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Climate change is already transforming the Earth. The loss of sea ice has caused oceans to rise. Countries are experiencing longer and more intense heat waves and droughts. Glaciers have shrunk, animal ranges have shifted and freakish outbreaks—from floods to wildfires—plague the planet. Scientists predict that global temperatures will continue to rise.
What can we do? So far, climate change has not been a prominent topic during election year debates. So what questions should candidates be answering? Before we ask, here are the facts we as humans—who, yes, are the cause of climate change—need to know:
The greenhouse effect is how the Earth is warm enough for humans to stay alive. It's caused by gases that retain heat from sunlight. Without such gases, the average surface temperature of the Earth would be below freezing.
Though carbon dioxide is vital to living creatures and the photosynthesis of plants (remember, we breathe oxygen, plants breathe CO2), it also contributes more to the greenhouse effect than any other gas related to human activity.
Though the Earth does go through natural cyclical stages of warming and cooling, the warming of the past 50 years has largely been attributed by scientists to greenhouse gases produced by humans.
In December of 2015, the United Nations negotiated the Paris Agreement, a global pact to reduce climate change. The goal of the agreement is to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.
The Paris agreement will become legally binding if signed by at least 55 countries that produce 55 percent of the world's greenhouse emissions. It is due to enter into force in 2020.