What you need to know about climate change

What is climate change? Find out what it is, how it impacts us and what you can do to help.

People walking on a beach as the sunsets

Climate change refers to our planet getting warmer. Since before the industrial revolution (1850-1900) the earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.1OC. The last five to ten years have seen the greatest increase since records began.1

Now, our attention has shifted to the impact this could have. Scientists believe that an increase in greenhouse gases are the primary cause for climate change. And if the temperature rises by another 1.5 OC it would be devastating to life on earth. 

1 Source: World Meteorological Organization

What are greenhouse gases?

Greenhouse gases naturally make up the earth’s atmosphere. They are water vapour (H2O), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), Ozone (O3) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2). In balance, they regulate the temperature. However, when we have too much of them it causes too much heat – and global warming.

Why is climate change happening?

The main reason for climate change is an increase in Carbon Dioxide (CO2). This is the gas that helps to trap heat and keep our planet at a temperature we like. It occurs naturally and plenty of life’s inhabitants from ocean life to volcanoes emit CO2. Plants love CO2 – it’s what they breathe in and convert to oxygen and sugar – so we benefit from the cycle too.

However, since the industrial revolution we have been creating more and more CO2 by burning fossil fuels. It’s created an imbalance in the gentle cycle; making too much CO2 for the amount of plant life we have. And with too much CO2, the temperature of the planet increases.

What contributes to excess greenhouses gases?

  • 28% from car and transport emissions
  • 23% from our energy production
  • 18% from energy used running businesses
  • 15% running homes
  • 10% from farming
  • 5% managing our waste.

What changes do we see from climate change?

  • Rising sea levels. Warm water expands pushing the sea level up. And glaciers melt adding yet more water.
  • Extreme weather. Burning heat waves, tropical storms, droughts and more frequent flooding are all on the cards with the rising temperature of the earth.
  • Acidic water. Along with the rise in sea levels, our water will become more acidic making it dangerous to coral reefs and sea life.
  • Not enough food. Food supplies will start to run out as there will be fewer places to raise livestock and grow the crops we need.

2 Source: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (PDF, 296KB)

What can we do to help?

The UK government has pledged to bring all greenhouse gas emissions down to net zero by 2050. This means that for all greenhouse gases created an equal amount will be cancelled out.

One way to help the climate change cause is to plant more trees to convert the CO2. However, it’s going to take much more than that – which is why we all have to play our part. Cut down on plastic, recycle and reuse, reduce unnecessary car journeys, make your home more energy efficient and consider growing your own plants and herbs. Even little things make a difference.

If you’re interested in how to make small changes starting today (and save money as you do it), read our 9 ways to be more sustainable.

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