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Climate change explained in simple terms as COP26 summit takes place in Glasgow – iNews

The UK is currently hosting the COP26 summit, with some of the world’s most powerful political figures meeting to discuss the climate emergency.

The conference is being held in Glasgow, at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC).

It is running until 12 November, with British officials hoping a major breakthrough can be made in the fight against climate change.

But what exactly does climate change mean? Here is the phenomenon explained in simple terms.

What is climate change?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines climate as “the general weather conditions usually found in a particular place”.

It is different from weather in that it is measured over a long period of time.

Climate change, therefore, is a shift in these general conditions.

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) explains: “There’s also Earth’s climate. Earth’s climate is what you get when you combine all the climates around the world together.”

It adds: “Climate change is a change in the usual weather found in a place. This could be a change in how much rain a place usually gets in a year. Or it could be a change in a place’s usual temperature for a month or season.

“Climate change is also a change in Earth’s climate. This could be a change in Earth’s usual temperature. Or it could be a change in where rain and snow usually fall on Earth.

“Weather can change in just a few hours. Climate takes hundreds or even millions of years to change.”

The world is now roughly 1.2°C warmer than it was during the 19th century.

This has largely been caused by humans burning oil, coal and gas to make energy.

What are the effects of climate change?

The warming climate makes extreme weather such as hurricanes, wildfires and flooding more likely.

It also speeds up the melting of the polar ice caps, which raises sea levels.

Some areas will become uninhabitable, and wildlife’s habitats will be destroyed. This puts hundreds of species at risk.

People in poorer countries will suffer most, as they do not have the money to adapt.

Nasa says: “Scientists think that Earth’s temperature will keep going up for the next 100 years. This would cause more snow and ice to melt. Oceans would rise higher. Some places would get hotter. Other places might have colder winters with more snow. Some places might get more rain. Other places might get less rain. Some places might have stronger hurricanes.”

What is COP26?

The conference is called the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, and this is the 26th iteration.

Since the full name is something of a mouthful, it is shortened to COP26.

The first COP meeting was held Berlin, Germany in 1995, and was dubbed COP1.

At COPs, nations come together to assess global progress towards tackling climate change. Some years the talks are tortured and little progress is made. But every now and then a breakthrough is made, such as at COP21 in Paris when almost every nation in the world agreed to a new climate treaty to stop runaway climate change.

British officials are hoping COP26 will go down in the history as a similarly successful meeting, delivering fresh pledges from countries to cut carbon emission further and faster than ever before.

What is the aim of COP26?

COP26 will be the fifth COP since COP21 in Paris in 2015, when the Paris Agreement climate treaty was agreed.

The Paris Agreement saw countries sign treaties promising to strive towards keeping warming under 1.5°C.

The five-year anniversary is important, as the agreement states that every five years countries must revisit their promises and, if possible, increase their ambitions.

The world has failed in keeping warming to 1.5°C in the past five years. This figure is considered key, as a major study released in 2018 by the world’s top climate scientists revealed warming beyond 1.5°C would be much more devastating than previously thought.

Rich and poor nations alike would suffer significantly under this level of warming, scientists warned, with coral reefs wiped out, Arctic sea ice disappearing, and widespread droughts, floods and heatwaves impacting the lives of millions of people.

In response, scientists said global emissions need to roughly halve by 2030 and reach “net zero” by 2050.

Net zero means by 2050, the emissions pumped into the atmosphere by humans need to be balanced by the creation of new carbon sinks to absorb an equivalent amount.

The UK states its four key goals for COP 26 as:

  • Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5°C within reach
  • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
  • Mobilise finance
  • Work together to deliver

Negotiators will largely spend the fortnight talking behind closed doors, occasionally sharing updates on their progress.

World leaders will fly in to attend high-level talks and hold press conferences, NGOs will chair panel discussions and talk to the media, and business leaders will tour the halls pitching their companies’ climate ideas.

The most important result of the summit will be the number of countries who pledge to reach net zero by 2050.

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