Climate Change is firmly embedded in the list of issues facing our planet in the 21st Century. A defining issue of our time. A quick detail however – the term ‘climate change’ refers to any fluctuation in climate, whether as a result of human or natural causes and has been going on for a while – scales I struggle comprehending. Humans are a mere second on the clock face of the Earth’s history – climate change has happened for hours and hours. Natural factors include the changes in the Earth’s orbit, tilt of the Earth’s axis, volcanism and solar activity to name a few exciting ones. However, there is strong agreement in the scientific community that natural factors alone can not account for what is happening to our climate at the moment. A lot is changing very quickly.
A few stats…
Atmospheric carbon dioxide currently rests just below the looming threshold of 400 parts per million at 398.5 ppm, measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. In 1960, this was just below 320 ppm.
Sea level is set to rise by a third of a metre by the end of the century, currently rising at 3.17 mm per year. The first official instance of forced migration due to sea level rise is reported to have been in 2009, the Carteret Islanders of Papua New Guinea.
The global average temperature has already risen by 0.8°C. 2°C is considered to be the temperature threshold at which the global environment will suffer irreversible damage. This threshold is predicted to be surpassed by the end of this century, and if we carry on blowing our carbon budget at the current rates, the threshold could be reached within just two to three decades. We are changing our ways and learning a lot, so this fairly unlikely, but our efforts are not yet adequate so far. Another little point – the observed ‘hiatus’ or pause in the increasing global temperature was the result of insufficient measuring at the Poles. The MET Office have now found that when the rapid Arctic warming is factored in, the world on average has continued to get warmer.
The Greenhouse Effect and Climate Change
The 2013 Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated human emissions are a direct cause of global warming, which causes the changes in the global climate. It is important to note that whilst confusingly interrelated, climate change, the greenhouse effect and global warming are not all the same; the phenomena of ‘global warming’ is a result of the changes in composition of ‘greenhouse gases,’ which actually act like a blanket, rather than a greenhouse, but the name has stuck. And just to clarify climate change can be caused by many different things – at the moment it is the ‘blanket gasses’ that make the world warmer i.e. Global Warming. This is not used so much now as although the average global temperature is warming, in some specific regions, temperatures are likely to fall. Confusing, but it does make sense.
The responsibility for dealing with this blanket, rests uncomfortably on the shoulders of every human on the planet, be they world leaders, or CEOs of the top FTSE-100, or Ban Ki-Moon, or Ben van Beurden, or any and every individual living in Richmond upon Thames. The future may not be as uncomfortable as it is often framed. A world of sustainable living will probably be a lot cleaner, brighter and healthier. Humans finest hours are often in adversity – a lot of people are doing great things, go be great.
How does Richmond upon Thames fit into the global issue of climate change?
In early 2008, Richmond upon Thames Council signed the 2006 Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change. Later that year the council adopted the Climate Change Strategy. In short, this provides an approach to understand energy use and greenhouse emitters within Richmond as well as the impact that climate change is having on the borough now and in the future. The council expresses its commitment to leading by example, as should be expected, and wishes to have its green credentials aspired to.
The council is targeting energy efficiency and low carbon technologies. Priority is given to low carbon projects and pay back given to projects that are successful in encouraging ‘green’ behaviour.
The council offers free or discounted loft and cavity wall insulation. The cost of parking is now related to CO2 emissions and a ‘Go Green’ online service has been launched in order to educate residents, business and schools on how they can make their efforts count.
The Schools Environment Forum has been setup to engage children in climate change. Efforts are being made to support businesses and schools to encourage their employees and pupils to travel smarter with the Green Travel Plan. To find out more visit the Go Green Richmond website.