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UNDERSTANDING CLIMATE CHANGE

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE?

Educating yourself about the climate and ecological emergencies is one of the most effective ways you can begin to help. Understanding not only your personal impact, but the lives of those that are most affected by climate change could inspire you to take action.

The Open University has 93 free courses on climate change, sustainability and the human treatment of animals. Ranging from the biological sciences to the humanities, the free courses offered by the Open University has something for everyone.

CLIMATE SCIENCE FAQS

This page answers questions we get asked frequently about the science of climate change. 

We signpost to excellent resources compiled by the Royal SocietyNASA and the Met Office within the answers to these questions.   

For specific questions about the Devon Carbon Plan, please see this page.

Evidence Gathering and Thematic Hearings

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in weather patterns.  

Global warming is the increase in Earth’s temperature as part of climate change. 

How do we know recent climate change is caused by humans?

The Royal Society provides a full answer to this question.

What evidence is there for the climate emergency?

The provisional 2022 State of the Global Climate report from the World Meteorological Organisation has reported: 

  • The past eight years are on track to be the eight warmest on record 
  • Extreme heatwaves, drought and devastating flooding in 2022 have affected millions and cost billions  
  • The rate of sea level rise has doubled since 1993. It has risen by nearly 10 mm since January 2020 to a new record high in 2022. 

The Sixth Assessment Report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in March 2023 says: 

  • Actions being delivered globally are not sufficient to limit warming below 1.5 degrees centigrade or adapt communities to climate change.  
  • The amount of funding available for climate projects means climate goals will be missed.  

Globally, greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by at least 45% by 2030 (from 2010 levels) through behavioural change and technological development to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Such a societal change in less than a decade is an unprecedented task that requires everyone to act with urgency.  

The climate is always changing, why is it a problem?

The Royal Society reports that past climate changes led to the extinction of many species and population migrations away from the parts of the globe worst affected. The speed of current climate change is faster than most of the past events, making it more difficult for human societies and the natural world to adapt.

Why is it cold if there’s global warming?

Global warming means that it is more and more likely that we’ll have more warm days and seasons long term, but normal weather patterns will still result in some cold weather. Read more from the Royal Society here.

Why should the UK take action on the climate emergency when other countries are more responsible for the climate crisis?

The UK has been the 8th largest emitter of greenhouse gases since 1750. We have a moral obligation to show leadership to the rest of the world to act. Plus, other countries are following suit – 195 out of 198 countries have signed the international Paris Agreement on climate change.

Why don’t climate scientists consider water vapour?

Increased water vapour is a consequence of global warming, rather than a cause. Read more about this and how water vapour amplifies the greenhouse effect from NASA.

What’s the evidence for climate change affecting the UK and Devon?

The Royal Meteorological Society has reported that the UK’s warmest ten years ever recorded have all been since 2002. The Met Office tells us that the hottest ever recorded temperature of 40.3°C occurred in July 2022, smashing the previous record of 38.7°C observed in 2019 which also saw: 

  • the warmest winter temperature  
  • the warmest December temperature  
  • the warmest February temperature 
  • the highest minimum February temperature. 

The most recent decade (2012 -2021) has seen the UK experience 21% fewer days of air frost, 15% more summer rainfall, 26% more winter rainfall and 8% more annual sunshine than the 1961-1990 average. Five of the ten wettest years in the UK series from 1836 have occurred this century (2000, 2020, 2012, 2008 and 2014) (Royal Meteorological Society)  

The first signs of spring are, on average, occurring 9 days earlier than they were in the first part of the 20th century. 

The UK Climate Impacts Programme shows that Exmouth has recorded a temperature increase of 1.05°C since 1900 and Ilfracombe 0.64°C. In comparison to the 1961 – 1990 average, south west England now experiences almost 10% more rainfall each year. Winters have got wetter and summers have got drier; the South West receives 28% more precipitation in autumn, almost 16% more in winter and approaching 9% less in summer. 

Relative sea level in south west England has risen by almost 25cm since 1916. 

PODCASTS

Listening to podcasts can be a great way to educate yourself about the climate emergency. Climate change is relevant to every aspect of our lives, from what we eat and how we travel, to what we wear and how we handle our money. Learning about how the climate crisis is affecting people around the world is also a great way to better understand the context of climate change, as communities and ecosystems around the world are already experiencing drastic changes and devastating effects. These podcasts will help you gain insight into the effects our high-carbon lifestyles are having around the world, as well as what we can do to live more sustainably.

THE BIG GREEN MONEY SHOW

Hosted by Deborah Meaden, the Big Green Money Show is about highlighting what big businesses are doing to become more sustainable, as well as providing advice for consumers about how to make sustainable choices.

The Big Green Money Show

COSTING THE EARTH

Costing the Earth is a weekly educational podcast exploring contemporary and often controversial climate topics. The hosts interview scientists, activists and industry experts to help explain some of the biggest impacts and issues affecting the climate emergency.

Costing the Earth

THE CLIMATE QUESTION

The Climate Question asks why we find it so difficult to achieve a sustainable lifestyle, and how we might be able to change that. It’s an insightful and entertaining show designed to get listeners thinking about their own responses to the climate emergency.

The Climate Question

CLIMATE CHANGE ON MY STREET

This tool developed by the Met Office and data journalists at the BBC gives a fantastic (if sobering) illustration of what climate change will look like across the UK’s postcodes.

 

This is the first time projections of this detail have been used to the show the impact of climate change at a local level. Take a look at this interactive tool to see how you can expect climate change to affect weather in your area.

 

Type in your postcode to find out how your local area will change – how hot will it get? Will it rain more?

WHY INDIVIDUAL ACTION?

Individual action, alongside corporate activity and policy changes, is an essential aspect of helping Devon achieve net-zero carbon. 

BECAUSE CHANGE IS NEEDED

“Everyone is going to have to be involved,” says Debra Roberts, co-chair of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Furthermore, the IPPC says we are going to need “unprecedented changes in all aspects of society to deal with climate change”.

WE DESERVE BETTER AS CITIZENS

Of course, climate change cannot be solved by individuals changing their driving or buying habits alone. Other changes, bigger, system-wide changes are of course required. But as individuals, you can exercise your right both as citizens and as consumers. For example, you can put pressure on the government and on companies to initiate the system-wide changes that are needed.

Photo Credit: Chris Bennet

BECAUSE WE CAN INSPIRE OTHERS

We are all heavily dependent on social influence and the practices of those around us. Why not adopt some sustainable practices and see who around you also starts to change? As Greta says, our actions are important not because they have a material effect on climate change, but because of the message they send to others. In a survey by The Conversation, half of the respondents who knew someone who has given up flying because of climate change said they subsequently fly less. So, if people need cues from their peers to change their behaviour, then why not be that individual and lead by example?

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