Climate is the usual weather of a place, and Earth’s climate is the usual weather patterns across the world. Climate change is how these weather patterns across Earth are changing. It can take hundreds or millions of years for these weather patterns to significantly change. However, the Earth’s climate is always changing – at times it has been much colder and other times it has been much hotter. Currently, the Earth’s climate is warming. The global average temperatures have increased 1° Celsius (2° Fahrenheit) since 1880, and two thirds of this increase has occurred since 1975. This might not seem like a lot of change, but it requires a vast amount of energy to heat the entire surface of the planet by 1° Celsius.
Global average temperatures largely depend upon how much of the sun’s energy that hits the earth is kept in the atmosphere and how much is radiated back into space. This careful balance of energy largely depends upon the gases that make up the atmosphere, particularly the heat-trapping greenhouse gases like methane, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and nitrous oxides. When more heat-trapping gases are released into the atmosphere, less heat is radiated out to space and the earth warms up. This is called the greenhouse effect.