What is climate change and why it matters in Kirklees?

Tue, 04/09/2024 - 16:19

Written by Helen Curtis & Joanne Charlton, Marketing Volunteers, KCC

Volunteering for Kirklees Climate Commission means we are surrounded by climate experts who often have decades of experience, and sometimes it can be mind-blowing. We have volunteered to help because we know it matters but do, we really know why?  In this article, we aim to demystify and help us all make more sense of it all and know why, and what we need to do.

Climate change poses an immediate and significant threat to our planet. The experts have made this clear: there is no doubt. Yet, despite this reality, many of us don’t understand the risks, choose to ignore them, or disbelieve the expert scientists who are advising world governments. 

And of course, there is always the big question: ‘What can I do about it anyway?’.

Do you choose to ignore it? We know we have in the past.

However, the consequences of not acting now are undeniable, affecting not only the planet globally but also hitting close to home here in Kirklees.

Back to basics:


  • Climate change = long-term shifts in global temperatures and weather patterns, which can stem from both natural causes and human activities.
  • Natural factors = the sun’s activity, wildfires, melting of sea ice, melting of permafrost in Siberia, and large volcanic eruptions have caused climate shifts
  • Human factors = the main driver since the 1800s has been human activities which are still releasing huge amounts of so-called ‘greenhouse’ gases, particularly carbon dioxide and methane, into the atmosphere.  This is primarily due to the use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas to power almost everything we do..
  • The impact =  these gases act like a greenhouse trapping more of the sun’s heat, leading to heating up of the planet.  This is usually called ‘global warming’ or ‘global heating’ and will lead to severe changes to our planetary climate which could be catastrophic for humans as well as for a lot of plant and animal species.  OR think of a big cloud over the whole world stopping heat from getting out into space, this is a simplistic way of thinking about what is happening to the planet.


What is the 1.5-degree climate issue?


This refers to the global effort to limit the average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels over the long term. The 1.5ºC is not the change above the daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly temperature average, which can be confusing because we hear in the news, that we have already gone above 1.5ºC last year. This doesn’t sound like much of an increase, but it is crucial for several reasons:


  1. Climate Impact: Beyond a 1.5-degree increase, the risks and impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather events, which also lead to impacts on the land (such as landslides, wildfires, massive flooding events, etc.), sea-level rise, and loss of biodiversity, become significantly more severe and difficult to manage.
  2. Ecosystems: Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees helps protect ecosystems and species from irreversible damage, ensuring they can continue to provide essential services to humanity, like clean air and water.
  3. Human Well-being: It's also about protecting people. A hotter world will increase food and water scarcity, health risks, displacement of populations, and potentially or probably wars.
  4. Feasibility: While challenging, it's still considered possible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees with rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy away from fossil fuels or being able to capture all the emissions (something that currently isn’t available), land, urban, and industrial systems. Some are suggesting that we can intervene by changing the upper atmosphere to reduce the impact of climate change (sulphur dosing, etc.) but it is unknown territory.  Whatever we do, to have a chance of keeping to no more than 1.5ºC we needed to have acted yesterday, we are already behind, and catching up is tough.


In simple terms, the 1.5-degree target is a global "speed limit" to prevent the worst effects of climate change, requiring immediate and significant action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


This table shows the impacts against temperature rise averages [1]



Figure 2 - Stabilisation levels and probability ranges for temperature increases



Have we already gone over 1.5°C ?


In 2024, C3S confirmed that the year-long warming reached 1.52°C above the 19th-century benchmark. However, scientists have stated that the world has not yet permanently exceeded the critical 1.5°C warming threshold target set out in the Paris climate agreement, which is measured over decades. A report released at COP28 by climate and social scientists warns that overshooting the 1.5°C limit is "fast becoming inevitable". Therefore, minimising the extent of this overshoot is crucial. To keep within the 1.5°C limit (with no or limited overshoot), global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by at least 43 per cent by 2030 (from 2019 levels) and by at least 60 per cent by 2035. The next decade will be decisive and, if emissions continue to grow, 1.5°C could be breached in 2030-35.


What action are we taking in Kirklees?


A Net-Zero Carbon Assessment for Kirklees has been produced by the Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN) team and other researchers from the University of Leeds, on behalf of Kirklees Climate Commission & Kirklees Council. The report shows the pathway to net-zero emissions for Kirklees' 2038 climate change target. It illustrates Kirklees' share of the global carbon budget to keep to 1.5°C of warming and shows, when, at current rates of emissions, this budget will be used up. The assessment also sets out cost-effective, more ambitious, and innovative interventions that will help the district reach net zero by 2038, and demonstrates some of the economic benefits that taking action may deliver.


To get involved and support local climate initiatives visit https://www.kirkleesclimate.org.uk/ and watch out for further examples of projects you can support.


For further reading look at: