an introduction by Carolyn Whistlecraft, Climate Change Officer
All my family and friends know that I work in the area of climate change, though rather like Chandler in friends, few know what I actually do for a living. I am the Climate Change officer for Hart District Council and Sentinel Housing Association, a shared role. In short it shows the council's commitment to take climate change seriously, and to acknowledge the very real and pressing consequences to the district. I work with other officers and councillors to identify areas where we can make reductions in our emissions and where we need to adapt to upcoming changes in our surroundings as a result of climate change.
At parties there is always someone who, when they find out what I do, corners me and attempts to engage me in a debate on the subject. Here is how their argument typically starts…. “I don’t see how sea levels will rise just because the ice is melting, when an ice cube melts in a glass the glass does not overflow”.
(NB For those of you who are wondering, it is not the sea ice that we are concerned about regarding sea levels, rather it is the glaciers melting, prior to melting these are on land and thus adding to the volume of the sea when they melt! Indeed, all melting sea ice and glaciers cause concern around gulf streams and how all that cold water will change the way they flow, and what the knock on effects of this are.)
With this in mind I have decided to go back to basics, and apologise to those who feel that everyone already knows this! This is designed as a basic introduction to climate change. As these pages evolve we can go into a great deal more detail!
Firstly I am going to state that there are differing opinions within the scientific fields on climate change but these are not around whether or not it is happening - it is! And they are not around whether or not humans caused it - we did! It is generally around what is going to happen as a result of global warming. And whilst those experts may not agree on what all the effects will be, they agree on the following:
- We are passing the point of no return, some damage we have caused already is irreversible!
- We must reduce the volume of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere to prevent more damage!
Damage can be seen in various guises around the world. From glaciers shrinking to the swans on Fleet pond having two sets of signets in 2009 instead of just one.
What we will see is changes in our weather trends and an increase in erratic weather (increase in hurricanes and rain). In the UK our infrastructure can certainly not cope with erratic weather(we STILL talk about the great hurricane of 1987!). Other changes will be seen as an increase in sea levels, food and fuel shortages, health implications though spread of disease, many of the worlds plant and animal species disappearing and the worlds deserts growing and therefore displacing many people. As you can probably tell, and as with most things, it is the worlds poorest who will be and are being effected first.
So what does it all mean? Climate change is caused by global warming. Global warming is the effect of CO2 and other green house gases trapping heat in our atmosphere. There is a direct correlation between the volume of CO2 in the atmosphere to the rising temperatures, this is particularly visible since the beginning of the industrial revolution as we began to utilise fossil fuels more. This is in addition to things that naturally release CO2, such as volcanoes, or cows! We are beyond the ‘natural’ cycle of temperatures. Here is a great chart that demonstrates this from our friends at NASA http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
An interesting fact I heard recently that puts temperature rises in perspective. We are talking about a few degrees increase, up to 5, in the next hundred years, of the worlds average temperature. In the last ice age, the world was only 5 degrees cooler that it is now. That just goes to show what a slight change in global temperatures can do!
Another common view is “why should I bother doing anything when other countries like China, India or the USA are not?”
This is a terrible excuse not to try and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Consider this, a great deal of the emissions that developing countries emit come from products that we as UK citizens purchase, therefore it is our consumption rather than theirs. As for the USA, well they are certainly working on it. And for those of you that have driven through Nevada and California, you will have seen the mile after mile of solar panels that generate electricity.
For some more common myths I point you to http://actonco2.direct.gov.uk/actonco2/home/climate-change-the-facts/Climate-change-myths-and-misconceptions.html
If you have a question or myth you want me to look at, just email me on Carolyn.firstname.lastname@example.org