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  • Is the ozone hole causing climate change?

    Yes and no. The ozone hole is basically a man-made hole in the ozone layer above the South Pole during the Southern Hemisphere’s spring. The ozone layer, which lies high up in the atmosphere, shields us from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that come from the sun. Unfortunately we punched a hole in it, through the use of gases like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in spray cans and refrigerants, which break down ozone molecules in the upper atmosphere. While some of the sun’s UV rays slip through the hole, they account for less than one percent of the sun’s energy. So these UV
  • Is it too late to prevent climate change?

    Humans have caused major climate changes to happen already, and we have set in motion more changes still. Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, global warming would continue to happen for at least several more decades if not centuries. That’s because it takes a while for the planet (for example, the oceans) to respond, and because carbon dioxide – the predominant heat-trapping gas – lingers in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. There is a time lag between what we do and when we feel it. In the absence of major action to reduce emissions, global temperature is on track
  • Is the sun causing global warming?

    No. The sun can influence the Earth’s climate, but it isn’t responsible for the warming trend we’ve seen over the past few decades. The sun is a giver of life; it helps keep the planet warm enough for us to survive. We know subtle changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun are responsible for the comings and goings of the ice ages. But the warming we’ve seen over the last few decades is too rapid to be linked to changes in Earth’s orbit, and too large to be caused by solar activity. In fact, recently (2005-2010) the sun has
  • What’s the difference between weather and climate?

    Some people say “weather is what you get” and “climate is what you expect.” “Weather” refers to the more local changes in the climate we see around us, on short timescales from minutes to hours to days to weeks. Examples are familiar – rain, snow, clouds, winds, thunderstorms, heat waves and floods. “Climate” refers to longer-term averages (they may be regional or global), and can be thought of as the weather averaged over several seasons, years or decades. Climate change is harder for us to get a sense of because the timescales involved are much longer, and the impact of climate
  • What’s the difference between climate change and global warming?

    Global temperature rise from 1880 to 2015. Higher-than-normal temperatures are shown in red and lower-than-normal temperatures are shown in blue. Each frame represents global temperature anomalies (changes) averaged over the five years previous to that particular year. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA Scientific Visualization Studio/NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “Global warming” refers to the long-term warming of the planet. Global temperature shows a well-documented rise since the early 20th century and most notably since the late 1970s. Worldwide, since 1880 the average surface temperature has gone up by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F), relative to the mid-20th-century baseline
  • Do scientists agree on climate change?

    Yes, the vast majority of actively publishing climate scientists – 97 percent – agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change. Most of the leading science organizations around the world have issued public statements expressing this, including international and U.S. science academies, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a whole host of reputable scientific bodies around the world). The number of peer-reviewed scientific papers that reject the consensus on human-caused global warming is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research. The small amount of dissent tends to come from a few vocal scientists who are not
  • What is the greenhouse effect?

    The greenhouse effect is the way in which heat is trapped close to the surface of the Earth by “greenhouse gases”. These heat-trapping gases can be thought of as a blanket wrapped around the Earth, which keeps it toastier than it would be without them. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides. Greenhouse gases arise naturally, and are part of the make-up of our atmosphere. Earth is sometimes called the “Goldilocks” planet – it’s not too hot, not too cold, and the conditions are just right to allow life, including us, to flourish. Part of what makes Earth so
  • How do we know what greenhouse gas and temperature levels were in the distant past?

    Ice cores are scientists’ best source for historical climate data. Every winter, some snow coating Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets is left behind and compressed into a layer of ice. By extracting cylinders of ice from sheets thousands of meters thick, scientists can analyze dust, ash, pollen and bubbles of atmospheric gas trapped inside. The deepest discovered ice cores are an estimated 800,000 years old. The particles trapped inside give scientists clues about volcanic eruptions, desert extent and forest fires. The presence of certain ions indicates past ocean activity, levels of sea ice and even the intensity of the sun.
  • Does the “ozone hole” have anything to do with climate change?

    Not really. The “ozone hole” refers to a decrease in the layer of ozone gas found high in the Earth's atmosphere, which helps to shield the planet from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. The ozone layer has become thinner because of chemicals that were once commonly used in products ranging from spray cans to foam furniture cushions. While a thinner ozone layer allows more ultraviolet rays to reach the Earth, increasing the risk of sunburns and skin cancer, it doesn't cause climate change.
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