- Understand the effects that impacts of climate change have on the Earth’s ecosystems, and on human society
- Explain the mechanics of the greenhouse effect, global warming and climate change.
- Identify the origins of major emissions, who the major drivers are and what populations are most affected by climate change impacts.
- Describe examples how climate change affects ecological structures and relationships.
- Explain how climate change poses a serious risk to human security now and in the future.
- Define the concept of climate justice, and explain how it supports the ethical imperative of fighting climate change; differentiate between equity and equality in the context of climate justice.
- Describe examples how fighting climate change can include prevention, mitigation and adaptation.
- Identify personal opportunities to contribute towards addressing the challenges of climate change.
Since the mid-20th century the Earth has warmed gradually at an increasing rate, largely as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. The most prominent greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, the levels of which have been closely monitored and reliably documented. The increased retention of heat is affecting the climate of different regions in different ways, including heat waves, droughts, severe weather events, the loss of polar ice and glaciers, as well as the disruption of regional weather cycles. Additional global effects include the acidification of the oceans, the rise of sea levels, the melting of arctic permafrost and the unpredictable response of major ocean currents. Ecosystems respond to those changes in complex and unpredictable ways, affecting the distribution of species and their interrelationships, as will be explained on examples. Human societies are affected in ways that compromise human security across the four pillars. Sources of insecurity in different pillars can reinforce each other and lead to major regional crises, as in the case of Syria. A major catastrophe is expected for South Asia as their sources of freshwater in the Himalayas are disappearing.
The global distribution of emission levels is very uneven, with per capita levels among the most affluent exceeding those of the poorest by two orders of magnitude. The impacts of climate change on individuals follow an inverse distribution, with the highest impacts disproportionately affecting the world’s poorest. The underlying injustice has incited protests and calls for reform worldwide. However, industrial greenhouse gas emissions are clustered in private and state-run industries that are slow to respond to arguments of climate justice. Major reform strategies involve governments and civil society and focus on mitigation and adaptation. Although they are facing some technological barriers, the most insurmountable obstacles are cultural and political.