What You Should Know About Climate Change

Climate change threatens the health and welfare of American families.

Emissions of carbon pollution are causing the Earth to warm. Increased global temperatures, changes
in precipitation, rising sea level, and changing weather patterns are the result. These changes have real
impacts on our families, communities, and our country. Climate change will affect everyone, but the poor,
young, old, or sick, as well as people who live on the coasts or other vulnerable areas, are especially at risk.


Climate change means serious
impacts on...

...our health

Carbon pollution and hotter weather can lead to longer
allergy seasons, an increase in heat stroke and heat-
related deaths, and risks to people who suffer from
chronic lung and heart diseases. Rising temperatures also
lead to more smog, which can exacerbate asthma.

...the spread of disease

Warmer temperatures can expand the ranges of
mosquitoes and ticks, as well as lengthen the season that
they are active. These insects spread diseases such as
Lyme disease and West Nile virus.

...heat waves and droughts

Climate change increases the frequency and intensity of heat waves and droughts. Heat waves increase
energy costs for households, lead to blackouts and brownouts, and threaten human health and safety.
Droughts can drive up food prices, limit hydroelectricity supplies, and affect manufacturing operations that
rely on water to run their businesses.


In 2012 alone, wildfires scorched more than nine million acres across eight states—an area more than two
and a half times the size of the state of Connecticut. With climate change increasing the likelihood of hot,
dry weather in many parts of the country, the risk of wildfires is expected to increase.


Scientists expect that hurricanes will become more intense, with higher wind speeds and heavier rains. In
much of the country, more precipitation will fall in intense, short bursts such as blizzards and downpours,
which can lead to flooding.

Is the Earth warming?

Yes. The 12 warmest years since
the late 1800s have all come in
the last 15 years. The last month in
which the global temperature was
below the 20th century average
was February 1985. Arctic sea ice
has shrunk to record-low levels in
recent years.

October 2013

What You Should Know About Climate Change (Cont.)


Climate change will affect the quality and security
of our water supplies. Floods can overwhelm sewers
and wastewater treatment facilities. Heavy rains can
cause pollutants to enter stormwater systems, harming
sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands and estuaries.

...rising seas

As water warms, it takes up more space, and as
glaciers melt, they add water to the oceans. As a
result, sea levels are projected to rise by 1 to 4 feet
during this century. Storm surges from hurricanes and
tropical storms, superimposed on higher seas, could
cause severe damage to homes and infrastructure in
coastal states.

...plants and wildlife

The changing climate affects the timing of bird
migration, flowering dates, and the emergence of
insects in spring. Many forests are being weakened
by wildfires, insect infestations, drought, and disease
outbreaks. Some species of plants and animals are
shifting their ranges as the climate warms.

The time to act is now

Solutions are available to reduce the pollution that
causes climate change, and to protect our communities
from the impacts. Many families, communities,
businesses, and states are already taking action to
reduce carbon pollution and protect themselves and
their property from the risks caused by climate change.
People can take steps at home, on the road, and in our
workplaces to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and
the risks associated with climate change. Many of these
steps can save money; some, such as walking or biking
to work can even improve health.

EPA is taking common-sense action to reduce carbon
pollution and promote a cleaner energy economy.

Key Terms

Climate change refers to
any significant change in the
measures of climate lasting for an
extended period of time. In other
words, climate change includes
major changes in temperature,
precipitation, or wind patterns,
among others, that occur over
several decades or longer.

Greenhouse gases are gases
that absorb infrared radiation in
the atmosphere causing the earth
to warm. The elevated levels of
greenhouse gases seen in recent
decades are largely due to human
activities, especially the burning of
fossil fuels.

Carbon pollution is shorthand
for anthropogenic emissions of
greenhouse gases, primarily
carbon dioxide.

Learn more at www.epa.gov/climatechange

October 2013