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What is Climate Change?

The concept of climate change doesn't need to be political. It's science.

ATLANTA — Climate change has been politicized over and over again as election cycles come and go. But, 11Alive wants to provide perspective when politics is removed from the issue. 

The subject of climate change shouldn't be a political issue. It's the science of Earth. 

Our planet Earth is amazing. It's the only planet in the solar system that currently supports life, water, growing things. We can thank our atmosphere for this.

Our atmosphere is like a magic blanket that keeps us protected from the sun. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it has to be just the right thickness and composition. Other planets are too hot or too cold and don't support life. 

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The atmosphere is composed of primarily nitrogen and oxygen. But it also has other gases called greenhouse gases. These are about 1 percent of its composition and include things like Water Vapor, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, and Carbon Dioxide. 

The main contributors of greenhouse gases are transportation, electricity production, and industry. So whether you have the lights on in your house or are driving a car, either directly or indirectly, carbon is being added to the atmosphere.

But the role of these Greenhouse Gases is the most significant part of the equation. These gases help to trap the energy from the sun within our atmosphere, which is in the form of heat. But as we continue to pump in more greenhouse gases, and in particular carbon dioxide, more and more of that solar energy is trapped.

Over time, our atmosphere warms as more energy is trapped than energy that is reemitted out of our atmosphere. In fact, this is a direct correlation. Look at the image below. The concentration of Carbon Dioxide levels has been increasing at a quicker pace since the start of the Industrial Revolution. You can also see in that same time period in the graph below how the global temperatures have increased at a quicker pace as well.

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What are the impacts?

First, we need to take a step back and look at how incredible our oceans are. About 93 percent of this extra added heat is stored in our oceans! But both our atmosphere and oceans are warming. 

A warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, leading to more significant flash flooding events. A warmer atmosphere and ocean can lead to stronger hurricanes, which get their energy and thrive on warm ocean waters. A warmer atmosphere can also cause the jet stream to behave differently, leading to more significant cold air outbreaks and more extreme heat and drought, which can worsen wildfire conditions. And with a warmer atmosphere, ice near the poles will melt more quickly leading to an eventual rise in sea levels.

This is why it's important to do your part! Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds that are emitted into the atmosphere because of your use of fossil fuels. This week, focus on reducing your carbon footprint, the amount of greenhouse gases you're attributing to. For example, focus on using less electricity and energy in your house or make a conscious effort to not make multiple trips out of the house to run errands, wasting more gas and increasing your carbon footprint.

If each of us made more of an intentional effort to reduce our carbon footprints, we'd collectively begin to make a dent.

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