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The earth’s climate has always been changeable, but this time humans might be partly to blame. Here you will learn what affects the climate and how we might be contributing to the changes scientists are noticing.

Anthropogenic Climate Change

Change is good right? At least that’s what we’ve all been told. If you decided to move to a bright new apartment or just adopted a puppy, then that sort of change might be good. But I’m sure you’ve also had changes that aren’t so good. You know, the kinds of changes that feel like things are skittering out of control.

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Climate change is more like the kind of change that can skitter out of control.Of course, in the history of the world, the climate has changed lots of times. There have been ice ages and warming trends, but most scientists agree we have entered a new period of warming.

They also agree that human activities are causing the changes that are happening to the climate now. When human activities affect nature it’s called anthropogenic.

Causes of Climate Change

It is not ALL our fault.

There are things that affect the climate that have nothing to do with us, like solar activity, volcanic emissions, and natural variations in greenhouse gases (gases that affect how much of the sun’s warmth is kept close and how much goes back out to space). But it’s the increase in greenhouse gases that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agrees is the reason for the increasing degrees over the past several decades. And that increase in greenhouse gases probably is our fault.

Some areas might experience more drought with climate change
Glaciers worldwide are receding as the climate changes
Athabasca glacier, Canada

The changes affect the energy balance of the earth, which, in turn, affects the air temperature, ocean temperature, rainfall, hydrology, polar sea ice, glaciers, and sea level. That can cause a host of problems including flooding, drought, forest fires, changes in the intensity and frequency of storms such as hurricanes, changes to the health of biological systems, and the spread of human diseases. Predicting these changes is tricky business though.

Already the decrease in summer sea ice in the Arctic is happening faster than the models predicted. Climate change is the type of change that, one day, may feel like it’s skittering out of control.

Sea levels are expected to rise as the climate changes
California coast

Lesson Summary

Climate change that is caused by human activities is called anthropogenic climate change.

Scientists believe that the changes we are seeing are caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and agricultural activities. Greenhouse gases that are released through these activities are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons. Also, an increase in pollution particles and dust from industry and agriculture, along with land use changes that affect how much sunlight is reflected back into the atmosphere (albedo effect), are probably affecting the global climate. The types of changes we may be seeing and are more likely to see in the future include temperature changes to the air and ocean, as well as changes in rainfall patterns, hydrology, polar sea ice, glaciers, and sea level.


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