What is Climate Change?
Climate is not weather. Climate is the prevailing or general long-term weather conditions for an area, or for the entire planet. Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a particular place and time and is influenced by climate and many local factors.
Climate change refers to changes in our long-term weather patterns and in the environment caused by increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. These gases come from the burning wood, peat and fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) for cars, cooking, heating, generating electricity for homes, commercial and industrial uses, and from natural events like forest fires.
Greenhouse gases trap heat in the earth's atmosphere. Over time, more and more heat is retained, leading to an increase in the earth's average surface temperature - global warming. There is mounting evidence that our climate is changing rapidly and it is getting warmer.
Rapid climate change brings enormous risks and human costs. Rising sea levels, droughts, flooding and extreme weather are believed by many scientists to be the results of global warming. We can't predict all the effects, but it is clear we are vulnerable to climate change.
What are solutions to climate change?
Conservation, increased energy efficiency and investment in renewable energy sources such as solar power are some short-term solutions to help reduce greenhouse gases and help moderate rapid climate change. But greater public awareness and action is needed to solve the problem. To do its share in finding solutions, the Forest Service is helping forests, grasslands and humans mitigate and adapt to the effects of global climate change.
For more information on climate change visit these websites:
AAAS Global Climate Change Resources
EPA Climate Kids Site
IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
NOAA Climate Change and Global Warming
NOAA Climate Change brochure, 2 pages, PDF
U.S Climate Change Science Program
USGS Global Change Science