What is Climate Change?

Learn about climate change and climate action

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What is climate change? Climate is not the same as weather Climate Change is Global Climate Change is Local What is Climate Action?

Each day as we cool or heat our homes, use appliances, and fuel up our vehicles, we create greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which contributes to climate change. Climate change is irreversible, and it will affect our environment, our economy, and our society. 
Our natural systems cannot absorb all the emissions human beings send into the atmosphere, so we need to take action to reduce emissions, and prepare for the future impacts of climate change. In Raleigh, we’re part of a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and hopefully hold off the worst effects of climate change.  
Raleigh is committed to an 80% reduction in community-wide GHG emissions by 2050, and supporting community resilience and climate equity through our Community Climate Action Plan.


  1. What is Climate Change?
  2. Global Impacts of Climate Change
  3. Local Effects of Climate Change
  4. Climate vs. Weather
  5. Take Climate Action
  6. Community Climate Action Plan

What is climate change?

Climate change is a process in which energy and heat are trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere by greenhouse gases (GHGs). These gases trap heat from the sun, leading to increased temperatures on Earth’s surface. These temperatures have widespread effects on natural and man-made systems. 

Humans are causing climate change 
There is a high level of scientific certainty that climate change is already happening and that it is caused by human activities, largely the burning of fossil fuels like oil and gasoline.

cars on the highway during traffic

We use fossil fuels to generate electricity, to power our vehicles and to heat our homes, even the breakdown of waste releases GHGs. When we burn these fuels, the combustion releases greenhouse gases (GHGs), like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, among others into the atmosphere. Our natural systems can capture some of these emissions, for example trees capture and process carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but the amount and type of emissions humanity is creating globally cannot be reduced by these natural ‘sinks’. These greenhouse gases increase the amount of the sun’s energy and heat that are trapped in Earth’s atmosphere, thus increasing temperatures. This is known as the greenhouse effect and climate change.   

Community Climate Action Plan

Raleigh’s Community Climate Action Plan addresses emissions in three categories: Buildings and Energy, which accounts for 56% of emissions in Raleigh, Transportation and Land Use, which accounts for 42%, and the breakdown of Waste—which accounts for the remaining 2%. 

Comparison of the CO2 a House can produce

Climate is not the same as weather

Dix Park

"Weather" describes the conditions outside at a specific point in time while "climate" describes patterns of weather conditions over time. Learn more about weather vs. climate

Climate Change is Global

View of earth from space

Climate change is a global challenge. Greenhouse gas emissions occur in every country, every day, all year long. Learn more about global impacts

Climate Change is Local

A creek flooding the greenway bridge on Rose Lane

Creek flooding over a greenway bridge on Rose Lane.

Here in Raleigh, we have seen more hot days, more warm nights, and more frequent and stronger storms, like hurricanes, which bring heavy winds and rains even to inland areas. Learn more about how climate change is local

What is Climate Action?

riders on bike

Climate action can mean activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions like using reusable water bottles, preserving trees and green space, and walking, bicycling or taking public transit to work. Learn more about climate action