An Introduction to Climate Change
What it could mean to you and your family
Climate change is changing our economy, health and communities in diverse ways. Scientists warn that if we do not aggressively curb climate change now, the results will likely be disastrous.
Carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants are collecting in the atmosphere like a thickening blanket, trapping the sun's heat and causing the planet to warm up.
Although local temperatures fluctuate naturally, over the past 50 years the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. Scientists say that unless we curb the emissions that cause climate change, average U.S. temperatures could be 3 to 9 degrees higher by the end of the century.
The United States Global Change Research Program (which includes the Department of Defense, NASA, National Science Foundation and other government agencies) has said that "global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced" and that "climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow."
What it means to you
Climate change is a complex phenomenon, and its full-scale impacts are hard to predict far in advance. But each year scientists learn more about how climate change is affecting the planet and our communities, and most agree that certain consequences are likely to occur if current trends continue.
In addition to impacting our water resources, energy supply, transportation, agriculture, and ecosystems, the United States Global Change Research Program concludes that climate change also poses unique challenges to human health, such as:
- Significant increases in the risk of illness and death related to extreme heat and heat waves are very likely.
- Some diseases transmitted by food, water, and insects are likely to increase.
- Certain groups, including children, the elderly, and the poor, are most vulnerable to a range of climate-related health effects.
These impacts will result in significant costs to our families and the economy.
Here's the good news: technologies exist today to make cars that run cleaner and burn less gas, modernize power plants and generate electricity from nonpolluting sources, and cut our electricity use through energy efficiency. The challenge is to be sure these solutions are put to use.
NRDC is tackling global warming on two main fronts – cutting pollution and expanding clean energy.
Transitioning to a clean energy economy will bring new jobs and reduce air pollution. We can’t afford to wait.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about climate change. You can help by being a voice for reason and common-sense. For detailed, point-by-point rebuttals to global warming naysayers, see Grist's How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic.
last revised 11/8/2011
Sign up for NRDC's online newsletter
Extreme Weather 2012
Use our interactive map to see how extreme weather affected your community.
This Is Global Warming
Watch the Video »
Our new video shows the effects of global warming in the world today.
NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs
- Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
- Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
- NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.
- GAO says we'll pay a high price for lack of climate preparedness
- posted by Aliya Haq, 5/16/13
- How Are California's Existing Water Management Issues Impacted by Climate Change?
- posted by Ben Chou, 5/15/13
- Lessons Learned in the Wake of Sandy: Saving Transit Means Taking the High Ground--Literally
- posted by Theo Spencer, 5/14/13