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From Norfolk RCC
Environmental issues have been propelled to the forefront in both the media and politics in recent years. Whether we talk about our environment as our immediate surroundings, local area, country or the whole planet we share it with both other people and a wide variety of other organisms. It is a complex interlinked system that we have the potential to effect for both better and worse.
Environmental issues and be seen under four broad headings but they impact upon one another.
The climate changes naturally overtime but work on recent trends in climate shifts have given rise to the idea, now held by the majority of climate scientist, that human activity is having a major effect on the environment. The key to this is that the release of carbon dioxide and other chemical by humans into the atmosphere has increased the greenhouse effect
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up in 1988 and with their second report in 2001 concluded:
‘most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is likely to be attributable to human activities’
In April 2002 a new report, called UKCIP02, was released showing climate scenarios for the UK. A summary of the major effect predicted for the UK can be seen here . Although exact effects are unknown they are likely to include more extremes of weather (including storms and flooding), temperature changes and possible sea rises due to the melting of polar ice.
In our daily lives we release many chemicals into our environment, be it the bleach we put down the toilet or the pesticides we put on crops. These chemicals can cause damage to both us and our environment.
Reduced bio-diversity is the phrase given to a reduction in the variety of plant and animal species in an area. This can be the result of the destruction of habitats as we clear land for farming or construction and also as a result of the other effects we have on our environment such as pollution or climate change. This is not only important for aesthetic or moral reasons but can have a direct effect on us.
Many of the things we use are not renewable, such as metals. The earth has a finite amount of these and we are using them up. Perhaps the most important of these is oil as it is a cornerstone of the world economy. The idea that we have already or very soon will reach a point where we are extracting the maximum oil possible and that supply will soon decline is know as peak oil.
The changes in the climate, waste management, recycling, fuel management and the vast range of issues associated with sustainable communities for the future create enormous challenges in understanding for all of us. As a first step to support anyone who is new to these areas ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) has commissioned the first few in an ongoing series of Briefing Papers on environmental issues. Click on the headings below to download some useful information.
Community energy initiatives: Embedding sustainable technology at a local level: A study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, of community renewable energy projects in Britain has found that so far, projects are largely based in the countryside, some quite remote. http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/ViewAwardPage.aspx?AwardNumber=RES-338-25-0010-A