Climate means the average weather pattern of a region over a long period of time. For example, a spring day in a particular place might happen to be rainy and wet, but people know that spring in this region is mainly sunny and warm: although the individual day’s weather is wet, the climate, or usual weather of the area, is dry. Climate change affects these long–term weather patterns. For example, over a span of years winters may gradually become warmer and summers hotter and drier.
Climate changes are caused by global warming, which is an average increase in our planet’s overall temperature. When it is warmer on Earth, the result is changes to rain patterns and sea levels, with big effects on wildlife and human beings. When scientists talk about climate change, they generally mean global warming caused by the greenhouse effect.The glass windows of a greenhouse let sunlight through but keep heat from escaping. As a result, it becomes very warm inside and plants can grow in regions that would normally be too cold for them. The Earth is surrounded by its atmosphere. This atmosphere, part of which is made up of the air we breathe, is full of different gases. Some of these, such as carbon dioxide, behave just like glass panel windows in a greenhouse, preventing heat from escaping back into space; that’s why we call them greenhouse gases. Sunlight enters the atmosphere, passing through the layer of greenhouse gases. Next, the energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the Earth’s waters, land and living creatures. Later, this energy gradually goes back into the atmosphere, and the higher the amount of greenhouse gasses there, the more heat that is trapped. This is called the greenhouse effect.
Greenhouse gasses occur naturally, and in the correct proportions are very beneficial to the Earth. They increase the temperature of our planet, and without them it would be to cold for life to survive here. When the greenhouse effect becomes too strong, however, the temperature on Earth raises too quickly and too high. Even very small changes in temperature can seriously affect lives of people, animals and plants; because of these sudden temperature rises, there will be more extreme weather phenomena like hurricanes, floods, heat waves, droughts and storms, and sea levels will rise as the polar ice caps melt. The beginnings and endings of the seasons will change, and this will heavily affect all life on Earth.
One of the ways to study the climate changes that are taking place is by observing the arrival dates of migratory birds: that is precisely the idea behind the Spring Alive Project! Because of climate change, birds return earlier from their wintering sites and lay their eggs sooner. This means that some of them can have problems finding food, for example, insects or fruits, as these may not have appeared yet. They may also find that their usual habitats are no longer suitable because they have become too wet, to dry or too warm, so they may be forced to move instead to new areas.
What can you do to reduce the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and so help to slow down climate change? Try to:
save energy at home and at school (switch off the light when you leave a room, don’t leave electronic devices on standby, etc.); much of this energy is produced by burning fuels that produce greenhouse gasses,
use public transport and bicycles instead of cars; petrol and diesel produce a lot of greenhouse gasses when burned in the engines,
plant trees, which will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,
separate and recycle waste, which reduces the amount of energy it takes to produce new products,
buy energy-saving products,
inform others about climate change and how they can help to prevent its effects from increasing.