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For the last couple of months, we've been bombarded with news about heatwaves, floods, forest fires, drought, storms, and rising temperatures. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 42-page landmark study recently reported that humans have done irreversible damage to Earth.

Such phrases as "climate change" and "global warming" keep popping up in our everyday lives and the imperative need to take action is brought up by media, nonprofits, governments, and politicians. But what does it all mean?We've put together a friendly library guide to help you navigate this extremely relevant topic.

Climate refers to the long-term weather patterns and atmospheric conditions of an area. Substantial evidence indicates that Earth's climate system has begun to undergo significant changes. Though several natural phenomena can contribute to climate change, most members of the scientific community attribute changes over the past two hundred years to industrial development. Climate change caused by human activity is referred to as anthropogenic climate change.


Since the First Industrial Revolution, which began in Europe during the mid-eighteenth century, humans have increasingly relied on fossil fuels like coalpetroleum, and natural gas for energy. Burning these fuels releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, commonly referred to as greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). In addition to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, especially in tropical rainforests, produces considerable emissions.

Climate change has led to unpredictable weather patterns with more frequent and intense stormsdroughts, and floods. Severe weather events threaten public health as natural ecosystems and global supplies of food and water become increasingly susceptible to change. Climate activists argue that the effects of climate change have been felt more acutely by the world's most vulnerable populations. Despite general agreement that climate change has begun and poses a significant threat, government leaders and other policy makers have struggled to form a comprehensive way to address its effects. (Continue reading)

"Climate Change." Gale Global Issues Online Collection, Gale, 2021. Gale In Context: Global Accessed 9 Aug. 2021.

Phenomenon in which solar radiation absorbed by a planet is re-emitted from the surface as long-wave infrared radiation that is prevented from escaping by various gases in the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases trap heat because they readily absorb long-wave infrared radiation. As the energy cannot escape, it makes the planet warmer than it would otherwise be. The process is progressive and the heating effects rise with the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The most well-known greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide. (Continue reading)

Measure of the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission involved in human activity. It is expressed in terms of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent produced in a unit of time. (Carbon dioxide equivalent is the mass of carbon dioxide gas that has the same warming effect in the Earth's atmosphere as the given GHG emission.)

The term 'footprint' is based on an analogy with 'ecological footprint', a measure of resource use that is expressed in hectares, units of physical area. A full 'life-cycle assessment' of a carbon footprint in relation to, say, a car component will calculate the total GHG emissions involved in extracting raw materials, in manufacturing the part, in using it, in recycling or disposing of it, in transporting materials at every stage, and so on.

The carbon footprints of various activities are regularly published by the European Union and the governments of the USA, the UK, and other leading nations. Leading the lifestyle of a US citizen for one year has a carbon footprint of about 23 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, compared with about 11 tonnes for the average European, and about 4 tonnes for an African or Asian. (These figures take account of the effects of deforestation, which is a major contributor to GHG emission, but whose magnitude is very uncertain.) The concept of the carbon footprint is used in evaluating the implications of activities for global warming, and for evaluating offsetting activities.

Carbon footprint. (2018). In Helicon (Ed.), The Hutchinson unabridged encyclopedia with atlas and weather guide. Helicon. Credo Reference >>

Northeast: Heat waves, heavy downpours and sea level rise pose growing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast. Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised. Many states and cities are beginning to incorporate climate change into their planning.

Information from: [NASA] The Effects of Climate Change

For more information, visit Green Arlington.

[NPR] Biden's Climate Plans Are Historic. But Are They Enough?

For White House updates on climate change, check out the Briefing Room.For NYTimes articles about President Biden and his approach to climate change, go here. For your NYTimes 72-hour pass, visit our eSources page.

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This news announcement was published Thursday, Aug. 12. Providing it was YourArlington news partner Patch.