What is Climate Change?
Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns across the world. These shifts occur naturally; however, anthropogenic climate change (climate change caused by humans) has been the main driver of climate change since the 1800s. In fact, greenhouse gas concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere are at their highest levels in two million years and emissions continue to rise. As a result, the Earth is now about 1.1°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s. The last decade (2011-2020) was the warmest on record and 2022 was the warmest year on record. The Paris Agreement states that we need to keep warming below 1.5°C. However, current national pledges under the Paris Agreement are insufficient to limit warming to 1.5°C. Of course, the extremity of the effects of climate change worsens with every tiny increase in global temperature.
The impacts of climate change have already been experienced in the North East and Northumberland. The climate in Northumberland National Park is likely to become warmer and wetter in winter, and hotter and drier in summer. In addition, extreme weather events such as storms, flooding and wildfires are likely to increase in frequency and severity, threatening the unique landscape, heritage, ecology, and other special qualities of Northumberland National Park. Storm Arwen in November 2021 saw around one million trees uprooted overnight.
Many species living in Northumberland National Park may struggle to adapt at the speed in which the climate is changing, particularly as habitats become more vulnerable. The 2022 summer heatwave saw new record high temperatures being made all over the UK. Northumberland experienced nine wildfires in the first eight months of 2022, which is more than in the whole of 2021. The wildfire risk is only exacerbated when trees lie fallen and dying from the winters’ storms. The increased risk of heatwaves is also causing peatlands to dry out and erode, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further exacerbating the global warming problem. Healthy woodland and peatland store carbon dioxide and the protection and restoration of both is critical to help combat the climate emergency.