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Learn the Facts

Climate Change:

Climate change is the most serious challenge facing humankind, and it’s a problem of our own making. Human activities, most notably the burning of fossil fuels, result in the emission of heating-trapping gases that collect in the atmosphere, creating a “greenhouse effect” that warms the planet. As civilization has advanced and the human population has greatly increased, the emission of these greenhouse gases (particularly but not only carbon dioxide) has accelerated dramatically, and so has the warming of the planet.


The Reality of Climate Change

There is no clear-cut level of warming that is considered by scientists to be “safe.” The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, signed by 196 countries, pledged to try to limit the rise in global average temperature to well below 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and preferably below 1.5° C. The earth has already warmed by about 1.0° C.

A large percentage of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is actually absorbed by the oceans, making them more acidic.  The oceans are already 30 percent more acidic than in pre-industrial times (see here for a good discussion). These changes threaten coral reefs and other marine life that form the basis of various food chains on which humans rely.

The consequences of this warming are sobering. As the atmosphere warms, ice sheets and glaciers melt, and sea levels rise, putting all of the world’s coastal cities at risk. A warming planet also means increasingly intense storms and flooding in some regions, as well as drought and fires in others. We are already seeing multiple “thousand-year” floods occurring within the span of only a few years in several locations. Meanwhile, California experienced one of the longest and most intense droughts in its history, spanning from December 2011 to March 2017. And severe drought increases the risk of life-threatening fires. The 2018 Camp Fire “was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history,” claiming at least 86 lives.

In general, climate change is likely to result in mass species extinctions, as many species, both on land and in the oceans, will be unable to adapt sufficiently quickly to their rapidly changing environments. Changes to the biosphere of these magnitudes pose a serious, and possibly existential, threat to human civilization. Climate change is indeed a climate crisis.

A global increase of 2° C. is an average; local temperature changes will vary from one location to another.  The Washington Post recently carried out a fascinating analysis of county-level temperature changes within the United States, based on over a century’s worth of data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to their analysis, Montgomery County, MD has already experienced a 1.5° C. increase since 1895.

Header Photo by Environmental Protection Agency, an agency of the U.S. federal government - Formal citation to source: Climate Change Indicators: U.S. and Global Temperature. Environmental Protection Agency (2021). Archived from the original on 30 December 2021. "EPA's data source: NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). 2021. Climate at a glance. Accessed February 2021." (Direct link to graphic; archive)Source page: thereof: link to image: thereof:, Public Domain,

Responding to the climate crisis will require a transition from the current fossil fuel-based economies to economies based on clean, renewable energy, as well as changes to more sustainable agricultural practices. We have the technology to meet this crisis head on. What we are looking for now is the political will. Given the dismayingly slow rate of action at the federal level, even under the current administration, local jurisdictions are stepping up and taking action. 350MoCo wants Montgomery County to be at the forefront of that action.

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