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20 May 2005
Choosing a green energy supplier will help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere
Image: Andy Hay
In the UK 28% of all carbon dioxide emissions come from our homes. And carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.
Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by more than a third since pre-industrial times.
In the 20th century we saw an increase of 0.6°C globally; the world’s top scientists predict a rise of 1.4°C-5.8°C this century.
Climate change will affect our environment in many ways, from eroding our coastlines, to changing weather conditions and new species of plants dominating the countryside.
Warmer temperatures at sea mean higher sea levels. So do melting ice caps and glaciers.
Climate change brings extreme weather events, such as fierce winter storms. Giant waves break down flood defences, damaging properties, farmland and delicate ecosystems.
These rising sea levels threaten areas of coastline, such as saltmarshes and coastal reedbeds, which are home to birds including redshanks and the endangered bittern.
RSPB reserves staff on the Suffolk coast have experienced this first hand. They work hard to keep the water and salt levels right in our coastal reserves where endangered birds – such as bitterns - rely on reedbeds for their survival.
Already in the past few years, unusually severe storms have seen the waves damage flood defences, allowing salt water into freshwater habitat, which affects the plants and animals that can survive there.
Birds such as snow buntings, ptarmigans and dotterels require near-Arctic conditions on the UK’s highest mountains in order to breed successfully.
However, these conditions are likely to disappear from the UK completely in the next fifty years. Already a lack of snowfall is affecting the skiing industry in Scotland.
In southern Britain, hot dry summers are likely to become the norm, with hose pipe and sprinkler bans, too. As southern gardens dry up, gardeners will need to rely on drought-resistant plants.
Meanwhile, gardeners in the north of Scotland may face the opposite in the winter: forecasters expect northern Britain to be deluged with rain.
The government estimates that the UK needs to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases by 20% by 2010, in order to 'do our bit' for a safe climate.
That's just a few years to make a lot of changes, but it's surprising how simple and straightforward many of those changes could be.
Energy for heating and lighting accounts for around half the UK's total energy consumption (DTI 2003) and there is tremendous scope for using energy more efficiently, across the board. Think about the landscapes, wildlife, and living spaces we'll keep safe, if we control climate change.
There are dozens of little changes you can make to your lifestyle that will add up to make a real difference to help wildlife and the environment. We've put together some simple and easy hints and tips on how you can live a greener lifestyle.
What can I do?