Climate Change & Energy Security

Climate change

One of the principal causes of climate change has been the unfettered burning of fossil fuels which has resulted in greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, being released into the atmosphere.

Naturally-occurring greenhouse gases are essential to our climate system as they absorb heat from the Sun and keep the Earth warm. Without them, the temperature on Earth would be around minus 18°C.

However, the greenhouse gases added by human activity are upsetting this balance, enhancing the atmosphere’s ability to trap the heat that radiates from Earth. Instead of heat escaping into space, it is being trapped by a thickening blanket of greenhouse gases. This is leading to an increase in the average surface temperature of the planet.

One of the key ways of addressing climate change and mitigating the worst of its effects is by reducing (and eventually stopping) the burning of fossil fuels – namely coal, oil and gas – and by replacing these polluting energy sources with renewable energy. 

Further information

For more information on climate change, please click on the following links:

Energy security

We currently derive most of our energy from fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas. Even if we realise more potential for increasing renewable sources of energy, it is clear that fossil fuels will continue to play a significant part in meeting the world’s energy needs for the foreseeable future.

Apart from the negative impact this will have on our climate, continued dependency on fossil fuels also entails other disadvantages for the UK:

  • It exposes the UK to the volatility of the international oil and gas markets. Over the past few years, energy prices have reached unprecedented new highs, with oil hitting a record $147 per barrel in the summer of 2008. The price of oil has subsequently tumbled. The instability and the yo-yo dynamic of energy prices appear to be permanent features of energy markets. This entails major costs to UK businesses and consumers.  
  • The world’s remaining oil and gas reserves are concentrated in fewer and politically less stable regions of the world. The UK is increasingly dependent on imports from these regions. This means that if supplies are disturbed from any of these few sources (whether intentionally or due to unforeseen circumstances such as civil unrest), the UK and the rest of Europe do not have much recourse. In the winter of 2009, for example, Russia and the Ukraine – Europe’s main gas supplier and main transit country respectively − had a stand-off over gas prices. As a result, gas supplies were cut off to a large number of European countries during a particular harsh cold snap.
  • The UK will increasingly have to compete for resources with other economies. Energy demand around the world continues to increase, particularly in the US and emerging economies, such as China and India. 

Increasing the proportion of energy supplied from renewable sources will play an important part in the UK’s strategy for dealing with these issues. Renewable energy is produced locally and independently thereby diminishing the impact that these factors can have on the UK.

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Last updated on: 12/30/2016