Why save energy?
Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.
Rising levels of carbon dioxide
In the UK 28 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions is produced from our homes.
Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by more than a third since pre-industrial times.
In the 20th century we saw an increase of 0.6°C globally. The world’s top scientists predict a rise of 1.4°C to 5.8°C this century.
Climate change will affect our environment in many ways, from eroding our coastlines, to changing weather conditions and new species of plants dominating the countryside.
Rising sea levels and coastal erosion
Warmer temperatures at sea mean higher sea levels, melting ice caps and glaciers.
These rising sea levels threaten areas of coastline, such as saltmarshes and coastal reedbeds, which are home to birds including redshanks and the endangered bittern.
Climate change brings extreme weather events, such as fierce winter storms. Giant waves break down flood defences, damaging properties, farmland and delicate ecosystems.
The staff at RSPB reserves on the Suffolk coast have experienced this first hand. They work hard to keep the water and salt levels right in our coastal reserves where endangered birds, such as bitterns, rely on reedbeds for their survival.
Already in the past few years, unusually severe storms have seen the waves damage flood defences, allowing salt water into freshwater habitat, which affects the plants and animals which can survive there.
Birds such as snow buntings, ptarmigans and dotterels require near-Arctic conditions on the UK’s highest mountains in order to breed successfully.
However, these conditions are likely to disappear from the UK completely in the next fifty years. Already a lack of snowfall is affecting the skiing industry in Scotland.
A brown lawn…or no lawn at all?
In southern Britain, hot dry summers are likely to become the norm, with hose pipe and sprinkler bans, too. As southern gardens dry up, gardeners will need to rely on drought-resistant plants.
Meanwhile, gardeners in the north of Scotland may face the opposite in the winter - forecasters expect northern Britain to be deluged with rain.
A problem we can all help solve
The government estimates that the UK needs to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases by 30 per cent by the year 2020, in order to 'do our bit' for a safe climate.
That's just a few years to make a lot of changes, but it's surprising how simple and straightforward many of those changes could be.
Energy for heating and lighting accounts for around half the UK's total energy consumption (DTI 2003) and there is tremendous scope for using energy more efficiently, across the board.
Think about the landscapes, wildlife and living spaces we'll keep safe, if we work to control climate change.
Did you know?
- If your current fridge freezer is more than 10 years old, and you upgrade to a new, A-rated model, you will save £35 per year in running costs. (Source: Energy Saving Trust).
- An energy-efficient washing machine will use a third less electricity for each wash, which, over its lifetime, could save you more than the cost of the appliance. (Source: Energy Saving Trust).
- A regular house loses more than 40 per cent of its heat through loft spaces and walls (based on gas-heated semi-detached house with three bedrooms). (Source: Energy Saving Trust).
- Turning down your thermostat by 1oC can cut 8 per cent off your fuel bill. The average British household spends a startling £620 per year on fuel and power. That’s about £200 too high, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
- Energy saving lightbulbs produce light using a fraction of the electricity needed for conventional light bulbs – which means they last up to 12 times longer and go on saving you money year after year. (Source: Energy Saving Trust).