Climate change is underway, and affecting the entire planet. Science News for Students dedicated an entire year to the topic in our Climate Change Chronicles.

myillo/iStockphoto, adapted by E. Otwell


Climate Change Chronicles

Nearly 4.5 billion years ago, our planet formed from a cloud of gases. Those gases solidified. A thin outer crust formed, and an atmosphere developed. Since its birth, Earth has been morphing in ways big and small. And ever since the first inklings of life arose, some 3.8 billion years ago, Earth’s organisms have been adapting to this ever-changing world.

No single species has ever been responsible for big changes on Earth. Until now.

Human activities — particularly the burning of fossil fuels — have emerged as a driving force in changing the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere. That has caused Earth’s seas to become slightly more acidic. And it has warmed the average temperatures near the planet’s surface and in its upper oceans. Those temperature changes have, in turn, altered climate worldwide. And in response, species have begun to change where and how they live.

This year-long series investigated those changes, focusing on the new science behind them. And we explored how Earth’s life — including humans — has begun to adapt. It’s a mistake to think that climate change is something that will only happen sometime later this century. These changes are underway now.