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Consequences for Reading  1 January 2010

The changes to temperature, rainfall and other weather variables will cause changes to the environment around Reading. We might see increases in flooding; more extreme heat waves; loss of some species (e.g. birds and trees) and the rise of others…potentially including pests.

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Seasonal climate changes in 2050s Reading  

There is a significant amount of difference expected between the individual seasons, which you cannot understand from the crude estimates of change to average annual temperature. In Reading, we will see summer temperatures increasing more relative to the rest of the year, although it will be milder in all seasons. It looks like winter will be wetter and summer will be drier: there is more uncertainty about how rainfall will change for spring and autumn.

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What climate change am I interested in?  

To understand how climate change is going to effect me, I need to be clear to define: where (Reading, UK) and when (March & August, 2050 & 2080); and which future emission scenarios (the highest & lowest) I am interested in. Fortunately I will then be able to use the new UK climate projections to give me some detailed data on how big these changes are likely to be…and I need to be clear about what I mean by the word “likely” (the middle, 67% probability band).

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An inconvenient truth  

I would strongly advise you to watch the documentary film “An inconvenient truth” to get a good understanding of the issue. Whether you know a lot about climate change or you are not sure what it is all about, this film is outstanding. And I can see why Al Gore has been given a Nobel Peace Prize for it. The web address is www.climatecrisis.net: buy it or borrow it from a library – and pass it around your friends.

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Copenhagen Diagnosis  

The Copenhagen Diagnosis is a report, compiled by the University of New South Wales, to update policy makers in time for the December 2009 – Copenhagen climate summit (COP15). This report shows how quickly the science is moving in our understanding of climate change. Unfortunately it finds evidence that things are even worse than predicted in AR4. Our emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise (In 2008 they were 40% higher than 1990 levels) and measurements of ice melt and sea level rise are faster than expected (80% above past IPCC projections).

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My basic explanation of Climate Change  

In this page I have tried to summarise how we are changing the climate, presenting you with some of the key phrases, like “greenhouse gas” and “global warming”. There are links at the bottom to useful, on-line sources of further information.

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IPCC – Fourth Assessment Report (AR4)  

The core group of people that are looking into the climate change problem are the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). You can see their latest findings at the IPCC website. Their Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) was published in 2007. This is the consensus of all of the world’s leading climate scientists. Its findings are quite worrying, especially how much change has accelerated more than they predicted in the previous report. However, they do make clear that we can make a difference (i.e. mitigate the problem) if we act now. There is a lot of information on their website, you will probably want to start by reading the Summary for Policymakers documents in AR4, starting with “The Physical Science Basis”.

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Stern Review: Economics of Climate Change  

The IPCC received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, which is a strong recognition of their work for humanity. You will now find that every political leader in the world knows that climate change is happening. Some of them may be paying lip service to the issue but they know it is important. One of the key things that convinced politicians was an economic paper: the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. The conclusions of this paper were that climate change will cost between 5% and 20% of global GDP(Gross Domestic Product), each year (now and forever), if we don’t do anything about it. This compares to a cost of 1% of global GDP to do something about it if we start now. There is nothing quite like hitting our leaders in the wallet to persuade them to start taking it seriously!

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