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What Is Climate Change?
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What Is Climate Change?
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Learn more about what climate change means and how it's affecting our planet.The earth is definitely getting warmer. There's no argument about that, but who or what is the cause? And why has climate...
Learn more about what climate change means and how it's affecting our planet.The earth is definitely getting warmer. There's no argument about that, but who or what is the cause? And why has climate...
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  • Learn more about what climate change means and how it's affecting our planet.
    The earth is definitely getting warmer. There's no argument about that, but who or what is the cause? And why has climate change become a political issue? Are humans at fault? Is this just a natural development? While the vast majority of scientists who study the environment agree that humans play a large part in climate change, there is a counterargument. Author Gail Herman presents both sides of the debate in this fact-based, fair-minded, and well-researched book that looks at the subject from many perspectives, including scientific, social, and political.

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  • From the book What Is Climate Change?


    In the Canadian Arctic, winter used to come early. By early November, temperatures dipped below zero. Snow covered the ground. Hudson Bay became covered in solid ice.

    Hundreds of polar bears lumbered onto the frozen water, making their way out to open ocean. All winter long, they swam from ice floe to ice floe. They mated. They hunted and fished. There were plenty of ringed seals to eat.

    When summer finally came in August, the ice melted. The polar bears swam back to land. The males play-fought. The females watched over their young cubs. Months passed. Polar bears lounged on tundra—still-frozen ground—using little energy. They waited for cold weather. They waited to go out to sea again.

    Polar bears are strong, majestic creatures, standing up to nine feet tall and weighing up to one thousand pounds. They are built for the cold. Their snow-white coat is thick, with a double layer of fur. Also, a layer of fat lies just under their skin, keeping them extra warm. For months, polar bears have to live off this fat, gained from winter feedings on the ice. When they're on land, they barely eat.

    In early November 2016, the polar bears were still on land. There was no sea ice on Hudson Bay. Weeks passed. By December, there was still barely any ice at all. So the polar bears had to wait longer to return to the sea. Some paced back and forth along the shoreline. Others lay on the ground, not doing much at all.

    The warmer climate affected the polar bears in important ways. In the 1980s, Hudson Bay bears were bigger and rounder, well fed. Recently they've been losing weight and becoming weaker. That's because with fewer weeks on ice, their hunting season has become shorter. They have less food. In Hudson Bay, polar bear numbers have dropped. The bears have fewer cubs. And not all cubs survive.

    In 2016, the water in Hudson Bay didn't freeze until December 12. That was very late. "Sea ice is finally forming," one scientist reported. "The polar bears are moving quickly offshore."

    Even on ice, however, the polar bears had a tougher time. There was more water between floes. The polar bears were already weakened by long months on land. And yet they had to swim longer distances to get from place to place to hunt.

    Observers followed one female who had to swim nine days straight to reach an ice floe.

    The Arctic—the polar bears' habitat—is changing. Temperatures have gone up about 3 degrees Celsius (°C), or 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (°F), since 1900.

    The ice cover is shrinking, too. In 2017, it was 30 percent smaller than it was twenty-five years earlier. And each year, the remaining ice cover is melting faster and faster.

    The fact is that our entire planet is getting warmer, not just the Arctic. Certain gases in the atmosphere—"greenhouse gases"—hold in heat, keeping it from escaping into space. Higher temperatures bring changes in plant and animal life. In sources of food and water. In rainfall and snowfall, floods and droughts. Habitats around the world are at risk.

    It's all part of climate change.


    Chapter 1: Things Are Heating Up


    First of all, what is climate?

    Before you dress each day, do you check the climate to figure out what to wear? No, you check the weather.

    Weather changes often, sometimes in the space of a couple of hours. Climate doesn't. Climate is the weather over long periods of time.

    Scientists who study climate look at weather patterns. They need to measure temperature and precipitation (rainfall and snowfall)....

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