Is the Earth getting warmer? If it is, what is causing it to warm? Moreover, if it is getting warmer, what impact will it have on the Earth’s climate? Most important, how will a changing climate impact us?

Many people believe that the planet is getting warmer and the warming is caused by human activity. Moreover, they believe that the warming is causing the earth’s climate to change in ways that are a threat to us and future generations. Others prefer to believe that the planet is not warming. Even others believe the world is warming but don’t believe it is caused by human activity. Most people are somewhere in the middle and aren’t sure what to believe.

Join me for a trip through the current scientific evidence of a warming planet and the resulting changes in the planet’s climate. This series is an attempt to clarify these issues based on science from leading institutions from around the world. Examples include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Interagency Panel on Climate Change.

The series is also an attempt to help you understand these concepts by using common, everyday examples. Although the Earth and its climate are complex, many of the forces that drive the world’s climate are familiar to us because they are the same ones we experience in our everyday lives.

Before we start, we should clarify the commonly used terms of global warming and climate change. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings. Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of Earth's near-surface air and oceans. Global warming causes changes in the Earth’s climate. Changes in the Earth’s climate include rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns, increasing severity and occurrence of extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, and other changes in the Earth’s climate.

Don Hofstrand is a retired agricultural economist from Iowa State University Extension. During the last few years of his work life, he focused on renewable energy and climate change. He and his wife live in Mason City.

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