What is climate change?

Climate change is the large-scale, long-term shift that we are seeing in the planet's weather patterns and average temperatures, driven by human activity that has released carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. Recent events including hot, dry weather, followed by torrential rain and flooding, show how vulnerable the UK is to climate change.

What causes climate change?

The Earth’s atmosphere has a layer of what are called greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which sunlight (mostly short-wave radiation) passes through to reach the surface of our planet. 

Once sunlight has passed through these greenhouse gases, it is absorbed by the surface of the Earth which then bounces a different type of light (longer wave infrared radiation) back into space.

Changes in human behaviour since the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s have resulted in a large increase of fossil fuel use. Fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil, are used for all sorts of things, such as heating homes, powering vehicles and manufacturing the products that we all use or buy.

A side effect of burning fossil fuels is the production of extra greenhouse gases.

Over time, these extra greenhouse gases have built up in the atmosphere and are trapping more of the infrared radiation that would normally bounce back out to space - this is causing temperatures to rise which results in long term changes to climate.

What is the impact of climate change?

As temperatures rise and weather patterns change, the world faces a number of risks and challenges in the future. Flooding, heatwaves, forest fires, food shortages, droughts and loss of biodiversity could become more common and have far reaching impacts on communities around the world.

Locally, we are likely to experience more extremes of weather such as higher temperatures, prolonged hot and dry periods as well as heavier rainfall events. These weather extremes could lead to impacts such as local flooding and water shortages.

Detailed information about climate change can be found on the Met Office website.

Last Modified: 13/10/2021 15:18:15