Session 3

The world's weather is changing. What could this mean for us in the future? We discuss climate change with the help of a BBC weather reporter - and practise the grammar and vocabulary we have learnt so far.

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Activity 2

More about climate change

Is the risk from extreme weather set to rise?

Over recent years, there has been more and more talk about climate change. Scientists and meteorologists have warned us that weather patterns are changing and polar ice caps are melting. There is also increasing evidence that average temperatures are rising around the world. People and governments are starting to take notice and in November 2014, the UN held a conference on climate change.

Read the article and do the activity

This article is about how the world’s climate is changing and the risks we face from more extreme weather. Before you read, look at some of the causes of climate change and extreme weather. Think about the possible effects these could have in the future.

  • Cause 1: The world’s population is getting larger and more people are living in areas affected by extreme weather.

Example effect : It may become more difficult to protect these people from the effects of extreme weather.

  • Cause 2: Emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are increasing.
  • Cause 3: The average global temperature is rising.
  • Cause 4: Extreme weather events such as drought and flooding are happening more often.

Now, see if your ideas are mentioned in the article…

Climate change: what next?

The world can no longer say that global warming 'might' happen and climate change 'could' affect our future. A recent report by the Royal Society in the UK tells us that global warming is definitely happening and climate change will affect our future. The report warns that extreme weather events, such as floods, storms, and heatwaves, will happen more often and will affect more people as the earth’s population grows.

The report’s main author Professor Georgina Mace said: “This problem is not just about to come… it’s here already." 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all happened in the 21st century and 2014 was the hottest year ever – both in the UK and globally.

But warmer weather does not always mean drier weather. In fact, the opposite is true. Look at the information about extreme weather events around the world in 2014:

  • In September, parts of the Balkans received more than double the average monthly rainfall, and parts of Turkey saw four times more rain than normal.
  • The town of Guelmin in Morocco was hit by more than a year's rain in just four days.
  • Western Japan saw the heaviest August rain since records began.
  • Parts of the western US suffered from long-term drought - as did parts of China and Central and South America.
  • Interestingly, there were fewer tropical storms than usual – 72 were recorded in 2014 but the yearly average is 89.
  • 12 major Atlantic storms struck the UK, bringing nearly double the usual rainfall.

So, the world’s climate is changing. We are seeing higher temperatures and weather that directly affects our lives like heatwaves, drought, and flooding. But what effects could these weather events have on our future? And how might we prepare ourselves to face these extreme conditions?

Professor Mace says preparation is the most important factor: “It is impossible for us to avoid the worst and most unexpected events. But it is not impossible to be prepared for an ever-changing world. We must organise ourselves right away."

The Royal Society report advises all levels of society to prepare – from strategic planning by governments to local schemes by citizens to get ready for floods or heatwaves. To fight rising temperatures, the authors say cutting greenhouse gas emissions is essential. But they argue that it is not enough - governments will also need to do more.

The simplest and cheapest way of preventing heatwaves, they say, is to protect existing green space. Other low-cost options are planting new trees, or painting roofs white to reflect the sun’s heat. This could have an important effect in cities which will get bigger as the earth’s population grows. Air-conditioning may help us stay cool but it produces emissions which will actually make our cities hotter.

The authors also say generally higher temperatures might be a threat to economies and farming because temperatures could become too high for safe outdoor work. Some areas may experience many weeks when outdoor activity is limited because it will be simply too hot to go outside.

Flooding will also increase, the report says. Large-scale engineering solutions like sea walls offer the best protection from coastal flooding - but they are expensive, and when they fail, the results can be disastrous.

The ideal answer, the authors think, may be a combination of engineering solutions like walls and environmental solutions like protecting wet areas to allow the ground to absorb water. The authors also say that governments and companies will need to be prepared financially and may need to spend more money on preventing dangers.

They say: “We must assess and evaluate risks accurately. If we don’t, companies might not take them seriously and investments will be poorly informed.” One author, Rowan Douglas, from the Willis Research Network, said this might be the most important recommendation of the report.

Note: this article is adapted from two BBC News articles: Risk from extreme weather set to rise and and World on course for warmest year.

To do

What could we do to protect ourselves in the future? We have looked at causes of climate change - now test yourself on the possible effects and solutions with this quiz.

Effects and solutions

5 Questions

Choose the best answer for each question. Look at the article again to help you. 

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Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a weather presenter? Rob from BBC Learning English went to meet Darren Bett, a weather reporter. Find out what Darren said about presenting the weather - and his predictions for the world's weather - on the next page.

Session Grammar

  • We use might / may / could + verb: for present & future possiblitites; for guesses about the present; when we aren’t sure if something will happen in the future. 

    • I might go to the exhibition this afternoon. (future)
    • He’s Eastern Europe. He may be in Ukraine. (present)
    • We could have some problems next year. (future)

    We use might not / mightn’t and may not to talk about negative possibility. We cannot use could not / couldn’t for possibility in the same way as might not and may not

    • We might not move into the new offices next year.
    • Our client may not agree with us.

Session Vocabulary

  • drought
    a long period with no rainfall, which causes the ground to become very dry and can cause living things to die

    right away
    immediately; now

    strategic planning
    (here) making very careful plans so that particular things will happen at particular times or in particular situations

    plans that organisations develop to give a particular service to a group of people

    a period of days or weeks when the temperature is very high and is dangerous for people

    (here) describes a geographical area where the weather is very hot and wet.

    (here) gasses which are released into the atmosphere by factories, cars, and other machines.

    causing lots of damage or a very dangerous situation

    to take something inside, for example: a sponge absorbs water easily