Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates. Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the early 20th century are primarily driven by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere, raising Earth’s average surface temperature.
Source: NASA - Global Warming vs Climate Change
Scientists attribute the global warming trend observed since the mid-20th century to the human expansion of the "Greenhouse effect" — warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space.
Certain gases in the atmosphere block heat from escaping. Gases that contribute to the Greenhouse effect include: Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), and Nitrous Oxide (N2O).
Source: NASA - Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data
Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes are breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner.
If the trends in rising GHG level remain unchanged, potential effects may include shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, irreversible changes in major ecosystems, more droughts and heat waves, and stronger, more intense hurricanes.
Source: United Nations - Climate Change
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