Climate Change Is Here Now

The evidence of climate change is all around us. Every day, new stories and scientific studies pour in documenting impacts of climate change we're already experiencing. The message is clear: Climate change is not an abstract problem for the future. Climate change is happening now, we are causing it, and the longer we wait to act, the more we lose and the more difficult the problem will be to solve.

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In this animation of temperature data from 1880-2011, reds indicate temperatures higher than the average during a baseline period of 1951-1980, while blues indicate lower temperatures than the baseline average. (Data source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Visualization credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.)

The Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute works every day in the legal, government and political arenas to confront global warming, which poses the greatest threat in human history to the natural systems that sustain life.

This site gathers many contemporary stories and studies of climate change; the range of impacts is vast. Polar bears are starving and drowning and Antarctic penguins face a diminished food supply as the sea ice melts beneath them. Coral reefs are suffering massive die-offs as ocean waters become too warm. Droughts, floods, blizzards, heat waves and other extreme weather events are increasing in frequency. Food and water supplies are becoming more unstable. Our health is suffering, and hundreds of thousands of people die climate-related deaths each year as excessive heat, extreme weather and climate change-exacerbated pollutants and diseases take their toll.

Click on the headers below for links to studies and stories on how climate change is affecting us right now.

  • Temperatures rising: The Earth's surface is growing ever hotter. The decade from 2000 to 2010 was the warmest on record, and 2005 and 2010 tied for the hottest years on record.
  • Extreme weather: Extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and blizzards are striking with increased frequency, with sometimes deadly consequences for people and wildlife.
  • Public health: Millions of people are suffering from climate-related health impacts, and hundreds of thousands of people each year die climate-related deaths from excessive heat, extreme weather and climate change-exacerbated pollutants and disease.
  • Species endangerment: Many animals and plants are losing their habitats and food sources, struggling to move poleward and upward to keep pace with climate change, shifting the timing of their breeding and migration, and disappearing as populations die out.
  • Ocean acidification: The oceans have become 30 percent more acidic due to their uptake of human-produced carbon dioxide, which is harming ocean life from shellfish to corals as they struggle to build the shells and skeletons they need to survive.
  • Food and water security: Climate change is reducing food security as crop growth and yields diminish; droughts, floods and changes in snowpack are disrupting water supplies.
  • Melting ice: The world's ice is rapidly melting away, raising sea level, threatening water supplies and jeopardizing ice-dependent animals like the polar bear. Arctic summer sea ice is half the area and thickness it was several decades ago, alpine glaciers are in near-global retreat, and the giant Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets are melting at an accelerating pace.
  • Sea-level rise: Global sea level rose at an average rate of 3.3 millimeters per year in recent decades (1993 to 2006), and in some regions of the world it is rising even faster, threatening wildlife on coasts and low-lying islands as well as 40 percent of the world's population that lives within 60 miles of the coast. The small island nation of Tuvalu in the South Pacific has already started evacuating its people because of rising sea levels.

As early as the 1850s, scientists began predicting that greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels would eventually lead to the warming of the Earth's surface. Scientists began detecting the fingerprints of climate change in the 1980s, and the impacts have been increasing for more than 20 years. In 2011, the immediacy and urgency of climate change is undeniable.

Actions you can take now to make a difference:

? Support the Clean Air Act to fight climate change: Become a Clean Air Advocate.
? Support a 350 ppm target for CO2.
? Learn how species are being affected by climate change and how the Endangered Species Act can protect them.
? Find out about the full scope of the Center?s actions to fight the climate crisis, and support our work.

Photo courtesy Flickr Commons/Maggie&David