Although there are some doubters, there is general agreement amongst politicians, scientists, professionals and most informed members of the public that global change is the biggest threat currently facing humankind. Changes are taking place to the environment at a breakneck speed largely due to human actions - a speed unmatched over the major part of geological history. Most important of these is change in the composition of atmosphere, principally the rise in the CO2 content and that of other greenhouse gasses. At the start of the Industrial Revolution (c.1750) the CO2 level was about 270ppm. Now it is 380ppm and likely to reach 400ppm in 10 years time. These are levels not reached during the previous one million years of the earthís history.
The rise in CO2 has resulted in an increase in the mean global temperature, about 0.60C during the 20th Century, demonstrated most noticeably by the fact that 8 of the 10 warmest years since temperatures were first recorded (about 1750) have occurred over the last dozen years. Evidence of this rise is demonstrated by shrinking ice in the polar regions and retreat of glaciers elsewhere, melting of the permafrost, earlier onset of spring and the alterations to the normal regimes of flowering and patterns of bird migration and in many other ways. Forecasts indicate that global temperatures are likely to be 3 to 5 degrees warmer by 2100.The continuation of sea level rise is expected and also changes to global precipitation patterns. For South East England hotter summers with about 60% less rain, but more intense storms, are predicted, along with milder winter and about 30% more rain.
International initiatives such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, EU and national targets and carbon trading are amongst the instruments trying to stem the CO2 increase. The British government is one of those leading the movement towards international agreement. However a great deal more needs to be done in all aspects of life to achieve significant reductions in the greenhouse gas levels. "Think globally: act locally" is very pertinent to the problem.
So what can be done to help the situation? Are there things that we can do and encourage individuals to do? We each produce about 10 tonnes of CO2 per annum, when for sustainability the figure should be about 1 tonne. Life styles will have to change and we may each have a CO2 ration in the not too distant future. The consequences of not reducing emissions may be a planet which is untenable for our grandchildren and their progeny. However little things done now can help, things in the home, travelling and in daily life.
These are some of them:
Turn off lights on leaving a room
Install energy saving light bulbs
Shut off standby switches
Turn down thermostats and wear more clothes
Turn off radiators in rooms not being used
Choose green appliances
Limit use of tumble dryers
Recycle as much waste as possible
Buy and use a compost bin
Install water butts
Install solar panels, heat pumps and windmills
Use public transport
Share car journeys
Walk and cycle for short trips
Drive at lower speeds
Choose a fuel efficient vehicle
Limit air travel
Neutralise your carís emissions by donating to initiatives which fund alternative and renewable energy projects such as targetneutral.com
Purchase local produce
Patronise farmers markets
Consider food miles and transport costs
Select goods with limited packaging,
Take your own bag instead of using plastic bags
Return packaging to shops
Offset your carbon production by donating to Trusts which plant forests. Work with bodies such as The Energy Saving Trust.
Lobby the County and District Councils, your MP and Parliament to institute measures which save energy e.g. by radically upgrading building standards, reducing lighting on rural roundabouts after midnight and in little used public areas.
If you have money to invest, place it with green funds