Climate change

Ed Hawkins Climate Stripes diagram showing avarage temperature in England year by year between 1844 and 2021.

The diagram above was devised by Ed Hawkins of Reading University as a reminder that the world is warming up, and that the pace of warming is increasing. (If you would like to copy it, that’s OK. The graphics have a CC-BY 4.0 license, so can be used for any purpose as long as credit is given to Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading) at https://showyourstripes.info.)

Global warming is driven by increasing greenhouse gases, particularly CO2 and methane. These emissions have increased exponentially since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, in step with all the energy we use to fuel economic growth.

This also leads to overuse of the earth’s resources, pollution and loss of biodiversity.

‘Global warming’ refers to average temperatures. There may be extraordinary cold spells as well, because that warming has disturbed our climate system, and causes extreme weather events of all types. The news is full of reports of unusually intense and long-lasting wildfires, devastating floods, and more intense hurricanes.

NASA describes the difference between weather and climate as:

Weather is only temporary. For example, a blizzard can turn into a flood after just a few warm spring days.

Climate, on the other hand, is more than just a few warm or cool days.

Climate describes the typical weather conditions in an entire region for a very long time—30 years or more.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is coordinated by the United Nations, has periodically issued reports on what we have learned so far about climate change and the science behind it; the latest one (2021) is here 

and their most recent report on the likely impacts and how we can adapt to them is here.

Although the extreme weather events don’t seem to impact us here in Leighton Buzzard, climate change is beginning to affect our ability to grow crops, both locally and globally, leading to food shortages, increased competition for resources such as water, and political instability.

In spite of all this, the measures taken or agreed so far are inadequate; carbon emissions are still rising, not reducing and the world is still getting warmer.

For more information:

NASA has an excellent website on climate change.

For news and analysis, follow Carbon Brief and The Energy Mix.

For the latest academic research, follow the Oxford Climate Research Network.

Friends of the Earth – top tips for saving nature and the climate.

The World Wildlife Fund’s take on climate change is here

Wildlife Trusts are important because healthy natural habitats can reduce flooding and prevent coastal erosion; they restore and maintain healthy soils and clean water, and provide for the pollinators we need for crops. More info here

And our local Wildlife Trust is here

Wildlife Trusts are important because healthy natural habitats can reduce flooding and prevent coastal erosion; they restore and maintain healthy soils and clean water, and provide for the pollinators we need for crops. More info here