How does it happen?
- Life on Earth is possible because of the warmth of the sun. While some of this incoming solar radiation bounces back into space, a small portion of it is trapped by the delicate balance of gases that make up our atmosphere. Without this layer of insulation, Earth would simply be another frozen rock hurtling through space. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important gas in this layer of insulation.
- Carbon is stored all over the planet — in plants, soil, the ocean, and even us. We release it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide through activities such as burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and cutting down trees. As a result, today’s atmosphere contains 42 per cent more carbon dioxide than it did before the industrial era.
- We have released so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that our planet’s atmosphere is now like a thick, heat-trapping blanket. By disrupting the atmospheric balance that keeps the climate stable, we are now seeing extreme effects around the globe. It’s like a thermostat that’s gone haywire — it just doesn’t work the way it should. The result: the climate changes, and it gets warmer. Extreme weather events also become more common.
- Global warming has already begun. Since 1900, the global average temperature has risen by 0.7 degrees Celsius, and the northern hemisphere is substantially warmer than at any point during the past 1,000 years.
Who keeps tab on climate change?
(David Suzuki Foundation)