What we are doing
Climate Change Science
Fighting Climate Change
The information for this explanation comes from MIT's climate change web - you can find it here.
The basic data comes from ice cores. A steel tube drills into the Arctic ice. The younger ice is at the top, and as the drill goes deeper it drills into ice laid down thousands then tens of thousands of years ago. When ice forms, it traps air inside. Analysing this, we cnn tell both the levels of gasses in the atmosphere and the temperature around at that time. We can see the pattern over the last 800,000 years:
a) that when the level of carbon dioxide went up the temperature rose, and when it went down the temperature fell,
b) the levels of carbon dioxide stayed between 200 and 300 parts per million all that time,
c) today the level of carbon dioxide is 418 parts per million. Unlike anything we have seen for 800,000 years!
After the mid 1800s we started to burn fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas in large quantities. These powered our modern way of life. As a result, we poured more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons. That means that they contain hydrogen and carbon. When we burn hydrocarbons, some of the oxygen in the air combines with the hydrogen to form H2O (water), and some of the oxygen in the air combines with the carbon to make carbon dioxide. At the same time a lot of heat energy is released.
When the sun's rays reach the earth, some are absorbed as heat and some are relected back out into space. Carbon dioxide reflects some of the escaping heat back to the planet. This keeps us comfortably warm. But too much would cause excess heat energy to be stored in the atmosphere
The level stayed between 200 and 300 ppm (parts per million) for 800,000 years. The current level is responsible for storing large amounts of excess heat energy. This causes heatwaves and wildfires in some parts of the world and strong storms, storm surges and flooding in other areas.In 2022 this was responsible for a heat dome over North America which cooked fruit on the trees and roasted shellfish on the rocks, wildfires in Australia and California, heatwaves in the Arctic and Antarctica and floods in Europe, China and South Africa.
This is a complicated situation, and not obvious to all. The problems that were predicted have occurred. There are manu more troubles in the future. Climate change is going to get much more severe.
This is the NASA model showing the excess heat (red=hot, blue=cool). You can see the YouTube video of it here.
The big problems will start when we reach tipping points. These are situations that, once they occur, canot be undone. For example, at the moment the ice in the permafrost tundra around the far north is melting. Once it does, it will release huge amounts of methane (another greenhouse gas) with much more severe consequences.
The effect on nature will be devastating.
The severe displacement of people, mass movements of starving people and inability to feed everyone would cause a complete collapse of civilised society. In the UK we only grow 60% of what we eat. We rely on those with excess selling us the remainder. What is going to happen if food becomes so short that we cannot buy from abroad?
This is why we need to fight climate change. We cannot stop it, it has already started, but we can avoid the worst.