Sea levels are rising and oceans are becoming warmer. Longer, more intense droughts threaten crops, wildlife and freshwater supplies. From polar bears in the Arctic to marine turtles off the coast of Africa, our planet’s diversity of life is at risk from the changing climate.
Climate change poses a fundamental threat to the places, species and people’s livelihoods WWF works to protect. To adequately address this crisis we must urgently reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the consequences of global warming, which we are already experiencing. WWF works to:
advance policies to fight climate change
engage with businesses to reduce carbon emissions
help people and nature adapt to a changing climate
Today Richmond is one of 29 participating cities in WWF's Earth Hour City Challenge. But in the 1970s and 1980s the situation was far different. Pollution from tobacco plantations and chemicals plants had sullied the river to the point where fishing in the James River was banned in 1975.
Clearing forests, such as in the National Forest of Bom Futuro, Rondônia, Brazil, adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
Greenhouses gases, such as carbon dioxide, trap heat in the atmosphere and regulate our climate. These gases exist naturally, but humans add more carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels for energy (coal, oil, and natural gas) and by clearing forests. Greenhouse gases act like a blanket. The thicker the blanket, the warmer our planet becomes. At the same time, the Earth’s oceans are also absorbing some of this extra carbon dioxide, making them more acidic and less hospitable for sea life.
The increase in global temperature is significantly altering our planet’s climate, resulting in more extreme and unpredictable weather. For instance, heat waves are becoming more frequent and many places are experiencing record droughts followed by intense rainfalls.
Forests help protect the planet by absorbing massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most abundant type of pollution that causes climate change. Unfortunately, forests are currently being destroyed or damaged at an alarming rate. Logging and clearing land for agriculture or livestock release huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It also diminishes those regions’ ability to absorb carbon pollution.
Scientists estimate up to 20 percent of global carbon emissions come from deforestation – greater than emissions from every car, truck and plane on the planet combined.
Scientists Agree, Humans Cause Climate Change
Burning coal releases 70% more carbon dioxide than natural gas. Coal plant, Taiyuan, China.
Scientists in the United States and the world have reached an overwhelming consensus that climate change is real and caused primarily by human activity. Respected scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and World Meteorological Association (WMO) have all identified climate change as an urgent threat caused by humans that must be addressed.
“The need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable.”
— National Academy of Science
Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, to generate energy has the greatest impact on the atmosphere than any other single human activity. Globally, power generation is responsible for about 23 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year – in excess of 700 tonnes every second. Coal is especially damaging to our atmosphere, releasing 70% more carbon dioxide than natural gas for every unit of energy produced.
Humans and wild animals face new challenges for survival because of climate change. More frequent and intense drought, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans can directly harm animals, destroy the places they live, and wreak havoc on people’s livelihoods and communities.
U.S. Cities at Risk As climate change worsens, dangerous weather events are becoming more frequent or severe. People in cities and towns around the United States are facing the consequences, from heat waves and wildfires to coastal storms and flooding.
To adequately address the climate crisis we must urgently reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the consequences of global warming, which the world is already experiencing. Combining global outreach with local expertise, WWF:
helps people and nature adapt to a changing climate
advances policies to fight climate change
engages with businesses to reduce carbon emissions
challenges U.S. cities to prepare for more extreme weather
Challenging Cities to Prepare
As climate change worsens, dangerous weather events are becoming more frequent or severe in the United States and around the globe. WWF is challenging U.S. cities to reduce their carbon footprint and implement practical measures to prepare for extreme weather and other consequences of climate change through the Earth Hour City Challenge. See how your city is at risk and tell your own mayor to prepare!
Adapting to Climate Change
To avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we need to dramatically reduce the world’s carbon emissions. But we must also prepare for the significant changes in weather that the world is presently experiencing because of the pollution already in the atmosphere. Around the globe WWF works with local communities, governments and others to help nature and people successfully adapt to a changing climate. WWF prepares communities around the globe for climate change. To do this we:
Help communities in the Eastern Himalayas adapt to increasing water scarcity by collecting rainwater and promoting drought-resistant crops
Restore mangrove forests in Coastal East Africa to buffer shorelines from storm erosion
Protect coral reefs in the Coral Triangle to build their resilience against bleaching events
Identify areas where polar bears can live on solid Arctic sea ice for decades to come
Forests are home to many of the world’s most endangered wildlife. They also protect the planet by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2), a major source of pollution that causes climate change. WWF fights climate change by saving forests. To do this we:
Ensure that global climate change agreements reduce forest destruction and degradation and protect wildlife
Work directly with countries, especially developing ones, to protect forests and benefit the livelihoods of local communities
Use satellite images and aerial mapping technologies to track illegal logging
Study the vulnerability of forests to climate change and explore ways to help them adapt
Government must play a central role to tackle the climate crisis. WWF is an advocate at all levels of government. In the United States, WWF works to advance policies that reduce carbon pollution, support clean energy technologies, prepare for the effects of climate change, and curb deforestation. At international negotiations, WWF encourages the United States to play a constructive role in developing global climate agreements that:
Substantially reduce carbon pollution to avoid the worst consequences of climate change
Provide financial support to developing countries so people and nature can successfully adapt
Combat forest destruction and protect wildlife that live there
Help transition developing countries to clean energy sources like wind and solar
Businesses have a responsibility to reduce their contribution to climate change. WWF works in partnership with companies as part of WWF’s Climate Savers Program to set and meet goals to reduce carbon emissions, advance projects to protect their resources from climate impacts, and ensure the sustainability of their core business.
WWF and The Coca-Cola Company are working together to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions in Coca-Cola's manufacturing operations, including those of over 300 independent bottlers. Together, WWF and Coca-Cola are working to achieve the company’s emissions reduction goals of growing the business, not the carbon, worldwide and reducing emissions five percent in developed countries.
WWF and The Coca-Cola Company are working to protect the Arctic. Building upon Coca-Cola’s support, since 2007, of WWF’s efforts to protect polar bears, together we are working to raise widespread awareness and funds to help protect the polar bear and its habitat.
Over the past few decades, the Arctic has warmed at about twice the rate of the rest of the globe. The impact of this on the Arctic’s physical systems, biological systems, and human inhabitants is large and projected to grow throughout this century and beyond.