What is climate? What is climate change? What is climate change doing to our planet?
We turn again to LearnStuff.com for a very opinionated infographic on global warming and climate change. Let’s answer the first two questions from a different source (after we’ve admired these polar bear cubs, representing a species that may be very vulnerable to global warming).
What is Climate versus Weather?
What is climate? The USA’s EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) defines climate as the “average weather”, explaining that this requires statistics to describe “the mean (average) and variability of relevant quantities” such as hours of sunshine per year, temperatures, rainfall, or wind.
Usually the current climate is measured over the past three decades, but of course “climate” has been around as long as the weather.
This definition misses out on limiting climate to a specific geographic region. We speak of a Mediterranean climate, for example, which is different from the American midwest or the Atlantic seaboard of Newfoundland.
What is weather? The EPA calls it the “atmospheric condition at any given time or place”. We measure atmospheric pressure, rainfall, temperature and wind speed among many other conditions.
What is the difference between weather and climate? The weather is one one complicated data point at a moment in time; but climate is the statistical average of the weather over time.
The EPA illustrates this by saying you expect a cold winter because that’s the climate; today’s blizzard is the current weather.
What is Climate Change?
What is climate change? Again from the USA’s EPA, climate change is “any significant changes in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time”.
So first we measure and then calculate average wind speed and direction, or temperature ranges, or rainfall in a region. Several decades later, if those numbers start trending differently, then that’s an example of climate change.
One problem for recognizing “climate change” is knowing whether we’ve observed a trend that will continue farther, or whether we’re at the highest point of a pendulum that will soon swing in the other direction.
Climate change might be confined to one region; or perhaps a city’s microclimate will become warmer as an “urban heat oasis”. Global climate change refers to long-term weather changes across the earth; global warming would be an example.
Infographic: What is Climate Change Doing to the Planet Earth?
Unfortunately, LearningStuff seems to have dropped off the Internet; their infographic is no longer available.
What about Global Warming Information for Kids or Adults?
(Updated 2015-10-05: Try downloading a book from Amazon in Kindle format). It’s tricky to recommend materials containing climate change facts for kids unless the adults already have a good grounding in the subject.
I like the approach in “Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air“, partly because it answers “what can we do about it”. I also love this great quote from the web page “If all the ineffective ideas for solving the energy crisis were laid end to end, they would reach to the moon and back“. That’s how he argues that we need hard numbers, not empty adjectives. Amazon reviewers rated the book very highly. Remember that our search for energy drives our use of fossil fuels, whose byproduct is CO2, which is a greenhouse gas that facilitates global warming.
At the low end of the price range is “Growing a better future: Food Justice in a resource-constrained world“, which also has high reviews from Amazon and is available as a Kindle e-book. Shipping food internationally uses fossil fuels; and we clear-cut rain forests to grow food crops for export, at the cost of the trees that can remove carbon dioxide from the air. Is there a better way?
Explaining Climate Change to Children
Finally, “The Magic School Bus And The Climate Challenge” specifically provides global warming info for kids.
Does the Government of Canada have a Policy on Climate Change?
Yes, the official Canadian policy summary on climate change is to aggressively “support efforts to protect the environment…in the fight against climate change” with policies, scientific research and co-operative programs with various partners (as updated Jan. 4, 2013 and viewed Feb. 21, 2013).
One might wonder whether these Canadian policies will extend to providing rafts for polar bears, in case the Arctic ice becomes inadequate for their usual hunting in the Arctic.
Sometimes staff at LearnStuff freely offer their infographics to non-related online writers to serve as focal points in articles or blogs. Check their site for more of what they’ve done.
“I don’t always include infographics; but when I do, I prefer LearnStuff“, said the world’s most twisting-the-quotation-from-the-advertisement author. Disclaimer: LearnStuff did not pay me to write this article or promote their work; the opinions expressed within the infographic are the responsibility of LearnStuff.
I’ve used their infographics in some other articles; my favourite example discussed Toronto’s plastic shopping bag debate with a “Suffocating the World” infographic.
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Thank you for reading about LearnStuff‘s views on climate change.