What causes climate change?

Climate change, or global warming, can be hard to get your head around but understanding the basics can be a big help.

Written by Criodan O'Murchu


The first time I heard any notion of ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’, I must have been ten or eleven watching Top Gear. Hearing how much nicer England would be if it got a bit hotter during the summer didn’t really resonate with me until I was in my late teens. Now as I approach my 21st, I am more involved and worried than ever. Recently the UN released a report stating that we have twelve years to limit catastrophic climate change. The world needs to act and that includes me, you and everyone we know. 

Before talking about actions to take, it’s important to understand more about the causes of climate change. 

What is climate change?

Climate change is a major change in weather patterns over a period of time. With climate change we see there is a big increase in global temperature, more intense and unpredictable weather events (e.g. hurricanes, storms, flooding, etc) and melting ice caps. This is due to human activity. Our actions, such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, agriculture and lots more has caused the climate change we see today. I’ll talk about these causes a bit more later on. 

Greenhouse gases & the greenhouse effect

Greenhouse gases are gases in the atmosphere that absorb radiation from the sun. Radiation is another form of energy. Over the last 100 years, there has been a big increase in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

In the past, the radiation from the sun would hit the Earth’s atmosphere and be reflected away from Earth. Now with more and more greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, the radiation from the sun hits the Earth’s atmosphere and gets trapped by the greenhouse gases, which heats the planet. 

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