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Climate Change

What has caused Climate Change?  

Climate change is caused by the release of carbon dioxide and other gases collectively known as greenhouse gases (GHG) and is one of the most serious environmental threats facing our world.   Since the industrial revolution, the man-made emissions of these gases has been increasing at a steady rate. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas, accounting for about 84 per cent of total UK greenhouse gas emissions. Before the start of the industrial revolution CO2 was found in our atmosphere at 280 parts per million (ppm) but is now believed to exceed 389 ppm and is continuing to rise.  

What are the expected changes and impacts globally?  

The term ‘global warming’ only describes part of the problem. Whilst average temperatures are expected to increase there are other expected impacts including sea levels rising and patterns of drought and flooding changing with more intense weather related disasters. Some of these changes to our climate are already occurring.  

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and United Nations report that the average temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface has already risen by about 0.75°C since 1900 and even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to stop now, then the world is already committed to around 0.6°C of further warming.

If no action is taken to reduce our emissions then temperatures are expected to rise even further. Depending on future levels of greenhouse gas emissions global average temperatures may be between 1.1 and 6.4°C higher and average sea levels could rise by 18 to 59 centimeters by the end of the century.  

As temperatures rise, agricultural yields are expected to drop in most tropical and sub-tropical regions (and in temperate regions too). Diseases, such as those spread by mosquitoes, could spread to new areas of the world and millions of people are expected to be exposed to increasing water stress.  There will be more intense weather related disasters which combined with rising sea levels and other climate related stresses make the lives of those living on the coastlines, particularly the Worlds poor, miserable. In addition, extinctions of large numbers of plant and animal species are expected.  

 What are the expected changes and impacts locally?

Whilst the most severe impacts of climate change may be in other countries some changes and impacts will also affect our region.  

Data published by the UK Climate Impacts Programme, expects the following changes to be felt in our region;  

For the 2080’s the central estimate of: ·        

  • increase in winter mean temperature is 3ºC; it is very unlikely to be less than 1.6ºC and is very unlikely to be more than 4.7ºC.         
  • increase in summer mean temperature is 3.6ºC; it is very unlikely to be less than 1.9ºC and is very unlikely to be more than 5.9ºC.         
  • change in winter mean precipitation is 20%; it is very unlikely to be less than 4% and is very unlikely to be more than 44%.
  • change in summer mean precipitation is –21%; it is very unlikely to be less than –45% and is very unlikely to be more than 6%.  

The conclusion from the above data for our area is for both significantly warmer summers and winters, but with wetter winters and drier summers.   The Government has commented that ‘the expected changes for our country as a whole as being “warmer and wetter winters, hotter and drier summers, sea levels rise, and more severe weather”.

What can we do?

Our climate is changing but if we all make small improvements then together we will have a big effect and can help ourselves by saving money on things such as our fuel bills as well. This site aims to make it easier by bringing together information on actions we can take to reduce our impact on the local and global environment and adapt to our changing climate.

Keeping Cool 

As our climate changes it is expected that we will have hotter and drier summers.  This may be great news for many of us but we can also expect more extremes of weather and heatwaves can have a negative impact on the health of the very young, old or those with long term medical conditions. Over time if we don’t adapt then our homes will heat up.  

There are many ways to keep our homes cooler.  You may have noticed on holiday in a warmer country that many of the houses are painted white and have external shutters or blinds, these all help to keep homes cooler. Insulating your home not only keeps it warm in the winter but can also keep it cool in the summer. 

Some ideas for keeping your home cool when the weather warms up include:  

Free:

Early morning air is usually cooler so let the heat that has built up overnight out first thing in the morning.

Close your windows when the outside temperature is greater than the inside temperature (usually by about 10am on a hot day) this traps the cooler air inside and keep the heat out.

Draw your curtains during daytime hours on hot and sunny days – especially on the sunny side of the house.  

Low cost:

Shade your windows with solar reflective blinds, external awnings or external shutters.

Insulate your loft or cavity walls  

Paint your external walls a light colour

Modifications you may make over time:

Externally insulate solid walls 

Coat your roof tiles or walls with solar reflective paint

Replace your windows with low e (emissivity) triple glazing  

Transition Towns

In some areas there are communities which have started up projects in areas of food, transport, energy, education, housing, waste, arts etc. as small-scale local responses to the global challenges of climate change, economic hardship and shrinking supplies of cheap energy. Many of these initiatives are registered on the Transition Network and are known as Transition Towns.

 Transition towns in Hertfordshire include:


Quality of Life Report

The Hertfordshire Sustainability Forum produces a Quality of Life report each year. This gives up to date information on indicators of Hertfordshire’s quality of life, for example unemployment, pollution, crime and land use.

The Quality of Life Report exists in an electronic format.

How green is your home? Explore our interactive house for money saving tips and suggestions.