Climate Change 101

What is Climate Change? 

Climate change is a significant and lasting change in weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. Climate change is caused by both natural (e.g. volcanic eruptions or changes in solar activity) and human activities (e.g. burning fossil fuels or cutting down lots of forests). The human activities that cause "Greenhouse Gas Emissions" have accelerated the rate of the planets warming because these gases trap heat, causing the overall global temperature to increase at an exponential rate since the industrial revolution.

The Earth’s climate is changing. Adapting to climate change means understanding what sorts of changes are happening already and may happen in the future. Changes happen both in the climate system itself and in the human and natural systems.

greenhoue gas effect

What is Climate Justice?

The concept of Climate justice connects the climate crisis to the social, racial and environmental issues in which it is deeply entangled. Climate Justice recognizes the disproportionate impacts of climate change on low-income communities and communities of color around the world, the people and places least responsible for the problem.

This definition is from the University of California Center for Climate Justice

How does Climate Change Impact me in Thurston County?

Climate change impacts almost every aspect of our lives you don’t have to look far to see the effects of climate change in every day living. Here are a few examples of the climate impacts residents of Thurston County are already experiencing are:

  • Respiratory health concerns brought on by increasing air pollution, particularly from wildfire smoke. According to the US Department of Agriculture, wildfires in the U.S. will be at least twice as destructive by 2050, burning around 20 million acres nationwide each year. Research suggests that Thurston County
  • Sea level rise and increased flooding: In Thurston County we are experiencing the impacts of Sea Level rise as parts of downtown Olympia and other costal areas are regularly flooding in the winter impacting residents dwelling along the water, business owners, commuters, and the local houseless population.
  • Change in weather patterns causing extreme temperatures. We have seen a rise in frequency of heatwaves in the Pacific Northwest and Thurston County as well as more extreme winter snowfall, ice, and freezing temperatures. Additionally we are experiencing atmospheric rivers in the winter which create torrential rainfall leading to the flooding of our waterways and impacting infrastructure.
Record Flooding in Downtown Olympia December 2022
Record Flooding in Downtown Olympia December 2022