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What is climate change?

Youth matters

Climate change refers to changes in the world’s climate that take place over a period of time. It includes changes in air temperatures, rain patterns, humidity, pressure systems and winds. Climate change can be caused by natural processes such as variations in the sun’s activity, but human activities also play a part.

Air pollution from power stations, factories, cars and other sources related to human activities give off gases and tiny solid particles called aerosols. Typically, many of these gases are greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which is released when fossil fuels like coal and oil are burnt.

Human beings, animals and the environment in which we live are sensitive to climate change. Human health, agri-culture, natural ecosystems, coastal areas, and heating and cooling needs are examples of systems that are sensitive to climate.

Rising average temperatures are already affecting the environment. In South Africa, we are experiencing things like droughts in the Eastern Cape, unusual rain patterns in the Southern Cape and floods in other parts of the country. This has negative impacts on the environment, as well as the economy. To lessen the damage done, government is putting in place projects to curb climate change.

The way in which climate change effects the environment and whether these effects prove harmful or beneficial, will vary by region, over time. The impact of the effects also depend on the ability of societies and environmental systems to adapt to or cope with the change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a world body that uses scientific, technical and socio-economic information to investigate the causes and effects of climate change and look at solutions to the problems.