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Quiz: How much do you know about climate change?


Climate change can feel confusing, big and scary. Trust us: We get it.

Just take a deep breath, and let it back out again (it will be full of carbon dioxide, for the record). With this quiz, we’ll start with some of the basics — and then work our way up from there.

Can you pass Climate Change 101?

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The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading scientific body on the subject, declared last August that human-caused warming of the atmosphere, land and oceans is “unequivocal.” The only way to limit warming is to zero out emissions of greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels and other human activities, the IPPC said.

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Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapor, trap heat energy emanating from the Earth and prevent it from going into space. This keeps the planet much warmer than it would be otherwise. But human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, are adding even more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and causing added warming.

A Washington Post analysis found that numerous hot spots have already exceeded the critical 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) mark, far above the global average. In general, higher latitudes, such as the Arctic, are warming faster than mid-latitude regions.

While the Paris agreement did indeed identify 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) as a line not to be crossed, it also suggested that countries should make an effort to keep warming even lower, to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. Since then, additional evidence has suggested that this more stringent limit may be needed to avoid many severe consequences of warming. The latest IPCC report states that the world is on track to blaze past a crucial climate target within eight years.

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A “high-emissions scenario” is one that represents a major failure to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC predicts that in such a case the average global temperature could rise by 3.3° to 5.7° degrees Celsius, an increase that could trigger catastrophic consequences, such as massive sea-level rise. But with swift reductions in emissions, worst-case scenarios like this can still be avoided. The Paris climate agreement, if fully implemented, would steer the world off this severe pathway.

Climate change can worsen the effects of certain types of severe weather events, such as hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves, droughts, floods and even snowstorms.

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