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Please note that this is a collaborative website that serves to assemble the different elements of the WESR-Climate change data & information platform. The different components will be integrated later within an ad-hoc layout on the dedicated section of the UNEP-WESR website ....

Climate change is invisible...

Climate change is invisible because it is caused by gases.
The so called greenhouse gases (GHG), such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), exist naturally in the environment, but are getting accumulated quickly in the atmosphere.
They trap the heat that comes from the Sun in our atmosphere, making Earth hotter and hotter, unleashing other problems that we are already facing, such as rising sea levels, food and water insecurity and extreme weather events.
Climate change is real
Climate change is real and human activities are the main cause. (IPCC)
The concentration of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere is directly linked to the average global temperature on Earth. (IPCC)
The concentration has been rising steadily, and mean global temperatures along with it, since the time of the Industrial Revolution. (IPCC)

How global atmospheric CO2 concentration has risen in the last few decades, due to human activity;
How this concentration correlates to global average temperature rise.

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Climate change is already happening. Act on it!
Global temperatures are rising due to climate change.
Even though harsh cold winters are still happening around the globe, it doesn't mean the planet is not getting hotter: this common misleading belief invokes the need for differentiating climate and weather.
Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere "behaves" over relatively long periods of time. (Source: NASA).

That means that, even if we still face cold temperatures, the average temperature over a long period of time is showing that lately the world is getting warmer and this is due to anthropogenic climate change – a phenomenon called global warming.

Global warming and greenhouse gases lead to multiple effects on Earth. The common ground for them all is that they are expected to affect populations vulnerable to poverty in a greater extent than those closer to sustainable development (IPCC).

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Climate vs. weather: better understand their difference and their relationship with climate change with the video below.
Main pressures due to human action

Energy
Everything we use and consume requires energy to be produced, transported and to work - from our food to our clothes, from the way we move in the city and to the electricity that allows you to read this text.

The problem is that the around 80% of the energy produced in the world comes from fossil fuels, which release GHG into the atmosphere, contributing therefore for climate change.

Energy and heat production account for 25% of all GHG emissions (IPCC).

How much ?

Historically, industrialized countries have relied on fossil fuels to conduct their economic activity. Their predominance remains until today, despite some efforts for maximizing the share of  renewable sources, such as wind, solar and hydro.

The chart shows the continuous progression of the supply of  total primary energy (TPES) since 1970. Units are million tons of oil equivalent.

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Total primary energy (TPES)
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Industry
Industries produce everything we use to satisfy our most diverse needs: clothes, cars, electronics, cosmetics, etc.
The industry sector accounts for around 21% of all GHG emissions (IPCC).
Industries transform raw materials (e.g. ores, metals, fibers, logs) into other components that will then be converted into manufactured goods or finished products. These processes inherently emit GHG.
Emissions are aggravated by the linear orientation of production-consumption, in which disposed used products don't re-enter in the production chain, promoting a constant demand for raw materials and the polluting processes that go along with it, from the extraction to their industrial processing.

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Agriculture
It may seem counter intuitive to think that food production can be polluting, since part of it consists in cultivating plants, that capture CO2 and other GHG from the atmosphere. Nonetheless, agriculture and land use makes up to 24% of GHG emissions (IPCC).
In fact, the major emission sources from this sector come from: livestock farming, fertilizers, rice cultivation, manure management and deforestation

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Source: http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/GT/visualize

Enteric fermentation: livestock farming

Due to a very particular phenomenon that occurs in the digestive trait of ruminant animals, such as sheep, cattle and other bovines, great quantities of methane (CH4) - a GHG - is produced and released into the atmosphere, in a process called enteric fermentation.


Deforestation

Forests are threatened by a number of reasons. The main causes consist in opening spaces for arable land and pastures for livestock farming, logging and infrastructure expansion for building roads or urbanization (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Deforestation/deforestation_update3.php).

  • Deforestation and livestock farming are associated in a self-reinforcing loop relationship, when an increasing demand for livestock food provokes the clearance of forested areas to make arable land destined to supply this need.


Manure management

Manure storage and treatment practices may influence the emission of methane and nitrous oxide due to bacterial decomposition. 


Fertilizers

Ferilizers contribute to GHG emissions indirectly, through their high-demanding energy production, transportation and storage, and also directly, once nitrogen-composed fertilizers stimulate soils to release nitrous oxide (N2O), another GHG that contributes to climate change. 


Rice cultivation 

Paddy rice cultivation, that is, planting rice in flooded fields of arable land, is a source of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide due to microbial activity. Rice production management can minimize emissions of this largely consumed commodity.


Learn how to act on it →

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The following contents explain the intricate relationship between cattle farming, land use change due to deforestation and climate change. 

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Transports
Transports contribute to 14% of the GHG emissions (IPCC). In that number, counts the emissions we produce while driving our cars, travelling, the products that are transported to be consumed, etc.

The car-centered design of most urban spaces lead to overuse of this individual and polluting mode of transport, since it's fueled mainly by fossil fuels. Also, consuming goods that are produced far away from the place of their consumption generates emission of GHG during their transportation.

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The consequences on our lives

Climate change is already happening.
All the above sectors contribute to climate change with the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As their name suggests, these gases make the Earth increasingly warmer. But what are the concrete impacts of a hotter planet? How can we be affected by that?

Thousands of people around the world are already facing the consequences of a changing climate. The most vulnerable populations, however, come from developing countries, even though their contribution to the emissions is lower than developed countries' (IPCC).

Emissions are expected to grow in the future, making the problem and its effects even more widespread all over the world.

Learn about some of the impacts of climate change and how to take action in the following sections:


Arctic sea ice extent, melting of glaciers and sea level rise
Melting sea ice and glaciers are early signs of the impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures makes the ice melt, unleashing a dangerous self-reinforcing dynamic: the ice that used to reflect sunlight back to atmosphere becomes water, absorbing heat, favoring then more ice melt. In the case of melting of glaciers, less water becomes available on land, compromising water supplies for both human populations and wildlife.

When fresh water reaches the oceans, sea levels rise. This threatens islands, coastal populations and ecosystems and is already causing destruction and endangering livelihoods.

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How much ?


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Check out how Arctic sea ice is melting with this video:


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Know more about glacier melting and climate change.


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See how rising sea levels will impact and are already affecting coastal and island regions.


Coral bleaching

Arctic sea ice extent, melting of glaciers and sea level rise
Corals are animals that form complex ecosystems, sheltering 25% of all marine species.

About half of all shallow water coral reefs are already dead due to ocean warming. Scientists estimate that at current rates of ocean warming and reef decline, most of the world’s coral reefs could be lost in the next few decades. (WWF)

Compromising coral reefs means threatening food security for those who depend on marine resources to survive, such as coastal communities. The damage extends itself as well for biodiversity.

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Understand how ocean acidification happens with the video below.

Why are coral reefs important? And how are they getting affected by climate change? Learn more here.

Extreme weather 

Extreme weather events
Extreme weather events are becoming increasingly frequent all over the globe, symptoms of a disturbed climate system. They include heatwaves, droughts, heavy thunderstorms, floods, hurricanes and heavy snowing.

The contribution of climate change in weather has been increasingly studied by climate scientists: a study found that 18% of heavy thunderstorms and snow events and 75% of heat waves can be attributable to human-caused climate change (sources: 1 and 2). If GHG emissions remain at current rates, extreme weather evens are likely to happen more often. They already bring death and insecurity for thousands of people around the globe, regarding food, shelter and water.

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Water stress

Water availibility
Water stress

Water is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change. Water availability is becoming less predictable in many places, and increased incidences of flooding threaten to destroy water points and sanitation facilities and contaminate water sources.

In some regions, droughts are exacerbating water scarcity and thereby negatively impacting people’s health and productivity. Ensuring that everyone has access to sustainable water and sanitation services is a critical climate change mitigation strategy for the years ahead. (UN-Water)

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Food insecurity

Food insecurity
Agriculture is not only one of the biggest emitters of GHG, but is also one of the most vulnerable of the effects of climate change.
The people who are projected to suffer the earlier and the worst impacts from climate change are the most vulnerable populations, with livelihoods depending on agriculture sectors in areas vulnerable to climate change.
On top of a changing climate, the world population is expected to grow to more than 9 billion people by 2050, for whom food production systems will have to sustain.

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Human displacement & human health

Climate refugees
People are trying to adapt to the changing environment, but many are being forcibly displaced from their homes by the effects of climate change and disasters, or are relocating in order to survive. New displacement patterns, and competition over depleted natural resources can spark conflict between communities or compound pre-existing vulnerabilities (UNHCR). A new term has even been coined to designate people affected by natural disasters of climate change: climate refugees.

Not only livelihoods of entire island nations are in check, but also people's well-being all over the world. Air pollution and heat waves are killing and compromising thousands of lives each year.

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Watch the video below to learn more on human displacement due to climate change.   More on climate refugees.

Understand how climate change and its effects impact human health.

How can you help?

As we have seen, the impacts of climate change are catastrophic and are already happening, affecting communities and wildlife across the world, and they are expected to get even more serious and widespread if action is not taken. 

Even though these impacts can feel overwhelming, every contribution to stop and reduce greenhouse gases emissions helps to hinder these effects. 

Here is how you can contribute in your daily life, by making climate-friendly choices and balancing your actions:

Individual action makes difference when taken collectively, but is not enough yet. Alongside with daily practices, pushing governments for political engagement and commitment with the climate agenda is key for promoting the needed structural changes to fight climate change. Learn more here.

To check the full set of solutions for climate change:

Full set of solutions