Quick Guide to Climate Change
So what is Climate Change?
Simply, Climate Change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns on Earth.
These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. BUT, since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
Climate Change data & thoughts from 2021
The UN's World Meteorological Organization analysed the six main global temperature data sets and found that 2021 was the seventh hottest year to date, at 1.11°C The past seven years were the warmest on record as climate change continued apace, despite the cooling effect of the La Niña weather pattern in 2021.
The seven warmest years have occurred since 2015 and is precisely what we would expect to see due to human-caused planetary warming.
Governments at the COP26 climate summit in November reaffirmed their commitment to trying to hold temperature rises to 1.5°C and well below 2°C at worst. But emissions reductions pledges currently have the world on course for 2.4°C or more. 2021 is the seventh year in a row where temperatures have been more than 1°C above pre-industrial levels.
While only the seventh warmest year on average globally, 2021 saw climate scientists shocked by several temperature records broken by much larger margins than usual in some places, such as the near -50°C record set in Lytton, Canada. Previous research showed this event would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change. “Climate change impacts and weather-related hazards had life-changing and devastating impacts on communities on every single continent,” said Petteri Taalas at the WMO in a statement.
Although not a record for surface air temperatures, 2021 was another record-breaking year for heat content in the upper levels of the oceans, which are absorbing much of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans and the heat that this gas traps.
The cooling effect of the La Niña weather pattern is expected to give way later this year to its opposite, El Niño, which was responsible for 2016 being the hottest year on record. The UK Met Office, which holds one of the six data sets examined by the WMO, forecasts that 2022 will be 1.09°C above pre-industrial levels.
Greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect
Some gases in the Earth's atmosphere trap heat and stop it escaping into space. We call these, “Greenhouse gases". These gases act as a warming blanket around the Earth, known as the “Greenhouse effect”.
Greenhouse gases come from both human and natural sources. Gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide also naturally occur in the atmosphere. Others, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), are only produced by human activity.
When short-wave radiation from the sun reaches Earth, most of it passes straight through and hits the surface of The Earth. The Earth absorbs most of this radiation and gives off longer-wavelength infrared radiation.
The “greenhouse gases“ absorb some of this infrared radiation, instead of it passing straight back out into space. The Earth’s atmosphere then emits radiation in all directions, sending some of it back to the surface, causing the planet to heat up. This process is known as the “greenhouse effect”.
The “greenhouse effect” is actually critical to our survival. In fact, without greenhouse gases, Earth would be about 30 degrees colder than it is today so… Without “greenhouse gases” and their warming effect, we wouldn't be able to survive.
However, since the Industrial Revolution, we've been adding more and more greenhouse gases into the air, trapping even more heat. Instead of keeping Earth at a warm, stable temperature, the ”greenhouse effect” is heating the planet at a much faster rate. We call this the "enhanced greenhouse effect" and this is the main cause of climate change.
So basically, a climate balance is needed… TOO MUCH, TOO HOT! and TOO LITTLE, TOO COLD!
Natural changes to the climate
The leading cause of climate change is human activity and the release of "too many" greenhouse gases. However, there are lots of natural causes that also lead to changes in the climate system.
Natural cycles can cause the climate to alternate between warming and cooling. There are also natural factors that force the climate to change, like volcanoes and the Sun. Even though these natural causes contribute to climate change, we now know that they are not the primary cause, based on scientific evidence.
Some of these natural cycles are:
Milankovitch Cycles - As Earth travels around the sun, its path and the tilt of its axis can change slightly. These changes, called Milankovitch cycles, affect the amount of sunlightfrom the sun that falls on Earth. This can cause the temperature of Earth to change. However, these cycles take place over tens or hundreds of thousands of years and are unlikely to be causing the changes to the climate that we are seeing today.
El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) – ENSO is a pattern of changing water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. In an 'El Niño' year, the global temperature warms up, and in a 'La Niña' year, it cools down. These patterns can affect the global temperature for a short amount of time (months or years) but cannot explain the persistent warming that we see today.
Solar irradiance – Changing energy from the sun has affected the temperature of Earth in the past. However, we have not yet seen anything strong enough to change our climate.
Any increase in solar energy would make the entire atmosphere of Earth warm, but we can only see warming in the bottom layer.
Volcanic eruptions – Volcanoes have a mixed effect on our climate. Eruptions produce aerosol particles that cool Earth, but they also release carbon dioxide, which warms it.
Volcanoes produce 50 times less carbon dioxide than humans do, so we know they are not the leading cause of global warming. On top of this, cooling is the dominant effect of volcanic eruptions, not warming.
Human changes to the climate
Humans cause climate change by releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. Today, there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there ever has been in at least the past 2 million years. During the 20th and 21st century, the level of carbon dioxide rose by 40%.
We produce greenhouse gases in lots of different ways:
Burning fossil fuels – Fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal contain carbon dioxide that has been 'stored away' in the ground for thousands of years. When we take these out of the land and burn them, we release the "stored away" carbon dioxide into the air.
Deforestation – Forests remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Trees sequester (absorb) carbon dioxide. Cutting them down means that carbon dioxide builds up quicker since there are less trees to absorb it. Not only that, trees release the carbon they stored when we burn them. Just like burning fossil fuels does.
Agriculture – Planting crops and rearing animals releases many different types of greenhouse gases into the air. For example, animals produce methane, which is 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. The nitrous oxide used for fertilisers is ten times worse and is nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide!
Cement – Producing cement is another contributor to climate change, causing 2% of our entire carbon dioxide emissions.
Impacts of climate change
From releasing greenhouse gases and aerosols into the atmosphere, to changing the use of land – is the main driver of climate change. This has a range of impacts on the climate system, ecosystems, and people.
Changes to the climate system
Rising ocean levels – Rising temperatures are causing glaciers and ice sheets to melt, adding more water to the oceans and causing the ocean level to rise. Oceans absorb 90% of the extra heat from global warming: warmer water expands, and so our oceans are taking up more space.
Ocean acidification – Ocean acidification occurs when the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide and becomes more acidic. It is often called the 'evil twin' of climate change.
Extreme weather events – Climate change is causing many extreme weather events to become more intense and frequent, such as heatwaves, droughts, and floods.
Climate change can also affect people and ecosystems
Flooding of coastal regions – Coastal cities are at risk from flooding as sea levels continue to rise.
Food insecurity – High temperatures, extreme weather events, flooding, and droughts can damage farmland. This makes it difficult for farmers to grow crops and means that their yield of crops each year is uncertain.
Conflict and climate migrants – Climate change is a stress multiplier – it can take existing problems, such as lack of food or shelter, and make them worse. This can cause people to fight over resources (food, water, and shelter), or to migrate.
Damage to marine ecosystems – Rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, and ocean anoxia (lack of oxygen) are damaging to marine life such as fish and coral reefs.
Are humans responsible for climate change?
When looking at all the evidence, there is a large scientific consensus that humans are the leading cause of climate change. In their latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated unequivocally that human activity is the main cause of global warming.
Natural climate cycles can change the temperature of Earth, but the changes we are seeing are happening at a scale and speed that natural cycles cannot explain. These cycles affect the global temperature for years, or sometimes just months, not the 100 years that we have observed. Meanwhile, longer-term changes like Milankovitch cycles and solar irradiance take thousands and thousands of years.
There are lots of things that affect climate change, but the evidence is irrefutable. Human activity, such as burning fossil fuels, how we farm, fertilize and use our land, is the leading cause of climate change.
How can we return to a balanced climate?
Reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. The most crucial step to limit and balance climate change is to make big and rapid reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions.
There are many different ways this can be done and governments, businesses, organisations and individuals around the world can all contribute.
In June 2019, the UK became the world’s first major economy to pass a law committing the country to a target of "net zero" emissions by 2050.
Next read... How can we humans help climate change?
Action for Climate Change
The Climate Change Task Group believes we can be impactful working with our residents and in concert with Guildford Borough Council on tackling climate change and the recent Feedback Survey has helped focus the priorities of the group.
The Climate Change Task Group's ambition is to develop local initiatives in support of the national 2030 and 2050 Zero Carbon emission targets.
The group will include East Horsley Parish Councillors, members of the public and other specialist organisations, as well as experts who can contribute to the objectives. Ideally, the membership will be of varying ages, backgrounds and experiences.
Also established is a wider group with neighbouring Parish Councils (PCs) - The Parish Council Climate Change Group (PCCC). To date the group have connected with West Horsley, Effingham, Ockham and Ripley. The aim is to work closely to bounce ideas and share the load.
Some proposed objectives are:
Advise the PC and residents on ways to reduce carbon emissions.
To explore achievable changes that can be adopted by residents to minimise their impact on the environment
To explore options that benefit the environment & reduce impact on the climate
At the first PCCC meeting, Effingham presented suggestions which gave “first steps” ideas. These stimulated discussion about how each Council could help their own parishes including:
Climate Change website page
Recruitment of volunteers and experts
Engage with local parishioners
Expansion of recycling facilities
Electric car and cycle charging bays
Cycle path extensions
Increased local biodiversity programmes
Energy and water conservation at home
Climate Change Activity Survey
To date, East Horsley has some LED Street lighting and the Village Hall heating is supplied by a ground source heat pump.
If you would like to contribute to this group, email: email@example.com
Milestone Infrastructure are currently rolling out LED streetlight replacement across the county on behalf of Surrey County Council, but are yet to reach East Horsley. At the moment their current programme indicates that they should reach East Horsley around the end of this year/early next year. Unfortunately this cannot be brought forward as the rollout is conducted in stages to ensure that the network which controls and monitors the lighting is stable and functioning as intended.
We will keep this page updated.
Using Rainwater Effectively
Some thoughts on how to use our rainwater effectively.
1. Water on our planet
The total amount of water on our planet has, theoretically, stayed the same since earth's formation. It's possible that the glass of water you drank earlier contains particles that once ran down the Ganges River, passed through the digestive system of a dinosaur, or even cooled a nuclear reactor. Of course, before it quenched your thirst, this water evaporated and fell as rain millions of times.
Water can be polluted or misused, but never created or destroyed. According to a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) study , it is estimated that the Earth contains about 1386 million cubic kilometers of water. However, 97.5% of this amount is saline water and only 2.5% is fresh water. Of this fresh water, most (68.7%) takes the form of permanent ice and snow in Antarctica, the Arctic, and in mountainous regions. Another 29.9% exists as groundwater. Ultimately, only 0.26% of the total amount of fresh water on Earth is available in lakes, reservoirs, and watersheds, where it is easily accessible for the world's economic and vital needs. With the population steadily increasing, especially in urban areas, several countries have already had severe problems with providing the necessary amount of drinking water to their populations.
2. Leaks, waste and human consumption
At the same time, it is well known that a considerable amount of drinking water is lost through leaks, waste, and misuse. In domestic homes, studies show that between 40% and 50% of water consumption does not need to be suitable for human consumption. This includes the water used for the toilet, irrigation, cleaning, and even the washing of clothes. Of course, this does not mean that dirty or polluted water should be used instead. Rather, rainwater, for example, can be used for such applications. This is a socio-environmentally responsible and inexpensive alternative that should be increasingly encouraged by governments. Countries like Australia are already highly developed in terms of rainwater use, yet for many other countries, this is not yet a reality.
3. Catch the rain
To include this technology in future projects, architects must take a few things into account. In addition to reducing the consumption of drinking water, the capture of rainwater does not overburden urban drainage infrastructure in the event of heavy rains. The system is quite simple. The catchment area is generally the building's slab or roof, but water can also be drawn from other surfaces, such as a road or a square. From there, the water is directed through gutters and pipes until it reaches the reservoir. The reservoir is the most expensive component of the entire system, and its correct dimensioning is vital so that the rainwater can be used satisfactorily without wasting resources and space.
4. Storage tanks
The factors that influence the volume of the tanks include the dimensions of the catchment area, the demand for water on the property, and, most importantly, the average precipitation of the region, which can be determined through historical databases. There are also several reservoir volume calculators for rainwater that can help in choosing the tank volume. But it is always most effective to consult a specialist or a supplier to make the most appropriate choice for your situation. For example, a location with frequent and well-distributed rainfall throughout the year may have smaller cisterns. An area with a rainy season and a dry season must use a larger reservoir to supply the dry months.
5. Keep it clean
Another important recommendation is to always discard the first liters of rainwater. This step is important because these are the waters that wash the catchment surface, such as the roof or the slab, and also concentrate the largest number of toxic pollutants from the atmosphere in cities. There exist several products and filtration tanks designed for this purpose, which automatically direct the first liters of rain for disposal. Similarly, architects should consider using sieves in the descent tubes so that leaves and other materials cannot reach the tanks. For proper functioning, cleaning the gutters periodically and keeping them in good condition is vital, as is maintaining the interior of the cisterns.
The collected water is generally used in non-potable applications, such as irrigation, cleaning, and even for flushing toilets. For these uses, there is generally no need for great purification care, just some filtration to remove the main impurities.
6. You can drink rainwater
Rainwater can also be used for human consumption, bathing, and cooking food. In these cases, architects should use more complex treatments, such as ultraviolet disinfection or reverse osmosis. It is essential to seek qualified technical assistance if this is the intention.
7. Is it worth it?
Rainwater systems have a quick return investment, with low maintenance and operation costs. But architects must consider its application from the beginning of the project to ensure that the system is well sized for the structure's specific demands. The use of rainwater is an extremely old method - research shows evidence of cisterns for this use from as early as the Neolithic Period. In Pompeii, for example, rainwater storage on the roof was common before the construction of the aqueduct in the first century BC.
More and more, architecture must learn from the past to face contemporary issues. In the same way that many projects increasingly aim to take advantage of natural light, sunshine, and wind, using rainwater for domestic use is a question simply of common sense and an excellent way to conserve this precious and essential resource for life.
For the average driver, it might be hard to know where to start when it comes to buying an electric car.
Autotrader have written an online guide to walk you through everything you need to know about electric cars, including how to buy one, the charging process, how they’re likely to impact British roads in the future and all the costs associated with an electric car you might not already know about.
The government has committed to ban the sale of new petrol, diesel, and hybrid cars and vans from 2030. They’ve also announced extra grants for electric car buyers and more funding for charge points.
This is a huge milestone for climate action in the UK. It will help to significantly cut carbon emissions and take a big step towards meeting the UK’s near-term climate targets. Polluting cars and vans are responsible for around one-fifth of all carbon emissions in the UK.
With more focus being placed on the need to conserve the environment than ever before, it’s only natural that new rules are being introduced to reduce the number of petrol and diesel cars on the road..
With the sales of these kinds of cars prohibited beyond 2030, more consumers than ever are turning to electric cars as a viable alternative. Once the stuff of science fiction, these types of cars are now readily available through a number of suppliers.
The EHPC Climate Change Group are exploring the possibility of EV chargers in the village.
Climate Change Group October 2021