Fast Facts About Climate Change

The Science of Climate Change

  • Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor, trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere and warm the planet.

  • The greenhouse effect is an increase in the average temperature of the Earth. Without greenhouse gases, the temperature on Earth would be too cold to support life. With too many greenhouse gases, it would heat up beyond survivable levels. 

  • Since 1958, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been measured from an observatory on Mauna Loa, a volcano in Hawaii.

  • The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93 ppm.

  • Today, the amount of carbon dioxide is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. And the Earth's average temperature is increasing faster than ever before.

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that global temperatures are expected to be within the range of 0.5°F to 8.6°F by 2100, with a likely increase of at least 2.7°F, in the 21st century.

Contributing to Climate Change

  • The United States is the second largest contributor to CO2 in our atmosphere, though it is home to just 4.4 percent of the world’s population. If everyone in the world lived the way people do in the U.S., it would take four Earths to provide enough resources for everyone!

  • The amount of carbon dioxide emitted per capita in the United States is 16.4 metric tons (almost 40 pounds per person). One pound of carbon is about the size of a large blow up exercise ball.

  •  Burning one gallon of gasoline puts 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Effects on People, Wildlife and the Planet

  • Average sea level is expected to rise 1 - 6 feet before the end of this century. 

  • In 1910 Glacier National Park was home to more an estimated 150 glaciers. That number has now shrunk to 25 as of December 2016. This national park is expected to eventually lose all its glaciers. This is only one example of glacial melt that is occurring all over the world. 

  • The current pace of global average temperature rise puts approximately 25 to 35 percent of plant and animal species at increased risk of extinction.

  • Rain forest destruction contributes to climate change. That's because trees store carbon dioxide as they grow. Clearing and burning forests releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

  • The world’s coral reefs are in the midst of a global mass die off. 2016's coral bleaching is expected to impact 38% of the world's coral reefs, killing over 4,630 square miles of reefs.




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Young Voices for the Planet


From award winning author and illustrator, Lynne Cherry, whose books include A River Ran Wild and The Great Kapok Tree, comes a film series featuring young people who are making a difference.  Speaking Out. Creating Solutions. Leading the Change.

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Show your students how climate change is impacting our planet.

Take EPA's climate expedition, calculate your emissions, and be a part of the solution!  Check out their website: