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Climate Change

Contemporary climate change includes both global warming and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are distinctly more rapid and not due to natural causes. Instead, they are caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. Burning fossil fuels for energy use creates most of these emissions. Agriculture, steelmaking, cement production, and forest loss are additional sources. Greenhouse gases are transparent to sunlight, allowing it through to heat the Earth's surface. When the Earth emits that heat as infrared radiation the gases absorb it, trapping the heat near the Earth's surface. As the planet heats up it causes changes like the loss of sunlight-reflecting snow cover, amplifying global warming.

Melting: An iceberg in Disko Bay, Greenland. The collapsing ice sheet there will add seven metres to the sea level. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images Gallery

Farmers at Tullow mart, with IFA chief Tim Cullinan, voice their concerns about emission targets to Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke

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