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Photo of fire fighter observing a wildfire.

Increased risks of wildfires from warmer temperatures and dryer conditions are among the impacts of climate change.

What Is Climate Change

When we refer to climate change, we are talking about a change of long-term weather patterns caused by human activity. Climates do vary naturally over time, but the world's leading climate scientists agree that the types and rates of climate change we are now experiencing are more than natural variability. Rather they are the result of human activities.

Greenhouse Effect vs. Climate Change vs. Global Warming

Many people use the terms greenhouse effect, global warming, and climate change interchangeably. They are related but really mean different things. Carbon dioxide and methane are examples of greenhouse gases that trap just the right amount of heat energy to keep the Earth's temperature comfortable. This mechanism is referred to as the greenhouse effect. As we emit more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through actions such as the burning of fossil fuels, we disrupt this natural balance. The result is a progressive gradual rise in the Earth's average surface temperature that is referred to as global warming. Global warming is driving the changes to our climate, referred to as climate change. Our climate system is complex, so these changes are not happening uniformly across the globe. Some places are becoming hotter and drier, while some are becoming cooler and wetter.

Climate Change Impacts

Climate change is already impacting our world and our community and is expected to have more impacts in the coming years. Climate change is expected to:

  • Increase annual amounts of rainfall and snowfall in some areas and decrease them others—leading to shifting patterns of droughts and flooding
  • Increase the risk of wildfires due to warmer temperatures and drier periods
  • Increase the severity of storms
  • Increase sea levels, causing flooding in low-lying areas
  • Affect community health as warmer temperatures allow tropical and subtropical diseases to increase their range
  • Impact the health of plants and wildlife due to changes in temperature and rainfall

More about Climate Change Impacts on Alameda County