What is anthropogenic climate change?

On this page, we define some key concepts that recur throughout this book.

The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time.

  • Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time
  • Climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time, classically 30 years, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Climate factors are most often surface variables such as temperature, precipitation, and wind.

Climate change refers to a statistically significant variation in either the mean state of the climate or in the variability of its properties, and that variation persists for an extended period, typically 30 years or longer (Source: IPCC).

Anthropogenic climate change refers to climate change attributable to human activities that alter the atmosphere composition.   

  •  anthropo–  is derived from Greek anthropos meaning “human being (including men and women, boys and girls, but not gods); it is used as a prefix for anthropocentric and anthropology.
  •  -genic is derived from Greek genus and is used to form compound nouns ending in -gen, or -geny, with the following meanings: “producing or causing” (e.g., hallucinogenic); “produced or caused by” (e.g., cosmogenic).  It is the root of words like genes, genetics, carcinogenic, photogenic.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change and its political and economic impacts; it is a scientific and intergovernmental body under the auspices of the United Nations.  97-99% of climate scientists concur with IPCC’s findings that climate change is a present reality. Read more: http://www.ipcc.ch/

 IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) was completed in 2014.  Key findings include:

  • “Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years”.
  • Human influence on the climate system is clear. It is extremely likely (95-100% probability) that human influence was the dominant cause of global warming from 1951 to 2010.
  • Without new policies to mitigate climate change, projections suggest an increase in global mean temperature in 2100 of 3.7 to 4.8 °C,

IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4)  in 2007 included these findings:

  • Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting—a broad range of human and natural systems.
  • “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level”.
  •  “Anthropogenic warming and sea level rise would continue for centuries even if GHG emissions were to be reduced sufficiently for GHG concentrations to stabilise, due to the time scales associated with climate processes and feedbacks”.
  • “Unmitigated climate change would, in the long term, be likely to exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt”.

For citations, see full IPCC report.

In 2014, the IPCC shifted its focus from climate change mitigation to climate change adaptation, and cautioned governments to begin preparing for the risks of climate change.  Are you ready to weather the changes that lie ahead?

  • Climate change mitigation refers to human interventions intended to limit the magnitude and/or rate of long-term climate change by reducing greenhouse gases and improving carbon sinks.  Some mitigation efforts in Manitoba include reforestation, incentives to restore and protect riparian areas and wetlands, improving energy efficiency, promoting geothermal and decreasing emissions.
  • Climate change adaptation is adjusting to climate changes and its effects in order to reduce harm to life, health, livelihood and assets, and also to exploit beneficial opportunities. Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement, asserts that climate change adaptation is community development in a warming climate and that it is pointless and disruptive to separate it from the development of local physical or human capital. Adaptation efforts in Manitoba include floodway expansion and other flood infrastructure as well as improving municipal capacity for emergency preparedness and disaster response.

Climate change adaptation relies on two human attributes:

  • Adaptive capacity is the ability to problem-solve during a crisis, recover from disaster, cope with its consequences and to learn and change as a result of disaster.   Researchers are studying the adaptive capacity of communities that have survived disasters related to climate change.
  • Resilience in communities is the ability of human systems to absorb shock and recover from the effects of hazards in a timely and efficient manner, preserving or restoring its essential basic structures, functions and cultural identity, according to a UN study. We know that cultural continuity depends on resilience.  The cultures that have demonstrated the greatest resilience, based on longevity, are indigenous cultures.

Read more:  NASA    https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

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