GCSE Geography | Mitigating Climate Change (Climate Change 6)
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Last updated 19 Jul 2023
We can try to reduce the impact of global climate change in two ways - by mitigation or adaptation strategies.
Mitigation strategies - these limit the cause of the issue - in this case reducing or preventing greenhouse gas emissions, and protecting valuable carbon sinks. These strategies can be on a local or global scale, for example, investing in renewable energy.
Adaptation strategies - where people respond to the impacts of climate change by adjusting how they live or work, in order to make themselves less vulnerable. These strategies are local as they respond to localised impacts, for example, building homes on stilts in areas where there has been an increase in flood risk, or planting drought-resistant seeds in areas of low rainfall.
This page of study notes focuses on CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION.
As populations grow and economies develop there is an increased demand for energy - to fuel domestic appliances, transportation, food production and industrial output - much of this energy is created by burning fossil fuels which release CO2 into the atmosphere.
As countries sign up to climate agreements they are using alternative sources of energy.
Many countries have invested heavily in nuclear energy - this uses uranium to generate electricity through the process of nuclear fission, but doesn't emit CO2 during energy production so is considered much better for the environment. However it is extremely expensive and many argue that the risk of radiation leaks or nuclear meltdowns make it unsafe.
There has also been increased investment into renewable energy sources - these will not run out and they do not emit CO2 during power generation, such as solar, wind, HEP and geothermal. Currently renewable energy sources are more expensive than fossil fuels, and they can also be unreliable - for example, solar and wind power are dependent on weather conditions. However there are certain locations ideally suited - solar panels are great for low income countries that experience long hours of sunshine, particularly in desert regions, wind farms are suited to countries with long stretches of coastlines so that they can be placed off-shore, where wind speeds are higher and fewer people will oppose, and HEP plants are suited to highland areas with deep valleys and high rainfall totals, giving ideal conditions to build dams and reservoirs.
The UK government set a target of 15% of its energy to come from renewable power by 2020 - this has been regularly exceeded for several years, and is usually between 40-50%, although this varies on a daily basis, depending on weather conditions. The biggest share of this is wind power (usually around 40% of UK energy) - this is down to the huge investment into offshore windfarms around the UK.
Carbon capture and storage
Coal is the most environmentally damaging fossil fuel - unfortunately it is still widely used in electricity generation across the globe, particularly in newly emerging economies - China gets 69% of its energy from coal, and India gets 79%. However, in the last decade the US's share of energy from coal has gone down from 50% to 20%.
Carbon capture and storage enables coal to be used in a less damaging way. The Earth naturally stores CO2 underground in rock and in the oceans - by using technology it is possible to capture up to 90% of CO2 emissions from generating electricity and industry. This gas is then compressed and transported by a pipe into an injection well - and injected into the ground where it can be stored.
Deforestation is a huge cause of climate change - loss of carbon storage, as well as releasing CO2 into the atmosphere as the trees are destroyed. Planting trees reduces the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis - converting it into oxygen. Trees also release moisture into the air through transpiration - this cools and condenses to produce clouds, which reduce solar radiation. There are also other benefits of afforestation projects, such as increasing biodiversity and reducing the risk of desertification, for example the Great Green Wall that has been planted right across the Sahel region in Northern Africa.
Countries like the UK are investing heavily into public transport to reduce the number of cars on the road, which would reduce the amount of CO2 emissions from transport. Huge infrastructure projects include the Highspeed 2 rail line (HS2), linking London to the north, and Crossrail, which has improved rail links across London. These projects will also benefit the UK economy.
London also has the Congestion Charge and Low Emissions Zone to reduce car usage across the city, as well as an extensive network of cycle paths (along with bikes to hire) and a fully integrated public transport system, making travel across the capital cheaper and more efficient. Buses on the network are either hybrid or fully electric.
Local councils promote park and ride schemes, as well as car share schemes, in a bid to reduce the number of cars in towns and cities.
There has also been investment in electric vehicle technology - in terms of the EV charging network across the country and developments to battery life. In addition the government is planning to phase out the sale of new diesel cars.
Countries meet regularly to agree targets to fight the climate crisis - see our separate notes page on these.