The Campaign Against Climate Change has called for a global school strike tomorrow, 15th March, and students in around 60 countries across the world are expected to take part. In February, young people took part in protests in over 50 UK towns and cities to demonstrate their frustration over the apparent lack of action to tackle this major issue of our time. So, what exactly is climate change and what is the UK government doing about it? And what can YOU do in your daily life?
Find out the facts and do your bit to combat climate change with the Agnes guide.
A reminder of the issue
Climate change means a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet’s weather patterns and average temperatures. Global temperatures have risen significantly over the 20th and 21st centuries, mainly because of the rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Earth’s atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, the sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased. Climate modelling suggests that the world could become up to 4.8% warmer than the pre-industrial period by the end of the century if no action is taken. This would have very severe impacts on the weather, the environment and human health; there would be more frequent severe weather events like hurricanes and significantly higher risks of flooding in both inland and in coastal areas around the world.
A load of scientific evidence shows that the increase in greenhouse gases has been almost entirely due to human activity – burning fossil fuels (coal and oil) for energy, the manufacture of cement, chemicals and metals, agriculture and deforestation. Action is needed now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions radically.
What actions have been taken?
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, 195 countries (including the UK) adopted the first ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. Governments agreed to a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C and to aim to limit the increase to 1.5°.
The UK introduced the Climate Change Act in 2008. Under this Act, the UK is committed by 2050 to reduce its emissions by 80%, compared with 1990 levels, and to a series of 5-year carbon budgets to get there. The Act also established the independent Committee on Climate Change. Its role is to advise the UK government and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about emissions targets and climate change.
What more needs to be done?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. It says that the Paris Agreement does not go far enough and the rise in global average temperatures needs to be limited to 1.5% – a link to the report is here. There are also concerns about many countries’ progress in meeting the Paris Agreement goals.
What can you do?
- Organisations such as Greenpeace, Campaign Against Climate Change and WWF have been campaigning for years on this issue. Join them, support their campaigns, write letters. Write to your MP.
- Eat less meat. Globally, raising meat, particularly beef and lamb, for human consumption is a major contributing factor to greenhouse gas emissions.
- Try to eat food that has been produced in the UK and not grown half way around the world and flown in. Better still, grow your own.
- Don’t buy water in plastic bottles. Use a refillable bottle like this one and fill it from the tap.
- Buy clothes carefully and thoughtfully (see the Agnes guide). Charity shops are a great source of vintage clothes that you can customise to your own style.
- Wear clothes for as long as you can between washes.
- Say no to plastic store bags. Take your own.
- Turn off the lights, don’t leave gadgets on standby, unplug chargers when you’re not using them.
- Pass on that upgrade and keep your mobile phone for as long as you can. Manufacturing smartphones uses up rare elements, uses masses of energy and obsolete phones cause unnecessary polluting waste.
- When you need to be somewhere, avoid asking your parents to drive you if you can – either walk, cycle or use public transport. See our travel guide.
- Avoid foods and toiletries containing palm oil. Rainforests are being destroyed and burned to clear land to plant oil palms, causing great damage to the environment and climate and loss of plant and animal diversity. Think of the orangutans.