Research by scientists has shown that our climate has always been changing. Thousands of years ago most of Britain was covered in glaciers during Ice Ages. Did you know that during Tudor times the River Thames was frozen enough for fairs to be held on it? Today scientists are more concerned about our planet getting warmer.
The sun keeps our planet warm by sending rays (radiation) into our atmosphere. The gases in the atmosphere trap some of these rays, while others bounce back. These gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are layers of ‘greenhouse gases’, which act like a blanket keeping in warmth from the sun. This process is known as the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ and is very important for keeping Earth’s temperatures at the right levels for humans, animals and plants to survive. Without these greenhouse gases, Earth would be 30ºC cooler than it is today. The problem today is that we have been making too many greenhouse gases, which are absorbed by the atmosphere and create a thicker layer of gases around our planet. As a result, heat is trapped below the atmosphere and ‘Global Warming’ occurs influencing our climate.
Greenhouse gases are made from:
Water vapour
Carbon dioxide
Nitrous oxide
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

These are all found naturally but humans can make them from pollution. Carbon Dioxide is the main greenhouse gas which can be made by the cutting down (deforestation) and burning of trees. Your car and other vehicles also add carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as does the burning of coal, petrol and other ‘fossil fuels.’

Effects of Global Warming

Many scientists have different ideas of what might happen because of global warming. A group of scientists form the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and have predicted a temperature rise of between 1.4ºC and 5.8ºC by the end of the century. Southern England may have summers like the Mediterranean, but may also suffer from an increase in extreme weather conditions and flooding.
If our climate did get warmer then the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica would begin to melt, although it is not thought that they will melt enough in the next few hundred years to cause sea levels to rise. However, glaciers in mountainous regions are already melting and will increase sea levels. You may not be able to go skiing in Europe’s mountain resorts because there is not enough snow! This is already the case with ski resorts in Scotland. Rises in sea levels would result in increased flooding of low-lying land and coastal areas. Temperate latitudes in the northern hemisphere are likely to experience more rain and therefore flooding, with an increase in thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes. Meanwhile Australia, New Zealand, Central America and Southern Africa may suffer from lower winter precipitation.

Flooding may occur more often in the north west europe due to global warming
Upto a million species, including some lizard species, may be extinct by the year 2050 due to global warming
Research has shown that up to a million species may be extinct by the year 2050 due to the impact of global warming on the habitats of so many animals and plants.

Scientists believe that it is now too late to stop global warming but we can take steps to try and limit its impact. Leaders from countries around the world have had meetings to discuss how to slow the effects of global warming on our climate. Every 5 years there is a United Nations Earth Summit where world leaders and experts on climate change make plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, use alternate fuels and energies and raise awareness of the changes to our climate.

Some scientists are also concerned about the possibilities of cooling of North West Europe. The Gulf Stream, which carries warm waters from the Gulf of Mexico, across the Atlantic Ocean to the United Kingdom and North-west Europe. If global warming eventually becomes so severe that the Greenland Ice Sheet melts, the increase in fresh water may cause the gulf stream to stop working. If this happened we would no longer have mild winters but long, harsh ones with freezing temperatures, snowstorms and blizzards.

Frozen lakes at Broad Oak may become a more regular problem