Our climate is changing

Around the globe we are already seeing changes to weather patterns and average temperatures as a result of human-induced climate change.

What is Climate?

Climate is the general weather over a long period. This can include rainfall, temperature, snow or any other weather condition. We usually define a region’s climate over a period of 30 years.

What is climate change?

Climate change refers to a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet's weather patterns and average temperatures.

Global temperature change 1850 to 2021 compared to an estimated 1850 to 1900 baseline average (2021) by Met OfficeMet Office

Humans are changing our climate

In the 11,000 years before the Industrial Revolution, the average temperature across the world was stable at around 14°C.

The Industrial Revolution began in the mid-1800s when humans began to burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas for fuel.

International Panel on Climate Change

Climate change was noticed as early as the 1980s and the IPCC was set up to provide governments with the information they needed to tackle it. 

In their most recent report, the IPCC states that human activity is unequivocally the cause of climate change.

Global Temperature Spiral Graph by Met OfficeMet Office

Rising global temperatures

Since the industrial revolution global average temperature has risen by approx. 1.16 degrees


Marking up to 2018, the graph (right) shows that between1850 - 2017, 20 of the last 22 years (the orange lines) have been the warmest recorded. 

Greenhouse Gasses

Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases. Over time, large quantities of these gases have built up in the atmosphere.

Once in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide form a 'blanket' around the planet trapping the heat from the sun and warming the earth.

By Margaret Bourke-WhiteLIFE Photo Collection

Increased greenhouse gas emissions

One-quarter of human-made greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fossil fuels for electricity and heat production.

Another quarter of human-made greenhouse gas emissions come from Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU). 

Pokljuka forests by Aleš ZdešarSlovenian Tourist Board

Deforestation and Increased carbon-dioxide

To feed our livestock and ourselves, people have chopped down large areas of the forest and used the land to grow crops. Forests are very good at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and so cutting down trees allows carbon dioxide to build up in the atmosphere even more.

Texas (1965) by Ralph CraneLIFE Photo Collection

Increased landuse for livestock and crops

Land can also be used to rear livestock, such as cattle for meat and milk. These animals produce additional gases, like methane. They also eat crops that might otherwise have been needed by humans, meaning that even more land is required.

How fast is the planet warming?

Greenhouse gases can live in our atmosphere for tens or hundreds of years. The gases that are already in our atmosphere are effectively locked in and will contribute to increasing temperatures.

Even if we stop all emissions today, we cannot avoid some level of warming. 

Effects of climate change (2021) by Met OfficeMet Office

How will a changing climate impact you?

Climate change has a range of impacts on the climate system, ecosystems, and people. 

From extreme weather events making things such as flooding, heatwaves and storms more frequent and intense to damaging marine ecosystems, climate change impacts affect all of us.

What could a forecast sound like in 2050?

If we continue to burn fossil fuels and cut down forests at the same rate, the planet could warm by more than 4°C by 2100. 

This warming could fundamentally change life on earth, with potentially drastic consequences.

How is data for your postcode calculated by Met OfficeMet Office

What could climate change mean across the UK?

What could climate change mean across the UK? The BBC and the Met Office have created an innovative tool to help you find out how climate change will affect temperature and rainfall in the UK.

Global average surface temperature change with and without cutting emissions (2021) by Met OfficeMet Office

What can we do?

Scientists around the world, including those from the Met Office Hadley Centre agree that the best way to limit  climate change is to reduce global green house gas emissions as this graph shows. Discover more about the latest climate science and research.

This chart from the IPCC shows two possible futures for our climate. 

The blue line represents what could happen if we commit to cutting emissions, and the red line represents what could happen if we don't make any changes.

Credits: Story

Climate stripes:  Ed Hawkins/University of Reading/NCAS www.showyourstripes.info

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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