What climate change really means and how we can each make a massive impact (for the better) 8 months ago

What climate change really means and how we can each make a massive impact (for the better)

Brought to you by Science Foundation Ireland, as part of Science Week 2019

Yes, we care, and so does Science Week!

Taking place from November 10 to 17, Science Week 2019 is setting its sights on climate action.

The annual week-long event will include workshops, science shows, talks, laboratory demonstrations, science walks and other science-related events that even involve collaborations with various schools, colleges, industries, teachers and students throughout Ireland.

With an emphasis on climate action and encouraging everyone to take part in #ScienceWeek, we thought we'd help highlight and remind people of what climate change really means (even if plenty of us are familiar with its various terms and explanations) and bring about that clear understanding of climate change and how we can really help in fighting it and making a difference.

While we as individuals might wonder how we could possibly make a change that's large enough, it's true that together, we're an incredibly powerful force that can absolutely offset carbon emissions.

What is climate change?

The Earth's climate has always been changing. Change itself is nothing new.

There have been times when the Earth's climate has been warmer than it is currently and times when it has been far colder. We're talking thousands and millions of years ago.

When we hear 'climate' change, it's not referring to 'weather.' This is different, although, it's related.

The weather is of course what we can see and feel outside at this very moment. It can change daily.

Climate is the common, usual weather for a particular area in the world. A certain place might experience different seasons, and for that area, this is the regular climate. Right now, it's cold and wet. Next season, typically, it should begin to brighten up (although us Irish might argue that one) and that's our climate.

Then there's Earth's climate. Yep, the globe has it's very own climate and it's an accumulation of all the climates around the world.

So when you hear the term 'climate change' this is referring to a change in the usual or typical weather of a particular place. It could be a change in how much rain an area receives in a year or the temperature experienced across a month or season.

But climate change also refers to changes in the Earth's climate. It could mean a change in the Earth's temperature or it could mean a change in an area of the world, where usually, the Earth would experience snowfall but instead got rain.

Weather can change in a few hours — climate takes hundreds or millions of years to change.

What's the cause?

There are indeed natural causes that have nothing to do with us. Take, for example, the distance between the sun and the Earth (this changes the amount of energy hitting the planet), plus, the oceans can change, volcanos erupt and so on.

But most scientists say we humans can change the climate too — we're using energy like petrol and diesel in our cars, we've become dependent on coal, oil and gas, we engage in intensive farming and rip down entire forests — all the things that release gases into the air and cause the climate to warm. At a large enough scale, industry along with individuals can change the Earth's climate.

If we're heating the planet, how are there harsher-than-ever snowstorms in some places?

This goes back to understanding the difference between 'weather' and 'climate.'

While it might be incredibly cold in certain areas, the average temperature across the entire globe is warmer. For example, when the air in the Arctic becomes warmer, it has a knock-on effect, causing the jet stream to push cold air further south, hence North America's harsher winters.

What might be the result of climate change?

Scientists think that Earth will continue to heat for the next 100 years. This will cause ice and snow to melt, it will cause sea levels to rise and it would mean some areas of the planet get hotter while others might get colder. Put simply, it means more and greater wildfires, hurricanes and blizzards.

So, what do we do now?

To combat the dramatic change in climate, it's up to us to become more efficient and quite simply, just take what we need. Use less energy and water, turn off the TV, turn off lights, and most beautiful of all — plant more trees!

At a trees most productive stage of carbon storage (yes, they store carbon — more reason to stop cutting them down!) at about 10 years of age, they're estimated to absorb 48 pounds of CO2 each year.

To put that into perspective, a large oak will store as much carbon as about 50 return flights to London.

Our trees break down CO2 into oxygen, releasing it back into the air to sustain life on Earth. Through a process called transpiration cooling, water leaves the trees as a gas vapour which cools the surrounding air.

Trees are important for our natural environment, helping to keep land healthy and providing homes for wildlife. There is increasing momentum in replanting and rebuilding our natural environments, which is not only reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere but supporting Ireland's natural biodiversity and habitats.

Trees reduce the evaporation of water from the soil, helping to keep our lands healthy. They also reduce runoff, allowing water to flow down the tree and into the soil, preventing stormwater from carrying pollutants to our oceans.

Hence, why this year, to celebrate Science Week and to highlight climate change, but most importantly, climate action, and of course, how trees are our everything! — we're planting 300 native trees (birch, alder and willow) at Moy Hill Farm, Lackamore, County Clare this week!

As part of Science Week, there will be 13 regional festivals also, offering a wide range of events for the public to engage with STEM in Cavan/Monaghan, Cork, Carlow Festival of Farming and Food (Teagasc), Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Mayo, the Midlands, Sligo, the southeast, Tipperary and Wexford.

So go on, get involved and find out heaps more about our incredible and most extraordinary planet with events, interviews, social media and more.

Brought to you by Science Foundation Ireland, as part of Science Week 2019

Science Week 2019 takes place from November 10 to November 17 to get involved in the climate action conversation with Science Week on Twitter and follow #scienceweek.

To find out more about the hundreds of events taking place throughout Ireland or for more information on Science Week, visit www.scienceweek.ie.