Our climate is changing rapidly, at a rate never seen before, because of human activity. We must plan for this change and together take action to reduce our contribution to it. Planning for this change is referred to as 'adapting to climate change' and reducing our contribution to climate change is know as 'mitigation'. Both of these actions are of equal importance.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of the world's top scientists in this field,
"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperature, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level."
IPCC scientists have found strong evidence that most of the warming observed during the past 50 years is the result of human activities that produce greenhouse gases, such as burning fossil fuels.
Climate change matters. Global warming isn't simply everywhere getting warmer; it will bring serious problems and some benefits. Our planet's climate is a complex system of land, sea, ice, wind and rain. The earth is warming at a faster rate than ever before, throwing this system out of balance.
In the south east of England we expect climate change to lead to hotter drier summers, warmer wetter winters, higher sea levels and an increase in extreme events, such as heat-waves, droughts and flooding. The effects of climate change will be wide and far reaching. There is likely to be water shortages at times and an increased risk of flooding from urban drainage overload, rivers and streams, and in coastal areas. Trees, plants and wildlife will also suffer from the effects of climate change, as their habitats change and weather patterns effect seasonal activities and food sources. We are likely to see road and rail network disruption, and electricity and gas shortage if services don't adapt. The effects of extreme temperatures on our health could have an impact, especially on the old and young. New diseases and parasites will emerge in this country, bringing problems for humans and animals alike.
For more information about the effects of climate change visit the UK Climate Impacts Programme and Climate South East website.
This all sound rather serious, and it is. But we can all make changes to our lifestyles to reduce our impact on the environment, which will effect the extent to which the climate changes. We can plan for the effects of climate change, so we are better able to cope.
More information can be found in the following pages on what action you can take and who can help.