Updated: Jun 5, 2021
Climate change: A change in global or regional climate patterns, caused by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere 
Recent Impacts of Climate Change
Since 2001 we have seen 16 of the 17 warmest years on record, with current levels of greenhouse gases at unprecedented heights . Climate change is arguably the greatest threat to human health of the 21st century. As many of us in this region of the world may not be experiencing these impacts first-hand, it may be convenient to see the issue as non pertinent. However, climate change is disproportionately affecting parts of the world in very real ways, imposing huge effects on ecosystems and future generations in the process. The year 2020 alone saw many worrying effects of climate change.
In 2020, a large region of the Siberian Arctic experienced temperatures 3°C above average, with some areas reaching record temperatures of 38°C,this was accompanied by prolonged and widespread wildfires . In the USA, the largest fires recorded occurred in late summer and autumn, widespread drought contributed to the fires, and July to September were the hottest and driest on record for the southwest. Death Valley, California reached 54.4°C in August 2020, the highest recorded temperature globally in at least the last 80 years .
The effects of climate change are not limited to land. In 2019 the ocean reached the hottest temperature recorded, analysis based on global data sets suggests that 2020 exceeded that record. Additionally, 2020 saw more than 80% of the ocean experiencing at least one heat wave, leading to significant impacts to marine life and the communities that depend on it .
Severe weather events are occurring more frequently, with the number of reported weather-related natural disasters having more than tripled since the 1960s globally  . This can have immediate and long lasting effects such as water and food insecurity. For example, in 2020 severe flooding in large regions of Africa and Asia contributed to a plague of locusts in the Horn of Africa, destroying food supplies . At the other end of the spectrum, 2020 saw extreme droughts in South America, destroying crops, directly impacting livelihoods and economies in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, it also impacted exportation and importation of goods globally as the levels of The Paraguay River decreased dramatically .
Alongside the devastating impacts of severe weather events, heat waves across the globe, and melting of ice caps, it can also affect health in numerous ways. There is growing concern that the continuing change in our climate will impact the distribution of disease particularly waterborne and vector borne diseases. Increased events such as drought, flooding and change in our weather could increase risk of disease and contribute to the change and spread of geographic locations of disease. For example changes in weather could lead to prolonged transmission seasons, as climates become optimal for vectors to survive and reproduce .
Scientists warn that our actions in the next decade are critical
Climate change is a very complex issue, there is no one silver bullet to solve the climate crisis at hand, but there are ways in which we can prevent further irreversible damage. A major goal is that of The Paris Agreement, this aims to keep increase in global temperature below 1.5 °C, in order to prevent irreversible damage such as permanent loss of ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest and loss of the ice sheets.
On the 20th of April 2021 the UK government set the most ambitious climate change target yet, to reduce carbon emissions by 78% by 2035, compared to what they were in 1990.
To meet this crucial target we need to change our individual consumption behaviours: eat less meat and dairy; use electric cars; low-carbon heating; renewable electricity etc. It is important that zero-carbon solutions are accessible and competitive in order to replace the options we currently over rely on. We also need governments and large corporations to commit to reducing emissions and making sustainable choices.
Globally, it is clear we are prioritising ‘development’ over sustainability and this comes at an unforgivable cost. The current and projected situation is overwhelming and quite terrifying, but- this is our reality. There could be a happier ending to this story, but it does require serious action. Now. If we do limit global warming to 1.5°C we can save countless animal species, coral reefs, ecosystems and millions of people from experiencing heat waves and more detrimental effects of climate change. So, lets get to it.
It is important you don't stop your learning here… there is so much more to know, so please continue to learn, as we do. Here are some useful resources to get you started.
Ade Adepitan BBC 2 three-part documentary: Ade on the Frontline
Greta Thunberg BBC 1 series: A Year to Change the World
Climate Action Tracker : https://climateactiontracker.org/publications/
Here at ODS we are committed to leading the most sustainable lives we can and we would love to hear about steps you are taking to reduce your contribution. Plus if there are any sustainable companies, organisations, charities etc that you think are doing great things, we would love to hear about them! Email us at email@example.com, or contact us via our Instagram, opendoorscience_ or find us on twitter @opendoorscience .
World Wide Fund For Nature, 2021, Climate Change and Gobal Warming,[online] Available at: https://www.wwf.org.uk/climate-change-and-global-warming 1
World Meteorological Organisation, 2021. Climate change indicators and impacts worsened in 2020 [online] Available at: https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/climate-change-indicators-and-impacts-worsened-2020
World Meteorological Organisation,2021, The State of Global Climate 2020, [online] Available at: https://public.wmo.int/en/our-mandate/climate/wmo-statement-state-of-global-climate
World Health Organisation, 2018 , Climate Change and Health[online] Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-and-health
Carrington, 2021, The Guardian, Relentless’ climate crisis intensified in 2020, says UN report, [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/19/relentless-climate-crisis-intensified-in-2020-says-un-report
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2021, Special Report Global Warming of 1.5°C [online] Available at: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/