Sunday, 5 August 2018

What EXACTLY is Climate Change?

I am sure we have all heard the term Climate Change but do you really know what it means and what effect it will have on the earth?  Are each of us really responsible and is there anything, as individuals, we can do to minimise its negative effects?

What can we all do to combat Climate Change?

If you search for a definition of Climate Change you will find various ways to describe what it is and this one is typical:

Climate Change

A change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.

Our atmosphere contains carbon dioxide (CO2) which is a so-called greenhouse gas.  It allows sunlight to pass into the atmosphere but traps it on the way out. Therefore the more CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the more heat will be trapped and the hotter global temperatures will be.

CO2 levels have been increasing at a fast rate since the start of the Industrial Revolution when man first started to burn large amounts of fossil fuels.  Fossil fuels are formed from the remains of animals and plants that died millions of years ago.  These remains built up and under heat and pressure from the earth were transformed into natural gas, oil and coal.  All living creatures contain large amounts of carbon and thus gas, oil and coal also contain high levels of carbon and when these are burned they release CO2.

Other causes of Climate Change

Burning fossil fuels is not the only way Climate Change is being accelerated.  Most plastics are made from fossil fuels and large amounts of CO2 is released in their production.  CO2 is also produced by all animals through the process of respiration but the reverse happens with plants who take up CO2 and give off oxygen.  The Amazon rainforest is known as The Lungs of the Earth as it (and other large areas of rainforest) provide much of the oxygen needed by both man and the earth's animals. With large areas of forest being clearly the result will be less oxygen being produced and less CO2 being absorbed by plants.

CO2 is also not the only greenhouse gas.  Others include water vapour,  methane (CH4 ) and Nitrous oxide (N2O).  With higher air temperatures the atmosphere will be able to hold more water vapour further adding to its heat trapping capacity.  Methane and N2O are both many times more powerful as greenhouse gases than CO2 although, thankfully, both are found in lower concentrations in the atmosphere (but still far higher than is desirable).  Methane is around 30 times more powerful and as a greenhouse gas than CO2 and N2O is 300 times more powerful.  Methane is produced both naturally and by man through processes including the decomposition that takes place in landfill, in rice production and from ruminants (cows and sheep).  It means that where rainforests are cleared for animal farming (most likely cattle) the effect on increasing Climate Change is even greater than the forest clearing alone.  N2O is produced by soil cultivation, commercial fertiliser production, burning of fossil fuels and burning of biomass.

Negative effects of Climate Change

Whilst some people may love the idea of longer, hotter summers the overall repercussions of Climate Change are much greater than the odd summer heatwave.  Increased global temperatures will have many and far reaching effects:

  • The elderly, young and infirm are at risk of increased illnesses and even death in periods of hotter temperatures.
  • Diseases of hotter climates will spread, especially those that are water-borne such as malaria.  
  • Warmer temperatures will cause the polar icecaps and mountain glaciers to melt leading to higher sea levels. Coastal areas will flood.  Millions of people live in low lying areas close to coasts and vast areas of fertile agricultural land will be lost.
  • With coastal areas lost to the water, millions will be forced to flee seeing mass migration of displaced communities.
  • Oceans temperatures will also rise and warmer waters will expand further increasing the risk of coastal flooding.
  • Higher temperatures will lead to more droughts resulting in desertification ie more areas becoming deserts and thus unable to be worked as agricultural land.
  • In other areas higher temperatures will leads to more severe storms, hurricanes and tornadoes with associated flooding and damage.
  • The number of  lethal wildfires will increase destroying land, wildlife and habitation.
  • Higher temperatures both on land and in the oceans will adversely affect natural ecosystems and the wildlife that lives in them. Some species will be unable to adapt or move and will become extinct.  
  • Drought, flooding and changes in seasonal temperatures will mean farmers having to cope with either too much or too little water and increased levels of pests and diseases.  These negative effects on agriculture will result in increased food prices globally, food shortages and more famines.
  • Flash floods and more severe storms will damage infrastructure such as roads, bridges, buildings etc.
  • Ironically in some areas, including northern Europe, Climate Change could well see much colder winters.  Here winter temperatures are kept warmer than expected as The Gulf Stream draws warmer water across The Atlantic from The Gulf of Mexico. Climate Change could disrupt The Gulf Stream and even stop it completely so western and northern Europe would get much colder winters.  When you realise that New York is on on the same latitude as Madrid you can understand the warming effect of The Gulf Stream. London is actually 11° further north than New York and only 4° further south than Moscow.  Without The Gulf Stream winters would be MUCH colder.  
  • Even if The Gulf Stream does not switch off, the warmer air will mean the air above it can carry more moisture to be released when it hits land resulting in wetter winters.


    Climate Change used to be termed Global Warming but because some of the effects on increasing greenhouse gases could actually lead to colder winter weather in some places, the term Climate Change is now used.  Many man-made factors contribute to the increase in greenhouse gases that trap the incoming sunlight including burning fossil fuels, making plastic, clearing forests and agricultural practices.  As individuals we may seem powerless to do anything about Climate Change but this is not true.  There is one thing simple act that will help and that is to buy less.  Less of everything:  Buy less food so we do not waste what we have, buy less stuff overall from clothes to cars and everything in between especially if it is made from or packaged in plastic and use less energy for heating, cooking and transport.

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Re-purpose, Refuse, Repair, Reject and ... Remember:

    Just because we can buy something does not mean we should.  Think before you buy and ask yourself if you really need it.

    If we all re-evaluate how we live and how much we consume it is within our power to reduce Climate Change.  But it needs everyone to do this.  Climate Change is a problem for all of us and a problem that together we can all solve.

    Are you with us?


    1. I agree everyone has to play their part for a difference to be made!

    2. I read yesterday that the sea north of greenland is breaking up, something that it has never done since records began, which is a bit worrying. We make a conscious effort not to buy plastic where possible but the supermarkets need to start helping us too

    3. What a really informative post and we never knew all the risks associated. Really scary and more people need to be educated on this x

    4. The effects of climate change are devastating and it still astounds me that some people don't believe in it. Thank you for helping to raise awareness.

    5. This is a great post to raise awareness. I do like to try and recycle and re use wherever possible :)

    6. I'm in the process of trying to use up all cosmetics in plastic bottles so I can m a ke a switch to package-free products. I'm also investigating bamboo toothbrushes, reusable straws and other ways to lower our footprint. The one thing that does annoy me is the fact we can't avoid plastic wrapping in our weekly food shop. Surely paper bags would be better all round!

    7. This is exactly why we are trying to be a more eco friendly household. So much fab info on climate change and what it is doing to our planet x

    8. What an informative post. I didn't know much about climate change until I read this post. Great info here. It is definitely happening at the moment.

    9. Mellissa Williams23 August 2018 at 20:25

      Such a great post to help raise awareness. Its so crazy that there are so many negative effects of climate change, we need to do so much more to help try to combat it

    10. Some big changes need to be made to our lifestyles and attitude to this subject

    11. This is a great post to make it more understandable. We all need to do our bit to make a difference

    12. Global warming is such a.serious matter. Everyone should do what they can on their part.

    13. I have to confess that I've not been taking my environmental responsibility seriously in the past but I'm determined to change that. Everything we can do has got to be worth it, hasn't it? And it's not even like you have to make sacrifices - it's just a change in habits and attitudes. This post is so important.

    14. It's so obvious that climate change is happening to our planet and this has really helped me understand things in more depth. We are trying to do our bit by reducing plastics and being fuel efficient

    15. Such an interesting an educational post - I knew a little bit about global warming and climate change, but I now feel a lot more clued up x


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