Climate change, caused by increasing levels of certain gasses in the atmosphere, is now widely acknowledged as the greatest environmental threat facing the world today.
It used to be called Global Warming, but it’s not just about the earth getting hotter. Climate change is about extremes of weather, the hottest, the coldest, the driest and the wettest weather. It’s also about rising sea levels which will make large parts of the earth uninhabitable. And it’s happening already.
The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's assessment report has concluded, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Earth is nearing the stage when carbon dioxide rises will bring irreversible change to the planet.
The graph above shows carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations (in parts per million) for the last 1000 years.
Facts about climate change
- Atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased by 35% since pre industrial times and are now at their highest for 800,000 years (1)
- Globally, the ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1997.
- Europe’s biggest natural disaster - responsible for 35,000 deaths - occurred in 2003, when summer temperatures soared by up to 5 degrees above normal. Globally the annual death toll due to climate change is estimated to be up to 300,000 people.
- The arctic may become ice free in summer within 20 years (2).
Nine out of ten climate scientists recently polled thought that a 2 degree rise in global temperatures will be exceeded; such a rise could result in 20-30% of species facing extinction.
In order to prevent the most severe effects of climate change we need to curb emissions of CO2 and other harmful gasses to levels well below that of today. Electricity generation from conventional fossil fuel sources is responsible for over 30% of the UK's carbon emissions, making it the single largest contributor.
1. Met Office Warming: Climate Change – the facts
"Climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism."
David King, Former Chief Scientific Adviser