Greenspace: Climate Change (Lecture)

The following are notes from the Climate Change lecture given by Denis Walker at the Greenspace lecture series hosted by Camp Bling.

What is climate change?

  • “Global Warming” – doesn’t tell the whole story
  • Certainly a rise in global air temperature
  • This means more energy is fed into weather systems
  • So more extreme weather conditions – frequency and intensity
    • More and worse hurricanes
    • Flooding
    • Reduced landmass due to sea level rise

What causes climate change?

  • Increased CO2, methane, etc in atmosphere
  • Gases trap heat like the glass of greenhouse
  • Greenhouse gases released from long-term storage in ground
    • Fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – locked in rocks
    • Methane from peat bogs, swamps gets released as temp rises
    • Gases locked in permafrost released as ice melts
  • These gases stay in atmosphere for a long time
  • Human impacts (stats from Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center – CDIAC)
    • UK
      • Steep rise throughout C19 – Ind Rev
      • Total has started to level out
      • >3 ton C per capita in mid C20
      • Now ~2.7 ton C/year per capita
      • UK has 1% of world population but produces 2.3% of world’s CO2
    • USA
      • Was outputting same C as UK now in 1905
      • Total still rising even today
      • ~6 ton C per capita in 1970s
      • 5.5 ton C per capita even today
      • US has 5% of world population but produces 23% of world’s CO2
    • China
      • Was outputting same C as UK now in 1960
      • Total is rising very sharply
      • Now 6x current UK output
      • Yet less than 1 ton C/year per capita
      • China has 22% of world population but produces 15.5% of world’s CO2

Climate Change is happening NOW

  • People have a tendancy to think it’s all in future
    • But global warming has been happening since [audience guesses] 1910
  • Antarctic ice melting faster
    • British Antarctic Survey: sea level rise underestimated
    • >13000km2 sea ice lost in 50 years
    • At least 15% of annual 2mm sea level rise in last 5 years down to Antarctic ice
    • Penguin colonies being trapped by Antarctic sea ice breaking off from the main ice sheet
  • Greenland Ice Sheet melt increased
    • NASA satelite observations of Greeland have shown the ice sheet to be breaking up much faster than expected. in the journal "Science", NASA scientists spoke out without the approval of the Bush Administration – they warned sea levels could rise by 6 feet this century by the ice melt from Greenland. Yet more water would come from the Antarctic.
  • Arctic sea ice retreating
    • 7.8m km2 in 1980
    • 6.1m km2 in 2004
  • Heat Wave, Western Europe, 2003
    • 25,000 people died
  • World Health Organisation says 150,000 people are dying annually due to global warming. This will double by 2020. The deaths are caused by increased spread of disease in Latin America, Asia and Africa – caused by higher temperatures
  • Greenpeace says that 1 in 4 plant and animal species could become extinct in the next 50 years. That’s 1 million species at risk.
  • The area of the world affected by droughts has doubled since 1970.
  • Hadley Centre run climate models and emphasise there is still huge uncertainty on the rate by which the world will warm this century. Some models show a possibility of an 11°C global temperature rise by 2100
  • If we do nothing:
    • UK Climate Impacts Programme say expect 3 feet sea level rise by 2080 in S E England (if we carry on burning fossil fuels as before). The land is sinking as sea levels rise
    • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says expect temperature rises of up to 5.8°C by 2100 and sea level rise of nearly 1 metre – if we carry on burning as before.
  • EU has set policy target of no more than 2°C temperature rise
    • Even this would be enough to increase spread of malaria in Africa
    • UNEP warn "billions face hunger and starvation" if temperatures in the tropics increase by 2°C – the impact upon agriculture
    • This month, Christian Aid warned 182 million people would die in Africa this century due to diseases caused by climate change

What can be done?

  • Alternative technologies
    • Renewable energy
    • Wind turbines
    • Solar hot water
    • Solar PV
    • Wave
    • Tidal
    • Ground Source Heat Pump
    • Bio-fuels
    • Micro generation
  • Low-carbon
    • Carbon Sequestration – lock CO2 up underground
    • Energy efficient lightbulbs – each keeps ½ ton CO2 from being released during bulb’s lifetime
    • CHP Boiler
    • Public transport
    • More efficient car
      • Hybrid petrol/electric
      • Smaller
      • NOT a 4×4
    • Carbon-free transport
      • Cycling
      • Walking
  • Lifestyle change
    • Don’t fly abroad
    • Buy local produce – reduce food miles
    • Don’t leave things on standby – switch them off: standby accounts for 10% of electricity usage in homes and offices
  • FoE
    • Big Ask
    • Over half of MPs have signed EDM 178
    • Hoping to get CC bill included in Queen’s speech
    • Sign online – seefoe.org.uk

Conclusion

  • This is the defining moral issue of our time. We, as individuals are all defined by our response to what is clearly an unprecedented threat. We will be judged by those that follow us.
  • On the Today programme on 29th March, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “I think in the first instance the moral responsibility lies with absolutely everybody, not only in terms of examining our own lifestyle and asking what, concretely can be done, but also in sending a message to governments that this is recognised as a priority by the public.”
    “Nobody … likes talking about enforceable international protocols and yet unless there is a real change in attitude, we have to contemplate those very unwelcome possibilities if we want to the global economy not to collapse and millions, billions of people to die.”
    “…we’re looking at rising spirals of hunger and deprivation.”
  • The children born to your family will want to know one thing about you: What you did to stop this calamity that would destroy their lives. Did you fight tooth and nail to stop it, or did you simply accept what was being done – going along with the mass of people, making matters worse.
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