Climate, Pollution and Adaptation
Chapter 2: Changing climate and the water environment
Climate change refers to the significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns. This could be a change in the average weather conditions such as the increase in the average Earth surface temperature (Hughes, 2003), or in the distribution of weather around average conditions such as an increasing number and frequency of extreme rainfall events or extreme droughts (IPCC, 2007a). Evidence of climate change is inferred by employing a range of sources to reconstruct the past climate. These sources may include, past meteorological records, vegetation, ice cores and geological data (Petit et al., 1999; Sahney et al., 2010). Changes in climate characteristics can be influenced by natural causes. However, it has been noted that climate change has accelerated due to a range of human activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels and industrial activities resulting in increasing emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. This in turn has led to an ever-increasing rise in the global average surface temperature (the average of near surface air temperature over land and sea) and this trend is predicted to accelerate in the future (IPCC, 2001). As the IPCC (2001) report has claimed, there is a discernible human influence on the global climate. This highlights the fact that compared to natural causes, anthropogenic activities are primarily responsible for the evident changes in climate characteristics.
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