Climate change describes the long-term changes to the global temperature and weather patterns. The world’s climate has continually changed but human activities like burning fossil fuels, deforestation, agriculture and manufacturing are making that change happen at a much faster rate.
Our earth is 1.1°C warmer than it was in the 1800s, with the last ten years being the warmest so far. Here in the UK the most recent decade has seen temperatures around 0.8°C warmer that the average from 1961-1990; all ten of the warmest ever years in the UK have happened since 1990.
The effects of unchecked climate change are well documented: warming and rising sea levels, flooding, fire, drought, more damaging and unpredictable weather patterns and the destruction of our ecosystem. These changes are having a very real and direct impact on people around the world; their homes, businesses and futures, some of which are increasingly evident when we turn on the news. Whether the resulting impacts are as extreme as famine or, at the other end of the scale, simply having to pay more to protect our homes from flooding, the effects of climate change will touch each and every one of us.
As fossil fuels are extracted and burnt to power our world, greenhouse gases like carbon and methane are released into the atmosphere, which then destabilises the climate. Fossil fuels are by far the main contributor to this instability with coal, oil and gas being responsible for 75% of all greenhouse gases. We might think of this warming as only affecting the atmosphere, but 90% of climate change is happening in the ocean. This directly affects sea levels, increasing flooding and destructive weather events like hurricanes, while also destroying the finely balanced biodiversity in our seas. 43% of what's produced goes into the atmosphere with the rest being absorbed by peatlands, trees, plants, soil and the ocean. Deforestation interrupts this process as, not only does it reduce the amount of trees available to absorb carbon dioxide, but cutting them down and burning them releases the carbon they have absorbed back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.