Climate Change: Winners and Losers

Lesson 1: The Greenhouse Effect

Page 1: Introduction   Page 2    Page 3    Page 4    Review
People have a lot of questions about climate change: What is it? Is it real, or is it a hoax? What is causing it? What can we do to stop it? Are we going to destroy our planet?

Melting Earth
These are all important questions, and we will try to answer them over the course of this unit.

It may seem strange to think about "winners" and "losers" when discussing global climate change. Climate change is bad, right?

Actually, there is no "good" or "bad" in the natural world. It just is. And like any other change, global climate change will benefit some living things and create hardships for others.

This unit will provide an overview of global warming and climate change. We will start by looking at how Earth's greenhouse effect traps heat in the atmosphere and warms our planet. Next, we will look at how Earth's average surface temperature has changed over time
. Then we will try to predict some of the changes to expect in the coming years due to global warming.

Finally, we will try to address the idea of winners and losers: who will likely benefit from climate change, and who will likely suffer because of it?

Some ground rules:
First of all, we need to get a few things out of the way right at the start. Let's clarify some of the things that I've heard people say about global warming and climate change:

Polar bear
>>>Claim: Global warming is real - True. The world is getting warmer. This is a fact, not a theory or a hypothesis. If someone tells you that global warming is a hoax, politely inform them that they are mistaken. Scientists know how to use thermometers.

>>>Claim: Global warming is caused by human activity - True, as long as you don't say that ALL global warming or ALL climate change is caused by human activity. There are many things that affect temperatures on Earth, but the carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) that we are putting into the atmosphere is the main reason that average temperatures around the globe are rising.

>>>Claim: Global warming will destroy our planet - False. No it won't. Earth will still be here long after we humans are gone.

>>>Claim: We have got to stop climate change - Unfortunately, we can't. Much of the carbon dioxide that we put into the atmosphere today will still be in our air 30-40 years from now; some will remain for centuries. All of it contributes to the greenhouse effect. Climate change is coming, and it is largely due to human activity. But a lot of the decisions that we make in the next few years can affect how extreme and how rapid the coming climate changes will be.

So, being that climate change is coming whether we like it or not--whether we "believe" in it or not--let's learn as much about it as we can. Then maybe we can make some decisions about what to do about it and how to prepare for it.

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Last Updated: January 22, 2022