Climate Change 101


The world's climate is changing. The science leading to that conclusion is well-established. How do scientists know the climate is changing? Because thermometers on land, in the sea, in the air, and looking down from space are all consistent with their determination that the earth is warming.

Climatologists predict that there will be an increase in average global temperatures from 2.0° F to 11.5° F by the year 2100 because of greenhouse gases from both natural and, increasingly, manmade origins. The likely impacts are widespread and include a long list, ranging from rising sea level, increasing sea water temperatures, invasive species expansion, changes to the chemistry of the oceans, changes in rainfall amounts, and increasing severity of storms.

How do scientists explain cold days if the global temperature is rising? Remember that predications are based on climate, not weather. Climate is the average state of the weather over a number of years, usually 30 years as established by the World Meteorological Organization. Weather is the current state of the atmosphere with respect to hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, cloudy or clear. Weather is different all over the world and influenced by natural phenomenon such as La Nina, El Nino and volcanic eruptions. It is easy, but erroneous, to draw conclusions about climate change based on current weather conditions in a given location.

Watch the National Science Foundation video, How Do We Know? External Website Physics, Forcings and Fingerprints External Website.

The Impacts of Climate Change on Florida's Fish and Wildlife

Florida is vulnerable to climate change because so much of the land is at or near sea level. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts in the next 100 years sea levels will rise between 7 and 23 inches and higher levels have been predicted in more recent research. The result is inundation of much of Florida's low-lying coastal zone impacting waterfowl, nesting turtles, and other species that rely on Florida's estuaries.

The impacts of increasing seawater temperatures have already been demonstrated. Within the last several decades, corals in the Florida Keys have exhibited very high mortality rates related to elevated water temperatures beyond what they can tolerate. For those species that survived higher water temperatures, disease became widespread.

Which species will thrive or fail to adapt to climate change is not yet known; however, predictions show the spread of invasive species may accelerate with warmer temperatures and altered rainfall and humidity patterns associated with climate change.

An emerging and major problem relates to changes in the ocean's chemistry. Increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere results in more CO2 dissolved into the seawater, which then leads to an increase in the acidity of the water. The problem is that increasing ocean acidity dissolves corals and affects many other living things. A small change in ocean acidity can result in a very different ecosystem than we have known.

Find out more about rising sea levels, increasing ocean temperature, and effects on marine life by visiting the following sites.

FWC's Climate Change Summit Report Adobe PDF

National Wildlife Federation and Florida Wildlife Federation: An unfavorable Tide: Global Warming, Coastal Habitats and Sportfishing in Florida External Website

Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition: Preparing for a Sea Change - A Strategy to Cope with the Impacts of Global Warming on the State's Coastal and Marine Systems External Website

How to Address the Impacts of a Changing Climate on Florida's Fish and Wildlife

Climate change is inevitable, yet there is a lot we don't know about the effects it will have on Florida's fish and wildlife. The FWC will be conducting studies to identify vulnerable species, populations, and habitats. These studies will help focus research and management approaches targeting what makes these at risk species, populations, and habitats vulnerable to climate change.

There are three primary approaches to dealing with climate change:

  • Developing strategies that help species and populations adapt to a changing climate.
  • Developing strategies that help species and populations build resilience to a changing climate.
  • Developing strategies that reduce our carbon footprint.

Strategies to help species and populations adapt must be flexible enough to allow for change. Building resilience into species and ecosystems addresses the things we can control. These include reducing the existing causes of stress on species or ecosystems or ensuring that activities that may cause additional stress are limited. For example, eliminating a discharge of sewage into a nearshore waterway will reduce stress on, and increase resilience in, the adjacent ecosystem.

The following three definitions were retrieved from The Pew Center for Global Climate Change website March 8, 2010.

Adaptation: Actions by individuals or systems to avoid, withstand, or take advantage of current and projected climate changes and impacts. Adaptation decreases a system's vulnerability, or increases its resilience to impacts.

Resilience: The ability of a system to withstand negative impacts without losing its basic functions.

Vulnerability: The potential for a system to be harmed by climate change, considering the impacts of climate change on the system as well as its capacity to adapt.

Scientific Resources

Climate change is one of the most intellectually rich and growing research fields in science today. This page provides resources that help make that science accessible and understandable.


Additional Links to Learn More

Learn more about climate change at these sites.

Beyond Seasons' End, Fish and Wildlife in the Era of Climate Change icon_external.png Adobe PDF

Feeling the Heat in Florida Global Warming on the Local Level icon_external.png

NOAA 2017 Viewer with Updated Sea Level Rise Projections External Website

Repower America External Website

National Phenology Network External Website

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) External Website

Pew Center on Global Climate Change External Website

Global warming overview External Website

Feeling the Heat in Florida External Website

Florida Green Building Coalition External Website

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Climate Change External Website

Natural Resources Defense Council Climate Change Basics External Website

National Wildlife Federation Climate Change External Website

Real Climate: Climate Science from Climate Scientists External Website

Defenders of Wildlife: Reducing the Impact of Global Warming on Wildlife: The Science, Management and Policy Challenges Ahead External Website


Florida's State Wildlife Action Plan

Florida Climate Institute icon_external.png

Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange icon_external.png

Pew Center on Global Climate Change icon_external.png

The Nature Conservancy icon_external.png

The Environmental Protection Agency icon_external.png

World Wildlife Fund icon_external.png

NASA icon_external.png

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration icon_external.png

Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S. icon_external.png

The National Wildlife Federation icon_external.png

National Phenology Network icon_external.png

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change icon_external.png

Trout Unlimited icon_external.png

Boone and Crockett Club icon_external.png

Ducks Unlimited and Climate Change icon_external.png

FWC Facts:
Florida's natural lands and waters are at the core of our state's prosperity, bringing billions of dollars in economic benefits to our state every year.

Learn More at AskFWC