and cause the planet’s temperature to rise.
The world is now roughly 1.2 ° C warmer than in the 19th century, and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 50%.
The rise in temperature must slow if we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, scientists say. They say global warming should be kept in 1.5 ° C for 2100.
However, unless immediate action is taken, the planet could still warm by more than 2 ° C by the end of this century.
And if nothing is done, scientists believe that global warming could exceed 4 ° C, causing unprecedented heat waves, causing millions of people to lose their homes to rising sea levels, generating severe droughts and an irreversible loss of biodiversity.
What is the impact of climate change?
Extreme weather events, such as heat waves, storms and droughts, are already more intense and threatening lives and livelihoods.
With further warming, some regions could become uninhabitableas farmland turns into desert.
In other regions, the opposite is happening, with extreme rains causing historic flooding, as seen recently in China, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The inhabitants of the poorest countries will suffer the most, since they do not have the money to adapt to climate change. Many farms in developing nations already have to endure extremely hot climates and this will only get worse.
Our oceans and their habitats are also threatened. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, for example, has already lost half of its corals since 1995 due to warmer seas caused by climate change.
Wildfires are becoming more frequent as climate change increases the risk of hot and dry weather conditions.
And as frozen soil melts in places like Siberia, greenhouse gases trapped for centuries will be released into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.
Lastly, in a warmer world, animals will have a harder time finding the food and water they need. For example, polar bears could die as the ice they depend on melts, and elephants will have a hard time finding the 150-300 liters of water a day they need to survive.
Scientists have calculated that at least 550 species could be lost this century, and the number will increase if no action is taken.
How will different parts of the world be affected?
Climate change has different effects in different areas of the world.
Some places will get hotter than others, some will receive more rain, while others will face more droughts.
In the link below you can see in detail how Latin America will be affected.
What are governments doing?
Countries agree that climate change can only be addressed by working together, and in a landmark agreement signed in Paris in 2015 pledged to make efforts to keep global warming in 1,5° C.
The UK is organizing a summit of world leaders, called COP26, in November, where countries will establish their carbon reduction plans for 2030.
Many nations have committed to reaching net zero by 2050, which means reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and balancing the remaining ones by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.
Experts agree that this can be done, but it will require big changes from governments, businesses and individuals.
What pwe can do on an individual level?
Big changes must come from governments and businesses, but scientists say that some small changes in our lives can limit our impact on the climate:
- Travel less by plane
- Do not use a car or use an electric one
- Buy energy efficient products, such as washing machines, when we have to replace them
- Change the heating system from gas to electric
- Using insulating materials to keep the heat or cold in the home
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.