With climate change scientists refer to a pattern of change affecting global or regional climate, as measured for example by average temperature and rainfall, and how often extreme weather events like heatwaves or heavy rains happen. This variation may be caused by both natural processes and by humans’ emissions, e.g. in the form of exhaust from a car, methane from cows or from fossil fuel burning power stations and heavy industries. Please read our webpage on greenhouse gases for more details about global warming, which is the steady rise in temperatures across our planet.
Unfortunately rising temperatures on the Earth also change the environment in ways that affect the rate of warming itself e.g. as the sea-ice in the Poles melts, the same surface of the glaciers changes from being a bright reflective white to a darker colour which allows more of the Sun’s rays to be absorbed more quickly. This is sometimes referred to as climate change’s feedback loop and many scientists agree that the longer we wait to stop or reverse climate change the harder it becomes.
Studies show that at current GHG emission rates, temperatures could increase up to 5°C by the end of this century. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) designated to try and set a target upper limit of 2°C to avoid catastrophic consequences, although many scientists argue that keeping below 1.5°C is a far safer limit for the world.
If you are wondering that the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C is, here’s some of the likely impacts of that half a degree:
- 10 million fewer people may lose their homes to rising seas;
- 2 million sq km of permafrost saved over centuries;
- 50% reduction in global population experiencing water scarcity;
- 1% limit on sea-ice-free Arctic summers;
- 50% reduction in species losing half their geographic range.
Many scenarios are being evaluated right now by companies and nations on the exact GHG emissions reduction that needs to be achieved, and by when, to reduce global warming before the environmental, social and economic consequences of climate change go beyond out of own control.
Please have a look at our webpage on TCFD for more information about the Paris Agreement.