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What’s Going On With Climate Change?

Sacramento, California —(Map)

Over the weekend, 250,000 people marched in different places around the world. They want governments to take stronger action to fight climate change. 

People protesting for action on climate change, San Francisco, CA, 2018
Over the weekend, 250,000 people marched in different places around the world.
They want governments to take stronger action to fight climate change.
(Source: 350.org, via Flickr.com.)

Climate change means the way weather patterns around the world are changing because of human activity. Global warming is one result of climate change. The world is getting hotter, mainly because humans are burning “fossil fuels” like coal, oil, and natural gas to make energy. Burning fossil fuels adds carbon dioxide and other gases to the air. The more carbon dioxide, the more the Earth heats up.

This image shows how temperatures have gone up since the 1880s.
Global warming is one result of climate change.
This image shows how temperatures have gone up since the 1880s.
The higher temperatures change weather patterns and bring more extreme weather.
(Source: Robert A. Rohde/NASA, via Wikimedia Commons.)

The effects can already be seen around the world as extreme weather patterns become more normal. Higher temperatures have led to heat waves, wildfires, record rains, and more strong hurricanes.

In 2015, all of the world’s countries signed an agreement to work together to slow global warming. The Paris Agreement was a starting point, not a final answer to climate change. It set goals for countries to use fewer fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and water power. These kinds of power are called renewable because they don’t get used up like coal or oil. They can be used over and over again.

French Foreign Minister, UN Secretary-General Ban, and French President Hollande Raise Their Hands After Representatives of 196 Countries Approved a Sweeping Environmental Agreement at COP21 in Paris
In 2015, all of the world’s countries signed the Paris Agreement.
The agreement set goals for countries to use fewer fossil fuels.
In the photo, people are celebrating after all 196 countries agree to the Paris Agreement.
(Source: U.S. Dept. of State , via Wikimedia Commons.)

In 2017, President Trump said he would take the US out of the agreement, making it the only country in the world that is not part of the agreement.

Since then, Mr. Trump’s government seems to be doing the opposite of fighting climate change. He has made it easier for power plants to burn coal without worrying about pollution. He has changed rules to allow cars to pollute more. Just yesterday, his government said it wants to change rules to allow companies to put more methane into the air. Methane is another gas that adds to global warming.

President Trump at podium
Mr. Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement.
Mr. Trump’s government has been making it easier for companies to pollute.
This pollution adds to the world’s climate change problems.
(Source: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.com.)

But it’s not just the US that has people worried. Many countries have not made nearly as much progress toward their Paris Agreement goals as they should have.

Two weeks ago, France’s environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, quit his job suddenly. He was upset by how slowly things were moving. “[France] is not doing enough. Europe is not doing enough. The world is not doing enough,” Mr. Hulot said.

Nicolas Hulot
Nicolas Hulot quit his job as France’s environment minister.
He says the world isn’t doing enough to fight climate change.
(Source: COP PARIS, via Wikimedia Commons.)

But it’s not all bad news. California just made a law saying that by 2045, the state’s electricity would not add any fossil fuel pollution to the air. The governor went farther. He said that by 2045, California would not be adding fossil fuel pollution for any reason. These are huge steps. Even though it’s just one state, California buys, makes, and sells more things than most countries do.

State Senator Kevin de Leon and Governor Jerry Brown
California just agreed to stop creating fossil fuel pollution in the state by 2045.
State Senator Kevin de Leon (left) started the idea, Governor Jerry Brown added to it.
(Source: LA Mountains, via Wikimedia Commons, State of California , via Wikimedia Commons.)

Still, the clock is ticking. The leader of the United Nations, António Guterres, said on Monday that climate change was moving faster than our efforts to fight it. He warned that unless serious changes are made by 2020, it may become impossible to control the way the Earth is heating up. “It is not too late…” he said, “But every day that passes means the world heats up a little more.”

Sacramento, California


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