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10 Climate Change Facts

Homes are responsible for around 40% of all UK carbon emissions and finding a more efficient heating system will help to reduce your carbon footprint.

If you’ve never paid much attention to your carbon footprint, these 10 climate change facts could encourage you to take action.

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What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is a measurement of how much carbon is released into the atmosphere as a result of the actions carried out by a person, business or country.

Whether big or small, each of us has a carbon footprint and it’s influenced by a number of things, including:

  • How you heat your home
  • How well insulated your home is
  • Your energy supplier
  • Your consumption habits (both in terms of energy and retail)
  • Your main form of transport
  • The food you eat
  • The frequency you travel by plane

Americans have the largest average carbon footprint of 14.95 metric tonnes (2014 data) and the global average sits at 4.35 metric tonnes. The carbon footprint of the average person in the UK is around 5.65 metric tonnes of CO2 per year.

Source: International Energy Agency

10 Climate Change Facts

If you’re not concerned about the amount of carbon your lifestyle is having on the planet, these climate change facts might encourage you to think again.

1. Record levels of carbon in the atmosphere

There’s more carbon in the atmosphere than at any other point in the past 400,000 years.

Carbon in the atmosphere keeps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere causing global temperatures to rise, leading to:

  • Melting ice caps
  • More extreme weather events
  • Droughts
  • Flooding
  • Increased ocean acidity

Up until 2013, carbon in the atmosphere fluctuated between 200 and 280 parts per million. In 2013, the level passed 400ppm for the first time and has continued to rise ever since.

As a result, our climate is very different to that experienced by previous generations and it’s been suggested that we’re living in the ‘Anthropocene’ age, where human activity is the biggest influence on climate.

Source: NASA: The Relentless Rise of Carbon Dioxide

2. Energy usage is exceeding decarbonisation

Governments are setting targets for lower carbon emissions but according to BP’s Review of World Energy 2019, we’re actually increasing our impact on the planet.

In 2018, carbon emissions grew by 2%, the highest rate for 7 years. As more carbon is released into the atmosphere, we’re seeing more extreme weather patterns, which is changing the energy habits of homes and increasing demand for heating and cooling.

As the use of natural gas and oil continues to grow in 2019, emissions are expected to rise yet again.

3. The 20 warmest years on record have happened in the last 22 years

The 4 warmest years on record are 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and the way with levels of carbon in the atmosphere rising, there could still be hotter years to come.

If you’re a fan of sunbathing you might think this is good news but we’re talking really high temperatures that could lead to droughts and heat waves in some places.

4. Earth Overshoot Day arrives earlier each year

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date where humans have consumed more resources than the planet is able to regenerate in a year. This date is getting earlier each year, arriving on July 29 in 2019.

If everyone on the planet had the consumption habits of a UK citizen then Earth Overshoot Day 2019 would have been May 17.

5. We’re not currently set to meet climate change targets

As part of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, governments around the world have committed to reducing their emissions to prevent global temperatures increasing.

Up until recently, it’s been widely believed that limiting temperature increase by 2C would be enough but many scientists are now calling for the target to be 1.5C.

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6. Oceans are becoming more acidic

Our oceans, much like trees, act as lungs, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere but it reacts with seawater and becomes acidic. As levels of carbon have risen (dramatically) so has the amount being absorbed by the ocean which is increasing their acidity levels.

7. A truck-load of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute

On top of the acidity, the oceans are also being filled with plastic. Our daily lives are full of single-use plastics and they often wind up in the oceans.

Over time this plastics slowly degrade which releases chemicals into the water, turning them toxic and they can be degrading for up to 500 years in some cases:

  • Plastic bag: 20 years
  • Plastic straw: 200 years
  • Plastic water bottle: 450 years
  • Plastic toothbrush: 500 years

Before degrading completely, the plastic item is in the ocean and causes confusion amongst sealife who might get trapped in it or even eat it – passing the plastic chemicals right up the food chain.

8. Arctic could be free from ice by 2040

The time we have to save the Arctic from dramatic ice loss is running out. Within 21 years the Arctic could be completely ice-free.

Not only is this hard to imagine (even for the majority of us who haven’t seen the Arctic with our own eyes) but could further impact the planet in a number of ways:

  • Ice holds on to carbon so when it melts it’s released back into the atmosphere – there’s tonnes of carbon in the Arctic ice
  • Sea levels will rise and cause flooding
  • Wind patterns will change which could lead to more extreme weather patterns
  • Less sunlight will be reflected out of the Earth’s atmosphere which means it will heat up even faster

9. Climate change might be irreversible by 2030

Unless serious change is made in the next decade then it could be too late to do anything about climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that carbon emissions need to be cut by 45% as soon as 2030 to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5C.

This is a large cut in global emissions that at the minute looks out of reach when you consider that energy usage is outpacing decarbonisation. To make matters even worse, some scientists believe that the next 18 months is the most critical period.

10. Households produce 40% of total UK emissions

Home heating and electricity usage make up 40% of a home’s emissions, with transport being the most pollutant activity carried out by homeowners.

Source: The Committee on Climate Change (2014 data)

Energy usage in homes accounts for 14% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions and according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), these emissions need to drop by 24% (compared to 1990 levels) if the UK is to achieve emissions targets.

Unfortunately, we’re currently off target. While a decrease is needed, in reality energy usage is increasing. In 2017 homes were using 1% more energy than the previous year.

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How you can make a difference

If you’re concerned about the size of your carbon footprint, there are many ways to make your daily life more efficient:

  • Eat less red meat or dairy
  • Reduce plastic use
  • Switch to a more sustainable form of transport
  • Insulate your home to make it more efficient
  • Generate electricity with solar panels
  • Invest in a renewable heating system

A renewable heating system will help to increase the efficiency of your home, reduce your carbon footprint and lower your energy bills.

How renewable energy can cut your carbon footprint

Rather than burning fossil fuels, like gas or oil, a renewable heating system doesn’t cause pollution as it uses the Earth’s renewable resources, such as the sun, air and underground heat, to generate electricity or central heating.

Some renewable energy systems include:

  • Air source heat pumps
  • Ground source heat pumps
  • Solar panels
  • Solar thermal

Installing a renewable system for either central heating or electricity generation has the potential to dramatically reduce your carbon footprint.

Action Potential CO2 Reduction (per year)
Switching from gas to a heat pump S1 – 4 tonnes
Switching from oil to a heat pump S2- 6 tonnes
Generating electricity using solar panels S1.25 tonnes
Heat hot water with solar thermal panels 270 – 390 kg

Air source heat pumps

Air source heat pumps extract heat from the air outside and using a fan that brings in outside air which can then be used to warm up your home’s central heating system.

Replacing a gas boiler with an air source heat pump could reduce your home’s carbon footprint by up to 3,900 kg each year, while replacing an oil boiler could save as much as 6,100 kg annually.

Air Source Heat Pumps
Gas Central Heating System Carbon Reduction per Year
G-rated gas boiler 3,300 kg – 3,900 kg
A-rated gas boiler 1,200 kg – 1,400 kg
Oil-Fired Central Heating System Potential Carbon Reduction per Year
G-rated oil boiler 5,200 kg – 6,100 kg
A-rated oil boiler 2,300 kg – 2,700 kg

Ground source heat pumps

Ground source heat pumps are another type of renewable heating system that extracts underground heat where temperatures sit at 10-15°C all year round.

The installation of a ground source heat pump is much more complex than an air source heat pump as piping needs to be installed underground – which also means that you’ll need sufficient garden space.

Ground Source Heat Pumps
Gas Central Heating System Carbon Reduction per Year
G-rated gas boiler 2,900 kg – 3,300 kg
A-rated gas boiler 1,500 kg – 1,700 kg
Oil-Fired Central Heating System Potential Carbon Reduction per Year
G-rated oil boiler 6,200 kg – 7,300 kg
A-rated oil boiler 2,200 kg – 2,500 kg

Solar thermal

It’s widely known that solar panels can generate free renewable electricity for a property (solar PV) but solar thermal panels use solar energy to heat water in a cylinder.

Solar water heating means that your boiler doesn’t have to work so hard to heat the water in a cylinder, reducing your carbon footprint and your energy bills. Depending on the fuel used to power your current heating system, you could reduce your home’s carbon footprint by over 270 kg each year.

Current Heating System Fuel Potential Carbon Reduction per Year
Gas 270 kg
Oil 350 kg
Electricity 390 kg
LPG 310 kg

Looking to reduce your carbon footprint?

Switching to a renewable heating system has the potential to reduce your carbon footprint as well as your energy bills. Visit Boiler Guide to get free quotes from fully-qualified heating engineers in your area.

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