What is the climate crisis and how does it impact Hampshire and the Isle of Wight?

© Clare Catling

Global warming, climate change, climate crisis, climate breakdown, and climate emergency are all terms which describe the greatest challenge facing our world. Sienna Somers explains what it means locally.

The climate crisis and climate change are catch-all terms for the shift in our worldwide climate (long term patterns of weather) associated with an increase in global average temperatures (global warming or heating) due to human activities.  

Our planet is warmer now than at any point in the past 1,000 years, and heating fast. This is mainly a result of the huge increase in the amount of coal, oil and gas we’ve been burning since the industrial revolution, pumping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Other things contribute too, such as deforestation and the destruction of ecosystems, which means trees and habitats cannot absorb as much carbon dioxide. 

The climate has now warmed to around 1°C above pre-industrial levels when we first started burning fossil fuels. While this temperature increase is more specifically referred to as global heating or warming, the climate crisis explicitly includes not only Earth's increasing global average temperature, but also the knock-on effects caused by this increase, such as heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, sea level rise, ocean acidification and biodiversity collapse. 

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report ‘Global Warming of 1.5°C’ called on global heating to be limited to 1.5 °C, highlighting the devastating impact a temperature rise of 2°C would have on our food security, water supply, human security and economic growth.   

Efforts around the globe are now focused on keeping temperatures from increasing more than 2°C above that pre-industrial average, and ideally no more than 1.5°C. For example, The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty adopted by over 200 countries in 2015. It united all the world's nations - for the first time - in a single agreement on keeping global heating to “well below” 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. That goal may still be possible if the international community pulls together. 

 

How does the climate crisis impact us in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight? 

 

Climate change is already affecting us. Increasing occurrence of extreme weather, such as torrential rain and long spells of drought bring disruption to our lives. Our ability to grow food depends on stable climates and seasons. Increasingly unpredictable summers and warmer winters make land conditions unfavourable to many food types that farmers grow. As demand increases, food prices will increase, so we are likely to feel the impact of climate change on our wallets as well as in the availability of a diverse array of food. 

In Hampshire, it is expected that the climate crisis will lead to: 

  • Increased winter rainfall by up to 35% by 2080. 

  • Average summer temperatures in the South East are expected to rise up to 4°C under a 2°C global warming scenario. 

  • Sea level in the South East is expected to rise by 30cm by 2040. 

  • More frequent winter storms and increased wind speeds. 

  • Drier summers with a 20-60% reduction in rain under a 2°C global warming scenario, which could lead to increased water scarcity. 

  • Catastrophic losses to biodiversity locally as habitats rapidly change. 

There are widespread concerns about the effects on our wildlife too. For example, the leafing date of the oak tree determines when caterpillars will appear, and that determines when certain insectivorous birds - such as blue tits - lay their first egg. The climate crisis is causing a shift in the times at which trees come into leaf and when insects lay their eggs. If the dates no longer correspond, there will be fewer insects for birds to feed to their young. Furthermore, this may impact the timing between plants flowering and pollinators emerging – potentially causing catastrophic impacts for our food production locally and globally.  

Kickstarting the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, 2021 has been heralded as the global ‘super year’ for nature and climate action due to major meetings and decision-making moments coinciding: The UK is hosting the UN Convention on Climate Change COP 26 and the G7 Summit, and the Convention on Biological Diversity COP 15 is taking place in China this year.  

Over the next few months in the run up to these important events, we will be further exploring the relationship between the climate and nature emergencies, helping you to understand how they are intertwined, and highlighting the importance of tackling these twin crises together. 

Read more about the ecological emergency and how it links to climate here:

What even is the Ecological Emergency?