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What is climate change?

article with global warming highlighted

Life on earth exists due to the greenhouse effect, a unique and natural process which causes a proportion of the sun's energy to be trapped in our atmosphere. Without it, the average global temperature would be 30°C cooler than it is now. But the burning of fossil fuels has drastically increased Co2 levels, and is also acidifying our oceans.

Are we to blame?

Human consumption of fossil fuels however, and release of carbon in particular, has been steadily increasing the concentration of these gasses causing more energy to be retained by the atmosphere. This has caused the world to become warmer, with an increase in global average temperature of 0.4°C since 1970. In fact, all of the 14 hottest years on record have occurred since 1995.

This additional heating is often referred to as global warming and the overall result is known as climate change.

Do you believe in Climate Change?

There is growing scientific consensus that human activity has caused most of the global warming over the last 50 years as a result of greenhouse gas emissions.

The exchange of 'man-made' carbon dioxide between man-made emissions, atmosphere, ocean and land, is about 7 GtC/year (billion tons of carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide, per year), which also shows much larger natural exchanges between atmosphere and ocean (about 90 GtC/yr) and atmosphere and land (about 60 GtC/yr). However, these natural exchanges have been in balance for many thousands of years, leading to the pre-industrial concentration of CO2 remaining steady at about 280 ppm.

CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are rising. They have increased by about 38% since industrialisation began, from 280 ppm (parts per million) to 393.65ppm (as of February 2012; source http://co2now.org/). Two-thirds of that increase has occurred in the last 50 years. CO2 levels are now 30% higher than at any time over at least the last 800,000 years.

The Energy Mix:

Regardless of your opinions and viewpoint on the matter, the fact remains that fuel prices are rising. Its about supply and demand: Gas has increased by 100% in the last ten years, and is expected to rise by another 1/3 in the next 8 years. The UK coal and gas supply does not meet demand and the UK is a net importer of energy from places like France (which is 80% nuclear).

In 2010, the UK consumed 158,100,000 barrels of oil. Many commentators have suggested that the world has already reached "Peak Oil" supply capacity.

What to Expect: 

Rising temperatures have already been attributed to changes in weather patterns, such as an increase in the number and intensity of floods, heatwaves and storms. The Borough of Telford & Wrekin and the United Kingdom will likely see the results of climate change as:

  • Warmer and wetter winters
  • Hotter and drier summers
  • Higher average annual temperatures
  • Increase in the number of very hot days in summer
  • Decrease in the number of very cold days in winter
  • Decrease in snowfall events
  • More heavy rain and flash flooding events

Climate change is already in progress all over the world and future change is inescapable. We are however still in a position to decide how dramatic the changes will be. The more we do now to reduce emissions, the less extreme the expected impact.

Learn about calculating your carbon footprint and find out how you can reduce your environmental impact.

For more information about Climate Change please visit the Energy Saving Trust website.

"The danger posed by war to all of humanity - and to our planet - is at least matched by the climate crisis and global warming", UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Last updated 22/03/2012

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Planning Implementation Team

Address: Telford & Wrekin Council
First Floor Upper
Wellington Civic Offices
Larkin Way (off Tan Bank)
Wellington
Telford
TF1 1LX

Tel: 01952 384241

Email: sustainability@telford.gov.uk

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