After a summer of record-setting heat waves, hurricanes and forest fires, public concern about climate change has reached an all-time high leading into the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, which gets underway on Oct. 31.
The outcome of this summit, which is also referred to as COP26, may be the single most important factor in determining whether humanity suffers the worst consequences of climate change.
Even by the standards of the United Nations, however, the conference promises to be confusing and complicated to follow. But understanding what is happening in Glasgow is key to knowing what the future may hold for life on earth. To demystify the proceedings, Yahoo News has answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about COP26.
What is climate change and why does it matter?
Climate change refers to the effects of global warming — a worldwide average temperature increase of 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 Fahrenheit) — recorded since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century. As humans burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which trap heat, rise. The effects of this, such as sea-level rise and more extreme weather, have already begun. If left unchecked, greenhouse gas emissions will lead to several more degrees of warming with devastating results for people in vulnerable areas.
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