What is climate change?
When we refer to climate change, we are referring to human induced emissions of gases that change the natural climate. Natural climate change occurs, but at a much slower rate. Humans are altering the climate through releasing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxides, resulting in the earth trapping more heat (hence ‘greenhouse gases’). This is causing long term changes to the climate, resulting in a variety of negative effects such as increased drought, water scarcity, forest fires, sea level rise, snow melt, desertification, spread of disease, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem disruption, and potentially conflict and economic downturn as a result.
These emissions come from electricity production, transport, heating, industrial processes, land use clearing and deforestation, waste and agriculture. The more emissions that are released, the worse the effects of climate change become. If global temperatures rise 2°C above normal globally, a number of feedbacks, such as vast amounts of frozen methane being released, ‘locks in’ the world to irreversible climate change we can’t escape from; therefore the world needs to limit emissions quickly to 2°C or lower.
However, as our scientific understanding of climate processes has improved, even a 2°C world will leave much destruction in its wake. To truly limit the impact of climate change as much as possible, the world’s scientists have concluded that we must aim for a 1.5°C target instead. This would cut carbon dioxide emissions to zero globally by 2050, and all the other greenhouse gas emissions to zero globally some time in the latter half of the century. However, all of these will become locked in if we do not radically cut emissions globally in the short term, 45% below what they were in 2010 by 2030 around the world to be exact. In response to this, countries like the UK and France have laws to cuts their emissions to zero by 2050. But these countries and others are failing to implment more specific measures beneath these targets to combat the problem.
The world has already warmed 0.7°C since the industrial revolution. The main ways we can start reducing emissions is to switch away from the technologies and practises that are causing the emissions in the different sectors like electricity production, transport and so on.