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Climate Change

Fast Facts About Climate Change

eight pathways climatechange


The Science of Climate Change

  • Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor, trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere and warm the planet.

  • In general, the greenhouse effect is a good thing. Without greenhouse gases, the temperature on Earth would be too cold to support life. With too many, it would heat up beyond survivable levels. Earth is sometimes called the Goldilocks Planet because it is "just right."

  • Since 1958, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been measured from an observatory on Mauna Loa, a volcano in Hawaii.

  • The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2015, 402.56 ppm.

  • Today, the amount of carbon dioxide is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. And the Earth's average temperature is increasing faster than ever before.

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that global temperatures are expected to be within the range of 0.5°F to 8.6°F by 2100, with a likely increase of at least 2.7°F, in the 21st century.

Contributing to Climate Change

  • The United States is the second largest contributor to CO2 in our atmosphere, though it is home to just 4.4 percent of the world’s population. If everyone in the world lived the way people do in the U.S., it would take four Earths to provide enough resources for everyone!

  • The amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average family in the United States breaks down this way:

    • One half from heating and cooling the house
    • One quarter from transportation
    • One quarter from using electricity

  •  Burning one gallon of gasoline puts 19 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Effects on People, Wildlife and the Planet

  • Average sea level is expected to rise 1 - 4 feet before the end of this century - and perhaps as much as 6.6 feet (if, as some models predict, the rate of ice melting from Greenland and Antarctica increases).

  • In 1910 Glacier National Park was home to more an estimated 150 glaciers. That number has now shrunk to less than 30. This national park is expected to eventually lose all its glaciers. This is only one example of glacial melt that is occurring all over the world. 

  • The current pace of global average temperature rise puts approximately 25 to 35 percent of plant and animal species at increased risk of extinction.

  • Rain forest destruction contributes to climate change. That's because trees store carbon dioxide as they grow. Clearing and burning forests releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

  • The world’s coral reefs are in the midst of a global mass die off. The coral bleaching event could destroy 5 percent of all reefs. This is extremely detrimental to the already diminished coral population that took a massive hit during the 1998 El Nino.


Sources: NASA: Global Climate Change 

from: National Wildlife Federation Footer

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