Climate change is a term that you will often hear bandied about in the news and in political debates. Many people who have their hands full looking after their kids and taking care of their homes are not well informed as to what climate change means, however. What is climate change? How is the climate changing? Why is it changing? What does it mean for our future? Can anything be done? These are questions we can answer for you.
Climate change is the more accurate term for what most people know as global warming. It means that the global average temperature is increasing, but that doesn't always mean the temperature outside your home will be hotter than you expected. Because the earth has a complex and interconnected weather system, a hotter average temperature means in some regions the weather is surprisingly cold while in others it might be surprisingly dry or hot or rainy.
The reason the weather patterns we have all become used to are changing is because of the increased level of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane, most importantly) in the atmosphere. These gases trap extra heat from the sun. The more gases there are, the more heat is trapped. It is human activities such as driving a vehicle, manufacturing, cutting down trees, and generating electricity with coal and oil that is releasing these gases.
If these gases continue to build up, in the next few decades we will start to see a melting of the Arctic permafrost, which will release even more gases. At this point there will be nothing we can do to prevent huge swaths of the planet from gradually turning to desert, including much of the USA, Australia, and Southern Europe. Some people do will be okay for longer, but flooding, wildfires, droughts, and powerful storms, and refugees will make getting food a challenge for everyone.
The good news is that we can stop climate change before it gets that bad. By reducing the amount of gasoline and oil we burn, choosing hybrid or electric vehicles, buying green products, planting trees, and forcing governments to agree to greenhouse gas reduction goals, we can turn things around. It will also help to install solar or wind energy in your home or install a food garden in your yard to reduce your dependence on food imports.