If climate change were a dictionary, here are a few of the words you might find...
Watts are units of electricity. There are kilowatts, gigawatts, megawatts... But nega-watts are the units of electricity we don’t use. It’s the electricity we’ve deliberately saved or used more efficiently. Think of lightbulbs that don’t waste electricity getting hot (and instead use all their power on lighting up your room) or closing your windows when you’ve got the heating on.
They’re beautiful, blue, and wet, but oceans play a pretty huge role in the climate story. Our oceans suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help generate oxygen. But they’re also particularly vulnerable to climate change - with rising sea levels and a warming climate threatening both human and ocean habitats.
The Paris Agreement
Paris - the city of love… and climate action. In 2015 the nations of world formed their plan on how to combat climate change, dubbed the Paris Agreement after the city that hosted them. The aim is to keep global warming well below 2C with an aim of 1.5C. Most of the world is behind the plan - all except one nation and their reality-tv-star-come-president.
The Queen’s palace
When she’s not waving from her carriage or delivering her Christmas speech, the Queen is busy tackling climate change. Across the royal palaces they’ve got a smart energy monitoring system, low-energy LED light bulbs and a hydro turbine.
Sun, wind, water. Not only would these be the ingredients of a great day surfing, we can also harness them to generate clean electricity. Like fossil fuels (that’s coal, oil and gas), renewable energy can power our lives but they don’t belch out carbon. This makes them crucial to combating climate change.
Not the kitchen sink! These are the bits of our natural world that can absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. There are loads - oceans, plants (like forests - I bet you learned about the Amazon being the lungs of the planet at school!) and even the soil under our feet. As with many bits of our planet, they’re threatened by climate change and humans getting up to no good.
The 45th US president once described climate change as a Chinese hoax. Every time it’s cold he suggests we could do with a bit of global warming. He’s promoted coal and put higher taxes on solar. He pulled America out of the Paris Agreement. As the leader of the world’s second largest emitter, Donald Trump has spelled bad news for climate action.
The UNFCCC stands for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. What a name. It was set up in 1992 and organising all the global climate negotiations - like the Paris Agreement in 2015. It’s thanks to these guys most of the countries in the world are working together to tackle climate change.
It takes a lot of carbon to produce our food, particularly meat. When it comes to low carbon dining, meat free is the way to go. In fact some studies say a vegan or veggie diet can cut your food related carbon emissions in half.
As your geography teacher told you, weather and climate aren’t the same thing, but they are linked. As the climate changes and global temperatures rise, weather will become much more erratic. Flooding, droughts and hurricanes will all be more common and more serious.
If you x-ray a bit of coral from the ocean, you can find out a lot about the Earth’s ancient climate. New techniques can tell scientists when monsoon started in a particular year, or how the ocean temperature has varied. The data can help scientists understand how our climate has worked in the past, and what is going on now humans are causing mischief.
Climate change is a huge and scary problem, but there are things you can do to tackle it. You could cut down on meat, cycle more, fly less or insulate your loft. And you can badger the people in power to make sure they’re supporting renewable power, improving energy efficiency, cleaning up transport and changing the stuff we can’t.
This is where we need to be heading: a world where we don’t emit greenhouse gases and climate change doesn’t become the catastrophic disaster we fear. There’s still a very long way to go, but we know what needs doing. It’s time to get to work.
This blog post was funded by our pals Ben and Jerry's. Photo: Johan Westin, cc.