Climate change.

Climate change is a long-term shift in global or regional climate patterns. Often climate change refers specifically to the rise in global temperatures from the mid-20th century to present.

Earth Science, Climatology

Fracking tower

Fracking is a controversial form of drilling that uses high-pressure liquid to create cracks in underground shale to extract natural gas and petroleum. Carbon emissions from fossils fuels like these have been linked to global warming and climate change.

Photograph by Mark Thiessen / National Geographic

Fracking is a controversial form of drilling that uses high-pressure liquid to create cracks in underground shale to extract natural gas and petroleum. Carbon emissions from fossils fuels like these have been linked to global warming and climate change.

Climate is sometimes mistaken for weather. But climate is different from weather because it is measured over a long period of time, whereas weather can change from day to day, or from year to year. The climate of an area includes seasonal temperature and rainfall averages, and wind patterns. Different places have different climates. A desert, for example, is referred to as an arid climate because little water falls, as rain or snow, during the year. Other types of climate include tropical climates, which are hot and humid , and temperate climates, which have warm summers and cooler winters.

Climate change is the long-term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns in a place. Climate change could refer to a particular location or the planet as a whole. Climate change may cause weather patterns to be less predictable. These unexpected weather patterns can make it difficult to maintain and grow crops in regions that rely on farming because expected temperature and rainfall levels can no longer be relied on. Climate change has also been connected with other damaging weather events such as more frequent and more intense hurricanes, floods, downpours, and winter storms.

In polar regions, the warming global temperatures associated with climate change have meant ice sheets and glaciers are melting at an accelerated rate from season to season. This contributes to sea levels rising in different regions of the planet. Together with expanding ocean waters due to rising temperatures, the resulting rise in sea level has begun to damage coastlines as a result of increased flooding and erosion.

The cause of current climate change is largely human activity, like burning fossil fuels , like natural gas, oil, and coal. Burning these materials releases what are called greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere . There, these gases trap heat from the sun’s rays inside the atmosphere causing Earth’s average temperature to rise. This rise in the planet's temperature is called global warming. The warming of the planet impacts local and regional climates. Throughout Earth's history, climate has continually changed. When occuring naturally, this is a slow process that has taken place over hundreds and thousands of years. The human influenced climate change that is happening now is occuring at a much faster rate.

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Home / For Educators: Grades 6-12 / Climate Explained: Introductory Essays About Climate Change Topics

Climate Explained: Introductory Essays About Climate Change Topics

Filed under: backgrounders for educators ,.

Climate Explained, a part of Yale Climate Connections, is an essay collection that addresses an array of climate change questions and topics, including why it’s cold outside if global warming is real, how we know that humans are responsible for global warming, and the relationship between climate change and national security.

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Climate Change Basics: Five Facts, Ten Words

Backgrounders for Educators

To simplify the scientific complexity of climate change, we focus on communicating five key facts about climate change that everyone should know. 

informative essay climate change

Why should we care about climate change?

Having different perspectives about global warming is natural, but the most important thing that anyone should know about climate change is why it matters.  

informative essay climate change

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Looking for resources to help you and your students build a solid climate change science foundation? We’ve compiled a list of reputable, student-friendly links to help you do just that!  

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informative essay climate change

Causes and Effects of Climate Change

Glaciers are melting , sea levels are rising, cloud forests are dying , and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. It has become clear that humans have caused most of the past century's warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. Called greenhouse gases, their levels are higher now than at any time in the last 800,000 years .

We often call the result global warming, but it is causing a set of changes to the Earth's climate, or long-term weather patterns, that varies from place to place. While many people think of global warming and climate change as synonyms , scientists use “climate change” when describing the complex shifts now affecting our planet’s weather and climate systems—in part because some areas actually get cooler in the short term .

Climate change encompasses not only rising average temperatures but also extreme weather events , shifting wildlife populations and habitats, rising seas , and a range of other impacts. All of those changes are emerging as humans continue to add heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, changing the rhythms of climate that all living things have come to rely on.

What will we do—what can we do—to slow this human-caused warming? How will we cope with the changes we've already set into motion? While we struggle to figure it all out, the fate of the Earth as we know it—coasts, forests, farms, and snow-capped mountains—hangs in the balance.

An iceberg melts in the waters off Antarctica. Climate change has accelerated the rate of ice loss across the continent.

Understanding the greenhouse effect

The "greenhouse effect" is the warming that happens when certain gases in Earth's atmosphere trap heat . These gases let in light but keep heat from escaping, like the glass walls of a greenhouse, hence the name.

Sunlight shines onto the Earth's surface, where the energy is absorbed and then radiate back into the atmosphere as heat. In the atmosphere, greenhouse gas molecules trap some of the heat, and the rest escapes into space. The more greenhouse gases concentrate in the atmosphere, the more heat gets locked up in the molecules.

Scientists have known about the greenhouse effect since 1824, when Joseph Fourier calculated that the Earth would be much colder if it had no atmosphere. This natural greenhouse effect is what keeps the Earth's climate livable. Without it, the Earth's surface would be an average of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) cooler.

In 1895, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius discovered that humans could enhance the greenhouse effect by making carbon dioxide , a greenhouse gas. He kicked off 100 years of climate research that has given us a sophisticated understanding of global warming.

Levels of greenhouse gases have gone up and down over the Earth's history, but they had been fairly constant for the past few thousand years. Global average temperatures had also stayed fairly constant over that time— until the past 150 years . Through the burning of fossil fuels and other activities that have emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases, particularly over the past few decades, humans are now enhancing the greenhouse effect and warming Earth significantly, and in ways that promise many effects , scientists warn.

Aren't temperature changes natural?

Human activity isn't the only factor that affects Earth's climate. Volcanic eruptions and variations in solar radiation from sunspots, solar wind, and the Earth's position relative to the sun also play a role. So do large-scale weather patterns such as El Niño .

But climate models that scientists use to monitor Earth’s temperatures take those factors into account. Changes in solar radiation levels as well as minute particles suspended in the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions , for example, have contributed only about two percent to the recent warming effect. The balance comes from greenhouse gases and other human-caused factors, such as land use change .

The short timescale of this recent warming is singular as well. Volcanic eruptions , for example, emit particles that temporarily cool the Earth's surface. But their effect lasts just a few years. Events like El Niño also work on fairly short and predictable cycles. On the other hand, the types of global temperature fluctuations that have contributed to ice ages occur on a cycle of hundreds of thousands of years.

For thousands of years now, emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere have been balanced out by greenhouse gases that are naturally absorbed. As a result, greenhouse gas concentrations and temperatures have been fairly stable, which has allowed human civilization to flourish within a consistent climate.

Now, humans have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution. Changes that have historically taken thousands of years are now happening over the course of decades .

Why does this matter?

The rapid rise in greenhouse gases is a problem because it’s changing the climate faster than some living things can adapt to. Also, a new and more unpredictable climate poses unique challenges to all life.

Historically, Earth's climate has regularly shifted between temperatures like those we see today and temperatures cold enough to cover much of North America and Europe with ice. The difference between average global temperatures today and during those ice ages is only about 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), and the swings have tended to happen slowly, over hundreds of thousands of years.

But with concentrations of greenhouse gases rising, Earth's remaining ice sheets such as Greenland and Antarctica are starting to melt too . That extra water could raise sea levels significantly, and quickly. By 2050, sea levels are predicted to rise between one and 2.3 feet as glaciers melt.

As the mercury rises, the climate can change in unexpected ways. In addition to sea levels rising, weather can become more extreme . This means more intense major storms, more rain followed by longer and drier droughts—a challenge for growing crops—changes in the ranges in which plants and animals can live, and loss of water supplies that have historically come from glaciers.

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Our Future Is Now - A Climate Change Essay by Francesca Minicozzi, '21

Francesca Minicozzi (class of 2021) is a Writing/Biology major who plans to study medicine after graduation. She wrote this essay on climate change for WR 355/Travel Writing, which she took while studying abroad in Newcastle in spring 2020. Although the coronavirus pandemic curtailed Francesca’s time abroad, her months in Newcastle prompted her to learn more about climate change. Terre Ryan Associate Professor, Writing Department

Our Future Is Now

By Francesca Minicozzi, '21 Writing and Biology Major

 “If you don’t mind me asking, how is the United States preparing for climate change?” my flat mate, Zac, asked me back in March, when we were both still in Newcastle. He and I were accustomed to asking each other about the differences between our home countries; he came from Cambridge, while I originated in Long Island, New York. This was one of our numerous conversations about issues that impact our generation, which we usually discussed while cooking dinner in our communal kitchen. In the moment of our conversation, I did not have as strong an answer for him as I would have liked. Instead, I informed him of the few changes I had witnessed within my home state of New York.

Francesca Minicozzi, '21

Zac’s response was consistent with his normal, diplomatic self. “I have been following the BBC news in terms of the climate crisis for the past few years. The U.K. has been working hard to transition to renewable energy sources. Similar to the United States, here in the United Kingdom we have converted over to solar panels too. My home does not have solar panels, but a lot of our neighbors have switched to solar energy in the past few years.”

“Our two countries are similar, yet so different,” I thought. Our conversation continued as we prepared our meals, with topics ranging from climate change to the upcoming presidential election to Britain’s exit from the European Union. However, I could not shake the fact that I knew so little about a topic so crucial to my generation.

After I abruptly returned home from the United Kingdom because of the global pandemic, my conversation with my flat mate lingered in my mind. Before the coronavirus surpassed climate change headlines, I had seen the number of internet postings regarding protests to protect the planet dramatically increase. Yet the idea of our planet becoming barren and unlivable in a not-so-distant future had previously upset me to the point where a part of me refused to deal with it. After I returned from studying abroad, I decided to educate myself on the climate crisis.

My quest for climate change knowledge required a thorough understanding of the difference between “climate change” and “global warming.” Climate change is defined as “a pattern of change affecting global or regional climate,” based on “average temperature and rainfall measurements” as well as the frequency of extreme weather events. 1   These varied temperature and weather events link back to both natural incidents and human activity. 2   Likewise, the term global warming was coined “to describe climate change caused by humans.” 3   Not only that, but global warming is most recently attributed to an increase in “global average temperature,” mainly due to greenhouse gas emissions produced by humans. 4

I next questioned why the term “climate change” seemed to take over the term “global warming” in the United States. According to Frank Luntz, a leading Republican consultant, the term “global warming” functions as a rather intimidating phrase. During George W. Bush’s first presidential term, Luntz argued in favor of using the less daunting phrase “climate change” in an attempt to overcome the environmental battle amongst Democrats and Republicans. 5   Since President Bush’s term, Luntz remains just one political consultant out of many politicians who has recognized the need to address climate change. In an article from 2019, Luntz proclaimed that political parties aside, the climate crisis affects everyone. Luntz argued that politicians should steer clear of trying to communicate “the complicated science of climate change,” and instead engage voters by explaining how climate change personally impacts citizens with natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and forest fires. 6   He even suggested that a shift away from words like “sustainability” would gear Americans towards what they really want: a “cleaner, safer, healthier” environment. 7

The idea of a cleaner and heathier environment remains easier said than done. The Paris Climate Agreement, introduced in 2015, began the United Nations’ “effort to combat global climate change.” 8   This agreement marked a global initiative to “limit global temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels,” while simultaneously “pursuing means to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.” 9    Every country on earth has joined together in this agreement for the common purpose of saving our planet. 10   So, what could go wrong here? As much as this sounds like a compelling step in the right direction for climate change, President Donald Trump thought otherwise. In June 2017, President Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement with his proclamation of climate change as a “’hoax’ perpetrated by China.” 11   President Trump continued to question the scientific facts behind climate change, remaining an advocate for the expansion of domestic fossil fuel production. 12   He reversed environmental policies implemented by former President Barack Obama to reduce fossil fuel use. 13

Trump’s actions against the Paris Agreement, however, fail to represent the beliefs of Americans as a whole. The majority of American citizens feel passionate about the fight against climate change. To demonstrate their support, some have gone as far as creating initiatives including America’s Pledge and We Are Still In. 14   Although the United States officially exited the Paris Agreement on November 4, 2020, this withdrawal may not survive permanently. 15   According to experts, our new president “could rejoin in as short as a month’s time.” 16   This offers a glimmer of hope.

The Paris Agreement declares that the United States will reduce greenhouse gas emission levels by 26 to 28 percent by the year 2025. 17   As a leader in greenhouse gas emissions, the United States needs to accept the climate crisis for the serious challenge that it presents and work together with other nations. The concept of working coherently with all nations remains rather tricky; however, I remain optimistic. I think we can learn from how other countries have adapted to the increased heating of our planet. During my recent study abroad experience in the United Kingdom, I was struck by Great Britain’s commitment to combating climate change.

Since the United Kingdom joined the Paris Agreement, the country targets a “net-zero” greenhouse gas emission for 2050. 18   This substantial alteration would mark an 80% reduction of greenhouse gases from 1990, if “clear, stable, and well-designed policies are implemented without interruption.” 19   In order to stay on top of reducing emissions, the United Kingdom tracks electricity and car emissions, “size of onshore and offshore wind farms,” amount of homes and “walls insulated, and boilers upgraded,” as well as the development of government policies, including grants for electric vehicles. 20   A strong grip on this data allows the United Kingdom to target necessary modifications that keep the country on track for 2050. In my brief semester in Newcastle, I took note of these significant changes. The city of Newcastle is small enough that many students and faculty are able to walk or bike to campus and nearby essential shops. However, when driving is unavoidable, the majority of the vehicles used are electric, and many British citizens place a strong emphasis on carpooling to further reduce emissions. The United Kingdom’s determination to severely reduce greenhouse emissions is ambitious and particularly admirable, especially as the United States struggles to shy away from its dependence on fossil fuels.

So how can we, as Americans, stand together to combat global climate change? Here are five adjustments Americans can make to their homes and daily routines that can dramatically make a difference:

  • Stay cautious of food waste. Studies demonstrate that “Americans throw away up to 40 percent of the food they buy.” 21   By being more mindful of the foods we purchase, opting for leftovers, composting wastes, and donating surplus food to those in need, we can make an individual difference that impacts the greater good. 22   
  • Insulate your home. Insulation functions as a “cost-effective and accessible” method to combat climate change. 23   Homes with modern insulation reduce energy required to heat them, leading to a reduction of emissions and an overall savings; in comparison, older homes can “lose up to 35 percent of heat through their walls.” 24   
  • Switch to LED Lighting. LED stands for “light-emitting diodes,” which use “90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and half as much as compact fluorescents.” 25   LED lights create light without producing heat, and therefore do not waste energy. Additionally, these lights have a longer duration than other bulbs, which means they offer a continuing savings. 26  
  • Choose transportation wisely. Choose to walk or bike whenever the option presents itself. If walking or biking is not an option, use an electric or hybrid vehicle which emits less harmful gases. Furthermore, reduce the number of car trips taken, and carpool with others when applicable. 
  • Finally, make your voice heard. The future of our planet remains in our hands, so we might as well use our voices to our advantage. Social media serves as a great platform for this. Moreover, using social media to share helpful hints to combat climate change within your community or to promote an upcoming protest proves beneficial in the long run. If we collectively put our voices to good use, together we can advocate for change.

As many of us are stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these suggestions are slightly easier to put into place. With numerous “stay-at-home” orders in effect, Americans have the opportunity to make significant achievements for climate change. Personally, I have taken more precautions towards the amount of food consumed within my household during this pandemic. I have been more aware of food waste, opting for leftovers when too much food remains. Additionally, I have realized how powerful my voice is as a young college student. Now is the opportunity for Americans to share how they feel about climate change. During this unprecedented time, our voice is needed now more than ever in order to make a difference.

However, on a much larger scale, the coronavirus outbreak has shed light on reducing global energy consumption. Reductions in travel, both on the roads and in the air, have triggered a drop in emission rates. In fact, the International Energy Agency predicts a 6 percent decrease in energy consumption around the globe for this year alone. 27   This drop is “equivalent to losing the entire energy demand of India.” 28   Complete lockdowns have lowered the global demand for electricity and slashed CO2 emissions. However, in New York City, the shutdown has only decreased carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent. 29   This proves that a shift in personal behavior is simply not enough to “fix the carbon emission problem.” 30   Climate policies aimed to reduce fossil fuel production and promote clean technology will be crucial steppingstones to ameliorating climate change effects. Our current reduction of greenhouse gas emissions serves as “the sort of reduction we need every year until net-zero emissions are reached around 2050.” 31   From the start of the coronavirus pandemic, politicians came together for the common good of protecting humanity; this demonstrates that when necessary, global leaders are capable of putting humankind above the economy. 32

After researching statistics comparing the coronavirus to climate change, I thought back to the moment the virus reached pandemic status. I knew that a greater reason underlay all of this global turmoil. Our globe is in dire need of help, and the coronavirus reminds the world of what it means to work together. This pandemic marks a turning point in global efforts to slow down climate change. The methods we enact towards not only stopping the spread of the virus, but slowing down climate change, will ultimately depict how humanity will arise once this pandemic is suppressed. The future of our home planet lies in how we treat it right now. 

  • “Climate Change: What Do All the Terms Mean?,” BBC News (BBC, May 1, 2019), https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-48057733 )
  • Ibid. 
  • Kate Yoder, “Frank Luntz, the GOP's Message Master, Calls for Climate Action,” Grist (Grist, July 26, 2019), https://grist.org/article/the-gops-most-famous-messaging-strategist-calls-for-climate-action
  • Melissa Denchak, “Paris Climate Agreement: Everything You Need to Know,” NRDC, April 29, 2020, https://www.nrdc.org/stories/paris-climate-agreement-everything-you-need-know)
  • “Donald J. Trump's Foreign Policy Positions,” Council on Foreign Relations (Council on Foreign Relations), accessed May 7, 2020, https://www.cfr.org/election2020/candidate-tracker/donald-j.-trump?gclid=CjwKCAjw4871BRAjEiwAbxXi21cneTRft_doA5if60euC6QCL7sr-Jwwv76IkgWaUTuyJNx9EzZzRBoCdjsQAvD_BwE#climate and energy )
  • David Doniger, “Paris Climate Agreement Explained: Does Congress Need to Sign Off?,” NRDC, December 15, 2016, https://www.nrdc.org/experts/david-doniger/paris-climate-agreement-explained-does-congress-need-sign )
  • “How the UK Is Progressing,” Committee on Climate Change, March 9, 2020, https://www.theccc.org.uk/what-is-climate-change/reducing-carbon-emissions/how-the-uk-is-progressing/)
  • Ibid.  
  • “Top 10 Ways You Can Fight Climate Change,” Green America, accessed May 7, 2020, https://www.greenamerica.org/your-green-life/10-ways-you-can-fight-climate-change )
  • Matt McGrath, “Climate Change and Coronavirus: Five Charts about the Biggest Carbon Crash,” BBC News (BBC, May 5, 2020), https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/science-environment-52485712 )
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News from the Columbia Climate School

From the field climate week nyc, you asked: what’s the best way to talk about climate change.

informative essay climate change

This story was published as part of our Climate Week NYC coverage. Learn more about Climate Week, read our other stories , and check out our upcoming events .

informative essay climate change

Hurricane Ida is seen in this image taken aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

More Americans today are worried about climate change than ever before. From 2014 to 2020, the proportion of people who said they felt “alarmed” by global warming nearly tripled, according to research from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. But while public awareness for climate change is at an all-time high, dinner tables and debate stages can still feel boobytrapped with uncomfortable conversations. As part of State of the Planet’s “You Asked” series, Columbia scientists, journalists, and content creators spoke to why that is and how, through thoughtful climate communication, it doesn’t have to be.

The Evolution of Climate Communication

Climate scientist and Columbia Climate School professor Kate Marvel remembers when the main story about climate change had to do with whether or not it existed. Experts not unlike herself were pitted against skeptics on live television with little time for well-meaning discussion. The relatively few stories that did uplift climate science focused on what was happening in the natural world; for mainstream publications—and the majority of their readers—that meant climate change was synonymous with polar bears trapped on melting icebergs or rainforests burning in the Amazon.

Andrew Revkin was an environmental reporter with The New York Times for over 15 years before joining the Earth Institute as the director of the Initiative on Communication and Sustainability. He said the “newsroom norm” of  prioritizing what had happened that day made it difficult for issues with incremental developments and long-term time horizons to get top billing. It is only in the last handful of years, he noted, that climate change has begun to “infuse itself into other coverage,” with reporters writing about its impact on other pressing social issues such as public health and racial justice.

At the same time, climate solutions have become more visible and scalable, resulting in coverage that considershow the crisis can be mitigated, rather than just its consequences. Sabine Marx, former managing director of Columbia’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, said this shift has offered a psychological advantage in how the threat of climate change is communicated. “If I know there are steps that I can take towards actionable solutions, then I am much more likely to accept that there’s a problem,” she explained.

Climate communication has also been supported by the proliferation of new forms of media.  Sustainable Development student Lauren Ritchie , for example, founded the online platform The EcoJustice Project to make climate education and action more accessible to her generation.

“Gen Z is eager to learn and trying to get involved,” said Ritchie. “Most of the time, I’m making content based on what I would want to consume.”

Through social media features like Instagram Live, Ritchie provides her tens of thousands of followers with the opportunity to hear firsthand from people experiencing and responding to climate change in their communities.

How To Talk About Climate Change

Whether it is in person, in print, or online, climate communication often begins where it ends—with the audience. Marx explained that the experiences and values of a person inherently shape the way that they choose to engage with climate change, if at all. As a result, what resonates with a financial investor in New England might not be what resonates with a farmer in the Southeast.

“Knowing your audience will allow you to get beyond the information deficit so that you can look at filling a motivation deficit,” said Marx.

With no shortage of prospective audiences, climate communicators are constantly adapting the way that they frame the issue, a process that Marvel has found to be really empowering. “I don’t like feeling like a robot,” she said. “I think if you decide that there’s only one way to communicate about this, and you have to say the same thing over and over, then you’re going to burn out really quickly.”

Journalist Brian Kahn will use any combination of analogies, examples, and recent climate events in his work to connect with his readers—including the ones who send him hate mail. “As long as they’re not threatening my life, I’ll usually respond,” he said. “There’s a surprising amount of common ground between folks where you might not expect it.”

informative essay climate change

Flooding in the Bronx the day after Ida passed through New York City. Credit: Jim Griffin

While finding common ground does not always equate to changing someone’s mind, Marvel noted that it is often the “human conversations without ulterior motives” that are the most productive. “When I talk about climate change, I want other people to understand this thing that’s really important to me,” she said, “and I want to learn from other people.”

It is a strategy that Marx refers to as “leading to ” climate change, rather than “leading with ” climate change. By starting with what is relatable—raising kids, owning a home, enjoying long walks on the beach—the impacts of climate change can be tethered to the shared reality of what is at stake. “We want to open the door with something that is meaningful to people, something that they care about,” she said.

The Future of Climate Communication

Given that climate communication has changed so much in the last two decades, it can be difficult to predict what will come next for the field as a whole. For Revkin, the future of climate communication will involve convening more stakeholders for in-depth conversations rather than writing for traditional media outlets.

“Climate and sustainability communication is different from telling another good story,” he said. “It’s getting brains into a place and having them think about something they might not otherwise, to collaborate on something that they can do more effectively together than alone.”

Through his “Sustain What?” webcast series, Revkin has already hosted a wide variety of experts to discuss issues ranging from global ecological restoration to the future of nuclear energy . In the last year and a half, he has recorded over 220 episodes that have engaged an estimated one million listeners.

The creation of new shared spaces like the “Sustain What?” webcast series can also function to champion greater diversity in climate discourse—something that Ritchie, Marvel, and Kahn stressed is desperately needed moving forward. “There is so much nuance to climate change,” said Ritchie, “and yet we tend to look at it through this privileged, white lens.”

Marvel agreed. “It’s an existential problem if climate communication is a monolith,” she said. “No one person or group of people is going to be able to talk to all communities, so we need to uplift diverse voices.”

Perhaps then the most important part of climate communication is that it keeps happening in more places with more people, especially in the face of what Kahn referred to as an “epidemic of climate silence” in the United States and around the world.

“People should not be afraid to talk about this stuff,” he said. “Having these conversations—even if they feel hard—is the first step to actually acting, passing climate policy, and getting this work done.”

Watch Elise Gout chat with Andy Revkin, Director of Columbia Climate School’s Initiative on Communication and Sustainability and host of the “Sustain What?” webcast series, on how to talk about climate change. 

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Causes and Effects of Climate Change

Fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions.

As greenhouse gas emissions blanket the Earth, they trap the sun’s heat. This leads to global warming and climate change. The world is now warming faster than at any point in recorded history. Warmer temperatures over time are changing weather patterns and disrupting the usual balance of nature. This poses many risks to human beings and all other forms of life on Earth.

Industry and Transport

Causes of Climate Change

Generating power

Generating electricity and heat by burning fossil fuels causes a large chunk of global emissions. Most electricity is still generated by burning coal, oil, or gas, which produces carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide – powerful greenhouse gases that blanket the Earth and trap the sun’s heat. Globally, a bit more than a quarter of electricity comes from wind, solar and other renewable sources which, as opposed to fossil fuels, emit little to no greenhouse gases or pollutants into the air.

Manufacturing goods

Manufacturing and industry produce emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels to produce energy for making things like cement, iron, steel, electronics, plastics, clothes, and other goods. Mining and other industrial processes also release gases, as does the construction industry. Machines used in the manufacturing process often run on coal, oil, or gas; and some materials, like plastics, are made from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels. The manufacturing industry is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Cutting down forests

Cutting down forests to create farms or pastures, or for other reasons, causes emissions, since trees, when they are cut, release the carbon they have been storing. Each year approximately 12 million hectares of forest are destroyed. Since forests absorb carbon dioxide, destroying them also limits nature’s ability to keep emissions out of the atmosphere. Deforestation, together with agriculture and other land use changes, is responsible for roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Using transportation

Most cars, trucks, ships, and planes run on fossil fuels. That makes transportation a major contributor of greenhouse gases, especially carbon-dioxide emissions. Road vehicles account for the largest part, due to the combustion of petroleum-based products, like gasoline, in internal combustion engines. But emissions from ships and planes continue to grow. Transport accounts for nearly one quarter of global energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions. And trends point to a significant increase in energy use for transport over the coming years.

Producing food

Producing food causes emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases in various ways, including through deforestation and clearing of land for agriculture and grazing, digestion by cows and sheep, the production and use of fertilizers and manure for growing crops, and the use of energy to run farm equipment or fishing boats, usually with fossil fuels. All this makes food production a major contributor to climate change. And greenhouse gas emissions also come from packaging and distributing food.

Powering buildings

Globally, residential and commercial buildings consume over half of all electricity. As they continue to draw on coal, oil, and natural gas for heating and cooling, they emit significant quantities of greenhouse gas emissions. Growing energy demand for heating and cooling, with rising air-conditioner ownership, as well as increased electricity consumption for lighting, appliances, and connected devices, has contributed to a rise in energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions from buildings in recent years.

Consuming too much

Your home and use of power, how you move around, what you eat and how much you throw away all contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. So does the consumption of goods such as clothing, electronics, and plastics. A large chunk of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to private households. Our lifestyles have a profound impact on our planet. The wealthiest bear the greatest responsibility: the richest 1 per cent of the global population combined account for more greenhouse gas emissions than the poorest 50 per cent.

Based on various UN sources

Industry and Transport

Effects of Climate Change

Hotter temperatures

As greenhouse gas concentrations rise, so does the global surface temperature. The last decade, 2011-2020, is the warmest on record. Since the 1980s, each decade has been warmer than the previous one. Nearly all land areas are seeing more hot days and heat waves. Higher temperatures increase heat-related illnesses and make working outdoors more difficult. Wildfires start more easily and spread more rapidly when conditions are hotter. Temperatures in the Arctic have warmed at least twice as fast as the global average.

More severe storms

Destructive storms have become more intense and more frequent in many regions. As temperatures rise, more moisture evaporates, which exacerbates extreme rainfall and flooding, causing more destructive storms. The frequency and extent of tropical storms is also affected by the warming ocean. Cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons feed on warm waters at the ocean surface. Such storms often destroy homes and communities, causing deaths and huge economic losses.

Increased drought

Climate change is changing water availability, making it scarcer in more regions. Global warming exacerbates water shortages in already water-stressed regions and is leading to an increased risk of agricultural droughts affecting crops, and ecological droughts increasing the vulnerability of ecosystems. Droughts can also stir destructive sand and dust storms that can move billions of tons of sand across continents. Deserts are expanding, reducing land for growing food. Many people now face the threat of not having enough water on a regular basis.

A warming, rising ocean

The ocean soaks up most of the heat from global warming. The rate at which the ocean is warming strongly increased over the past two decades, across all depths of the ocean. As the ocean warms, its volume increases since water expands as it gets warmer. Melting ice sheets also cause sea levels to rise, threatening coastal and island communities. In addition, the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide, keeping it from the atmosphere. But more carbon dioxide makes the ocean more acidic, which endangers marine life and coral reefs.

Loss of species

Climate change poses risks to the survival of species on land and in the ocean. These risks increase as temperatures climb. Exacerbated by climate change, the world is losing species at a rate 1,000 times greater than at any other time in recorded human history. One million species are at risk of becoming extinct within the next few decades. Forest fires, extreme weather, and invasive pests and diseases are among many threats related to climate change. Some species will be able to relocate and survive, but others will not.

Not enough food

Changes in the climate and increases in extreme weather events are among the reasons behind a global rise in hunger and poor nutrition. Fisheries, crops, and livestock may be destroyed or become less productive. With the ocean becoming more acidic, marine resources that feed billions of people are at risk. Changes in snow and ice cover in many Arctic regions have disrupted food supplies from herding, hunting, and fishing. Heat stress can diminish water and grasslands for grazing, causing declining crop yields and affecting livestock.

More health risks

Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. Climate impacts are already harming health, through air pollution, disease, extreme weather events, forced displacement, pressures on mental health, and increased hunger and poor nutrition in places where people cannot grow or find sufficient food. Every year, environmental factors take the lives of around 13 million people. Changing weather patterns are expanding diseases, and extreme weather events increase deaths and make it difficult for health care systems to keep up.

Poverty and displacement

Climate change increases the factors that put and keep people in poverty. Floods may sweep away urban slums, destroying homes and livelihoods. Heat can make it difficult to work in outdoor jobs. Water scarcity may affect crops. Over the past decade (2010–2019), weather-related events displaced an estimated 23.1 million people on average each year, leaving many more vulnerable to poverty. Most refugees come from countries that are most vulnerable and least ready to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

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informative essay climate change

Climate Change

Climate change: basic information, on this page, climate change is happening, humans are largely responsible for recent climate change, climate change affects everyone, we can make a difference, how is the climate changing in the u.s..

Observations across the United States and world provide multiple, independent lines of evidence that climate change is happening now. Learn More

Our Earth is warming. Earth's average temperature has risen by 1.5°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 0.5 to 8.6°F over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.

The evidence is clear. Rising global temperatures have been accompanied by changes in weather and climate. Many places have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves.

The planet's oceans and glaciers have also experienced some big changes – oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. As these and other changes become more pronounced in the coming decades, they will likely present challenges to our society and our environment.

What are climate change and global warming?

Global warming refers to the recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth's surface. It is caused mostly by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Global warming is causing climate patterns to change. However, global warming itself represents only one aspect of climate change.

Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among other effects, that occur over several decades or longer.

Learn more about the signs of climate change in the United States.

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Over the past century, human activities have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The majority of greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels to produce energy, although deforestation, industrial processes, and some agricultural practices also emit gases into the atmosphere.

Emissions at sunset

The choices we make today will affect the amount of greenhouse gases we put in the atmosphere in the near future and for years to come.

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Our lives are connected to the climate. Human societies have adapted to the relatively stable climate we have enjoyed since the last ice age which ended several thousand years ago. A warming climate will bring changes that can affect our water supplies, agriculture, power and transportation systems, the natural environment, and even our own health and safety.

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Some changes to the climate are unavoidable. Carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for nearly a century, so Earth will continue to warm in the coming decades. The warmer it gets, the greater the risk for more severe changes to the climate and Earth's system. Although it's difficult to predict the exact impacts of climate change, what's clear is that the climate we are accustomed to is no longer a reliable guide for what to expect in the future.

We can reduce the risks we will face from climate change. By making choices that reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and preparing for the changes that are already underway, we can reduce risks from climate change. Our decisions today will shape the world our children and grandchildren will live in.

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Climate Change Essay for Students and Children

500+ words climate change essay.

Climate change refers to the change in the environmental conditions of the earth. This happens due to many internal and external factors. The climatic change has become a global concern over the last few decades. Besides, these climatic changes affect life on the earth in various ways. These climatic changes are having various impacts on the ecosystem and ecology. Due to these changes, a number of species of plants and animals have gone extinct.

informative essay climate change

When Did it Start?

The climate started changing a long time ago due to human activities but we came to know about it in the last century. During the last century, we started noticing the climatic change and its effect on human life. We started researching on climate change and came to know that the earth temperature is rising due to a phenomenon called the greenhouse effect. The warming up of earth surface causes many ozone depletion, affect our agriculture , water supply, transportation, and several other problems.

Reason Of Climate Change

Although there are hundreds of reason for the climatic change we are only going to discuss the natural and manmade (human) reasons.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Natural Reasons

These include volcanic eruption , solar radiation, tectonic plate movement, orbital variations. Due to these activities, the geographical condition of an area become quite harmful for life to survive. Also, these activities raise the temperature of the earth to a great extent causing an imbalance in nature.

Human Reasons

Man due to his need and greed has done many activities that not only harm the environment but himself too. Many plant and animal species go extinct due to human activity. Human activities that harm the climate include deforestation, using fossil fuel , industrial waste , a different type of pollution and many more. All these things damage the climate and ecosystem very badly. And many species of animals and birds got extinct or on a verge of extinction due to hunting.

Effects Of Climatic Change

These climatic changes have a negative impact on the environment. The ocean level is rising, glaciers are melting, CO2 in the air is increasing, forest and wildlife are declining, and water life is also getting disturbed due to climatic changes. Apart from that, it is calculated that if this change keeps on going then many species of plants and animals will get extinct. And there will be a heavy loss to the environment.

What will be Future?

If we do not do anything and things continue to go on like right now then a day in future will come when humans will become extinct from the surface of the earth. But instead of neglecting these problems we start acting on then we can save the earth and our future.

informative essay climate change

Although humans mistake has caused great damage to the climate and ecosystem. But, it is not late to start again and try to undo what we have done until now to damage the environment. And if every human start contributing to the environment then we can be sure of our existence in the future.

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Essay on Climate Change: Check Samples in 100, 250 Words

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  • Updated on  
  • Sep 21, 2023

informative essay climate change

Writing an essay on climate change is crucial to raise awareness and advocate for action. The world is facing environmental challenges, so in a situation like this such essay topics can serve as s platform to discuss the causes, effects, and solutions to this pressing issue. They offer an opportunity to engage readers in understanding the urgency of mitigating climate change for the sake of our planet’s future.

Must Read: Essay On Environment  

This Blog Includes:

What is climate change, what are the causes of climate change, what are the effects of climate change, how to fight climate change, essay on climate change in 100 words, climate change sample essay 250 words.

Climate change is the significant variation of average weather conditions becoming, for example, warmer, wetter, or drier—over several decades or longer. It may be natural or anthropogenic. However, in recent times, it’s been in the top headlines due to escalations caused by human interference.

Obama at the First Session of COP21 rightly quoted “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.”.Identifying the causes of climate change is the first step to take in our fight against climate change. Below stated are some of the causes of climate change:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Mainly from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) for energy and transportation.
  • Deforestation: The cutting down of trees reduces the planet’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
  • Industrial Processes: Certain manufacturing activities release potent greenhouse gases.
  • Agriculture: Livestock and rice cultivation emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Climate change poses a huge risk to almost all life forms on Earth. The effects of climate change are listed below:

  • Global Warming: Increased temperatures due to trapped heat from greenhouse gases.
  • Melting Ice and Rising Sea Levels: Ice caps and glaciers melt, causing oceans to rise.
  • Extreme Weather Events: More frequent and severe hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires.
  • Ocean Acidification: Oceans absorb excess CO2, leading to more acidic waters harming marine life.
  • Disrupted Ecosystems: Shifting climate patterns disrupt habitats and threaten biodiversity.
  • Food and Water Scarcity: Altered weather affects crop yields and strains water resources.
  • Human Health Risks: Heat-related illnesses and the spread of diseases.
  • Economic Impact: Damage to infrastructure and increased disaster-related costs.
  • Migration and Conflict: Climate-induced displacement and resource competition.

‘Climate change is a terrible problem, and it absolutely needs to be solved. It deserves to be a huge priority,’ says Bill Gates. The below points highlight key actions to combat climate change effectively.

  • Energy Efficiency: Improve energy efficiency in all sectors.
  • Protect Forests: Stop deforestation and promote reforestation.
  • Sustainable Agriculture: Adopt eco-friendly farming practices.
  • Advocacy: Raise awareness and advocate for climate-friendly policies.
  • Innovation: Invest in green technologies and research.
  • Government Policies: Enforce climate-friendly regulations and targets.
  • Corporate Responsibility: Encourage sustainable business practices.
  • Individual Action: Reduce personal carbon footprint and inspire others.

Climate change refers to long-term alterations in Earth’s climate patterns, primarily driven by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, which release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases trap heat, leading to global warming. The consequences of climate change are widespread and devastating. Rising temperatures cause polar ice caps to melt, contributing to sea level rise and threatening coastal communities. Extreme weather events, like hurricanes and wildfires, become more frequent and severe, endangering lives and livelihoods. Additionally, shifts in weather patterns can disrupt agriculture, leading to food shortages. To combat climate change, global cooperation, renewable energy adoption, and sustainable practices are crucial for a more sustainable future.

Must Read: Essay On Global Warming

Climate change represents a pressing global challenge that demands immediate attention and concerted efforts. Human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, have significantly increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This results in a greenhouse effect, trapping heat and leading to a rise in global temperatures, commonly referred to as global warming.

The consequences of climate change are far-reaching and profound. Rising sea levels threaten coastal communities, displacing millions and endangering vital infrastructure. Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires, have become more frequent and severe, causing devastating economic and human losses. Disrupted ecosystems affect biodiversity and the availability of vital resources, from clean water to agricultural yields.

Moreover, climate change has serious implications for food and water security. Changing weather patterns disrupt traditional farming practices and strain freshwater resources, potentially leading to conflicts over access to essential commodities.

Addressing climate change necessitates a multifaceted approach. First, countries must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through the transition to renewable energy sources, increased energy efficiency, and reforestation efforts. International cooperation is crucial to set emission reduction targets and hold nations accountable for meeting them.

In conclusion, climate change is a global crisis with profound and immediate consequences. Urgent action is needed to mitigate its impacts and secure a sustainable future for our planet. By reducing emissions and implementing adaptation strategies, we can protect vulnerable communities, preserve ecosystems, and ensure a livable planet for future generations. The time to act is now.

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in Earth’s climate patterns, primarily driven by human activities like burning fossil fuels and deforestation.

Five key causes of climate change include excessive greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, notably burning fossil fuels and deforestation. 

We hope this blog gave you an idea about how to write and present an essay on climate change that puts forth your opinions. The skill of writing an essay comes in handy when appearing for standardized language tests. Thinking of taking one soon? Leverage Edu provides the best online test prep for the same via Leverage Live . Register today to know more!

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We, the young, are determined to fight climate change

Children salvage a cot from their home, in Charsadda, Pakistan,...

Children salvage a cot from their home, in Charsadda, Pakistan, after a devastating flood in 2022. Credit: AP/Muhammad Sajjad

The world has 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24. That's the largest youth generation ever, according to the United Nations. The risks from the climate crisis and the potential of climate solutions resonate with us deeply. It's no wonder: The physical and mental development of children is impacted by climate change as they grow, according to Cambridge University Press. Yet only 20% of nations with plans for targeting climate change mention children in those plans. Only 2% mention child rights.

Youth in New York and elsewhere are determined to fight climate change. This past year was filled with warning signs of its future impact. We are ready to take care of our planet, even though its future is not certain. From every protest and online post, you can hear our strong voices. We want people of all ages to work together. We want us all to think about our choices and for elected leaders to do their part and help make a difference.

It is not solely the responsibility of individuals or governments, but of society collectively, to engage in concerted action. Campaigns such as Fridays for Future have shown the global resonance of youth voices; the young understand the stakes and we are not willing to be passive bystanders.

At Students for Climate Action, we are those non-passive bystanders. We urge our elected officials to act and we hold them accountable for our future. According to the Pew Research Center, although young Democrats are more likely to express the need for climate action, 49% of Republican Gen Z members and 48% of millennial Republicans agree that action is needed to reduce the effects of climate change. This is a bipartisan issue.

Our choices are prioritizing sustainability and ethics in our purchasing behaviors, and we recognize that where we spend our money can be a form of activism. This dedication to sustainable lifestyles signals to industries that the market is changing, favoring products and services that minimize harm to the environment. Social media further amplifies the movement by giving youth a platform to educate others about the impacts of consumption and to showcase sustainable practices, steering the market toward a greener economy.

The increase in demands for renewable energy sources, zero-waste packaging, and ethically sourced materials is a testament to youth's impact through voices and buying power.

We also raised our voices following COP28, the international climate change conference held last month. While the meeting concluded with a call for a shift from fossil fuels, its final document lacked specific references to oil and gas as well as solid deadlines crucial for genuine progress. Young activists rightly criticized these loopholes, showcasing our relentless advocacy and intense calls for more substantive steps. We know promises are only as substantial as the actions that follow.

The global youth condemn actions that do not meet the drastic changes science deems necessary. We're watching carefully to make sure discussions about technologies for carbon removal, storage, and capture don't morph into excuses for continued emissions. COP28 has laid down a gauntlet and the young generation is watching, with justice and real climate action as our benchmark for the next conference.

Young people are telling everyone it's time to act. We need to build connections across all age groups, political groups, and community groups. To make our world a better place, we need to work together and act bravely. Let’s all do our part.

This guest essay reflects the views of Walter Benitez, a senior at Brentwood High School and president of the school's chapter of Students for Climate Action.

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Essay on Climate Change

Climate Change Essay - The globe is growing increasingly sensitive to climate change. It is currently a serious worldwide concern. The term "Climate Change" describes changes to the earth's climate. It explains the atmospheric changes that have occurred across time, spanning from decades to millions of years. Here are some sample essays on climate change.

100 Words Essay on Climate Change

200 words essay on climate change, 500 words essay on climate change.

Essay on Climate Change

The climatic conditions on Earth are changing due to climate change. Several internal and external variables, such as solar radiation, variations in the Earth's orbit, volcanic eruptions, plate tectonics, etc., are to blame for this.

There are strategies for climate change reduction. If not implemented, the weather might get worse, there might be water scarcity, there could be lower agricultural output, and it might affect people's ability to make a living. In order to breathe clean air and drink pure water, you must concentrate on limiting human activity. These are the simple measures that may be taken to safeguard the environment and its resources.

The climate of the Earth has changed significantly over time. While some of these changes were brought on by natural events like volcanic eruptions, floods, forest fires, etc., many of the changes were brought on by human activity. The burning of fossil fuels, domesticating livestock, and other human activities produce a significant quantity of greenhouse gases. This results in an increase of greenhouse effect and global warming which are the major causes for climate change.

Reasons of Climate Change

Some of the reasons of climate change are:


Excessive use of fossil fuels

Water and soil pollution

Plastic and other non biodegradable waste

Wildlife and nature extinction

Consequences of Climate Change

All kinds of life on earth will be affected by climate change if it continues to change at the same pace. The earth's temperature will increase, the monsoon patterns will shift, the sea level will rise, and there will be more frequent storms, volcano eruptions, and other natural calamities. The earth's biological and ecological equilibrium will be disturbed. Humans won't be able to access clean water or air to breathe when the environment becomes contaminated. The end of life on this earth is imminent. To reduce the issue of climate change, we need to bring social awareness along with strict measures to protect and preserve the natural environment.

A shift in the world's climatic pattern is referred to as climate change. Over the centuries, the climate pattern of our planet has undergone modifications. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has significantly grown.

When Did Climate Change Begin

It is possible to see signs of climate change as early as the beginning of the industrial revolution. The pace at which the manufacturers produced things on a large scale required a significant amount of raw materials. Since the raw materials being transformed into finished products now have such huge potential for profit, these business models have spread quickly over the world. Hazardous substances and chemicals build up in the environment as a result of company emissions and waste disposal.

Although climate change is a natural occurrence, it is evident that human activity is turning into the primary cause of the current climate change situation. The major cause is the growing population. Natural resources are utilised more and more as a result of the population's fast growth placing a heavy burden on the available resources. Over time, as more and more products and services are created, pollution will eventually increase.

Causes of Climate Change

There are a number of factors that have contributed towards weather change in the past and continue to do so. Let us look at a few:

Solar Radiation |The climate of earth is determined by how quickly the sun's energy is absorbed and distributed throughout space. This energy is transmitted throughout the world by the winds, ocean currents etc which affects the climatic conditions of the world. Changes in solar intensity have an effect on the world's climate.

Deforestation | The atmosphere's carbon dioxide is stored by trees. As a result of their destruction, carbon dioxide builds up more quickly since there are no trees to absorb it. Additionally, trees release the carbon they stored when we burn them.

Agriculture | Many kinds of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere by growing crops and raising livestock. Animals, for instance, create methane, a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The nitrous oxide used in fertilisers is roughly 300 times more strong than carbon dioxide.

How to Prevent Climate Change

We need to look out for drastic steps to stop climate change since it is affecting the resources and life on our planet. We can stop climate change if the right solutions are put in place. Here are some strategies for reducing climate change:

Raising public awareness of climate change

Prohibiting tree-cutting and deforestation.

Ensure the surroundings are clean.

Refrain from using chemical fertilisers.

Water and other natural resource waste should be reduced.

Protect the animals and plants.

Purchase energy-efficient goods and equipment.

Increase the number of trees in the neighbourhood and its surroundings.

Follow the law and safeguard the environment's resources.

Reduce the amount of energy you use.

During the last few decades especially, climate change has grown to be of concern. Global concern has been raised over changes in the Earth's climatic pattern. The causes of climate change are numerous, as well as the effects of it and it is our responsibility as inhabitants of this planet to look after its well being and leave it in a better condition for future generations.

Explore Career Options (By Industry)

  • Construction
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Bio Medical Engineer

The field of biomedical engineering opens up a universe of expert chances. An Individual in the biomedical engineering career path work in the field of engineering as well as medicine, in order to find out solutions to common problems of the two fields. The biomedical engineering job opportunities are to collaborate with doctors and researchers to develop medical systems, equipment, or devices that can solve clinical problems. Here we will be discussing jobs after biomedical engineering, how to get a job in biomedical engineering, biomedical engineering scope, and salary. 

Data Administrator

Database professionals use software to store and organise data such as financial information, and customer shipping records. Individuals who opt for a career as data administrators ensure that data is available for users and secured from unauthorised sales. DB administrators may work in various types of industries. It may involve computer systems design, service firms, insurance companies, banks and hospitals.


How fascinating it is to represent the whole world on just a piece of paper or a sphere. With the help of maps, we are able to represent the real world on a much smaller scale. Individuals who opt for a career as a cartographer are those who make maps. But, cartography is not just limited to maps, it is about a mixture of art , science , and technology. As a cartographer, not only you will create maps but use various geodetic surveys and remote sensing systems to measure, analyse, and create different maps for political, cultural or educational purposes.

Operations Manager

Individuals in the operations manager jobs are responsible for ensuring the efficiency of each department to acquire its optimal goal. They plan the use of resources and distribution of materials. The operations manager's job description includes managing budgets, negotiating contracts, and performing administrative tasks.

Remote Sensing Technician

Individuals who opt for a career as a remote sensing technician possess unique personalities. Remote sensing analysts seem to be rational human beings, they are strong, independent, persistent, sincere, realistic and resourceful. Some of them are analytical as well, which means they are intelligent, introspective and inquisitive. 

Remote sensing scientists use remote sensing technology to support scientists in fields such as community planning, flight planning or the management of natural resources. Analysing data collected from aircraft, satellites or ground-based platforms using statistical analysis software, image analysis software or Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a significant part of their work. Do you want to learn how to become remote sensing technician? There's no need to be concerned; we've devised a simple remote sensing technician career path for you. Scroll through the pages and read.

GIS officer work on various GIS software to conduct a study and gather spatial and non-spatial information. GIS experts update the GIS data and maintain it. The databases include aerial or satellite imagery, latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates, and manually digitized images of maps. In a career as GIS expert, one is responsible for creating online and mobile maps.

Database Architect

If you are intrigued by the programming world and are interested in developing communications networks then a career as database architect may be a good option for you. Data architect roles and responsibilities include building design models for data communication networks. Wide Area Networks (WANs), local area networks (LANs), and intranets are included in the database networks. It is expected that database architects will have in-depth knowledge of a company's business to develop a network to fulfil the requirements of the organisation. Stay tuned as we look at the larger picture and give you more information on what is db architecture, why you should pursue database architecture, what to expect from such a degree and what your job opportunities will be after graduation. Here, we will be discussing how to become a data architect. Students can visit NIT Trichy , IIT Kharagpur , JMI New Delhi . 

Ethical Hacker

A career as ethical hacker involves various challenges and provides lucrative opportunities in the digital era where every giant business and startup owns its cyberspace on the world wide web. Individuals in the ethical hacker career path try to find the vulnerabilities in the cyber system to get its authority. If he or she succeeds in it then he or she gets its illegal authority. Individuals in the ethical hacker career path then steal information or delete the file that could affect the business, functioning, or services of the organization.

Budget Analyst

Budget analysis, in a nutshell, entails thoroughly analyzing the details of a financial budget. The budget analysis aims to better understand and manage revenue. Budget analysts assist in the achievement of financial targets, the preservation of profitability, and the pursuit of long-term growth for a business. Budget analysts generally have a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, economics, or a closely related field. Knowledge of Financial Management is of prime importance in this career.

Investment Banker

An Investment Banking career involves the invention and generation of capital for other organizations, governments, and other entities. Individuals who opt for a career as Investment Bankers are the head of a team dedicated to raising capital by issuing bonds. Investment bankers are termed as the experts who have their fingers on the pulse of the current financial and investing climate. Students can pursue various Investment Banker courses, such as Banking and Insurance , and  Economics to opt for an Investment Banking career path.

Treasury analyst career path is often regarded as certified treasury specialist in some business situations, is a finance expert who specifically manages a company or organisation's long-term and short-term financial targets. Treasurer synonym could be a financial officer, which is one of the reputed positions in the corporate world. In a large company, the corporate treasury jobs hold power over the financial decision-making of the total investment and development strategy of the organisation.

Product Manager

A Product Manager is a professional responsible for product planning and marketing. He or she manages the product throughout the Product Life Cycle, gathering and prioritising the product. A product manager job description includes defining the product vision and working closely with team members of other departments to deliver winning products.  


An underwriter is a person who assesses and evaluates the risk of insurance in his or her field like mortgage, loan, health policy, investment, and so on and so forth. The underwriter career path does involve risks as analysing the risks means finding out if there is a way for the insurance underwriter jobs to recover the money from its clients. If the risk turns out to be too much for the company then in the future it is an underwriter who will be held accountable for it. Therefore, one must carry out his or her job with a lot of attention and diligence.

Data Analyst

The invention of the database has given fresh breath to the people involved in the data analytics career path. Analysis refers to splitting up a whole into its individual components for individual analysis. Data analysis is a method through which raw data are processed and transformed into information that would be beneficial for user strategic thinking.

Data are collected and examined to respond to questions, evaluate hypotheses or contradict theories. It is a tool for analyzing, transforming, modeling, and arranging data with useful knowledge, to assist in decision-making and methods, encompassing various strategies, and is used in different fields of business, research, and social science.

Finance Executive

A career as a Finance Executive requires one to be responsible for monitoring an organisation's income, investments and expenses to create and evaluate financial reports. His or her role involves performing audits, invoices, and budget preparations. He or she manages accounting activities, bank reconciliations, and payable and receivable accounts.  

Transportation Planner

A career as Transportation Planner requires technical application of science and technology in engineering, particularly the concepts, equipment and technologies involved in the production of products and services. In fields like land use, infrastructure review, ecological standards and street design, he or she considers issues of health, environment and performance. A Transportation Planner assigns resources for implementing and designing programmes. He or she is responsible for assessing needs, preparing plans and forecasts and compliance with regulations.

Construction Manager

Individuals who opt for a career as construction managers have a senior-level management role offered in construction firms. Responsibilities in the construction management career path are assigning tasks to workers, inspecting their work, and coordinating with other professionals including architects, subcontractors, and building services engineers.

Carpenters are typically construction workers. They stay involved in performing many types of construction activities. It includes cutting, fitting and assembling wood.  Carpenters may help in building constructions, bridges, big ships and boats. Here, in the article, we will discuss carpenter career path, carpenter salary, how to become a carpenter, carpenter job outlook.

Environmental Engineer

Individuals who opt for a career as an environmental engineer are construction professionals who utilise the skills and knowledge of biology, soil science, chemistry and the concept of engineering to design and develop projects that serve as solutions to various environmental problems. 

Naval Architect

A Naval Architect is a professional who designs, produces and repairs safe and sea-worthy surfaces or underwater structures. A Naval Architect stays involved in creating and designing ships, ferries, submarines and yachts with implementation of various principles such as gravity, ideal hull form, buoyancy and stability. 

Welding Engineer

Welding Engineer Job Description: A Welding Engineer work involves managing welding projects and supervising welding teams. He or she is responsible for reviewing welding procedures, processes and documentation. A career as Welding Engineer involves conducting failure analyses and causes on welding issues. 

Field Surveyor

Are you searching for a Field Surveyor Job Description? A Field Surveyor is a professional responsible for conducting field surveys for various places or geographical conditions. He or she collects the required data and information as per the instructions given by senior officials. 

Highway Engineer

Highway Engineer Job Description:  A Highway Engineer is a civil engineer who specialises in planning and building thousands of miles of roads that support connectivity and allow transportation across the country. He or she ensures that traffic management schemes are effectively planned concerning economic sustainability and successful implementation.

Orthotist and Prosthetist

Orthotists and Prosthetists are professionals who provide aid to patients with disabilities. They fix them to artificial limbs (prosthetics) and help them to regain stability. There are times when people lose their limbs in an accident. In some other occasions, they are born without a limb or orthopaedic impairment. Orthotists and prosthetists play a crucial role in their lives with fixing them to assistive devices and provide mobility.

Veterinary Doctor

A veterinary doctor is a medical professional with a degree in veterinary science. The veterinary science qualification is the minimum requirement to become a veterinary doctor. There are numerous veterinary science courses offered by various institutes. He or she is employed at zoos to ensure they are provided with good health facilities and medical care to improve their life expectancy.


A career in pathology in India is filled with several responsibilities as it is a medical branch and affects human lives. The demand for pathologists has been increasing over the past few years as people are getting more aware of different diseases. Not only that, but an increase in population and lifestyle changes have also contributed to the increase in a pathologist’s demand. The pathology careers provide an extremely huge number of opportunities and if you want to be a part of the medical field you can consider being a pathologist. If you want to know more about a career in pathology in India then continue reading this article.


Gynaecology can be defined as the study of the female body. The job outlook for gynaecology is excellent since there is evergreen demand for one because of their responsibility of dealing with not only women’s health but also fertility and pregnancy issues. Although most women prefer to have a women obstetrician gynaecologist as their doctor, men also explore a career as a gynaecologist and there are ample amounts of male doctors in the field who are gynaecologists and aid women during delivery and childbirth. 

An oncologist is a specialised doctor responsible for providing medical care to patients diagnosed with cancer. He or she uses several therapies to control the cancer and its effect on the human body such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy and biopsy. An oncologist designs a treatment plan based on a pathology report after diagnosing the type of cancer and where it is spreading inside the body.


The audiologist career involves audiology professionals who are responsible to treat hearing loss and proactively preventing the relevant damage. Individuals who opt for a career as an audiologist use various testing strategies with the aim to determine if someone has a normal sensitivity to sounds or not. After the identification of hearing loss, a hearing doctor is required to determine which sections of the hearing are affected, to what extent they are affected, and where the wound causing the hearing loss is found. As soon as the hearing loss is identified, the patients are provided with recommendations for interventions and rehabilitation such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, and appropriate medical referrals. While audiology is a branch of science that studies and researches hearing, balance, and related disorders.

Dental Surgeon

A Dental Surgeon is a professional who possesses specialisation in advanced dental procedures and aesthetics. Dental surgeon duties and responsibilities may include fitting dental prosthetics such as crowns, caps, bridges, veneers, dentures and implants following apicoectomy and other surgical procedures.


Individuals in the optometrist career path can work as postsecondary teachers, occupational amd industrial safety programs, consultant in the eye care industry or do research in optometry colleges. Individuals in the optometrist career path can also set up their own private clinics and work independently. In an overpopulated country like India, the demand for optometrist is very high and is expected to rise further in the coming years. In India, the population to optometrist ratio is two lakh to one, whereas it is ten thousand to one in developed countries like the US. 

For an individual who opts for a career as an actor, the primary responsibility is to completely speak to the character he or she is playing and to persuade the crowd that the character is genuine by connecting with them and bringing them into the story. This applies to significant roles and littler parts, as all roles join to make an effective creation. Here in this article, we will discuss how to become an actor in India, actor exams, actor salary in India, and actor jobs. 

Individuals who opt for a career as acrobats create and direct original routines for themselves, in addition to developing interpretations of existing routines. The work of circus acrobats can be seen in a variety of performance settings, including circus, reality shows, sports events like the Olympics, movies and commercials. Individuals who opt for a career as acrobats must be prepared to face rejections and intermittent periods of work. The creativity of acrobats may extend to other aspects of the performance. For example, acrobats in the circus may work with gym trainers, celebrities or collaborate with other professionals to enhance such performance elements as costume and or maybe at the teaching end of the career.

Video Game Designer

Career as a video game designer is filled with excitement as well as responsibilities. A video game designer is someone who is involved in the process of creating a game from day one. He or she is responsible for fulfilling duties like designing the character of the game, the several levels involved, plot, art and similar other elements. Individuals who opt for a career as a video game designer may also write the codes for the game using different programming languages.

Depending on the video game designer job description and experience they may also have to lead a team and do the early testing of the game in order to suggest changes and find loopholes.

Talent Agent

The career as a Talent Agent is filled with responsibilities. A Talent Agent is someone who is involved in the pre-production process of the film. It is a very busy job for a Talent Agent but as and when an individual gains experience and progresses in the career he or she can have people assisting him or her in work. Depending on one’s responsibilities, number of clients and experience he or she may also have to lead a team and work with juniors under him or her in a talent agency. In order to know more about the job of a talent agent continue reading the article.

If you want to know more about talent agent meaning, how to become a Talent Agent, or Talent Agent job description then continue reading this article.

Radio Jockey

Radio Jockey is an exciting, promising career and a great challenge for music lovers. If you are really interested in a career as radio jockey, then it is very important for an RJ to have an automatic, fun, and friendly personality. If you want to get a job done in this field, a strong command of the language and a good voice are always good things. Apart from this, in order to be a good radio jockey, you will also listen to good radio jockeys so that you can understand their style and later make your own by practicing.

A career as radio jockey has a lot to offer to deserving candidates. If you want to know more about a career as radio jockey, and how to become a radio jockey then continue reading the article.


The word “choreography" actually comes from Greek words that mean “dance writing." Individuals who opt for a career as a choreographer create and direct original dances, in addition to developing interpretations of existing dances. A Choreographer dances and utilises his or her creativity in other aspects of dance performance. For example, he or she may work with the music director to select music or collaborate with other famous choreographers to enhance such performance elements as lighting, costume and set design.


Careers in videography are art that can be defined as a creative and interpretive process that culminates in the authorship of an original work of art rather than a simple recording of a simple event. It would be wrong to portrait it as a subcategory of photography, rather photography is one of the crafts used in videographer jobs in addition to technical skills like organization, management, interpretation, and image-manipulation techniques. Students pursue Visual Media , Film, Television, Digital Video Production to opt for a videographer career path. The visual impacts of a film are driven by the creative decisions taken in videography jobs. Individuals who opt for a career as a videographer are involved in the entire lifecycle of a film and production. 

Multimedia Specialist

A multimedia specialist is a media professional who creates, audio, videos, graphic image files, computer animations for multimedia applications. He or she is responsible for planning, producing, and maintaining websites and applications. 

Copy Writer

In a career as a copywriter, one has to consult with the client and understand the brief well. A career as a copywriter has a lot to offer to deserving candidates. Several new mediums of advertising are opening therefore making it a lucrative career choice. Students can pursue various copywriter courses such as Journalism , Advertising , Marketing Management . Here, we have discussed how to become a freelance copywriter, copywriter career path, how to become a copywriter in India, and copywriting career outlook. 

Careers in journalism are filled with excitement as well as responsibilities. One cannot afford to miss out on the details. As it is the small details that provide insights into a story. Depending on those insights a journalist goes about writing a news article. A journalism career can be stressful at times but if you are someone who is passionate about it then it is the right choice for you. If you want to know more about the media field and journalist career then continue reading this article.

For publishing books, newspapers, magazines and digital material, editorial and commercial strategies are set by publishers. Individuals in publishing career paths make choices about the markets their businesses will reach and the type of content that their audience will be served. Individuals in book publisher careers collaborate with editorial staff, designers, authors, and freelance contributors who develop and manage the creation of content.

In a career as a vlogger, one generally works for himself or herself. However, once an individual has gained viewership there are several brands and companies that approach them for paid collaboration. It is one of those fields where an individual can earn well while following his or her passion. 

Ever since internet costs got reduced the viewership for these types of content has increased on a large scale. Therefore, a career as a vlogger has a lot to offer. If you want to know more about the Vlogger eligibility, roles and responsibilities then continue reading the article. 

Individuals in the editor career path is an unsung hero of the news industry who polishes the language of the news stories provided by stringers, reporters, copywriters and content writers and also news agencies. Individuals who opt for a career as an editor make it more persuasive, concise and clear for readers. In this article, we will discuss the details of the editor's career path such as how to become an editor in India, editor salary in India and editor skills and qualities.

Fashion Journalist

Fashion journalism involves performing research and writing about the most recent fashion trends. Journalists obtain this knowledge by collaborating with stylists, conducting interviews with fashion designers, and attending fashion shows, photoshoots, and conferences. A fashion Journalist  job is to write copy for trade and advertisement journals, fashion magazines, newspapers, and online fashion forums about style and fashion.

Corporate Executive

Are you searching for a Corporate Executive job description? A Corporate Executive role comes with administrative duties. He or she provides support to the leadership of the organisation. A Corporate Executive fulfils the business purpose and ensures its financial stability. In this article, we are going to discuss how to become corporate executive.

Quality Controller

A quality controller plays a crucial role in an organisation. He or she is responsible for performing quality checks on manufactured products. He or she identifies the defects in a product and rejects the product. 

A quality controller records detailed information about products with defects and sends it to the supervisor or plant manager to take necessary actions to improve the production process.

Production Manager

Production Manager Job Description: A Production Manager is responsible for ensuring smooth running of manufacturing processes in an efficient manner. He or she plans and organises production schedules. The role of Production Manager involves estimation, negotiation on budget and timescales with the clients and managers. 

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Quality Assurance Manager Job Description: A QA Manager is an administrative professional responsible for overseeing the activity of the QA department and staff. It involves developing, implementing and maintaining a system that is qualified and reliable for testing to meet specifications of products of organisations as well as development processes. 

A QA Lead is in charge of the QA Team. The role of QA Lead comes with the responsibility of assessing services and products in order to determine that he or she meets the quality standards. He or she develops, implements and manages test plans. 

Reliability Engineer

Are you searching for a Reliability Engineer job description? A Reliability Engineer is responsible for ensuring long lasting and high quality products. He or she ensures that materials, manufacturing equipment, components and processes are error free. A Reliability Engineer role comes with the responsibility of minimising risks and effectiveness of processes and equipment. 

Safety Manager

A Safety Manager is a professional responsible for employee’s safety at work. He or she plans, implements and oversees the company’s employee safety. A Safety Manager ensures compliance and adherence to Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) guidelines.

AWS Solution Architect

An AWS Solution Architect is someone who specializes in developing and implementing cloud computing systems. He or she has a good understanding of the various aspects of cloud computing and can confidently deploy and manage their systems. He or she troubleshoots the issues and evaluates the risk from the third party. 

Azure Administrator

An Azure Administrator is a professional responsible for implementing, monitoring, and maintaining Azure Solutions. He or she manages cloud infrastructure service instances and various cloud servers as well as sets up public and private cloud systems. 

Information Security Manager

Individuals in the information security manager career path involves in overseeing and controlling all aspects of computer security. The IT security manager job description includes planning and carrying out security measures to protect the business data and information from corruption, theft, unauthorised access, and deliberate attack 

Computer Programmer

Careers in computer programming primarily refer to the systematic act of writing code and moreover include wider computer science areas. The word 'programmer' or 'coder' has entered into practice with the growing number of newly self-taught tech enthusiasts. Computer programming careers involve the use of designs created by software developers and engineers and transforming them into commands that can be implemented by computers. These commands result in regular usage of social media sites, word-processing applications and browsers.

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ITSM Manager is a professional responsible for heading the ITSM (Information Technology Service Management) or (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) processes. He or she ensures that operation management provides appropriate resource levels for problem resolutions. The ITSM Manager oversees the level of prioritisation for the problems, critical incidents, planned as well as proactive tasks. 

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.NET Developer Job Description: A .NET Developer is a professional responsible for producing code using .NET languages. He or she is a software developer who uses the .NET technologies platform to create various applications. Dot NET Developer job comes with the responsibility of  creating, designing and developing applications using .NET languages such as VB and C#. 

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Climate Change Essay

500+ words essay on climate change.

Climate change is a major global challenge today, and the world is becoming more vulnerable to this change. Climate change refers to the changes in Earth’s climate condition. It describes the changes in the atmosphere which have taken place over a period ranging from decades to millions of years. A recent report from the United Nations predicted that the average global temperature could increase by 6˚ Celsius at the end of the century. Climate change has an adverse effect on the environment and ecosystem. With the help of this essay, students will get to know the causes and effects of climate change and possible solutions. Also, they will be able to write essays on similar topics and can boost their writing skills.

What Causes Climate Change?

The Earth’s climate has always changed and evolved. Some of these changes have been due to natural causes such as volcanic eruptions, floods, forest fires etc., but quite a few of them are due to human activities. Human activities such as deforestation, burning fossil fuels, farming livestock etc., generate an enormous amount of greenhouse gases. This results in the greenhouse effect and global warming which are the major causes of climate change.

Effects of Climate Change

If the current situation of climate change continues in a similar manner, then it will impact all forms of life on the earth. The earth’s temperature will rise, the monsoon patterns will change, sea levels will rise, and storms, volcanic eruptions and natural disasters will occur frequently. The biological and ecological balance of the earth will get disturbed. The environment will get polluted and humans will not be able to get fresh air to breathe and fresh water to drink. Life on earth will come to an end.

Steps to be Taken to Reduce Climate Change

The Government of India has taken many measures to improve the dire situation of Climate Change. The Ministry of Environment and Forests is the nodal agency for climate change issues in India. It has initiated several climate-friendly measures, particularly in the area of renewable energy. India took several steps and policy initiatives to create awareness about climate change and help capacity building for adaptation measures. It has initiated a “Green India” programme under which various trees are planted to make the forest land more green and fertile.

We need to follow the path of sustainable development to effectively address the concerns of climate change. We need to minimise the use of fossil fuels, which is the major cause of global warming. We must adopt alternative sources of energy, such as hydropower, solar and wind energy to make a progressive transition to clean energy. Mahatma Gandhi said that “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not any man’s greed”. With this view, we must remodel our outlook and achieve the goal of sustainable development. By adopting clean technologies, equitable distribution of resources and addressing the issues of equity and justice, we can make our developmental process more harmonious with nature.

We hope students liked this essay on Climate Change and gathered useful information on this topic so that they can write essays in their own words. To get more study material related to the CBSE, ICSE, State Board and Competitive exams, keep visiting the BYJU’S website.

Frequently Asked Questions on climate change Essay

What are the reasons for climate change.

1. Deforestation 2. Excessive usage of fossil fuels 3. Water, Soil pollution 4. Plastic and other non-biodegradable waste 5. Wildlife and nature extinction

How can we save this climate change situation?

1. Avoid over usage of natural resources 2. Do not use or buy items made from animals 3. Avoid plastic usage and pollution

Are there any natural causes for climate change?

Yes, some of the natural causes for climate change are: 1. Solar variations 2. Volcanic eruption and tsunamis 3. Earth’s orbital changes

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Outcomes from COP28: What next to accelerate climate action?

We arrived at this year’s COP28 amid growing evidence that the world has not been transitioning sufficiently fast to meet the 1.5˚C target agreed in Paris. Our research had convinced us that a successful net-zero transition would require achieving not just one objective but four interdependent ones: emissions reduction, affordability, reliability, and industrial competitiveness.

Now, with COP28 concluded, we leave Dubai with a strong sense that progress toward decarbonization is indeed happening—but, to have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5˚C, more ambition is needed, as well a focus on converting pledges to measurable action. According to an estimate by the International Energy Agency , full delivery of the energy-related pledges made at COP28 would result in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2030 being about four metric gigatons (Gt) less than would be expected without them (with further potential from non-energy pledges and from other initiatives such as the coal transition credits mentioned below). However, the IEA also estimates that reductions totaling 22 Gt will be needed to limit warming to 1.5˚C.

Negotiations at COP28 concluded with the “UAE Consensus”. One notable element of which was the agreement on a global “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly, and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.” This is the first time that fossil fuels have been collectively mentioned in a COP agreement, although there was a commitment to “phase down unabated coal power” at COP26.

As with other COP outcomes, the agreement is non-binding, and the mechanisms for implementing this commitment will be critical. However, including this language in the COP agreement is expected to trigger initiatives and actions at future COPs, and intended to spur “real-world” action by companies and other stakeholders. Methane provides one example of how this can work: at COP26, countries signed the Global Methane Pledge and committed to reducing methane by 2030. At COP28, there were significant moves to translate this pledge into real action and company-level commitments, as described below. In addition, COP28 negotiations resulted in an agreement to implement a Loss and Damage Fund, which will direct funding toward countries most vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather events, including droughts, flooding, and rising seas. Eighteen countries have now committed to the fund, with $792 million pledged .

While the official negotiations were under way, COP28 also saw climate actions taken across all elements of the transition, including a major contribution by the private sector. Still, much more needs to be done to ensure that the transition will accelerate and be executed in a way that considers the socioeconomic effects of different pathways. In hundreds of conversations in Dubai, executives discussed collaborative actions they can take to accelerate climate action and growth.

Here, we summarize ten COP28 takeaways for leaders. Through bold action, they can accelerate progress—so that it can be measured in months not decades.

Takeaways for leaders

Net zero remains an organizing principle for private-sector leaders, who almost universally recognize the need to accelerate action.

Judging by both attendance at COP28 and new decarbonization commitments from sectors including oil and gas and agriculture, the imperative to reduce emissions is increasingly understood. More than 80,000 delegates attended from nearly every country, including more than 160 heads of state and more than 700 CEOs, making it the largest such gathering to date. This year, for the first time, COP included the Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum, which convened more than 1,200 private-sector and philanthropic leaders to drive climate action. Meanwhile, the new Giving to Amplify Earth Action (GAEA) initiative aims to use the tools of philanthropy to increase corporate and public action on climate and nature. Discussions at COP centred on strategies to accelerate climate action and growth, with a move away from new long-term commitments and pledges and toward taking action and accelerating the rate of change.

The world will need to run two energy systems in parallel, rapidly scaling up the new zero/low carbon one …

Leaders committed to tripling renewables by 2030, doubling energy-efficiency improvement rates, and establishing new standards to unlock global trade in hydrogen. Furthermore, countries that currently account for two-thirds of global nuclear energy production committed to tripling nuclear capacity by 2050. These commitments would require an unprecedented scale-up of capacity: annual additions of renewables of about 1,000 gigawatts (versus the current 440) and a quadrupling of current annual nuclear capacity additions. Hyperscaling climate technologies (including enablers such as long duration energy storage and low-emission or zero-emission turbines) and renewables deployment will be essential to building out the new energy system. Several actions could speed the process and remove bottlenecks , including faster permitting, new incentives, and increased accessibility to common resources such as land, materials, and labor.

… while also decarbonizing the existing energy system.

In addition to scaling renewables, an important step is to reduce Scope 1 & 2 emissions (emissions from production, not use) from fossil fuel operations as far as possible. Estimates suggest that such emissions of methane from oil and gas operations could be reduced by 35 percent at nearly no net cost. At COP, 50 companies that together account for more than 40 percent of global oil and gas production signed the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter. The signatories committed to net-zero operations by 2050 across Scope 1 & 2 emissions, near-zero methane in upstream operations by 2030, zero routine flaring by 2030, and increased transparency in emissions reporting.

Methane is a critical focus of emission reduction efforts. The next step is to convert this to measurable action.

At this year’s COP, methane emerged as a major theme, with countries including the United States and the European Union committing to address their own methane emissions and the World Bank committing to launch at least 15 country-level methane programs. Methane is a super polluter and the second-largest driver of global warming, with 84 times more warming potential than CO2 over a 20-year period. Our research shows that five industries accounting for 98 percent of methane emissions—agriculture, oil and gas, coal mining, solid-waste management, and wastewater management— could reduce these emissions by 20 percent by 2030 and 46 percent by 2050, largely with established abatement technologies and at a reasonable cost.

Widespread acknowledgement of the need to cut methane emissions by 2030 has led to new commitments to reduce methane emissions across the oil and gas, food, and waste sectors. Methane emissions from oil and gas operations contribute around 10 percent to global emissions of all GHGs, and the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter mentioned above commits companies to reaching near-zero methane by 2030. With full industry participation, this initiative would eliminate about two GtCO2e emissions by 2030. Alongside this company-led initiative, the United States unveiled new regulations to cut oil and gas methane emissions by 80 percent by 2030. There was also some progress on reducing agricultural methane, with six large food companies with $200 billion in annual sales launching the Dairy Methane Action Alliance . This commits them to disclose methane from dairy production and launch a public action plan by 2024.

The finance system is integrating net zero with new financing commitments and mechanisms. However, a $41 trillion funding gap remains .

COP28 saw more than $80 billion in climate finance commitments from countries, development banks, private sources, and philanthropists. This level of financing is below what is needed, but there are real opportunities for this committed investment to spur additional financing for the transition, including through new finance channels. There were pivots at COP28 towards scaling blended-finance structures (including the UAE-financed private investment vehicle Alterra , among several others), which can help unlock investments that may not previously have been attractive to private capital. The aim is for such structures to “crowd in” private capital to climate finance and thereby reduce reliance on multilateral development banks.

Several agreements were reached in other areas at COP28. These included the operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund; a joint framework aimed at ensuring the integrity of voluntary carbon markets; and new coal transition credits. Coal-Fired Power Plants (CFPPs) are responsible for 27 percent of CO2 emissions from fuel consumption, and the new coal “transition credit” launched by Coal to Clean Credit Initiative (CCCI) to incentivize the early retirement of CFPPs and the transition to clean energy in emerging economies.

The critical technologies for net-zero are available. The challenge now is to accelerate deployment, including by building new green businesses.

Ninety percent of CO 2 abatement required for net-zero targets could be achieved using already proven climate technologies. In the last decade, deployment of these technologies has accelerated significantly, often outpacing expectations: for example, solar and wind power now account for more than 10 percent of electricity generation and over 80 percent of new electricity-generating capacity. But more acceleration is still needed, both for renewables and for the range of other climate technologies, which are largely interdependent. Each critical technology must grow at more than 20 percent annually over the next decade, rapidly reaching commercial maturity as well as technological readiness.

At COP28, several announcements aimed to build on this momentum. For example, 39 countries endorsed the UAE Hydrogen Declaration of Intent, agreeing to implement a global hydrogen certification standard. Some 30 leaders in shipping also signed a joint commitment to enable the use of renewable hydrogen-derived shipping fuel this decade to meet shipping emissions targets. To accelerate further, stakeholders will need to address a range of system-level challenges to full-scale deployment. These could be tackled by creating at-scale supply chains and support infrastructure; embracing effective capital reallocation and financing structures; and addressing bottlenecks in permitting, land, materials, and labor. For example, the supply of metals required by climate technology is likely to increase fivefold over the next decade, while labor in energy sectors may need to quadruple by 2030. Scaling up will require increased access to these resources across technology types.

Heavy-emissions sectors are deploying capital and accelerating their path to decarbonization.

Heavy-emissions sectors—energy, transport, and industry—are innovating, investing, and collaborating in new ways to reduce emissions and move toward net zero, but more needs to be done. Given that these industries currently consume an estimated 78 percent of global energy demand, decarbonizing them is essential to achieving a system-wide transition away from fossil fuels. The Industrial Transition Accelerator aims to scale implementation and delivery of decarbonization in the steel, aluminum, cement, transportation, and energy sectors, while government and business made multiple pledges aiming to make near-zero building the norm by 2030, such as the Buildings Breakthrough , the Cement & Concrete Breakthrough , and the Green Public Procurement Pledge .

Action on climate alone is insufficient without also addressing nature and other planetary boundaries.

McKinsey research has shown that “planetary boundaries” are at breaking point , exceeded in four of nine vital dimensions. There were some steps in the right direction at COP28, which supported the “30x30” target of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed in 2022. However, significantly more is required, and this area is likely to come under increasing scrutiny as we move towards COP30 in the Amazon.

At COP28, countries and businesses worked to unlock funding for nature, improve conservation, expand nature-based solutions, and secure the co-benefits of inclusive investment in nature. Nature has risen up the agenda with a recognition that preserving and restoring natural capital is inseparable from climate actions, given the natural world’s role as a carbon sink that can absorb emissions and excess heat. More than 30 companies committed to 100 percent Sustainable Ocean Management by 2030. This initiative establishes a funding vehicle to finance ocean plans and will contribute to the Ocean and Coral Reef Breakthroughs. Our research suggests that, while carbon remains the main focus, global companies are paying more attention to nature and natural capital, with increasing numbers making commitments to take action or setting specific targets across a number of dimensions, including water, biodiversity, and chemicals and plastics. About one in five of the Fortune Global 500 companies now tracks three or more dimensions of nature in their reporting.

Adaptation is now a critical ingredient in climate action, with countries and companies starting to take real action on health, water, food, and nature.

Climate change is already having serious impacts on lives and livelihoods around the world, and its effects are expected to become more severe in coming years. COP28 saw significant agreements on nature, health, food, and water systems, and further negotiations on adaptation are expected to be a focus at COP29 in Baku.

Among the highlights: more than 130 prime ministers and presidents from countries accounting for 75 percent of food-based GHG emissions signed a Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action , for the first time committing to adapting and transforming their food systems as part of climate action and setting relevant targets in their national plans for 2025. In the first action of its kind at a COP, 123 countries signed the UAE Climate and Health Declaration to “place health at the heart of climate action” and support the development of climate-resilient, sustainable, and equitable health systems. Finally, for water, more than 30 countries signed up to the Freshwater Challenge , a commitment to set targets to preserve freshwater ecosystems and include them in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). Next steps on adaptation can be grouped into four categories: a climate risk management mindset; technological and behavioral adaptation levers; economic and societal adjustments; and governance, institutional support, and commitment.

There are actions which leaders could take to accelerate progress and create value in the transition.

  • Companies and industries can accelerate decarbonization of existing assets and value chains for economically viable results—starting today. Companies that already have zero-carbon products can leverage supply and demand gaps in nascent markets and build their business case by factoring green premiums into cost calculations and fueling additional growth. While decarbonization still requires significant investment and leads to additional cost for many industries, we increasingly see examples where companies that are reducing their costs as well as their emissions can gain market share, enabling them to finance decarbonization initiatives. This can be achieved by leveraging new technologies or systematically identifying net present value positive measures.
  • Incumbents, investors, and start-ups can power up climate technologies and hyperscale new green businesses, creating innovations that make the transition more affordable. Surging demand for zero-carbon technologies, materials, and services create opportunities for companies to build new green businesses. Our research shows that by 2030 demand for green technologies could generate up to $12 trillion in yearly revenues . But the maturity levels of climate technologies vary. Sector players can turn to obvious, commercially ready technologies, ranging from heat pumps to battery electric vehicles. But they could also identify and focus on a new wave of maturing technologies, which will require rapid and steep cost reductions to scale.
  • The financial sector can play a major role in helping to facilitate and deploy the significant capital investment which new climate technologies require. Three types of funds in particular will be needed: green-transition funds that invest in innovations to transform incumbents in hard-to-abate sectors; industrial venture capital willing to take technology risks in order to scale; and infrastructure growth funds. Our research suggests that, contingent on a supportive environment, private financial institutions could facilitate as much as $3.5 trillion of annual financing between 2022 and 2050. Commercial banks could provide $2 trillion to $2.6 trillion a year, while asset managers, private equity, and venture capital funds could add $950 billion to $1.5 trillion. The task for all financial actors is to harness this opportunity while navigating significant strategic and operational demands in the context of evolving operating environments.
  • Take action to ensure the transition to net zero is equitable and inclusive. Dialogue amongst climate leaders underscored the need to rigorously assess the socio-economic implications of the transition. Tools are emerging to measure the implications of the net-zero transition. For example, an emerging climate-transition impact framework that we have developed in concert with more than 60 organizations examines more than 50 metrics across five dimensions: affordable energy access; investment requirement; jobs impact; growth and competitiveness; and lived environment and health. This approach allows decision makers to compare the potential socioeconomic effects of different climate action pathways and helps to quantify and de-mystify the dialogue on an inclusive transition.
  • Early movers can explore how to create value in the nature and biodiversity transition. Nature-positive is becoming the new net zero. In the agriculture sector, for example, leaders can start the nature-positive journey today by focusing on powerful levers such as regenerative agriculture, agroforestry, water-efficiency, and manure management techniques.
  • Create new forms of collaboration between and across sectors. One such form of partnership brings together public and private sectors and philanthropic organizations to tackle large-scale climate and nature challenges that individual actors would struggle to address. More than 50 such collaborations have emerged in recent years. Their objectives range widely, from changing the dynamics of land degradation in Latin America and the Caribbean to improving the air quality in London. For all their successes, these examples bring to light significant challenges in defining and executing such partnerships—but also suggest paths forward.

About McKinsey Sustainability

Sustainability is a mission-critical priority for McKinsey and we have been helping our clients decarbonize, build climate resilience, and address sustainability challenges for more than a decade. McKinsey Sustainability is the firm’s client-service platform with that aims to help all industry sectors reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and the world reach the goals aligned with the Paris agreement. We aspire to become the largest private sector catalyst for decarbonization and partner with companies from all parts of the global economy, including high emitters, to help them innovate, reduce emissions, and transition to sustainable growth models. In the past two years, we have invested more than $400 million toward our $1 billion commitment by 2025 to help our clients tackle the climate crisis. We do this by leveraging our thought leadership, innovative tools and solutions, leading expertise, and vibrant ecosystem of collaborators to lead a wave of innovation and economic growth that safeguards our planet and advances sustainability. www.mckinsey.com/sustainability

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Guest Essay

Don’t Flee the American Southwest Just Yet

A black and white photo of a U-Haul truck stopped on the side of the road in a desert. A person’s legs are poking out of the open door of the truck.

By Tom Zoellner

Mr. Zoellner is a journalist and a fifth-generation Arizonan.

This summer, when the temperature hit 110 degrees Fahrenheit or above in Phoenix for 31 straight days , many were fretting about the Southwest’s prospects in the age of climate change. A writer for The Atlantic asked , “When Will the Southwest Become Unlivable?” Bloomberg wondered , “How Long Can We Keep Living in Hotboxes Like Phoenix?”

The foregone conclusion seemed to be that the region was heading for a crash — destined to become an overpopulated, unlivable dead zone, plagued by ranch foreclosures , unemployment, water wars and heat deaths.

As a writer who has studied the Southwest’s history and spoken to some of its top environmental experts this year, I see its future differently — not as a hellscape but as an opportunity for centuries of climate ingenuity and adaptation to be put to good use. For generations, the people who were determined to come here have found ways to cope and even thrive.

The Hohokam people dug extensive networks of canals along the Salt River, and the science-minded Hopi up north grew corn in the arid lowlands. A later generation of Americans built a chain of megadams on the Colorado and other rivers to create a dependable supply of water for households and crops. My great-great-grandmother used to dip bedsheets into a canal and hang them on the sides of the porch of her Phoenix boardinghouse to create a primitive cooling system for sleeping outside in the hottest months.

While our era of shrinking water resources and rising temperatures will undoubtedly test Southwestern states, the question is not when will this region become unlivable. It is: Are we willing to make certain adjustments to live on a new hotter and drier frontier?

The biggest vulnerability may lie in what has traditionally been the biggest strength for the Southwest, at least in economic terms. The low-service and low-tax philosophy of state and local governments, combined with an abundance of former cowboy ranges, made places like Arizona and Nevada havens for those who couldn’t afford homes in California and Hawaii. Fortune 500 homebuilders stamped out tens of thousands of identical houses with tile roofs faster than Liberty ships in wartime, and the booming exurbs with loose zoning gave the Phoenix metro area a geographical footprint more than twice the size of Kuwait.

But even before July’s heat dome settled over Phoenix, Arizona was being forced to reconsider its pedal-to-metal economic model that has kept the state growing for the past seven decades, after state officials said they would limit building permits for new housing in some areas because of groundwater shortages.

It’s not just groundwater that’s stressed: Consistent lack of snowpack in the Rocky Mountains has thinned out the Colorado River’s flow, upon which 40 million people in seven states depend . After calling on states to make major cuts in their water use, the Interior Department recently agreed to pay jurisdictions in Nevada, California and Arizona a total of $1.2 billion to use less river water in the next three years. A majority of the reduction will come from farmers raising cattle food like alfalfa and hay, the biggest water gobblers of the Southwest.

And as the water crisis grows more dire, the federal and state governments are likely to have to pay off more farmers to have enough water left over to sustain the Southwest’s cities. “There’s no way you can have 400 farmers in the Imperial Valley taking all the water away from Phoenix and the L.A. basin,” according to Brad Udall, a climate research scientist at Colorado State University. As water resource managers like to say, the Southwest’s cities could disappear tomorrow and there would still be a water shortage, thanks to the thirsty farms and hungry cows. One way or another, desert agriculture must shrink and adapt to what remains.

But there’s reason for hope. Take Arizona, a state that’s often seen as the epicenter of the crisis because of its steep population growth and the fact that many of the same Arizona counties attracting new residents at a record pace are also the most water starved , experiencing severe droughts far out of proportion to the rest of the country. In spite of this, many environmental experts in Arizona are relatively sanguine about its future because of all the progress the state has made over the last 50 years to conserve its water supply.

Because of a reduction in farmland acreage and better household conservation, Arizona now uses 3 percent less water than it did in 1957, despite having a population that’s mushroomed more than 555 percent since then. Paradoxically enough, the steady march of master-planned communities to the horizon — an Arizona cliché — provides big hydrological savings because of the conversion of water-guzzling farmland into more parsimonious suburban uses, Sarah Porter, the director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University, told me.

We now use treated wastewater on golf courses and parks. Phoenix is already building a facility to turn wastewater into high-quality drinking water by 2030. And Southwestern cities have an exceptionally simple solution for curbing residential water use: Charge more for it in the summers. After Phoenix started using this powerful incentive, the number of homes with front or back lawns went down from nearly 80 percent in the 1970s to about 10 percent today, according to Kathryn Sorensen, a former water services director for the city. “That’s a wholesale cultural change,” she said.

In some crucial ways, Arizona will actually be better able to adapt to climate change than many coastal areas of the country. For instance, the cost of building sea walls for U.S. coastal regions will be at least $400 billion , according to the Center for Climate Integrity, while squeezing water out of a desert landscape is relatively cheap in comparison. The only necessary ingredient is political willpower. Public agencies will capture and bank more storm water in the ground for aquifer recharge, for example, and they can require residents to cover their backyard swimming pools to cut down on evaporation.

The historical adaptability of the Southwest can be applied in multiple other ways. Cities can reduce the heat-island effect by planting more street trees and even small forests that capture carbon. They can mandate reflective coatings on roofs and asphalt, encourage low-flow showers and toilets and discourage residential lawns, as Las Vegas has done. Tougher zoning codes on the county level can stem the runaway growth of what firefighters call suicide subdivisions built on the edge of drying forests vulnerable to wildfire.

States and cities must also invest in more emergency cooling shelters to protect the homeless and the residents of mobile home parks on the worst days. “There’s many ways we can adjust to a changing climate,” Peter Schlosser, the director of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at Arizona State University, told me. “It doesn’t mean we have to leave the area.”

I think the Southwest will retain its essential characteristic as a tough frontier. Those who want to enjoy it will adapt accordingly, just as they did in previous centuries.

Tom Zoellner is a journalist and the author of “Rim to River: Looking Into the Heart of Arizona.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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The Regulatory Review

Affordable Housing is Climate-Friendly Housing

informative essay climate change

States should prohibit local zoning ordinances that bar affordable, climate-friendly housing.

In 2020, Nebraska enacted a law expected to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from passenger vehicles and housing. But the law does not reference “climate change” or “global warming.” In fact, it does not mention GHG emissions at all.

Rather, the law aims to address Nebraska’s housing shortage by ordering municipalities to permit affordable housing units in areas previously reserved for single-family housing. In doing so, the law—intentionally or not—furthers climate goals as well. By increasing affordable housing, the law encourages the development of more energy-efficient and climate-friendly housing.

Other states should follow Nebraska’s lead by barring restrictive single-family zoning and mandating the development of more affordable housing units. Doing so not only would expand needed housing options, but also would help mitigate climate change because high-density housing is more energy-efficient than low-density, single-family housing.

Housing density refers to the number of housing units per unit of land. It is inversely related to a community’s GHG emissions because, on average, higher-density developments produce fewer emissions per housing unit. One study found that doubling an urban area’s density reduces carbon emissions from residents’ travel by 48 percent and from home energy use by 35 percent.

Single-family zoning, by contrast, accelerates urban sprawl. By increasing the distance between where people live and work, sprawl increases the amount people drive. Transportation constitutes the largest source of U.S. GHG emissions, with passenger cars alone producing over half of all transportation emissions. To make matters worse, sprawling developments are less amenable to low-carbon public transportation systems.

Single-family zoning also encourages the construction of larger houses and detached houses, both of which demand more energy than their smaller or attached counterparts. The greater the exposed surface area and the total indoor space in a house, the more energy its occupants use to cool or heat it.

Many states currently exert little influence over whether municipalities encourage or restrain the development of affordable housing. Such deference to local law is not new. Historically, U.S. municipal governments have wielded largely unchecked control over land use policy. Although municipal zoning originated in 1916 with the enactment of New York City’s first zoning resolution , local zoning laws first received the U.S. Supreme Court’s imprimatur in Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company .

Over the last few decades, zoning has become more restrictive. Today, three-fourths of U.S. cities are zoned for single-family housing.

Although zoning is constitutional, municipalities are able to adopt ordinances only because state enabling legislation authorizes them to do so. Accordingly, states can—and should—revoke such authorization when doing so is in the best interest of the state as a whole. In addition to Nebraska, California , Maine , Oregon , and Utah currently bar restrictive zoning under certain circumstances.

State preemption may be an appropriate means by which to address collective action problems that arise over land use policy. Cutting GHG emissions is the quintessential collective action problem ; each municipality’s policies, by themselves, are unlikely to produce a meaningful reduction in statewide emissions. Consequently, a single municipality may be unwilling to bear the burden of adopting climate-friendly reforms when doing so only yields significant benefits once others do the same.

Such an outcome, however, is not inescapable. State preemption can eliminate the free-rider phenomenon and assure each municipality that other municipalities’ inaction will not negate its efforts.

Those who oppose state preemption contend that restricting municipal zoning authority subverts direct democracy and local autonomy while also stifling innovation. Given these concerns, some scholars recommend limiting preemption to issues that impose statewide harm. Zoning is just such an issue; with respect to housing availability, if one municipality lacks affordable housing, other municipalities that have adopted reforms may bear the burden of making up for that shortage. With respect to climate change mitigation, one municipality’s excessive emissions will undermine state and nationwide efforts to cut emissions.

Although climate change measures rarely receive bipartisan support, statewide housing mandates have proponents from both sides of the political spectrum. Notably, two of the country’s most progressive states—Oregon and California—enacted preemption statutes substantially similar to policies adopted by two solidly conservative states—Nebraska and Utah. As the Nebraska and Utah statutes demonstrate, barring restrictive zoning may prove to be a politically-palatable means of enacting climate policy in more conservative states.

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This article appears in the Winter 2024 print issue of FP. Read more from the issue.

Parochial politics will drive the outcomes in elections across the world this year—including in the United States.

Washington’s partners and allies are alarmed by the possibility that Donald Trump could return to the White House, and they are ill-prepared to confront the prospect of a world unmoored from U.S. power and leadership.

But if elections are driven primarily by problems at home, this raises the question of whether they really make a difference for foreign policy.

Some commentators argue that the choice between today’s leading candidates is insignificant when it comes to foreign policy. After all, so the argument goes, U.S. President Joe Biden has continued Trump’s policies of being tough on China, and his protectionist agenda has been described as an updated version of Trump’s “America First” worldview. According to this perspective, U.S. policy reflects a bipartisan consensus: that Washington needs to set clear priorities that reflect today’s geopolitical realities. There is also broad consensus on the need to adapt U.S. global economic engagement for a more competitive world and to accommodate those Americans who have been left behind. On these critical dimensions of U.S. policy, so the argument goes, Biden, Trump, or indeed any other candidate would do much of the same.

But there is reason to be wary of such claims. Those who claim that Biden’s policies toward China are simply a continuation of Trump’s are vastly oversimplifying. Trump’s style was and would continue to be bombastic, chaotic, and disruptive. Biden, by contrast, has pursued carefully choreographed and sequenced high-level diplomacy designed to manage tensions and prevent accidents or misunderstandings from inadvertently leading to conflict.

Trump’s strategy for taming China’s economic influence narrowed in almost exclusively on tariffs. A return of Trump, though, could see the former president and his team attempt to implement a wholesale decoupling of the two most powerful economies.

Biden seeks to de-risk but not decouple the U.S. economy from China’s. And his administration is doing this through a strategy that combines export controls on sensitive technologies, restrictions on investments, and also tariffs. Domestic economic measures designed to increase U.S. technological competitiveness while also creating jobs are an essential component of this broader strategy. On Taiwan, also, the two diverge. Trump has intimated that he would not defend the self-ruled island. Biden has made multiple statements that suggest his commitment to defending Taiwan is far stronger.

Were Trump to return to office, the consequences for U.S.-China relations would be severe. America’s Indo-Pacific partners and Europe would feel the effects and be forced to make an uncomfortable choice between a bombastic and disruptive United States and China.

The risk is even greater at a time when the executive authority of the president over matters of foreign policy has continued to increase. Congressional oversight has diminished, especially during periods of unified government. This means that the scope for a president with strong convictions to alter the course of U.S. foreign policy is considerable. In 2018, James Goldgeier and Elizabeth N. Saunders wrote in Foreign Affairs on what they called the “unconstrained presidency” and cited Trump’s ability to pull the United States out of multiple major multilateral organizations with surprisingly little pushback from Congress.

Most worryingly, under a second Trump administration, the U.S. commitment to multilateralism would come under direct attack, in principle and in practice.

History also suggests reasons for pause. The 2000 presidential election was fraught, but the Supreme Court eventually delivered the White House to George W. Bush in what may have been one of the most consequential court decisions, ever, for future U.S. foreign policy. The 9/11 attacks created a window of opportunity for the U.S. president to make bold policy choices. The decision to invade Afghanistan was not surprising, but it is hard to imagine that Al Gore would have also gone to war in Iraq had he been elected.

The 2024 election may foreshadow a similarly stark fork in the road for U.S. foreign policy. The most consequential difference for the world may be one of diplomatic practice and style. In the world of foreign policy, this matters a lot. And it is likely to impact Europe the most.

Biden is the most Atlanticist president the United States has seen since the Cold War. Trump, by contrast, has continually accused Europe of free-riding on the back of U.S. largesse. In a second term, he has threatened to bring an abrupt halt to U.S. support for Ukraine and to pull the United States out of NATO. Even if he did not, the daily threat of a U.S. exit would create a level of instability and disruption that would sharply reduce the benefits to its members that the organization provides.

The two men also differ radically when it comes to climate change and on Taiwan, where the prospect of a dramatic policy change would loom large. Most worryingly, under a second Trump administration, the U.S. commitment to multilateralism would come under direct attack, in principle and in practice.

Álvaro Bernis illustration for Foreign Policy

For more than seven decades, the United States has provided the backbone for a multilateral order. The ambition that underpinned this order has been for more peace, more stability, and more prosperity. Washington believes that the chances of success are greater if it works collectively with partners rather than alone. And imperfect as a U.S.-backed multilateral order has been, it has embedded a set of principles and rules that have helped provide greater predictability, transparency, and trust.

Today’s world is beset by problems that cannot be handled by any single country, no matter how powerful. Russia’s war in Ukraine has demonstrated the power and the necessity of Western unity. Climate change is wreaking havoc on many states that are not a primary source of its causes. The range of available solutions nearly all require international cooperation.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved that diseases will always be more global than the responses designed to defeat them. Vaccine nationalism did little to help advance a global recovery. Instead, it alienated states in the global south and in doing so reduced the ability of the West to achieve its geopolitical goals. The perils of unmanaged migration, whether on the U.S. southern border or via the Mediterranean, threaten to create not only a humanitarian problem but also a political crisis in Europe and the United States. The need for a new multilateral effort to manage these critical social and economic problems is increasingly urgent.

But just as there has been a surge in the need for multi-lateral organizations to provide solutions, they have struggled to deliver. Consequently, the basic worldview undergirding this approach to foreign policy has come under attack.

In 2016, Trump gave a powerful voice to those critical of multilateralism, linking it to China’s rise and the ensuing negative impacts of globalization on working-class Americans—especially the loss of manufacturing jobs. He blamed the World Trade Organization (WTO) and free trade agreements such as NAFTA.

Once in power, he acted on these criticisms. Under Trump’s leadership, the predictability of Washington’s multilateral commitments eroded almost overnight with the decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accords. It continued, as Trump repeatedly threatened to end U.S. participation in the WTO and the World Health Organization (WHO). He withdrew the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Council; G-7 meetings became a scene of chaos rather than cooperation. And throughout his presidency, he delivered a series of attacks on NATO, the bedrock of trans-Atlantic security, while threatening a tariff war with Europe. His abrupt decision to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal injected a new degree of instability into America’s relationship with Europe that continues to this day.

Since Trump left office in 2021, multiple factors have combined to accelerate, deepen, and intensify poorer countries’ resentment of the United States.

Since Trump left office in 2021, multiple factors have combined to accelerate, deepen, and intensify poorer countries’ resentment of the United States. The West’s vaccine nationalism and its failure to deliver an adequate material response to help countries in the global south cope with the impacts of inflation and debt distress were exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions that followed.

With two major wars raging, in Ukraine and the Middle East, the demand for U.S. leadership and multilateral solutions is great. The global south, especially, is suffering. Today, political constraints at home mean that global public goods are harder to deliver and market access is increasingly restricted. Debt relief and financial assistance are in short supply, especially where they are most needed: to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

The demand for U.S. leadership is matched only by the escalating charge of U.S. hypocrisy. Many people across the developing world criticize Washington for espousing a set of international norms that it itself hasn’t adhered to, such as respect for state sovereignty and the protection of civilians.

Critics accuse Washington of promoting these norms selectively and unequally. The latest war between Israel and Hamas has turbocharged that sentiment. Staunch U.S. support for Israel with little evidence of restraint, and the escalating Palestinian death toll, exacerbated anti-American sentiment and stoked further charges of hypocrisy. For many people in the global south, this serves as a powerful reminder that U.S. policy is biased. First Afghans and now Palestinians have been abandoned by the United States, while Ukraine still garners considerable support.

But the United States has also come under fire for what many people perceive to be its outsized role in the leading international institutions and, especially, its failure to fix the problem of uneven standards for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council. The disproportionate influence that the United States exercises at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, due in part to the now-skewed distribution of voting rights, has further ignited the charge of hypocrisy.

As the 2024 election approaches, many people fear that U.S. power lacks staying power—and that Washington could take irreversible steps toward isolationism if Trump returns.

The decline of multilateralism is far from inevitable, even if few U.S. voters go to the polls in 2024 with foreign policy, let alone multilateralism, in mind.

The leading contenders to be the next U.S. president present a choice between two radically different visions for the future world order. One, advanced by Biden, places partners and partnerships at the front and center of U.S. strategy. It seeks to reform the multilateral framework where possible, and work around it where necessary, but to do so in partnership with others.

The second, espoused by Trump, sees the existing order as antithetical to U.S. interests. Rather than try to reform the existing framework of multilateral institutions or to build smaller, more agile, and more flexible institutional structures, it embraces transactional policies and a with-us-or-against-us system that seeks to disrupt the international order. Its suspicion of multilateralism is as ideological as it is empirical.

(Interestingly, the Republican candidate shaping up to be Trump’s most serious challenger, Nikki Haley, offers a contrasting internationalist agenda that could see the bold use of U.S. power in ways that even Biden has been reluctant to pursue.)

These two worldviews are not merely theoretical constructs. Their practical effects have been visible throughout the current presidency and the one that preceded it. In his first year in office, Biden moved rapidly to restore U.S. participation in WHO, the Paris accords, and the Human Rights Council. He also sought to reassure America’s NATO partners of the ongoing U.S. commitment to the alliance.

The leading contenders to be the next U.S. president present a choice between two radically different visions for the future world order.

There is one issue where there may not appear to be a significant foreign-policy difference between Trump and Biden. As working-class Americans have suffered the effects of unfettered globalization and its impacts on manufacturing, and as income inequality has continued to grow, protectionism has overshadowed trade, which was once the beating heart of U.S. internationalism.

Still, it is one thing to pause progress and quite another to abandon aspiration altogether. Were Trump to return to the White House, the prospect of the United States giving up entirely on the WTO would become a real one. And the turn toward protectionism would take a new step if he were to follow through with his declared intention of adopting a 10 percent tariff on all imported goods.

Indeed, the return of Trump to the White House would mark the death knell for the U.S. commitment to multilateralism. Whereas Biden has sought to advance U.S. interests through partnerships, Trump, by instinct, rejects and would set out to sabotage multilateralism. A second Trump term would mean that the official U.S. commitment to address the most existential long-term problem of our time—climate change—would likely collapse overnight. Likewise, careful diplomacy pursued by the Biden administration in its policy toward China would be replaced by a combustible unilateralism.

Of all the regions in the world, Europe has benefited the most from more than seven decades of U.S. investment in an international order that embraces multilateralism. A second Trump term could change this very quickly. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine yielded a surge in trans-Atlantic unity and confirmed the U.S. commitment to NATO and to trans-Atlantic security. Trump would likely abandon both and seek once again to make Germany a pariah and Russian President Vladimir Putin a friend. A U.S. retreat from Europe could see a sharp reversal in Ukraine’s fortunes, leaving Europe vulnerable and with the burdensome task of helping to first defend and then rebuild Ukraine.

Not every country in the world is wary of a second Trump term. Those resentful of U.S. influence and of the Western-led multilateral order may relish the fracturing of this order into two blocs—one for the West and another for the rest. China is at the top of this list, but Russia is not far behind.

Those resentful of U.S. influence and of the Western-led multilateral order may relish the fracturing of this order into two blocs.

Others might value a wider scope for greater autonomy in a world free of the vicissitudes of U.S. power or pressure to take sides. India has staked out its own leadership role and used its presidency of the G-20 to advance its power on the international stage. It continues to press for an expansion of permanent membership of the Security Council. But New Delhi also continues to turn up to meetings of the BRICS group and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, if only to ensure it has a role in restraining the ambition of those multilateral platforms that give China a foothold in shaping the international order.

U.S. efforts to counter China’s influence in the global south are still nascent. In June 2021, the G-7 met in Cornwall, England. The announcement of a collective commitment to the Build Back Better World initiative (later relaunched as the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment) demonstrated that Biden sought to bring the leading Western economies together to support a values-based development alternative. This effort has been slow to get going but could stall in the event of a disruptive transition at the White House.

The outcome of the U.S. presidential election will reverberate around the globe, and—given the significance—much of the rest of the world feels as if it, too, should have a vote. In the absence of a ballot, the alternative is not to stand by idly and watch.

Now is the time to think strategically but also tactically about how to harness U.S. power. Europe must think about how it can be an essential partner to the United States and not become singularly focused on the reverse equation. Beyond Ukraine, the G-7 countries should move quickly to deliver on their ambitions in the global south. Admonishing African, Asian, and South American leaders for their poor human rights records—or for persistent corruption—has little resonance in the absence of a sound democracy at home and a robust commitment to providing material support to lessen the impacts of rising debt, climate-related disasters, a $40 trillion infrastructure gap, and food shortages. Above all, Europe must not allow itself to become irrelevant in the war between Israel and Hamas but should work to provide humanitarian relief and facilitate progress toward a realistic and sustainable political solution.

The rest of the world may not have a vote, but it must prepare for a U.S. government that could be erratic, unpredictable, and unruly—but with global ambitions.

This article appears in the Winter 2024 issue of Foreign Policy. Subscribe now to support our journalism.

Leslie Vinjamuri  is the director of the U.S. and the Americas program at Chatham House and a professor of international relations at SOAS University of London.

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