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Climate change

Climate tells us about the long term weather patterns. Climate can change naturally but recent changes in climate have happened very fast. There are now more greenhouse gases in the air because of people burning fossil fuels.

What is climate change?

Climate change is the change in weather patterns that we can see on earth over a long time e.g. hundreds to millions of years. Climate can change naturally because of changes in:

How is weather different from climate?

Changes caused by people

People have caused recent changes in climate by burning oil, gas and coal and by removing forest and farming. This has caused the levels of greenhouse gases in the air to grow. Greenhouse gases cause global warming by stopping heat from escaping back into space.

How are greenhouse gases measured?

What are greenhouse gases?

Greenhouse gases are those that help cause the ‘greenhouse effect’. The most common greenhouse gases are:

What is the ‘greenhouse effect’?

The ‘greenhouse effect’ is what happens when the sun’s heat is trapped by greenhouse gases (in the way sun is trapped by glass in a glass house). This causes higher temperatures on Earth. One of the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, has increased very quickly since the beginning of the industrial revolution in 1750. This is when people started burning more fossil fuels (such as coal and oil). This increase in carbon dioxide can be seen on the graph below:

Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations

Climate change is a change in long term weather patterns caused by more heat being trapped by greenhouse gases in the air. Image: LEARNZ.


This diagram shows how greenhouse gases stop heat from escaping back into space and cause climate change. Image: Public Domain. 


Cars need fossil fuels to run and these emit greenhouse gases. How could you reduce the amount of greenhouse gas you are responsible for emitting. 


This diagram shows ten indicators for a warming world. How many of these indicators can be seen in New Zealand and in Antarctica? Image: Public domain.

Why is 'climate change' a better description than 'global warming' when describing future impacts of increasing greenhouse gases? How can you help reduce this effect?