What is Climate Change?
The mechanism of climate change is all about the greenhouse effect, also known as global warming. There are several gases which behave like the glass in a greenhouse, allow sunlight in, but trap some of the heat going out, making the temperature inside the greenhouse warmer than if it isn’t there. The most significant gases are carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and water vapour. Pretty much everything modern civilisation involves the burning of coal, gas or oil, and these all give off carbon dioxide – hence the term ‘carbon footprint’.
There are 2 main problems with Climate Change. The first is how to stop it happening, (Mitigation) and the second is how to cope with it when it happens (called Adaptation). But, it is too late to stop it. It is only possible to not make it worse than it already is.
What are the consequences of climate change?
Climate change is very hard to predict, as the global climatic systems are complex with negative and positive feedback loops. But, globally, the oceans and atmosphere contains more heat, making the weather more volatile, and generally warmer. In some areas this means more drought, in others, more hurricanes or more floods. These effects are being suffered already, and more so in the tropics. Most countries will not be able to support their populations, and wars and emigration will bring more and more people to Europe and the UK.
Some English people look forward to higher temperatures, but there are hidden problems. The south of France is pleasantly warm, but the people, the culture, the infrastructure, the plants, animals, architecture, food, clothing and everything else has been tailored to suit the climate of southern France, and it has grown that way for over a thousand years. For the UK to change into a climate like southern France in 20 years will mean everything has to change, all together and all at the same time.
What do we do about it?
Mitigating Climate Change
Quite simply, we have to stop putting more greenhouse gases into the sky. We also have to help nature to remove greenhouse gases from the sky. Healthy soils, forests and oceanic plankton all remove greenhouse gases from the sky, so we need to nurture these, and stop destroying them.
Stopping emitting these gases is also not straightforward. We can filter out some of these gases from industry. Technology and business intends to avoid greenhouse gas emissions by using technology that is more efficient (it does the same job but with less power), or is cleaner (uses the same amount of power but releases less).
We can also re-engineer everything we do to not need so much power in the first place. Food production, transportation, heating, manufacturing and building all burn fuel, and many systems are “locked in”. A power station built now, will carry on burning fuel for around 40 years.
Adapting to climate change
Flooding, especially in Worcester, is likely to be more frequent and more damaging. Weather damage to buildings and food crops are also going to be big problems. Heatwaves, fires and water shortages are also on the cards.
Our working groups will be looking at all possibilities in much more detail. There are lots of skills and techniques to employ such that the future could be better than the present.