Environment Watch

Climate Change and Global Warming

Much is being said about climate change and global warming. One question often asked is "What is the difference between climate change and global warming?" The answer is quite simple - global warming is occurring and the average temperature of the earth is rising and is expected to continue to rise for many decades. The key word in the previous sentence is "average". Although the average global temperature will rise, the effect will be different for some areas of the world. The United Kingdom is one of the places where average temperature could fall. Thus, in the United Kingdom, the term "climate change" is more usually used in preference to "global warming".

Currently, there are two views on the effect of climate change on the UK. The UK could follow most parts of the world and get warmer, or else it could get cooler. For more details of these contradictory predictions, see our Climate Change and the United Kingdom (UK) page.

Misinformation by Exxon

Exxon (also known as Esso, Exxon Mobil or ExxonMobil) has a history of funding organisations that promote the view that Global Warming and Climate Change are not due to human actions. We have created a web page that details some of the actions Exxon has taken.

What Can I Do?

There is much an individual can do to minimise climate change and thus delay or ever reverse global warming. You could check that products you use have an Eco Label. Another very important thing to be aware of is that some products have misleading environmental claims.

To give some idea who causes CO2 emissions, the following table may help. The source of the information is the UK government and relates to 2005.

Sector percentage contribution of CO2 emissions
Industrial, commercial & public services44%
Road transport28%

Carbon Emissions Calculator

By using a carbon emissions calculator, it is possible to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that an individual uses. A typical emissions calculator is the BP Carbon Footprint Calculator (you will need Flash to display the calculator)

Some results from the calculator for an average household

Country CO2
(July 2006 est.)
Australia 14.36 20,264,082
China 2.41 1,313,973,713
United Kingdom 9.85 60,609,153
United States 18.58 298,444,215

What Country Contributes Most to Carbon Emissions

Using the figures in the table above and assuming that the average household size is the same in each country, a table can be constructed showing the relative CO2 emissions of countries

Country Australia China United Kingdom United States
Australia 1.00 0.09 0.49 0.05
China 10.88 1.00 5.30 0.57
United Kingdom 2.05 0.19 1.00 0.11
United States 19.06 1.75 9.29 1.00

To understand how to use this table, take the example of the USA (last line). The USA emits 19.06 (1906%) times the CO2 that Australia emits. The USA emits 1.75 (175%) times the CO2 that China emits. The USA emits. 9.25 (925%) times the CO2 that the UK emits.

What these figures mean is that the USA reducing its carbon emissions by 1% is equivalent - in global terms - to the UK reducing its carbon emissions by 9.25%.

It is, therefore, clear that to reduce global warming and climate change caused by CO2 the USA has to take the lead. A small change in the USA has a dramatic effect on the rest of the world. Except for China, the effect of any other country reducing their CO2 emissions will barely have an effect.

Night Blight

Another way that thoughtless development has wasted energy is external lighting. Most developed and devloping countries feel the need to light up streets and building - especially public building. There is nothing inheritly wrong with these practices provided that energy is not wasted lighting up areas that do not need light. The UK has been particulary bad at lighting with the intensity of street lighting being brighter than many other countries. Energy is wasted when light is directed to areas that do not need it. The most frequent wasted light is that light that is directed into the sky. The Campaing for Rural England wrote a very good report that highlights the problems of night blight. It is called Night Blight! and can be downloaded as a PDF document and is about 1.5MBytes.

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