What Is Global Climate Change?
Global climate change is driven by the “greenhouse effect,” a natural, widely acknowledged phenomenon essential to life as we know it.
Without the greenhouse effect, the Earth would be permanently icy and inhospitable. Water vapor, carbon dioxide and other gases in the Earth’s atmosphere act like a blanket over the Earth, absorbing some of the heat from the sunlight-warmed surface of the planet instead of allowing it to escape into space. Having a moderate amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere allows the Earth to be just the right temperatures for humans, plants and animals. Increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes the earth to become warmer – like wearing a thick jacket year-round.
Increasing the amount of these gases, often referred to as “carbon emissions” in the atmosphere essentially makes the blanket thicker—trapping even more heat around the Earth.
The impacts are much broader and more complex than a simple increase in temperature, however. Global warming is accompanied by:
- changes in precipitation patterns,
- increased frequency and intensity of storms,
- wildfires, droughts and floods,
- rising sea level, changes in water quality, and
- substantial changes in habitats, including the range of pests and diseases.
The above presents only a small taste of local climate research. There is much more to the topic than we can fit here.
A Few Good Places To Start:
- Montana’s Changing Climate – The Wilderness Society (website)
- Terrestrial Ecosystem Adaptation – Running, S.W. and Mills, L.S. 2009.(report)
- Impacts of Climate Change on Forests in the Northern Rocky Mountains – Running, S., Boisvenue, C., Anderson, R., and Power, T. 2010. (report)
- U.S. Global Change Research Program Federal Report
- Skeptical Science (website)
- Real Climate (website)
- The Rough Guide to Climate Change (book)
- The Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide (book)