You've probably heard a lot about climate change over the last few years, and it can be overwhelming to take in. We're here to break it down for you so you know exactly what climate change is, why it happens, and what you can do about it.
But before we get started. If you're feeling overwhelmed or powerless in the face of climate change and are struggling to take climate action, check out our resources on eco-anxiety.
What is climate change, anyway?
So, let's start with the basics. Climate change is all about long-term changes in our weather and temperatures. It's our planet's way of telling us things are getting out of balance. But why is it happening? Well, a big part of the blame goes to us humans1.
When we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas, they release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases act like a blanket around the Earth, trapping the sun's heat. This is called the greenhouse effect, and it causes global warming - one of the leading causes of climate change.
What are the effects of climate change?
Global warming might sound like a sunny summer holiday, but it causes lots of other climate hazards, like droughts, floods, and the melting of the polar ice caps2. This is extremely damaging to the environment, causing us to lose precious biodiversity, as plants and animals struggle to adapt to their changing habitats3. It’s also dangerous to communities around the globe who have been experiencing harm to health and property due to extreme weather events4.
So, what's cooking the planet?
Now, let's dive deeper into why climate change is happening. Remember those fossil fuels we talked about - well why do we burn them?
Burning fossil fuels generates energy, but it also produces greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. Most of us use energy for a wide variety of everyday things like heating homes, cooking dinner, and watching TV. In fact, in 2021, electricity and heat generation caused almost 44% of all carbon emissions worldwide5.
But it’s not just at home. Manufacturing is the second biggest cause of emissions in the UK6, as businesses use tons of energy to power the machinery that creates and packages products for us to buy. Our transport is another big emitter, with most road vehicles and aeroplanes burning fossil fuels, like petrol and diesel, to run.
All these emissions make our planet warmer by trapping heat. The more we emit, the hotter it gets. And here's the kicker: since the industrial revolution in the 1800s, it’s estimated that all the global warming we're seeing is our fault7. As scary as that sounds, there’s a bright side. If we’re causing climate change that means we can also take action to stop it and become the climate change solution.
What can we do about it?
The good news is that we can do something to slow down global warming and reduce the impact of climate change. But we need to act fast. The International Energy Agency (IEA) warns that we've already warmed the planet by 1.2°C8, and we could hit a worrisome 2.4°C by 21009 if we don't change our ways.
So, what's the plan? First, we've got to cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half by 203010. That's a tall order, but it starts with shifting away from fossil fuels (like coal and gas) and turning to clean energy sources. Fortunately, global investments in clean energy are on the rise11, and it’s predicted that coal, oil, and gas emissions will start to drop before 203012 too. So, now’s the time to double down our efforts and help support the UK transition to clean energy.
Second, we need to reduce our energy use. Every watt of fossil fuel power we don’t use prevents harmful emissions from being produced. There are lots of ways to reduce energy use in our homes and businesses. From forming better habits (like remembering to switch off the lights) to retrofitting our buildings with energy efficient improvements (such as insulation or double-glazing), every little bit helps make a difference.
How can you make a difference at home?
Taking action to prevent climate change can seem like a huge mountain to climb, but by working together we can make it happen. Here's where you come in. Did you know that over 20% of carbon emissions in the UK come from our homes?13 It's a big deal.
To reduce your carbon footprint at home, start by finding simple ways to save energy. There are tons of little changes you can make to cut down on your energy use. So whether you’re looking for something quick and easy that fits with your lifestyle, or you’re ready to make a bigger commitment, you can take part in the climate action. Get energy saving inspiration with our tips and tricks to lower your bills and your carbon footprint.
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