Climate change is possibly one of the most serious environmental threats facing the world today. Global temperature increase is likely to trigger serious consequences for humanity and other life forms.
What is climate change?
In the past 100 years the earth has warmed by 0.7°C. All five of the hottest ever years have been in the last decade, mountain glaciers are retreating, the permafrost in some areas is melting – the list of impacts is long and well publicised. An upward trend in temperatures is visible from Coventry’s own local weather station over just the course of the past 30 years.
There is now strong evidence that climate change is happening and that man-made emissions, due to our high use of fossil fuels, are the cause. As this problem is largely man-made, it is the responsibility of us all to act now before it’s too late.
What does climate change mean for Coventry?
For Coventry, climate change means warmer, drier summers (more heatwaves and periods of water shortages), milder wetter winters and more frequent and intense storms (increased flooding).
Across the globe, there will be more intense heatwaves, droughts and more flooding. There may be severe problems for regions where people are particularly vulnerable to changes in the weather.
We have a key role to play in tackling climate change by reducing our carbon footprint from our property and the services we provide (‘mitigation’), and making sure that we can cope with the impacts of climate change (‘adaptation’). We also have a community leadership role, in supporting organisations and individuals to reduce their emissions and adapt to the changing climate.
What is the Greenhouse Effect?
Greenhouse gases emitted naturally from trees and animals help make the planet a warm and habitable place. They act like the outside covering of a greenhouse, trapping inside the heat from the sun.
Earth’s climate is warming as increasing greenhouse gas emissions trap more heat.
Greenhouse emissions are mainly due to human development activities such as:
- fossil fuel burning (coal, natural gas and petrol) for energy production
- landfills releasing methane
- industrial production processes
- agriculture and livestock
What is global warming?
Most scientists agree global warming is changing the world’s climate. Even if greenhouse emissions were significantly reduced immediately, the warming effect would continue for 30 – 50 years as these gases remain in the atmosphere for a long time.
At the current emissions rate, the global temperature could be expected to increase 0.5ºC by 2050. However, while emissions continue to accelerate, scientists predict a 2ºC – 5ºC increase by 2050. Emissions would have to be reduced quickly to lessen this.
What is the impact of climate change?
Scientists can only guess at what the effects might be on a global, national, local and personal level.
Immediate environmental effects would include more extreme weather (floods, storms, cyclones, droughts and landslips) and impacts on ecosystems (cropping, biodiversity, pests and diseases).
For a simple explanation of climate change, see the Gov.uk climate change explained website.
Coventry’s Climate Change Strategy
The Council is committed to tackling climate change and to making a major contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the city. The Climate Change Strategy recognises the challenge we all face, and the action that we need to take for the wellbeing of the city now and in the future.
Coventry was one of the first cities to produce a climate change strategy, working with the Coventry Partnership. In working together on the strategy we were able to connect with the key partners in the city, private, public and voluntary, to ensure that tackling climate change is a common goal. The challenge of reducing the city’s carbon emissions is significant and it will need the help of everyone in Coventry to achieve our goals.
- Reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 27.5% by the year 2020, using 2005 as the baseline year.
Climate change must be addressed in two ways: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation is about tackling the causes of climate change – the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, Adaptation is recognising that we are committed to some degree of climate change from man’s activities to date and that we must plan to adapt to these inevitable changes. The Climate Change Strategy contains a series of action plans addressing both climate change adaptation and mitigation.