8 Climate Change Facts
The effects of climate change are being seen all around the world and in one way or another, will have an impact on us all.
If you're not already looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, these 8 climate change facts might encourage you to take action.
You don't have to become a climate change activist to make a difference, there are plenty of small changes you can make to your daily life which will dramatically lower your impact on the environment.
One such way is to install solar panels, which will not only help to reduce the carbon footprint of your home but cut your energy bills too.
What is Climate Change?
Climate change, sometimes known as global warming is a term used to describe the rising global temperature of the planet.
The average global temperature has risen by 1°C since 1880, which might not sound like much but that's the fastest increase in the history of the Earth.
Rising global temperatures are having a serious effect on the environment, animals and people. These are only some of the impacts that climate change will have:
- Ice caps melting
- Rising sea levels
- Higher chance of flooding
- Ocean temperature increase
- More severe droughts
- Heat waves
- Increased frequency of wildfires
What's causing Climate Change?
Human activity since the industrial revolution has seen the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increase rapidly. There's a number of reasons why we're seeing an increase in global temperatures, including:
- Burning fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil)
- Farming cattle
The burning of fossil fuels is by far the biggest cause of climate change and is done to generate electricity, heat our homes, power transport and much more.In the UK, transport is the sector producing the highest volume of greenhouse gas emissions.
Source: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy – 2017 Final Emissions Statistics
Climate Change Facts
When it comes to climate change there are some scary facts that show the scale of the problem that the planet is facing.
- Record amount of carbon in the atmosphere
In 2013, levels of carbon in the atmosphere went above 400 parts per million for the first time in recorded history (400,000 years) and the levels continue to rise. The rise has coincided with the industrial revolution, when humans began burning fossil fuels.
- We're consuming Earth's resources earlier each year
Known as Earth Overshoot Day, this is the date each year when humans have used up more of the Earth's resources (water, wood, food, etc.) than the planet is able to produce in a 12 month period. Each year this date is getting earlier:
- 1999: September 29
- 2019: July 19
The dates above take into account the consumption habits of every country around the world. If everyone lived how we do in the UK, Earth Overshoot Day would be on May 17th – just over 2 months earlier than the global average.
- 18 of the 19 warmest years on record have been since 2001
Other than 1998, all of the hottest years on record have all been recorded in recent years and 2019 is set to be amongst the hottest too. This temperature rise has coincided with the increased amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Things are only going to get hotter.
- Over 1 million species could go extinct
As the human population continues to grow, we're taking up more and more space on the planet, moving nature out of our way as we do so.
- Deforestation to make room for farming
- Oceans becoming more acidic
- Plastic in the oceans
- Oceans are becoming increasingly acidic
The oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which helps to maintain a healthy balance. However, as the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has increased so has the amount being absorbed by the ocean.
The carbon dioxide reacts with seawater making it acidic and the more carbon in the atmosphere, the more acidic our oceans will be, which is a real threat to sea life.
If that's not enough, a truck load of plastic is dumped into the ocean every single minute. Plastic causes confusion for sea creatures as they confuse the plastic for food which leads to choking. That plastic is then working it's way right up the food chain to your plate.
What's worse is that microplastics, plastics that are no longer than 5mm, has made its way into tap water. A study by Orb tested samples of domestic tap water around the world and found that 72% of UK tap water is contaminated with plastic fibres.
- 90% of coral reefs could die
Coral reefs are not only home to more than 1 million different species of plants and wildlife, they protect over 100 countries from coastal erosion. Some countries are even built on coral reefs and wouldn't exist without them.
A coral reefs acts as a buffer, absorbing energy from waves before they reach the coastline, which helps to reduce coastal erosion and potential damage to properties. They're also an effective barrier when it comes to storms and floods too.
Oceans absorb carbon from the atmosphere but the level of carbon has increased to a point where it's causing the temperature of the water to rise and making it more acidic too. As a result, the algae, which makes coral reefs look so bright and vibrant, is turning white, a process known as 'coral bleaching'.
Coral bleaching weakens the coral reef and makes the land more susceptible to the effects of strong waves, brutal storms and flooding.
- The Arctic could be ice free by 2040
It's hard to imagine the Arctic without any ice but that could be a reality by as early as 2040. That's only 21 years away.
Increased global temperatures has seen rapid shrinking of the ice on the North Pole which will not only affect the ice-dependent animals who live there but the whole planet:
- Rise in sea levels
- More greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere (ice stores carbon)
- The planet will absorb more heat because sea ice reflects heat away
- Irreversible by 2030
We've saved possibly the scariest fact until last. Unless dramatic changes are made in the next few years, all of the effects of climate change (including the ones we've listed above) could be irreversible.
In a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it's stated that global net human carbon emissions need to drop by 45% compared to 2010 levels by 2030.
At time of writing, 2030 is only 11 years away, which isn't long at all, but it's still enough time for you to make changes to your daily life that can really help to reduce your impact on the environment.
"We are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet." General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés.
Climate Change Solutions
The UK is targeting 'net zero' carbon emissions by 2050, which means that the carbon footprint of the UK will be neutral. Many believe that 2050 is much too late and more needs to be done sooner to prevent irreversible impacts on our planet.
A global temperature rise of only 2°C could have a detrimental impact on the planet and is why countries agreed to the Paris Climate Change Act, which commits nations to limiting the increase to 1.5°C.
As the table below shows, a difference of half a degree is much more significant than it might seem.
|Increase of 1.5°C||Increase of 2°C|
|Availability of freshwater in the Mediterranean||Down by 9%||Down by 17%|
|Heavy rainfall (intensity increase)||5% rise||7% rise|
|Sea level rise||40cm||50cm|
|Coral bleaching||90% at risk||98% at risk|
|Heatwaves||Up to 1.1 months of the year||Up to 1.5 months of the year|
|Wheat production||Down by 9%||Down by 16%|
So, what can you do to help tackle climate change?
Use more sustainable forms of transport
The damage that petrol and diesel fueled cars have on our planet is of increasing concern for many drivers. However, driving a car is part of everyday life for many but there are some alternatives:
- Travel by public transport
- Invest in an electric car (EV)
Electric cars have become much more affordable in recent years, so it's now much easier to make the switch from petrol or diesel. Advancements in the performance, mileage capabilities and overall looks too have made them much more desirable.
Plus, properties with a solar PV system can charge an electric vehicle using free renewable energy, helping to save you money on refuelling costs.
We compared the Best Electric Cars in the UK to help you find the right one for your home.
Eat less red meat and dairy
United Nations (UN) experts have said that switching to a plant-based diet can really help the fight against climate change.
This doesn't mean going vegan overnight but reducing the amount of red meat and dairy in your diet would greatly reduce your carbon footprint:
- Food is responsible for 26% of all greenhouse emissions
- 58% of that comes from animal products
- 50% of animal product emissions come from beef and lamb
Source: Reducing food's environmental impacts through producers and consumers, Poore and Nemeck
Cattle farming is one of the root causes of deforestation. As demand for red meat and dairy increases, so does the need for land, which is seeing large amounts of forest cut down so that the land can be used for farming. These trees are not only natural habitats of wildlife but also absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
Avoid single-use plastics
Plastic has become an almost unavoidable part of modern life – it's used to carry shopping, water is sold in it and it's even used in some tea bags!
Carrying a refillable water bottle, choosing unwrapped fruit and veg and switching to soap and shampoo bars, will reduce the amount of plastic waste produced by your home.
Turn to renewable energy
The sun provides the Earth with more energy every hour than humans use in an entire year so it doesn't quite add up that we rely so heavily on fossil fuels.
In the UK, the vast majority of electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, which is a highly carbon intensive process – double the emissions of natural gas production in fact (0.519kg of CO2 per kWh compared to 0.216kg of CO2 per kWh).
While an increasing number of renewable energy suppliers are delivering UK homeowners with electricity generated by wind and solar, their tariffs can be pretty high. So, why not take the matter into your own hands?
Installing a solar PV system comes with an initial upfront cost but once installed, your home will be powered by free renewable energy and the benefits of solar panels offer more than reducing your carbon footprint:
- Reduces the reliance you have on your energy supplier
- Cut your energy bills
- Zero running costs
- Need very little maintenance
- Have a lengthy lifetime of 20-25 years
- Could increase the value of your property
- Charge an electric vehicle for free
- Receive government payments through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) from January 2020
If the benefits of solar panels appeal to you then take a few moments to complete our simple online form to get free installation quotes from up to 3 solar panel installers based in your area.
Comparing multiple quotes will give you the best chance of finding the most competitive installation price – meaning that you'll potentially see a return on your investment much sooner.