What is Climate Change?
Climate change refers to changes in our weather and climate patterns that result from an increase in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans. This warming is caused by increased levels of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere. These gases (mainly carbon dioxide, methane and sulphur dioxide) soak up heat from the sun but instead of this heat escaping back into space, some of it is trapped in our atmosphere, making the Earth warmer.
It is normal for the Earth's temperature and climate to change and this has occurred many times in the Earth's history. However, since the 1800's, people have been adding increasingly more greenhouse gases to our atmosphere and the Earth's temperature is therefore increasing much more quickly than it would naturally. Such rapid changes are expected to have serious impacts upon our environment and our daily lives.
"It is unequivocal that the climate is changing, and it is very likely that this is predominantly caused by the increasing human interference with the atmosphere. These changes will transform the environmental conditions on Earth unless counter-measures are taken."
- Joint statement by the National Science Academies of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. May 2007
Global warming and climate change
The terms 'global warming' and 'climate change' are often used in the same way, but there is a difference.
- 'Global warming' is the gradual increase of the Earth's average surface temperature, due to increased amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
- 'Climate change' is a more general term which refers to long-term shifts in climate such as changes to average temperature and rainfall.
Interestingly, climate change may lead to the lowering of average temperatures in places like Britain and Europe.
"Much of the warming since 1950 is due to human activities that have increased greenhouse gases. This is known as the enhanced greenhouse effect. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased by 35 per cent from pre-industrial times. Ice core records indicate this current level is higher than at any other time in the past 420000 years."
- CSIRO website 19 Feb 2010 (http://www.csiro.au/resources/psrs.html)
Where do greenhouse gases come from?
Australians typically contribute greenhouse gases to our atmosphere through using coal and gas to create heat and electricity for our homes, growing ruminant animals such as cattle and sheep and using vehicles powered by petroleum, diesel or gas.
Marrickville Council is reducing its own contribution to greenhouse gases and encourages residents to investigate the ways that they are contributing to climate change. There are many things that residents can do to minimise their greenhouse gas emissions. See below for links to web pages that can help you to reduce yours.
Energy In Your Home
What you can do at home to reduce your contribution to Climate Change
Working with Business
What you can do in your business to reduce its contribution to Climate Change
Sustainable Council: Climate Change
What Council is doing about Climate Change
Climate Action Newtown: 100% Renewable
Council supports Climate Change Newtown's 100% Renewable, a community campaign for clean energy