What is climate change?
Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing the world today. Rising global temperatures will bring changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather. For the UK, climate change means hotter, drier summers (more heat waves), milder wetter winters, higher sea levels and an increased flood risk to coastal areas.
Across the globe, there will be more intense heat waves, droughts and more flooding. There may be severe problems for regions where people are particularly vulnerable to changes in the weather. Food shortages and the spread of disease are commonly predicted.
The main human influence on global climate is emissions of the key greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide (CO2),methane and nitrous oxide. The accumulation of these gases in the atmosphere strengthens the greenhouse effect. At present, just over seven billion tonnes of carbon is emitted globally each year through fossil fuel use, and an additional 1.6 billion tonnes are emitted by land use change, largely by deforestation. The concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere have now reached levels unprecedented for tens of thousands of years. The social, environmental and economic costs of climate change could be huge.
Climate change affects all of us - and we can all be part of the solution.