Climate is the average weather in a region over time. Climate change refers to major, long-term changes in temperature, rainfall, snow, or wind patterns. Natural factors or human activities may cause climate change and impact the environment,
Human activities may contribute to global warming, a factor in climate change. Global warming is caused by releasing high levels of heat-trapping pollutants, called greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide emissions make up about 80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Other greenhouse gases include methane, nitrous oxide, volatile organic compounds, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons. Burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal, propane, diesel fuel, natural gas, and gasoline produces greenhouse gases. Electricity generation, industrial processes, agriculture, and forestry may also release greenhouse gases.
Climate effects on health
Climate change can cause changes in rainfall; reduced snow and ice cover; extreme weather events such as floods, wildfires, blizzards, and hurricanes; sea level rise; and increased temperatures, which in turn may cause heat waves and drought. These changes can affect our health. They can lead to:
- More heat-related illness and deaths.
- More pollen, mold, and air pollution, which can cause an increase in allergies, asthma, and breathing problems.
- Increased ozone and smog, also aggravating respiratory conditions.
- More mosquitoes and other insects that carry diseases.
- More floods and rising sea levels, which can cause an increase in contaminated food and water.
- More extreme weather events, which can cause death, injuries, stress, and mental health problems.
Some regions around the world are at particular risk for climate effects on health, including:
- Regions with high rates of climate-sensitive diseases like malaria
- Coastal areas at risk of flooding
- Areas with little capacity to adapt due to social and economic factors
Slowing and adapting to climate change
Choices you make in day-to-day life can help slow climate change. Here are a few ways you can help:
- Be energy efficient
- Drive and fly less
- Eat less meat and dairy, eat local foods
- Use renewable power, such as wind and solar
- Plant trees
Some changes due to climate change cannot be avoided. Adaptation helps communities deal with those consequences. Communities may adapt by planting more drought-resistant crops or protecting coastal areas from rising sea level with infrastructure.
Science Classroom (Grades 6-8)
Enhance your education on toxic chemicals in our environment using lesson plans, games and activities, videos, informational websites, and more.
An eight-minute video about the global impacts of climate change.
Stanford University School of Earth, Energy, & Environmental Sciences
Middle and high school curricula on climate change, and its impact on people and resources.
Interactive activities that educate students on how human health is impacted by climate change.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration Jet Propulsion Laboratory
An interactive climate science website geared to elementary school students.
National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Fact sheets that answer frequently asked questions about how human activities contribute to climate change, and address observed changes in atmosphere, sea level, and temperature.
National Wildlife Federation
An online competition that engages students and teachers in practical strategies to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions.
Pima County, Arizona
An activity in which students measure their family's production of greenhouse gases, and determine how they can reduce their use of fossil fuels.
A two-minute animated video that provides an overview of the greenhouse effect.
Information about climate change from a public learning laboratory that promotes engagement with science and the natural world.
A high school lesson plan about global warming that includes student research and a student project.
Information, scientific data, and resources about climate change and global warming.