Greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels contribute to global warming and climate change. Warmer and drier summers, warmer and wetter winters and more extreme weather are predicted in the near future. In other countries there could be more drastic changes.
Text in Brief
The Meteorological Office in the UK has published its predictions for climate changes by 2050. Warmer and drier summers, warmer and wetter winters and more extreme weather are predicted. In other countries there could be more drastic changes.
Many scientists agree that greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels contribute to global warming and climate change.
In 2006, IPCC (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) said that there was a 90% chance that human activity was the main cause of global warming. In 2008, the majority of Britons were in doubt about this, but in 2009, they have changed their opinion and they want politicians to tell them what they can do to reduce global warming.
The UK Parliament has now agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 34% below 1990 levels by 2020 and the Scottish Parliament plans to reduce them by 42% in the same period. In December 2009, politicians from around the world will meet in Copenhagen to agree on international limits for greenhouse gas emissions.
UK Climate in 2050
On June 18th 2009, the Meteorological Office in the UK published its predictions for climate change in the UK by the year 2050:
- temperatures will rise by more than 2°C
- summers will be warmer and drier; winters will be warmer and wetter
- there will be more extreme weather
Similar changes are predicted for Norway. Apart from the extreme weather, perhaps this doesn’t seem too bad. Perhaps fewer would feel the need to travel south on holiday. However, what will happen in countries further south? There are already rising sea levels in Bangladesh, drought in Africa, floods in Europe and more extreme weather in many parts of the world.
Scientists continue to debate the causes of global warming and climate change, but many agree that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane contribute to the increase in temperature when they are released into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are produced as a result of human activity, for example, from burning fossil fuels in homes, industry, transport, etc.
In 2006, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that there was a 90 % chance that human activities were the main cause of global warming. It predicted that globally there would be changing rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, retreating glaciers, thinning Arctic sea-ice and an increasing incidence of extreme weather.
What the British Think
In a poll from June 2008 (The Observer), the majority of Britons did not agree with the IPCC and expressed doubt about climate changes being caused by human activities. This result came as a shock to many environmentalists and politicians. However, in June 2009, a survey reported on Sky News, shows that Britons would like their country to lead the way with legislation to combat global warming, and to see politicians stop dragging their feet. People said that they would like clearer guidelines on what they can do as individuals, showing that perhaps after all, they do believe that human activities are responsible.
The politicians seem to have got the message. The UK Parliament has agreed that by 2020 there will be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 34% below 1990 levels and the Scottish Parliament has gone even further and plans to reduce emissions by 42% in the same period, with the implementation of fines and rewards to achieve this. In December 2009, leading politicians from around the world will meet at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit and endeavour to agree on new emission limits to reduce the effects of human activity on our global climate.
Update: IPCC, Berlin, April 2014
The third working group report from the IPCC states that if we want to stay within the 2°C of global warming we have to do something NOW! The rate of greenhouse gas emissions grew twice as fast from 2000 to 2010 than in the 30 years from 1970 to 2000. However, we can still achieve a maximum temperature increase of 2°C if we change from polluting fossil fuels to clean energy resources; increase the use of low carbon energy by three or four times before 2050. Other measures are efficient agriculture and reforestation, more efficient technology to reduce industrial emissions, more efficient fuel use in transport and CO2 capture and storage.
A comprehensive global agreement on implemenation of the measures is the important task at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015.
What Can You Do?
Here are a few suggestions from the United Nations Environment Programme on what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. How many do you live by?
- Plant a tree
- Give unwanted clothing and other household goods to second-hand shops instead of throwing them away
- Sort and recycle waste as much as possible
- Use reusable bags instead of plastic bags
- Save energy by turning off lights and electrical equipment when not in use
- Reduce the length of time you spend in the shower and use a low flow showerhead
- Reduce the temperature in your home
- Use green forms of transport such as train and bus instead of cars
- In 2050, how will the UK weather be different from today?
- Which area in the world has too little rain, according to the text?
- What are greenhouse gases and where do they come from?
- What does the IPCC say about global environmental changes?
- How did the opinion of the majority of Britons change from 2008 to 2009?
- What goals for greenhouse gas emissions have UK politicians set for 2020?
- How do the Scots plan to achieve this?
- The summers will be warmer and drier and the winters warmer and wetter. The average temperature will rise by more than 2°C and there will be more extreme weather.
- Carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases and they come from burning fossil fuels.
- IPCC says there will be changing rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, retreating glaciers, thinning Arctic sea-ice and an increasing incidence of extreme weather.
- In 2008, the majority didn’t think that human activity was the main cause of global warming, but in 2009 they seem to think that human activity plays a major part.
- UK Parliament: reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34% of 1990 levels. Scottish Parliament: reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42%
- By using fines and rewards
1. Find at least 5 other things you can do to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint.
2. If any of the predictions for climate change are correct, what kind of effects might it have in your local area?
Make a Survey
1. First, make 10 – 15 statements about environmental changes, e.g.
- Global warming is mostly caused by human activity.
- We as individuals can help to reduce global warming.
- People should fly less to reduce CO2 emissions.
2. Give alternative answers, for example: fully agree, partly agree, partly disagree, disagree completely.
3. Then carry out a survey in class and report the results.
Global warming is mostly caused by human activity.
We as individuals can help to reduce global warming.
People should fly less to reduce CO2 emissions.