For many decades it has been known that our planets climate is heating up, this is very serious and together we must act immediately to stop our planet from getting any hotter. In order for everyone to be involved it is important that people understand the challenges and the solutions to stop climate change. 

What do we mean by climate

It is important to understand there is a difference between our climate and the weather. 

Weather – is the short term conditions outside now and over the short term such as hours weeks and days. 

Climate – is the long-term weather patterns of a region. For example, a desert will have a hot and dry climate, the UK has a cool wet climate.  Climate change is a shift in the long-term patterns a region experiences, for example, as the climate continues to change the UK climate will change from cools and wetter to being hotter and drier. It is important to remember that we will still have wet weather, cold weather, snowy weather in changed climate, but the long-term patterns will be different. 

Why is the climate changing?

The Earth is surrounded by the atmosphere made up of different gases. The atmosphere acts like a blanket around the planet, trapping the suns energy keeping the entire planet warm before the heat eventually exits out to space.  Without the atmosphere keeping in the heat, Earth would be very cold, so we need the atmosphere to help keep the planet liveable. 

The climate has been generally stable for many thousands of years, but today the atmosphere is very different from back then. This is because gases known as Green House Gases, have been released into the atmosphere. These gases work by keeping more of the sun’s heat on Earth before it exits to space. The more of these greenhouse gases added the atmosphere the hotter the planet becomes. 

Green houses gases are released from multiple sources, but it is human activity that has caused our climate to radically warm. Since the 1700’s we have industrialised much of the world, fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) have been dug up from underground and burnt to power our factories, run our vehicles, heat our homes, cook our food and generate our electricity. With each amount of coal, oil and gas burnt the green house gas, Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere. The amount of greenhouse gases produced each year has been increasing since the 1700’s, today approximately 37 Billion tonnes of CO2 is released into the atmosphere every single year. This has been enough to change our climate and warm the entire planet.

There are many other greenhouse gases that human activity is releasing which are also warming our planet. 

Methane – Methane has always naturally been released from the Worlds wetlands, but humans have added significantly to this amount from Agriculture and livestock farming, leaking from gas wells and mines, from landfills and waste and biofuels. Around 10 billions tonnes of methane are released each year.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O) – The World emits around 2.3billions tonnes of N2O each year with the vast majority coming from the use of fertilisers. Excess fertilisers are converted into N2O by soil microbes. As the use of fertilisers has increased over the past 50 years so too has the emissions of this potent greenhouse gas. 

Is a changing climate a bad thing?

Since the 1700’s the earth climate has so far warmed by approximately 1.1-1.15 degrees Celsius. Whilst this sounds like a very small increase, this refers to the temperatures across the entire planets with several areas being many, many degrees warmer each year.

This change in the climate has altered global weather patterns leading to more intense, more common and longer extreme events such as Drought, heatwaves, fires, flooding and storms. As habitats evolved to survive in the previous climate we are seeing many species be pushed out, or go extinct meaning they are lost forever. All of this combined makes it much more difficult for plants and animals to survive where they used to and puts extra pressure on already at risk species. 

On top of this we are seeing food crops providing less food as the climate changes, more crop failures, outbreaks of pest species, reduction in water for irrigation and many more negative impacts. 
If we continue to warm our planet, we will see an increase in the risks that face humans and all other species. 

What can be done to stop climate change?

As climate change is being caused by the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the way to stop climate change is to stop releasing these gases into the environment. Currently emissions come from a range of human activities, our vehicles, food, houses, electricity so to stop releasing greenhouse gases we need to use new, cleaner ways of doing things to make sure we stop climate change, whilst ensuring people are still happy, healthy and prosperous. 

Fortunately, many of the options and technologies to do this already exist, for example we can replace gas powered power plants with solar panels, wind energy and other renewables to make energy without any carbon. Additionally, we can drive and fly less, use public transport or electric vehicles (EVs), eat less carbon intensive diets, reduce how much energy we use by being more efficient, replace gas boilers with electric alternatives such as heat pumps, restore and protect nature to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and many other steps. 

What is the global response to climate change?

Almost every country in the world signed up to the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. This agreement says that all countries will reduce emission with the main goal of the agreement being “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”. To achieve this goal most countries have set targets to achieve Net-zero carbon emissions, this means that they will reduce emissions as much as possible and increase the number of emissions pulled down either by nature such as tree planting or with new technologies until the amount of carbon dioxide released and pulled down balances out. 
The UK has a net-zero target for 2050
Finland by 2035
USA by 2050
China by 2060
India by 2070

What are the next steps to stop climate change?

To achieve the targets, we need ambitious reductions of greenhouse gases around the world. With rapid action to cut emissions throughout society. Every country, business and individual have a role to play in reducing emissions and we are seeing this transition occur now. 

North Warwickshire Borough Council has pledged to be Net-zero by 2030 and we are working to rapidly reduce our emissions to achieve this target. 

There is still a lot of work to be done to make sure we stop climate change and limit warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but through collaboration, ambition and  everyone doing what they can we will stop climate change and ensure the climate remains stable for all generations that follow.