What is Climate Change?

12 April 2023
teenagers in a climate demonstration

The ICOS Head Office in Helsinki, Finland, had two 13-year-old students visit the office as part of a Nordic tradition of “taksvärkki”, also known as Operation Day’s Work. During this day, the students get the chance to exercise a job of their choice instead of going to school for one day. They donate their salaries to youth-related projects from all over the world. The two visitors at the ICOS Head Office, Tilda Vainio and Lilja Koumantarou, wrote a story about climate change.

Climate change is the long-term change of global climate. It often occurs naturally. However, it has been proven by scientists that certain human activities accelerate climate change. This results in the planet warming up faster than it normally would.

But how does the planet warm up? This is caused by the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect refers to the way in which heat gets trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere, which acts like a “glass greenhouse” of Earth. When the Sun’s energy reaches Earth, some of it is reflected back to space, while the rest of it is absorbed. This warms the surface of the earth which emits infrared light. However, not all of this infrared light is re-emitted, some is absorbed by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This is important because it is what keeps the planet in the right temperature for life to prosper.  Without the greenhouse effect, the temperature would be approximately -18°C

Since the industrial revolution, some human activities (particularly burning fossil fuels) have been found to produce more greenhouse gases, which means that more heat is absorbed, and as a result, the earth warms up more than we need it to. The excessive warming of the earth has caused a global crisis.

We interviewed people at ICOS to see what they had to say about this subject. This is what they said.

Climate change will severely affect all aspects of life. People living in southern countries, such as Spain may have to move north, there will be heatwaves, warmer winters and other extreme weather conditions. Because of this, there may not be much food, and life might find it difficult to survive.

To help tackle climate change, we can eat a more plant based diet, and maybe think twice on whether to take a car or travel by public transport. We can also impact the environment by voting with the climate in mind, and buying less new stuff, and more second hand items.

If the temperatures keep increasing we will have less frequent snow all around the world. Some years with no snow.

Nobody knows exactly what will happen if we ignore this any longer ,and that is what makes it all the more terrifying. We need to take drastic action! It is not too late to save the world, but we sure are in a horrible hurry.

ICOS provides data for science to understand the Earth system. Scientific knowledge on carbon emissions, sinks, and trends advances the fulfilment of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and the knowledge generated by the use of ICOS data supports efforts to comply with the Paris Agreement resolutions. Learn more about how ICOS contributes to science and society, and about our contribution to climate action and reducing greenhouse gases.