Government of New Brunswick

For millions of years, life on Earth has existed due to the delicate balance of the climate. This balance keeps the Earth warm enough to support life. However, our activities have the potential to disrupt this natural balance. As we adopt increasingly complex lifestyles, we produce a higher amount of heat-trapping gases that end up in the atmosphere and cause changes in the Earth's climate.


What is Climate?

Climate is the average weather pattern experienced by a region over a period of time (from decades to centuries) and includes all elements of the weather: temperature, precipitation, sunshine, humidity and wind. In other words, the weather is what you experience in the present and the climate is what you expect based on past weather observations.


What is Climate Change?

Climate change refers to variations in the "average weather patterns" that occur over time.

What is Climate Change

 

Climate change is being caused by an increasing concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the Earth's atmosphere. The atmosphere creates a natural greenhouse effect that sustains life on this planet. In the past 100 years, concentrations of GHGs have been increasing in the atmosphere at rates unprecedented in the planet's history. This is due to emissions from burning fossil fuels, from landfills and from land-use activities. Global temperatures have begun to increase as a consequence. As a result, not only is the world becoming warmer but weather patterns, like the amount of rain or snow in a given season or the occurrence of various weather extremes, are changing.

What are the Major Contributing Factors?

There is a delicate balance of the climate and the level of greenhouse gases that regulate the temperature on Earth. Not all contributing factors affecting this balance are caused by humans; there are some natural factors as well.

Here are some examples of natural factors that could affect this balance:

  • A change in the Earth's orbit around the sun can change the amount of solar energy that reaches the atmosphere.

  • A change in the type and quantity of very fine particles such as water vapour in the atmosphere can affect the amount of solar energy that is trapped.

Here are some examples of human factors that affect this natural balance:

  • Burning fossil fuels for transportation and energy generation increases the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and affects the amount of solar energy that is trapped.

  • Changes in land uses, such as clearing forests for development and agricultural purposes, affect the way the Earth reflects solar energy and also reduce the amount of greenhouse gases absorbed by plants and trees.

  • The presence in the atmosphere of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used for refrigeration and other fine particles (aerosols or sprays) from agricultural and industrial activities also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.