Climate change refers to the rise in global average temperatures caused by the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere -- which are mostly a result of the burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas. Climate change is causing climate patterns to change, sea levels to rise, and global temperatures to continue to rise. This has led to extreme weather events that are more frequent and more deadly, like hurricanes and droughts, which are devastating communities across the globe.
There is no debate: scientists have proven that the earth is heating up because of humans' use of fossil fuels. When fossil fuels burn, they release carbon dioxide, methane, and other harmful toxic pollutants into the atmosphere. These pollutants trap heat in the atmosphere, leading to an overall rise in average global temperatures.
Scary, right? But scientists agree that there's a solution: transitioning to a clean energy economy using existing technology. Unlike fossil fuels, clean energy sources, like solar and wind power, are naturally replenished.
Many climate change activists also oppose fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which is a new and controversial method of extracting natural gas from the Earth. The process of fracking can contaminate groundwater supplies, and can produce dangerous amounts of methane pollution. As part of this movement, many activists are calling on world leaders to keep remaining fossil fuels in the ground instead of risking further damage to the planet.
Students in the United States have also been calling on their universities to stop investing in fossil fuel companies.
Even though it's terrifying to think about, we have to be blunt: climate change is going to cause major problems in our lives very soon. Rising sea levels and extreme weather events threaten infrastructure and cause billions of dollars' worth of damage to coastal cities like New York City and Miami. The oceans and marine ecosystems that people rely on for food and jobs will be fundamentally harmed. Extreme heat and heavy flooding will hurt our nation's agriculture. Future droughts and water shortages will have severe economic and environmental impacts at home and abroad. (According to Citigroup, left unchecked climate change will cost the global economy $44 trillion.)
Often, those hit the hardest during the extreme weather events caused by climate change are the poorest among us: those who can't evacuate in time, or don't have the money to rebuild their homes and lives after damage has been done.
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