Introduction to Climate Change

Climate change, also called global warming, is the consequence of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causing the average temperature of the Earth to increase. Most greenhouse gases come from humans burning or releasing fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas. The overall warming trend creates extreme and chaotic weather patterns that may not be what you expect when you think of the word “warming” – including record cold winters and snow storms! Climate change drives very dramatic weather such as the most powerful hurricanes ever measured. Other changes are slow trends and may be difficult for human beings to recognize the impact of the warming over the past century.

Some examples  of how we are already experiencing the impact of climate change include the following:

Heat Waves

This may be the event we have in our minds when we hear the word “warming.” Recent years have observed record heat in heat waves during the summer/early fall. More vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and people with disabilities, have a much higher risk of heat-induced stress and deaths. Bay Area Impact: 2017 Heat Waves

Severe Storms

As weather patterns become more chaotic, storms can get more extreme. This leads to increased floods, erosion, and mudslides. Many lower income communities are built in floodplains around the bay, leaving them more vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise. Read about recent events in East Palo Alto: Flood Levels East Palo Alto

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Erosion

Rising temperatures melt ice sheets and expand oceans. These both cause sea levels to rise and the coasts to flood and erode. In the Bay Area, we are at an increased risk of permanent flooding and losing land to the ocean. We are already seeing examples of that in coastal communities, like Pacifica: Pacifica affordable housing complex falls into ocean Sea level rise may also flood one of our major transportation hubs –the San Francisco International Airport is one of the lowest spots in the bay. Explore how sea level rise impacts our community with the following interactive maps: Learn more about the risks of sea level rise and what Sea Change SMC is doing to prepare communities and infrastructures to face this problem.

Drought, Fires, and Bad Air Quality

Increased temperature and decreased rainfall causes drought. From 2011 to 2017, California has gone through one of its driest periods in record history.
Not only does this decrease our water supply, it also causes drying of forests in California. As a result, wildfires start more easily, burn a larger area of forest, and lasts longer.

Even if you live in a city, you can still suffer from breathing the smoke from fires far away. This is especially dangerous for people with asthma and other breathing problems.

Recent record-breaking destructive fires in California include:

Recent record-breaking destructive fires in California include:

Explore where the current wildfires are with the CAL FIRE interactive map

Youth across our nation are voicing their concerns about impacts of climate change and pollution from fossil fuels they are experiencing in their communities. Learn more by listening to the youth of America at Our Climate Our Future.

Links to other climate resources:

Climate change is caused by increased pollution of our atmosphere with greenhouse gases. Most greenhouse gases are released into the air through burning fossil fuels such as gasoline, methane (natural gas), and coal.