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The earth s climate has been stable since the last ice age. However, this climate has been observed to be changing. Latest scientific evidence compiled by the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientific panel put up by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization indicates that the earth s surface temperature this century is clearly warmer than any other century during the last thousand years. The three warmest years during the last hundred years have occurred in the 1990 s and the 12 warmest years have occurred since 1983. There is also evidence that precipitation patterns are changing and that sea level is increasing and that the incidence of extreme weather events (drought and floods) is increasing in some parts of the world.

Almost every human activity conducted here on earth affects the atmosphere except perhaps coughing. If you drive to work, take a bath, cook a meal, grow rice, use fertilizer, graze cattle, etc you are automatically releasing a series of gases called greenhouse gases that are responsible for the much talked about climate change .

So what are greenhouse gases and how do they cause climate change? Greenhouse gases are gases such as Carbon dioxide, methane and Nitrous Oxide, which are released when we burn fossil fuels like wood, charcoal and petroleum products. These gases, when released into the upper levels of the atmosphere, trap heat emitted by the earth s atmosphere; heat which is supposed to escape into outer space. This results in warming in the lower levels of the atmosphere. These gases are called greenhouse gases because they have the same effect that the greenhouse has in trapping heat emitted by the earth s surface. This warming is actually what is resulting in climate change.

The most visible effects of climate change will be changes in the rainfall patterns (droughts, floods) an increase in global temperatures, melting of ice in cold climates and rise in sea levels which is feared to submerge small island status. These effects will impact on agriculture, human health, human settlements and ultimately global economy.

In part II and III of this article we will talk about who the culprit in the climate change issue is and what can we do to avert climate change.

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