What is Climate Change?

Climate Change is the description given to changes in the Earth’s average temperature.

The temperature has varied a lot over millions of years: the British Isles have been frozen,  tropical and sometimes underwater. Most of these changes have taken place over long periods of time, allowing plants to adapt to these changes and animals to migrate. Occasionally they happen much faster leading to extinctions.

Is the Climate Changing Now?

97% of climate scientists agree that average global temperatures are increasing, and that this is due in large part to gases emitted by our industrial growth society. Burning fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide and other even more powerful gases such as methane, these contribute to the greenhouse effect – which can be seen as a blanket of gases around the Earth which keep the heat in.

 

Here’s a helpful explanation from one Scottish Transitioner, taken from ‘In Transition’, the movie.

 

 

 What are the effects of a changing climate?

There is little doubt that the climate is changing, we are experiencing these changes already. Many places are recording record temperatures, some, extreme droughts, others unprecedented flooding. Some people who live close to the sea are experiencing an increase in small flooding events at high tide as more ice melts raising the sea level. But there may be more serious effects to come – as Arctic ice melts the white surface that reflects heat well is replaced by dark sea which absorbs heat, which in turn speeds up the warming and melts more ice. Additionally, on land around the Arctic Circle lies thousands of miles of Tundra – land which is frozen year round and holds enormous amounts of methane, a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. If this melts, the methane released will lead to much more extreme warming. Events such as these are called ‘positive feedback loops’ – where a rise in temperature causes something else which leads to even more warming creating the danger of runaway climate change.

Changes in temperature such as these are happening much quicker than anything caused by natural cycles, this does not allow the plants and animals to adapt or migrate. If we think about key species such as insects which are at the base of many higher animals food chains, or bees which are necessary to pollinate our crops, not to mention plankton which sustains sea life such as fish.

What can we do?

Transition recognises that we need to find sustainable ways of living which respect the biological limits of our planet. Followers of Transition seek answers to these problems on a local level, whether that be changing our shopping habits, growing our own food or reducing our carbon footprint. Imagine if we can design all our everyday activities so that they work more like plants or, even better, a woodland ecosystem. There are no waste bins in natural woodland – anything that is produced by one plant or creature is used by another, especially CO2!



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