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Two key facts about climate change

You don't have to be an expert to be able to talk about climate change, here are two key facts.

Climate change is one of the defining crises of our time and will be the lived reality for generations to come. Many of us are experiencing extreme weather events and we’re all seeing daily headlines and reports about them in the media. We know climate change is a pressing issue but may lack confidence in talking about it, or feel our knowledge is limited. We’d like to improve our understanding and find out where to access reliable facts and information to help influence family or friends and persuade others.

The good news is you don’t need to be a climate scientist to improve your knowledge, gain confidence and take action. In this course you’ll be focusing on the impacts of climate change rather than the science of its causes. However, there are two key scientifically deduced facts that underpin the course:

1. The planet is warming

This is one of the key findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report (AR6), published in August 2021. You will find out more about the IPCC later in the course.

Six researchers in Reading’s Department of Meteorology were lead authors on this report including Professor Ed Hawkins (the creator of the climate stripes which you explored in Step 1.1) who said:

“It is a statement of fact, we cannot be any more certain; it is unequivocal and indisputable that humans are warming the planet.”

2. The planet is warming because of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions

The AR6 report warns that devastating extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe due to human-caused (‘anthropogenic’) greenhouse gas emissions, making urgent action essential.
Another of Reading’s lead authors, Professor Nigel Arnell, climate scientist, said:
“The latest IPCC report confirms that human activities have changed our climate and led to the more frequent heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires that we have seen recently. The evidence is incontrovertible. The report also shows that impacts will continue to increase virtually everywhere, and only by major reductions in emissions – achieving net zero – will there be a chance of meeting the internationally-agreed climate targets.”

We recommend you take a look at the IPCC Headline Statements from the Summary for Policymakers and if you have time, read the full report. In February 2022, Working Group II published its contribution to AR6 which highlights the interdependence of climate, ecosystems and biodiversity and human societies. You can download summaries, FAQs and regional fact sheets.

If you’d like to find out more about the climate science underpinning climate change you’ll find further resources at the bottom of this Step helpful, including the University of Reading’s comprehensive Partnering for the Planet climate information hub.

One of the clearest effects of the warming climate is the melting of the polar ice and glaciers. In the next Step you’ll meet Dr Ella Gilbert and hear about her research in Antarctica.

© University of Reading
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Planet Partners: Tackling the Climate Crisis Together

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