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Society relies heavily on energy that is generated by burning fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas.
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Source: A. Palmer, 2008

Climate Literacy - Essential Principle 6

Human activities are impacting the climate system.

Fundamental Concept 6a.
The overwhelming consensus of scientific studies on climate indicates that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the latter part of the 20th century is very likely due to human activities, primarily from increases in greenhouse gas concentrations resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.2

Fundamental Concept 6b.
Emissions from the widespread burning of fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Because these gases can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years before being removed by natural processes, their warming influence is projected to persist into the next century.

Fundamental Concept 6c.
Human activities have affected the land, oceans, and atmosphere, and these changes have altered global climate patterns. Burning fossil fuels, releasing chemicals into the atmosphere, reducing the amount of forest cover, and rapid expansion of farming, development, and industrial activities are releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and changing the balance of the climate system.

Fundamental Concept 6d.
Growing evidence shows that changes in many physical and biological systems are linked to human-caused global warming.3 Some changes resulting from human activities have decreased the capacity of the environment to support various species and have substantially reduced ecosystem biodiversity and ecological resilience.

Fundamental Concept 6e.
Scientists and economists predict that there will be both positive and negative impacts from global climate change. If warming exceeds 2 to 3°C (3.6 to 5.4°F) over the next century, the consequences of the negative impacts are likely to be much greater than the consequences of the positive impacts.

2. Based on IPCC, 2007: The Physical Science Basis: Contribution of Working Group I
3. Based on IPCC, 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II

Last modified July 29, 2009 by Becca Hatheway.

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The Winter 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on Earth System science, including articles on student inquiry, differentiated instruction, geomorphic concepts, the rock cycle, and much more!

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