We can no longer ignore the damage our natural environment is experiencing. In 2018, scientists and leaders from across the world published a report showing how a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures from pre-industrial levels is devastating our environment. We are facing more extreme weather, food shortages, rising sea levels and mass extinction of plants and animals, to name a few impacts. The report below explains the undeniable link between human activities and this temperature increase. The report also calls for drastic changes in policy to prevent further damage to our environment.
Read the special report 'Global Warming of 1.5ºC' IPCC on the IPCC website.
In response, our Government has recommended a ‘net zero’ target for greenhouse gases. CO2 (carbon dioxide) is the main gas produced by human activities.
Our Government recognises that, to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we all need to change. The good thing is we already have the answers we need to tackle climate change and environmental degradation. All it takes is the will to act now.
Climate change impacts
Across the world the impacts of climate change are being felt in various ways. In some countries, we are seeing shifting weather patterns that threaten food production. Elsewhere, rapid glacier melt threatens sea level rise that risks catastrophic flooding. Currently the impacts of climate change are worse in poorer countries. Nonetheless, it is likely that climate change will increasingly affect the UK in years to come. Impacts it is likely we will see include:
- Warmer weather.
- Very cold winters will be rare.
- Winters will be wetter and summers will be hotter and more prolonged.
- Increased local flooding and flash floods.
- Increased pressure on water resources.
- Severe weather events occurring more often.
- Threat from flooding, droughts, heat waves, severe gales and snow.
Rising sea level
- Sea level could rise by 40cm, leading to coastal erosion and flood risks.
- Coastal ecosystems will be drastically altered.
- Temperature increase will change the crops we grow, impacting our diets.
- Changes in temperature will cause different illnesses, creating more problems for children and the elderly.
- Foreign diseases associated with hot weather migrating north, for example, Malaria.
Homes and lifestyle
- Cost of living to increase due to food, fuel and water shortages.
- Homes potentially damaged and insurance will increase due to severe weather.
- Extreme weather affecting homes, work, infrastructure and travel links.
- Domestic crops will begin to struggle due to weather change.
- Soil will be less fertile as we struggle to grow crops that no longer thrive.
- Hot weather will kill livestock.
- Temperature change threatens birds, fish and land animals.
- Some species cannot adapt to changes.
- New competition/disease brought by migrating animals.
- The plants and trees that can grow will change.
- Dubbed as the “evil twin of climate change".
- The ongoing decrease in ocean pH, 30% decrease so far.
- Predicted 150% by 2100 which has not been experienced for 400,000 years.
- Wide implications for ocean life, particularly animals with shells or skeletons.
Flooding in Eden
While climate change is global in scale, Eden is no stranger to the impacts. The 2005, 2009 and 2016 floods had damaging impacts across the district. We have suffered social, economic and environmental losses. It is predicted similar flooding could become more common as temperatures increase.
In December 2015, Storm Desmond caused disruptions across Eden and Cumbria. It impacted homes and businesses for months after the event.
Our response to climate change
The Climate Change Act of 2008 was passed by our Government to ensure that we keep greenhouse gas emissions at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline by 2050, to avoid dangerous climate change. The Act made the UK the first country with a legally binding framework to cut carbon emissions. Alongside this Act, the Committee on Climate Change was set up to advise the Government on legislation and progress on reducing emissions. The UK has struggled to meet carbon targets set in this act, even though the need is getting stronger.
Climate change effects are being experienced in our country, which we now must adapt to.
Our experience of climate change has already created costs to our economy, society and environment. We must work to mitigate against climate change, as well as adapt to the impacts that we already experience.
Mitigation: reducing climate change
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: energy efficiency, renewable energy, lower consumption rates, electric cars.
Enhancing our carbon sinks: planting trees and carbon sequestering plants, invest in carbon capture technology.
Adaptation: adapting to life with climate change
Reduce our vulnerability to harmful effects.
Innovation (infrastructure like flood defences/devices like water desalination/resilient food/efficient healthcare).
Emergency planning for severe weather.