"The biggest threat to nature and humanity in the 21st century" WWF
What is Climate Change?
The Earth's climate is by no means in a fixed state. In fact, natural causes have led to variations in our global climate pattern since the beginning of time. Climate is defined as the average pattern of weather variation (e.g. temperature, wind, rainfall) experienced in a given region over a long period.
However, the term climate change is used to describe the more recent effect human activity has had upon our Earth's climate over the last century, ultimately contributing to the ‘greenhouse' effect.
The Greenhouse Effect
This fundamental natural process enables life to exist on Earth. We receive energy that is emitted by the Sun (Ultraviolet and Visible light) which is then radiated back into the atmosphere as heat (or Infrared radiation). Some of this energy is trapped by atmospheric ‘greenhouse' gases, such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Methane (CH4). This is a natural process that allows our climate to be warm enough to sustain life. Up until now, the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been delicately balanced, resulting in a relatively stable climate crucial for life.
However, a momentous surge in human activities since the industrial revolution has led to increasing levels of greenhouse gases; disruption that has created a worrying imbalance. This excessive release of gases is a direct result of the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. This has inevitably exaggerated the ‘greenhouse' effect thus raising the average global temperature of the planet and altering the climate we currently survive in.
Met Office - Climate Change
What will Climate Change mean for us?
Changes in weather patterns are already evident through seeing an increased frequency of floods, heat waves, storms, gales and droughts. In some countries, such as low lying islands (the Maldives for example) the effects of climate change could be catastrophic. Rising sea levels could mean that these low lying islands disappear all together. In other countries, increasing droughts could make life very difficult.
In the UK, changes in climate could mean:
- An annual temperature increase of 2-3.5ºC
- Increased drought frequency
- Higher death rates due to prolonged exposure to extreme hot and cold weather conditions
- More frequent, powerful flooding
- Loss of low lying land due to rising sea levels
- Changes to biodiversity
- Introduction of new diseases, brought about by changing conditions
What can we do about Climate Change?
In order to reduce the threat posed by climate change, we must reduce the amount of CO2 we produce. Over 40% of current CO2 emissions are caused by the choices we make as individuals. Simple changes to our day to day lives can save energy and money, such as:
- Using less energy
- Driving less
- Recycling more
Both positive and negative effects of climate change are already being felt throughout Worcestershire's economy, environment and society. Mitigation through reducing greenhouse gases is vital to reduce further climate change and adaptation to the unavoidable impacts is essential.
We need to understand the impact that our everyday actions are having on the changing climate as the time to act and help make a vital difference is now.
Climate change is a serious global problem which affects each and every one of us. All that is required is for everyone to take simple steps which together will make a big difference. We are the reason our planet is currently changing for the worse so it is our duty of care to take responsibility and act on having a positive influence. It is already too late to stop climate change but there is so much we can still do to slow down and reduce its effects.
For ideas of how you can reduce your 'carbon footprint', explore the Sustainable Living and Sustainable Travel pages. We have guidance for individuals and for making your business more sustainable, and information on how we are trying to ensure Worcester City Council is a Sustainable Council.
For more information on the basics of climate change, see this Met Office guide - Warming: The Facts.