Climate Change Basics

What is Climate Change?

Weather: the temperature, wind, and precipitation in a given area at a given time

Climate: average weather over long periods of time (typically over 30 years)

So what is Climate Change? Climate Change is when average weather rises or falls. The temperature change can be very minuscule, but still have a large impact on the Earth.

Global Warming

Climate has fluctuated over Earth's 4.6 billion year history, but recently it has been argued by climatologist that human activities are causing global temperatures to rise exponentially. Human activities over the past 150 years, since the industrial revolution, have been linked to rising Carbon Dioxide levels. 

YouTube Video by National Geographic, (2007) explains Global Warming, its contributing factors such as the Greenhouse Effect, and projected outcomes.

Background: United Nation's Position on Climate Change

The 1992 UN Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was an unprecedented Conference in respect to climate change.  One of the main goals of this two week Summit was to raise awareness on global temperature rises due to burning of fossil fuels. In addition, the conference was to persuade countries to use alternate energy sources, in order to lower Greenhouse Gas emission (GHG) contributing to Global Warming. Biodiversity and Forest Management were also large issues at the Conference. But perhaps the most important outcome of the Summit was the development of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (United Nations, 1997) The UNFCCC sponsored the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 by many nations around the world, which called for a reduction of GHG by 5% in CO2 emissions each year between 2005 and 2012 (UNFCCC, 2001). As a result, major industries of such countries have been forced to lower their high emission rates. Some of the more profitable companies can afford to upgrade their factories to lower emissions by more than 5%, and therefore can trade their "carbon credits" through an open market to other industries that cannot afford upgrades. More recently, the idea of carbon offsets came about, which involves funding a project whose main purpose is to counterbalance greenhouse gas emissions.