What is climate change?

    A natural function of the earth’s atmosphere is to keep in some of the heat that is provided by the sun.  This is known as the greenhouse effect, and is vital to life on earth.  

    Heat from the sun passes through the atmosphere to heat the earth’s surface.  The earth’s surface then gives off heat, a portion of which is then trapped inside the atmosphere by greenhouse gases (e.g. methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide).This process of heat absorption and retention maintains the earth’s temperature at liveable levels. The ability of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide to absorb heat was first understood in 1859. 

    There are some natural factors that increase global warming such as volcanic activity and fluctuations in the amount of radiation from the sun.   Humans have also increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere dramatically in the following ways.

    • Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, gas and oil, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
    • Trees absorb carbon dioxide so deforestation means there are less trees and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
    • Waste that is dumped at landfill decomposes and produces methane.
    • Some agricultural practices release nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere.


    Whilst the global climate has been changing since time began, since around 1950 there has been a major increase in the average global temperature – described as global warming. The degree to which the climate heats up in the future will be affected by the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and some regions such as the Arctic will warm faster than others.  

    Source: The Met Office

    What does climate change mean for the earth?

    Climate change will transform the way we live but scientists agree that there are steps that can be taken now to limit the impact on the planet.

    We’re already seeing an increase in extreme weather patterns around the globe, such as flash floods, heatwaves and wildfires - events that threaten people’s lives and livelihoods.

    In some parts of the world, climate change will cause water shortages and make food production more difficult.

    Some regions could become dangerously hot, while others may become uninhabitable because of rising sea levels.

    The impact of climate change on nature is also a huge concern for the world’s ecologists and conservationists. Polar ice and glaciers are melting rapidly, with low-lying coastal areas threatened with flooding.

    Many species could also become extinct.

    Polar bears are at risk of disappearing as the ice they rely on melts away.

    Atlantic salmon could be devastated as the river waters in which they breed warm up.

    Tropical coral reefs may disappear as oceans absorb CO2 and become more acidic.

    Source: BBC

    How will climate change affect me?

    Although we might not be seeing the extreme effects of climate change that other countries are already seeing it is still something that will affect us if we don’t take steps now to address it.

    Climate change threatens the cleanliness of our air, depletes our water sources and limits food supply. It disrupts livelihoods, forces families from their homes and pushes people into poverty.

    The impacts of climate change also include warming temperatures, changes in precipitation, increases in the frequency or intensity of some extreme weather events, and rising sea levels, leading to more frequent flooding. 

    These impacts threaten our health by affecting the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the weather we experience.

    Source: World Wildlife Fund

    What are carbon emissions?

    Carbon emission is the release of carbon into the earth’s atmosphere. When we talk about carbon emissions we are referring to greenhouse gas emissions; the main contributors to climate change.

    Greenhouse gas emissions are often calculated as carbon dioxide equivalents, so they are often referred to as “carbon emissions” when discussing global warming or the greenhouse effect.

    Since the industrial revolution the burning of fossil fuels has increased, which directly correlates to the increase of carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere and thus the rapid increase of global warming.

    Source: ecolife.com

    What is a carbon footprint?

    A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment. It calculates the greenhouse gases we are expected to produce in all our activities and measures them in units of carbon dioxide (CO2). The world average is about 4,000 kg of carbon dioxide per person per year. In the UK it is nearly 10,000 kg per person per year.

    The carbon footprint of a person during one year would consist of the total amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by all of the activities they take part in, and the manufacture, use and disposal of all the products and resources they use.

    Source: BBC

    How can I calculate my carbon footprint?

    Anyone looking to calculate their own carbon footprint may be unsure where to start.

    This free guide by Giki Zero can help you work through the process and enable you track and reduce your environmental impact.

    Choose from over 120 steps that suit your lifestyle and budget and take charge of your own carbon footprint today.

    Similar online resources are available for companies and organisations looking to assess their own carbon footprint.

    The Carbon Trust calculator allows SME businesses to understand their impact on the environment in a typical year.

    In order to calculate their own footprint, organisations need to provide details of their fuel consumption (fuel consumed by the organisation in its sites and owned vehicles), energy consumption (electricity used in your sites), and top ups made to air conditioning units (many refrigeration, fire protection and air conditioning appliances contain a fluorinated greenhouse gas, which has a large carbon footprint).

    Source: Giki Zero, Carbon Trust

    What is COP26 and why is it important?

    What is COP26?

    COP stands for Conference of the Parties, with the previous summit held in Madrid in November 2019.


    The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, will be the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference. 


    Hosted by Glasgow between 31 October and 12 November 2021, the summit will be attended by nations across the world to discuss climate change and how countries plan to tackle it.


    Up to 25,000 people are expected in Glasgow, including world leaders, negotiators and journalists.

     

    Why is COP26 happening? 

    The world is warming because of fossil fuel emissions caused by humans.

    Extreme weather events linked to climate change - including heatwaves, floods and forest fires - are intensifying. The past decade was the warmest on record, and governments agree urgent collective action is needed.

     

    Why is COP26 so important?

    Research shows that with our current emission trajectory, the global temperature will increase by 3-4°C in the next 80 years. 

    Global warming on this scale would cause irreversible global environmental damage, including floods and famine for billions of people annually. 

    So COP26 is a critical moment and has been labelled as our last chance to effectively address the climate crisis.

    The COP meeting in Madrid finished with lots of important issues unresolved, but an agreement was made about cutting carbon dioxide - a gas that causes global warming.

    For this conference, 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions by 2030.

    Each nation agreed to devise a plan to cut their carbon emissions, which will now be discussed at Glasgow.


    The Paris "rulebook" has been at the heart of discussions over the last few years.

    The Paris Agreement is an international agreement to tackle climate change, which was agreed by leaders back in 2015 when 195 countries attended COP21 in Paris.

    The Paris agreement states that nations must:

     

    • Reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gasses produced and increase renewable types of energy like wind, solar and wave power
    • Keep global temperature increase "well below" 2C (3.6F) and to try to limit it to 1.5C 
    • Review progress made on the agreement every five years
    • Provide financing to developing countries to mitigate climate change, strengthen resilience and enhance abilities to adapt to climate impacts.


    What will be decided at COP26? 

    Most countries will set out their plans to reduce emissions before the summit starts, but during the two weeks we can expect many new announcements.

    These could include:

     

    • Making a faster switch to electric cars
    • Speeding up the phasing out of coal power
    • Cutting down fewer trees
    • Protecting more people from the impacts of climate change, such as funding coastal-defence systems.

     

    At the end of the conference, some form of declaration is expected. Every country will be required to sign up and it could include specific commitments.

     

    How can I follow events at COP26?

    Media interest will be heavy throughout the event’s two-week schedule and daily updates will follow in the press and from news broadcasters. Anyone who cannot attend the event in person can subscribe to the COP26 YouTube channel here

     

    For more information about the COP26 conference visit: https://ukcop26.org/