About Climate Change

Welcome to CAPCOA’s Climate Change web page.  You will find information regarding climate change at this site.  In addition, to climate change information you will find news articles, presentations, and documents regarding climate change.

What is global climate change?

greenhouseeffect.jpgGlobal climate change refers to changes in the Earth’s weather patterns, including rising temperatures, due to an increase in heat-trapping or “greenhouse” gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, among others.  The term climate change is often used interchangeably with the term global warming, but according to the National Academy of Sciences, “The phrase ‘climate change’ is growing in preferred use to ‘global warming’ because it helps convey that there are other changes in addition to rising temperatures.”  What is the greenhouse effect?  The greenhouse effect is essential for life on Earth because it helps regulate temperature; it allows sunlight to heat the Earth and excess heat to radiate into outer space. Without a natural greenhouse effect, Earth would be extremely cold, around zero degrees Fahrenheit. So, the concern is not with the fact that the greenhouse effect exists but that a dramatic change is happening. Currently, increased amounts of heat-trapping gases are reducing the amount of radiated heat escaping into outer space, thus altering the Earth’s climate.  Who can we believe about global warming?  Most scientists agree that the physical consequences of climate change are real. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a scientific group sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program, consisting of 600 scientists from 40 countries. In February 2007, it issued a report on global climate change stating that they are about 90 percent certain that people are the cause of global warming. The report asserts: Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values. Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level. Changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent.  What is causing this condition?  The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says energy-related activities account for three-quarters of our human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, largely in the form of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Sources include large stationary sources such as factories and power plants; transportation sources like cars, trucks, and airplanes; and industrial processes such as cement, steel, and aluminum production. Agriculture, other land use, and waste management are also sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Natural sources of greenhouse gas emissions include dead organic matter; respiration of plants, animals, and bacteria; evaporation from the ocean; and volcanic outgasing. What are the effects?  Dr. James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, began work in the 1970s on studies and computer simulations of the Earth’s climate. He says the significant climate effects will only reveal themselves with time. But we do know temperature variations can cause increased damage from hurricanes, floods, fires, and infectious diseases. Some effects also include sea level rise, shrinking glaciers, changes in the range and distribution of plants and animals, trees blooming earlier, lengthening of growing seasons, ice on rivers and lakes freezing later and breaking up earlier, and thawing of permafrost. 

Source: VCAPCD 2007