CLIMATE CHANGE – definition and causes

Climate change placard
Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Climate change! Climate emergency! Climate crisis! You may have seen a post or two on social media about this, or even seen/heard about the School Strike for Climate, also called Fridays For Future or Climate Strike movement.
What’s all these?
In this Climate Change series, I’ll be telling you about climate change – the what’s and how’s. I’ll break this down into bits.

Just like Thanos, climate change is the inevitable. All we need is the Avengers to fight it.

Climate is the atmospheric condition of a place or region over a long period of time. Now don’t mix this up with weather.
Weather is the atmospheric condition of a place at a particular time. Like we normally say, today’s a bit cloudy. That’s the weather.

See the difference?

Climate – long period. Weather – short period. Climate describes the weather over a long period.

Climate change is simply the change in weather patterns which occurs over a long period of time. Could be decades.
You may have heard climate change and global warming being used together. Do not mistake climate change for global warming.
Global warming is the warming of the planet over a long period of time. This warming causes a rise in the temperature, which is caused by increased greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration. As the Earth’s temperature increases, the planet is warmed. With this, there is a change in climate. Climate change is the effect of global warming.

What are these GHGs?

To mention a few – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, halocarbons.


Global warming is caused by increasing concentration of greenhouse gases, and since global warming causes climate change, it’s safe to say that climate change is caused by greenhouse gases. Now here comes the greenhouse effect.

What’s the greenhouse effect?

Energy is absorbed from the sun by the Earth’s surface which radiates back to the atmosphere as heat. With the presence of GHGs in the atmosphere, these gases trap the heat causing warming. This is the greenhouse effect.
This process occurs naturally because GHGs are naturally present in the atmosphere in low concentrations, and the process is balanced out. It’s what makes the Earth’s climate “livable.”

Due to our activities, we are now pumping more GHGs into the atmosphere, increasing the concentration. The planet is warmed above its normal temperature, and this process isn’t balanced now because there is no mechanism or medium to remove these excess gases. With this, they accumulate in the atmosphere overtime causing serious problems.

There are natural factors like changes in earth’s orbit and axial tilt, tectonic movements, volcanic eruptions and ocean currents which causes climate change. You can learn more about the natural causes here.
These things happen naturally and cannot be controlled by man. Same way we can’t control rain or snow is the same way we can’t control these natural factors. I mean, if we could control them, we’d live on the beach all year long, basking in the sun. Scientists have established that these natural causes are not the main drivers.

The anthropogenic (man-made) factors are the main drivers. Our activities are what produce these GHGs, in large concentrations. The Fifth Assessment Report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013, shows that human activities are the main cause of climate change.

What are these activities?

Burning of fossil fuels:

From our transportation to our industries to other sectors (to name a few – oil, coal, gas, manufacturing), fossil fuels are the main energy source we use. The combustion of these fuels release large amounts of GHGs into the atmosphere, and when these gases are present in large concentrations, they trap heat resulting in warming which contributes to climate change.

Remember how the greenhouse effect works?

Burning of fossil fuel in industries as a cause of climate change
Photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexels

Coal accounts for 44% of the world’s carbon dioxide emission. Reports from the IPCC also shows that the dominant cause of climate change is fossil fuel.


Agricultural production accounts for 80% of all global deforestation. The use of fertilizers also contribute to the release of nitrous oxide, a GHG.

In one of its series of videos on Countdown to Destruction with Alicia Braga, Greenpeace stated that GHG emissions from industrial agriculture are now the same as all cars, trains, ships, buses and planes combined. The industrial food sector is no longer growing food but profits, and is now a ticking carbon bomb growing louder and louder.


Still on agriculture, land is cleared to raise animals, and even more to grow food for these animals. Greenpeace also states that an area the size of a soccer field is destroyed every 5 seconds.

Apart from industrial agriculture, trees are fell in large numbers daily for one reason or another, without replacement. These trees are needed to remove GHGs from the atmosphere, but are now fell to make room for one thing or another, and also for raw materials. Read more on the importance of trees here and how you can plant trees here.

Remember when I said we need the Avengers to fight climate change? Well, we’re all the Avengers in this case. To fight climate change, we need to come together. We are all we need. It isn’t a one man thing or a country based thing. It’s a global thing. We have the power to control this so we need to team up like the Avengers and beat this Thanos.

Be an Avenger today. Save the planet!

More on the climate change series coming soon…

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