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Climate Change

What is climate change?

Climate change can be described as the changes in the climate that persist over a longer period of time. A lot of the changes are due to human activities which have led the earth’s average temperature to increase essentially since the industrial revolution.

Climate change is one of the biggest global challenges we face today. Changes in the climate are prone to change over time due to natural causes. However, in the last century, the temperature of the Earth’s surface has risen by approximately 0.75 degrees. This is primarily due to human activity rather than natural causes.

The common consensus from climate change experts and scientists is that global temperatures will continue to increase unless strategies are put into place and human behaviour changes.


Causes of climate change

Gases that trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere are called greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide, are pollutants emitted by the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

The earth’s atmosphere naturally traps energy which is directed from the sun. This causes the earth’s surface to warm up and is called the Greenhouse Effect. Although natural causes such as volcanoes and solar radiation have effects on climate change, human activities have led to an unprecedented growth in greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere in the last century leading the earth’s surface temperature to increase more so than natural causes.

If we are to stop the negative effects of climate change, alternative sources of energy must be utilised. Making use of renewable energy production is one of the best strategies for helping combat global warming. Ultimately, more greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere leads to more heat energy being trapped which increases the temperature on the Earth’s surface.


Effects of climate change

The effects of climate change include:

1.       Weather change - temperatures are likely to continue to increase.  The world has been more prone to flooding, extreme weather events and storms in the last few decades. The last century has witnessed more extreme weather than before. 

2.       Sea levels – since 1900 the average sea levels in the UK have increased by 10cm. The sea levels are predicted to increase further if changes in human behaviour are not achieved.

3.       Economic effects of climate change – Such effects filter through and effect the economy. The 2007 floods in the UK had an estimated cost of £3.2bn showing the knock on effects on the wider UK economy. Unpredictable weather conditions also have knock on effects on agriculture and farming.

4.       Other - The increase in temperature would also have a significant effect on drought and water resources, agriculture and disease migration


Strategy to tackle climate change obstacles

Different legal frameworks and goals have been established at global and UK wide levels in an attempt to tackle climate change.

Kyoto Protocol:  Established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol is an international framework which came into force in February 2005 to help address global warming. The Kyoto treaty was set up to provide legally binding targets for the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of which the UK was the first country to sign up to.

Climate Change Act 2008: The UK has signed up to the Climate Change Act 2008 (the Act) which meant that they adopted a long term framework to cut carbon emissions. Under this Act, the UK are required to reduce carbon emissions by 80% relative to 1990 levels by 2050.

General UK wide government supported schemes: There has been a spectrum of Government enforced initiatives to tackle climate change. These range from Enhanced Capital Allowances which provides businesses a tax relief of 100% of their first year capital allowances to the CRC, a government scheme to encourage businesses to become more energy efficient in large public and private sector organisations.