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UK Climate Change Policy and Law

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Climate Change Climate refers to the “the average weather experienced over a long period, typically within a span of 30 years” (UK CIP, 2006)ii. From the name itself, the term climate change entails the agro-meteorological changes that have occurred, not only in the UK but as well as on other parts of the globe since the 1900s. Changes that have been taking place are brought about by natural and human causes. Natural causes include changes in temperature, precipitation, rainfall patterns, relative humidity, and other agro-meteorological conditions that are brought about by the interaction of the ocean, atmosphere, changes in the Earth’s orbit, energy from the sun and volcanic eruptions.

On the other hand, human causes are mainly influenced by the emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur oxides (SOX), nitrous oxide (NOX), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and methane (CH4). As technological innovations progressed, greenhouse gas emission continues to increase as more and more people rely on burning of coal, fuel, oil and gas for main sources of energy. This has been exemplified by products of technology such as: cars, train, factories and machines among others.

According to the UK Climate Impacts Programme (2006)iii, about 6.5 billion tonnes of CO2 have been emitted globally each year. Instead of being dissipated outside the Earth’s atmosphere, these greenhouse gases are trapped in the atmosphere, thus altering the global climate. Aside from the burning of coal and oil, change in land use is also a contributing factor in this issue, as about a net annual emission of 1 to 2 billion tonnes of CO2. From pristine forests, lands are being transformed into agricultural areas, subdivisions, factories and other feasible forms of land conversion.

Instead of having more trees and grasses to convert the greenhouse gases into utilisable forms, land conversion further increases the rate of greenhouse gas emissions in the planet. According to Labatt & White (2002)iv, the issue of climate change had been prevalent since prehistoric times. Scientists have also attributed this global phenomenon to the extinction of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. It was in the beginning of the 19th century when the issue of climate change was raised and seriously noticed.

But it was only in the last 30 years that the impact of these greenhouse gases were seriously noticed, especially when the global temperature increased approximately 0.2ºC per decade (UK CIP Climate Digest, 2006)v.

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