What's causing our climate to change?
What does this mean for us?
Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2) and other air pollutants and greenhouse gases collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface. Normally, this radiation would escape into space—but these pollutants, which can last for years to centuries in the atmosphere, trap the heat and cause the planet to get hotter. That's what's known as the greenhouse effect.
Higher summer temperatures cause soils to be drier for longer, increasing the likelihood of drought. Already dry areas such as southern Africa, the Sahel, southern Asia, the Mediterranean, and the U.S. Southwest are particularly vulnerable.
Global warming most strongly affects the north and south polar regions. Melt runoff from the massive ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica causes sea level rise.
Sea rise and storm surges means hundreds of coastal cities face flooding.
November 2019: Venice suffers its worst floods in 50 years.
Hot, dry conditions increase the likelihood of wildfires. Fires are likely to be more intense and long-burning once they are started by lightning strikes or human error.
Higher sea levels coincide with more dangerous hurricanes and typhoons, contributing to more powerful storm surges that can strip away everything in their path.
Droughts, flooding, and other extreme weather events caused by climate change have already forced millions to flee their homes in order to survive.