We don't have to wait until the day after tomorrow...
Climate change is already with us and our increasing use of 4x4s is hurrying it along.
There is no point waiting for the government to come up with all the answers. When your house is under three feet of water on a September afternoon, don't look any further than your driveway to start laying the blame.
It is our individual decisions that will determine whether we avert a climate crisis.
Although climate change is an extremely complicated issue and the effects are uncertain, here are some basic facts that we can confirm.
Climate change is a result of an enhanced ‘Greenhouse Effect'; a natural phenomenon that keeps our planet at a habitable temperature. The atmosphere uses gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) to keep thermal radiation (heat) from the sun escaping back into space.
Too much CO2 as a result of burning fossil fuels created millions of years ago enhances the greenhouse effect, causing a global increase in average temperature, leading to melting ice-caps and changes in atmospheric conditions that affect our day-to-day weather.
Climate change is already here
- Soaring temperatures across Europe in 2003 caused the deaths of 35,000 people.
- Storms and floods in the UK have increased markedly in recent years, and insurers have started charging higher household premiums to cover the damage.
- The UK is suffering from greater coastal flooding, erosion and loss of land due to rising sea levels. The government has admitted it cannot afford to build flood defences to deal with this problem.
- Forget that anniversary holiday to the Maldives: some small island states are already facing dangerous losses of land and water supplies.
Along with increased droughts, violent storms and flooding events, these effects were all predicted by climate scientists and presented to world leaders at the Kyoto summit back in 1997.
And the future?
If you are hoping for tropical weather in Yorkshire, think again. Scientists have found that the arctic ice-cap is melting, diluting the Atlantic ocean and disrupting the salt-water cycle that drives the Gulf Stream.
If the Gulf Stream slows we could enjoy Canadian style winters of -15C within a decade or two.
What are we doing about it?
In the UK, CO2 emissions are now growing again despite advances in energy efficiency and the promotion of renewable energy. We are now unlikely even to meet our commitments under the Kyoto agreement.
Transport is the sector with the fastest growing CO2 emissions, as almost all other energy users are becoming more efficient or declining.
Driving a 4x4 uses much more fuel than a small car, which increases the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere every mile it travels, directly encouraging climate change.
Driving a 13mpg 4x4 rather than a 25mpg car for a year will waste more energy than:
- Leaving the fridge door open for 7 years
- Leaving the TV on for 32 years
- Leaving the bathroom light on for 34 years
By driving our kids to school in a 4x4 we are condemning them to deal with the results of our fossil fuel addiction www.newscientist.com/hottopics/climate
Learn more about the science of climate change http://www.metoffice.com/research/hadleycentre/
Get active against climate change:
1. European heatwave caused 35,000 deaths 10 October 03 NewScientist.com news service