The earth’s climate has always changed

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Climate-Energy Uropian Magazine
Smoke is discharged from chimneys at a coal-fired power plant of China Guodian Corporation in Datong city, north China's Shanxi province, 17 March 2018. In a dramatic televised announcement, the Chinese government declared it was waging a "war on pollution". That was in 2014. Four years later, the numbers are in: China is winning. It means big things for its people: if these reductions in pollution are sustained, the average Chinese citizen will add almost 2.5 years to their life expectancy. The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) analyzed daily data from over 200 monitors across China from 2013-2017. The country's most populated cities have cut concentrations of fine particulates in the air by an average of 32 percent in just four years – most are meeting or exceeding goals outlined in their 2013 Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan, a $270-billion initiative with plans to reduce particulate air matter in the most densely-populated cities. An additional $120 billion was set aside to fight pollution in Beijing. The country pledged to meet reduction goals by reducing the nation's dependency on coal, controlling vehicle emissions, increasing renewable energy generation, and better enforcing emissions standards. The government also increased its transparency in sharing information with the public.

Over the course of the Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history, the climate has changed a lot. This is true. But the rapid warming we’re seeing now can’t be explained by natural cycles of warming and cooling. The kind of changes that would normally happen over hundreds of thousands of years are happening in decades. 

Global temperatures are now at their highest since records began. In fact, 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have all taken place since 2001.  

This much faster warming corresponds with levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which have been increasing since the industrial revolution. So, when people talk about climate change today, they mean anthropogenic (man-made) climate change. This is the warming of Earth’s average temperature as a result of human activity, such as burning coal, oil and gas to produce energy to fuel our homes and transport and cutting down trees to produce the food we eat.

Direct observations made on and above Earth’s surface show the planet’s climate is significantly changing. Human activities are the primary driver of those changes.

Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 11,700 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

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