Persistent human activities like driving cars, farming, burning coal and cutting down forests produce greenhouse gases a€“ mainly carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
Climate change could have significant impacts on our economy, environment and the way we live a€“ the effects of a warming planet and subsequent changing climate patterns are already becoming evident. However, over the past 50-100 years, increasing industrialisation and human activity (such as industry, agriculture and transportation) have begun to affect the natural climate balance. Since the start of the industrial revolution (about 1750) the overall effect of human activities on the climate has been a warming influence. Scientists are now detecting changes which suggest the climate is becoming hotter on average, and more variable.
The graph shows atmospheric concentrations of important long-lived greenhouse gases over the past 2000 years. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines a€?climate changea€? as a€?a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periodsa€?.
During the interglacial periods, which are shorter than the icy ones, earth’s temperature rises and the snow and ice melt, increasing sea levels.
Around the end of the last ice age (the Weichsel, above), the earth transitioned into the benign interglacial climate of the Holocene epoch.
Variations in the sun’s energy output, measured as changes in the amount of radiation it emits. Small changes in earth’s orbit (Milankovitch cycles) caused by the variable tilt of the planet, its slightly eccentric orbit, and its axial (gyroscopic) precession. Motion of earth’s tectonic plates with seismic activity (drifting continents), which changes the relative locations of landforms and affects wind and ocean currents.
Impact of meteorites—not small phenomena like the recent ones in Russian, but relatively huge masses like the six-mile (10-km) Chicxulub asteroid that smacked into Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula 66 million years ago. Volcanic mega-eruptions, especially from the prehistoric caldera-forming colossi in the American West near Yellowstone, the North Island of New Zealand, subtropical and temperate South America, and potentially from the massive igneous province forming in Iceland. With meteorites and volcanoes, we can watch earth’s atmosphere in flux, as visible particles crowd the skies. On this final accompaniment of climate change—atmospheric variation—today’s research is nearly unanimous (97%).
But over the past 200 years, as humans industrialized and populations grew rapidly, the formerly placid natural phenomenon of climate change has been occurring at a much faster rate. In fact, over the past couple of decades, scientists have started saying we have switched over from the Holocene to the Anthropocene (human-centered) epoch, and the polar bear on a shrinking ice floe has become a visual cliche.
Since the Industrial Revolution, we have obtained energy through the quick fix of mining and burning our limited reserves of coal, oil, and gas.
Burning for energy changes the atmosphere by raising levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. This is the first time humans have been capable of causing major climate change on our planet. Keep up to date with all the most interesting green news on the planet by subscribing to our (free) Planetsave newsletter.
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Sandy Dechert covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. Planetsave is part of the Important Media network of blogs working to make the world a better, greener place.
Climate change is recognised as a serious and cross cutting issue and the UK is the first country in the world to have introduced legally binding climate change legislation under the 2008 Climate Change Act.
According to Safeguarding our Soils, a Strategy for England (Defra 2009) soil plays a vital role in the fight against climate change. Green infrastructure provides areas where natural processes, such as evapotranspiration and runoff interception, can continue to occur.
The functionality of open green spaces becomes increasingly important when viewed against the backdrop of a changing climate. A different climate will have implications for the costs of, and approaches to, maintaining spaces such as increased watering during droughts, greater pressure on spaces as they are used more intensively and an effect on the health of some species of vegetation.
Even as climate change tests the strategies of designers and planners, it provides them with opportunities.
Courtyards, especially when coupled with vegetation and water features, help to moderate the microclimates of surrounding environments. Reducing the need for mechanical cooling in buildings has been a focus for UK planning guidance for some time and there is a growing interest in using design techniques to alter the temperature balance of cities. In fact, policies should be used to encourage the optimal composition of urban green space through green space strategies. Figures produced by PriceWaterhouseCoopers show how a shift in spending from grey to green of just 0.5% could increase investment in urban green space by 141%.
Green infrastructure supplies a route to climate change adaptation that can be applied across a range of urban settings, helping to reduce urban temperatures and carbon emissions.


It is widely accepted that the planet's climate is changing and that these changes are a direct result of the increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases due to human activity. This process is often called a€?global warminga€™ but it is better to think of it as a€?climate changea€™ because it is likely to bring about more extreme events a€“ floods, storms, cyclones, droughts and landslips a€“ rather than an increase in temperature alone.
Its climate has naturally fluctuated between being very cold and covered in ice, or very hot. These activities are increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and causing Earth not only to heat up, but to heat up at an unprecedented rate.
The human impact of this era greatly exceeds that due to known changes in natural processes such as solar changes and volcanic eruptions. This variability is being attributed in part to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the Eartha€™s atmosphere. The UNFCCC thus makes a distinction between a€?climate changea€? attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition, and a€?climate variabilitya€? attributable to natural causes. On historic maps, we see climate change in the advance and retreat of glaciers, the transitory nature of coastlines, and the periodic appearance and drowning of islands. They’ve found any or all of these factors important to some degree to the question of what is climate change.
Its impact sent millions of tons of material high into the atmosphere, blacking out the sun for months.
But along with them comes an invisible, and possibly invincible, alteration in the atmosphere—in the gases that comprise it, including its concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane.
We know from meteorological records kept since 1880 that the planet’s temperature has risen about one degree Fahrenheit in the last century. None of the natural causes discussed earlier can fully explain the climate changes we are seeing today.
Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by, and do not necessarily represent the views of Sustainable Enterprises Media, Inc., its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries. Open spaces and previously developed  land (PDL) can and will make a valuable contribution to helping both to reduce concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (the cause of climate change), and to help adapt effectively to the impacts of change (building resilience to a changing climate). Trees and vegetation have a natural cooling effect as they provide shade, potentially reducing surface temperature, by 5°C, to 20°C. However, ecosystem services provided by green infrastructure are often overlooked and undervalued.
The UKCIP09 climate change scenarios suggest increases in the average summer temperature of between 1°C and 5°C by the 2080s and an increase of 30% in average winter rainfall. Urban green spaces require an effective program of maintenance and limitations on water use, which can often stem from extended dry periods, and can affect the health of vegetated surfaces. Central courtyards or semi-open shaded spaces provide “cool pools” for cross ventilation of nearby spaces. The rising recognition of the importance of green infrastructure has implications for policies that encourage infill development, higher housing densities and the reduction or loss of gardens. It may even be feasible to consider influencing the public through education, social pressure and incentives to improve the likelihood that people will change their behaviour to improve conditions. Using these figures, CABE has urged government to set up a national green infrastructure taskforce and for local government to be equipped with the skills necessary to design and manage green infrastructure.
Clear guidance is needed for local authorities and other practitioners on how to manage public urban green spaces to respond to a warmer future. However, it is important to ensure that local conditions are properly considered and planned for.
In the past 10,000 years the planeta€™s climate has become much more stable, leading to flourishing flora and fauna, and the subsequent population explosion of humankind. According to scientific studies, in the past 650,000 years the planet has never had so much carbon dioxide in its atmosphere as it does today, and the levels are continuing to rise. And sunny days, well, they’re the best for being outdoors, unless it’s noon in the tropics. It enabled east Asian migrants to become “native Americans.” Through Dutch fishing boats and recent North Sea oil drilling, we have discovered that around the same time, humans could walk from the current nation of Holland all the way to the Irish Sea. It caused the earth’s last great extinction, abruptly and forcefully wiping out all dinosaurs without wings, ending the Cretaceous period of life on the planet, and paving the way for the Cenozoic and the emergence of mammals.
They send huge amounts of ejecta (ash, gas, and aerosol droplets) into earth’s stratosphere. We can see these influences in the deep Vostok ice core samples from Antarctica that record atmospheric composition over the past 800,000 years. A lot of the phenomenon has to do with the effects of increasing certain atmospheric gases. The temperatures on earth’s surface (land and oceans) are directly related to the chemical composition of our planet’s thin atmospheric shell. The accelerating temperature results from a massive new influence shaping world climate—the human factor.
We cannot calculate the amounts of greenhouse gases that will enter the atmosphere, how much and how quickly warmer temperatures will lead to other changes, or even what will be going on in our own backyards by 2050. In addition, evapotranspiration from vegetation consumes a significant proportion of the available heat energy in the atmosphere.


These scenarios do not take the urban surface into account and the factor of increase is likely to be significantly higher in densely urbanised areas.
The need to manage high temperatures and reduce the effects of floods and droughts justifies the creation and maintenance of green infrastructure.
The temperature of air drawn into courtyards is cooled by each courtyards mass, vegetation and a lack of insolation. However, there are limiting factors that cannot be altered, such as soil type, and designers need to find innovative ways of incorporating adaptations into new buildings. CABE argues that a shift is needed in public spending from grey projects, like road building and heavy engineering projects, to green schemes like street trees, parks, green roofs and waterways. There is a need to adopt innovative design and engineering approaches to reduce urban temperatures and adapt to the future climate.
What’s more difficult for us to perceive, from the relatively short perspective of one human lifetime, is that like weather, climate changes too. Scientists have learned to measure these climate fluctuations using treetrunk rings, snow lines, fossil records, and cores of ancient ice or seabed.
Before the English Channel formed, Great Britain was a peninsula linked to the rest of Europe by a low, ecologically rich plain called Doggerland. We’ve seen more snow and ice melt, a rise in ocean levels, intensifying storms, and changes in crop seasons and animal reproductive and migration schedules. Our expanding quest for and use of energy has given people the ability to alter the climate. We find ourselves conducting an unplanned and potentially vast experiment as we segue from the Holocene into the Anthropocene.
This energy is used to convert water in the leaves into water vapour, which is then transpired through the trees. Although sub-optimal, dead vegetation’s climate moderating effects remain an improvement on traditional roofing mediums. This leads to further positive spin-offs, as urban green spaces play a significant role in improving air quality and preserving biodiversity.
This natural ventilation reduces the need for mechanical cooling and thereby the carbon footprint of a building. Future proofing adaptation techniques need to take account of emerging technologies, the embedded carbon of solutions and the constraints imposed by future requirements.
It is affected by the amount of energy given off by the sun, changes in the Earth's orbit, and natural events such as volcanic eruptions. In the past 50 years, we have even devised sophisticated satellite instruments to reveal changes in earth’s land, air, water, and ice, or in the sun and the energy it puts out.
Within the brief time of recorded history (last green bar above), our climate has been relatively stable. Our own Promethean activities now alter the balance of gases that trap the sun’s heat within the atmosphere, which until now has been earth’s protective greenhouse.
For some locations, it has been estimated that evapotranspiration can reduce peak summer temperatures by 5°C. But a combination of living roofs, large trees and soft landscaping can absorb heavy rainfall, store and recycle it for summer irrigation. As such, green infrastructure represents the state of the art and the high level of adaptability required to cool our cities for decades to come.
However, scientists are convinced that the global warming that has taken place over the last 150 years cannot be attributed to natural factors alone.Greenhouse gases, which occur naturally in the Earth's atmosphere, trap some of the sun's heat to maintain an average temperature that is comfortable for us to live here. It has been generous to human life, allowing exploration, trade, development, labor-saving invention, and even space flight and greater awareness of our universe.
Amounts of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, are rising sharply to a level unmatched in the past 650,000 years, and other potentially harmful gases like methane are increasing, too. Human activities, like burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, to generate energy, release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This causes more of the sun's heat to be trapped in the atmosphere, increasing the Earth's average temperature and resulting in climate change.As the world heats up and weather patterns change, more extreme events such as storms and droughts are expected to become more common.
We have already seen the results of climate change occurring around the world.HeatwaveThe summer of 2003 saw one the world's deadliest natural disasters, with at least 35,000 additional people dying during a record heatwave that swept across Western Europe.
This episode of extreme heat had far reaching effects; not only were lives lost, but droughts ensued, crops were damaged, and sections of roads melted!This climatic phenomenon was caused by an unusually persistent high pressure weather system. Although the heatwave cannot be attributed to the consequences of climate change alone, it does provide a stark warning of the impacts that our predicted warmer climates may have on society.FloodingIt is predicted that climate change will lead to increases in extreme rainfall events which will increase the risk of flooding.



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