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polar-bear-2199534_640Guest Post by Neil Stawski of climatewise

It may seem like understanding climate change is difficult, as you may hear one politician say something and then another say neatly the exact opposite. Though there are certainly some complicated issues at the heart of climate change, it’s important to know that among the scientific community, there’s nearly 100% consensus. Climate change exists, man is at least somewhat responsible, and there are plenty of signs – solid proof, even. Here are some answers to questions about climate change you may have.

Is global warming the same as climate change?

Not exactly. Global warming is a phenomenon that is part of climate change, which in fact encompasses many other observable phenomena. As the Environmental Protection Agency puts it,

“Global warming refers to the recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth’s surface … global warming itself represents only one aspect of climate change.

Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among other effects, that occur over several decades or longer.”

When discussing the totality of man’s effect on climate, it’s best to refer to climate change.

Does the presence of snow and/or cold temperature mean climate change isn’t a big deal?

Absolutely not. Once again, this is a problem with the “global warming” terminology. The steady rise in average global temperatures over the past century and beyond (mostly caused by increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere) has led to changes in weather patterns. A giant snowstorm can actually be a sign of climate change. But don’t confuse weather with climate. Weather comes and goes, while climate is a more overarching thing.

Are the effects of climate change blown out of proportion?

No. Climate change presents a dire threat to Earth and all life on it – including humans. Climate change is causing storms of increased intensity – hurricanes, flooding, and tornadoes. It is hurting food production. It is threatening upwards of a third or all flora and fauna on Earth – both land and sea. The rising sea levels threaten to swallow low-lying cities and towns around the world if present practices are left unchecked.

Are we already too far gone to do anything about it?

No! The sooner we act, the better, but we are not past the point of no return. There are plenty of changes you can make at home to reduce your footprint, such as conserving water, reducing your time spent in cars, and stepping up your recycling game. Much of the battle on climate change must occur at the governmental level, however, so activism is most certainly encouraged. Call and write your representatives. Let them know this issue is important to you. Hold them accountable at election time. Participate in climate advocacy groups.

Do we really need the EPA and other regulatory agencies?

Of course. Climate watchdog organizations are vital. Without them, we would not only be in the dark regarding the science of climate change, but we would have very little getting in the way of industries that, by their very nature, are harmful to the environment.