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Is the climate changing?

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The short answer is, yes, we think it is.

We know that there are people who disagree. Maybe you are or someone in your family is one of them. We understand. Some people do not look at our climate the way we have described it here on our website. That's okay!

First, our city is a better place when people with different points of view ask hard questions and look for solid answers. Gathering information is a huge part of that process. We hope this website helps with that, and we invite you to explore other ones too.

Second, while the things that we suggest our neighbors do are good for the planet, they can also be good for people. They can save money, help neighbors in need, and improve your health. So even if you or your family are a bit skeptical, there are other good reasons to give some of our "green your routine" suggestions a try. We hope you will

What you need to know

Climate is not weather. Weather is something that may or may not change daily. One day it's sunny and the next day it's not. Climate, on the other hand, changes only over long periods of time. Scientists use the average of years and years worth of temperature data to determine if climate has changed. In our case, scientists agree that our weather is pretty much what it had always been, but our climate is not. Using averages, it looks like Fort Lauderdale is about two degrees warmer than it was about 100 years ago.

Little changes in climate can cause big changes all over our planet. On a day to day basis, a few degrees means nothing. You wouldn't even change what you are wearing for just two degrees. But over time it is a big deal. Average temperature rise of just a few degrees can make it impossible for entire species of plants to grow where they once did. Average temperature rise over time of only nine degrees might have ended the ice age!

We are all connected. When you look at a map you see lines for borders.When you look at the ground the lines aren't there. That's because humans make up the borders for very good reasons, but nature doesn't know about them or care. So if the climate warms just a tiny bit in the Arctic Circle (as it has), when that tiny bit of warming begins to melt icebergs or warm winds, we feel the change all the way in Florida.

There is a theory that changes in climate are happening faster because of the way humans have lived since the Industrial Revolution, and there is more and more evidence which backs up that theory. You can read more about this theory, but it basically says that many of our amazing technological advances have an unfortunate side effect: they cause greenhouse gases to be emitted into the atmosphere. Because of chemical reactions that happen way up in and above the clouds, those gases do two things. They damage the protective layers that filter the sun's very strong rays, and they trap warm air. Together the theory is that these things are slowly warming the planet over a very long period of time. 

What this means

It really doesn't matter if we'll eventually return to the way things were-- that is, get cooler again. Some people wisely point out that our planet has gone through many cycles. It's true! The problem is that those cycles usually take thousands or tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years. In the mean time, we have to live with whatever happens, we have to solve the problems it creates, and we have to try to make things a bit better for all the people who share our beautiful planet. And, we have to make sure that Fort Lauderdale stays a wonderful place for you to live.

Global warming is a bit more like global weird-ing. The idea of climate change over a long period of time is pretty simple. What happens year to year is a bit more complex. Melting icebergs and rising seas can change wind systems and moisture in the atmosphere. This can really mess with the weather. For example more snow up North can actually be a side effect of global warming! In Fort Lauderdale, scientists think we should expect more and harder rainstorms, and changes in our typical hurricane season patterns.

What we are doing

  • Tracking the scientific documents put out by many, many agencies all over the planet.
  • Working with friends in places like South Africa, the Philippines, the Netherlands and of course here at home to find creative solutions.
  • Thinking about climate in two ways: 1) What can we do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions so that we cause no more harm to our planet? 2) What can we do to prepare Fort Lauderdale for changes over the next 50 to 100 years?
  • Passing along all of that information to the people who live here

What you can do

  • Learn more about the difference between climate and weather.
  • Be curious. Ask tough questions. Don't be afraid to disagree. Just keep an open mind to all points of view.
  • Learn about greenhouse gas. Don't wait for chemistry class. There are four main ones that you should know now: carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons, and nitrous oxide.
  • Participate in your family's annual hurricane preparation. 
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