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Climate Literacy Essential Principle 3

Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.

Fundamental Concepts


*3a. Individual organisms survive within specific ranges of temperature, precipitation, humidity, and sunlight. Organisms exposed to climate conditions outside their normal range must adapt or migrate, or they will perish.

*3b. The presence of small amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere warms Earth's surface, resulting in a planet that sustains liquid water and life.

*3c. Changes in climate conditions can affect the health and function of ecosystems and the survival of entire species. The distribution patterns of fossils show evidence of gradual as well as abrupt extinctions related to climate change in the past.

*3d. A range of natural records shows that the last 10,000 years have been an unusually stable period in Earth's climate history. Modern human societies developed during this time. The agricultural, economic, and transportation systems we rely upon are vulnerable if the climate changes significantly.

*3e. Life—including microbes, plants, and animals and humans—is a major driver of the global carbon cycle and can influence global climate by modifying the chemical makeup of the atmosphere. The geologic record shows that life has significantly altered the atmosphere during Earth's history.


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