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Climate Change – a penny drops for me 21/07/2021

Posted by chrisdshaw in Climate Change.
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Sometimes all it takes is a single image to transform one’s thinking. Although it is too early to tell- I saw it only last night- the impact was so profound I can’t help but feel it is a turning point for me. I heard an audible gasp from my wife. After countless reports on television and the press for most of my life, it was this image that did it for me.

On ITV’s News at Ten a report of the devastating real time consequences of climate change ended with coverage of Prince Charles’s visit to the Scilly Isles, situated 45 miles south west of the coast of Cornwall. The islands are at greater risk from rising sea levels than any other place on the British Isles. The image in question was of primary school children singing song, “Now is the time, for us to make the world green”. Children who are the same age as my own. With the responsibility of parenthood I feel I have no choice but to commit to an environmentally sustainable future. I have always been good about recycling, keeping travel to a minimum and be “aware” but that is no longer enough. Environmental activism needs to be front and centre of everything I and my generation to, to ensure a future for our children.

Ever since the late 1980s I have been aware of the impending disaster of Climate Change, or “The Greenhouse Effect”. I read Ben Elton’s Stark, about a group of billionaires who were planning to squeeze the last resources and of Earth, and leave a dying planet on enough space rockets for the privileged few. How prescient. The 1990s was a gloriously hedonistic carefree and selfish decade where nothing was taken seriously except instant gratification, a mood which chimed with my own. In 2001 my family celebrated my father’s sixtieth birthday at a beautiful island resort in Malaysia. On one of the days we chartered a boat for a day trip which included some fishing. The fisherman on the boat said that changes in the water temperature were having a slight but perceptable impact on fishing stocks.

Two years later western Europe experienced an unprecedented heatwave with record high temperatures in most countries. France, which was the worst affected, experienced eight consecutive days of temperatures above 40C, leading to just under 15,000, mostly elderly, deaths from heat exhaustion. It was the first lethal weather event attributed to climate change in Europe. Climatologists claimed that weather events like these would become more frequent and that hitherto unheard of temperatures of 100F (38C) in London could occur every five to ten years in twenty years time, if climate models were accurate.

It is no longer a situation we need to anticipate. Extreme weather events are happening everywhere at a greater scale and frequency than models predicted. We have achieved lift-off. Bush fires that torched much of Victoria and New South Wales in January 2020, and the largest wildfires in California’s history followed six months later. Greater attention is paid to Australia and the US by the UK media so these event are what have registered. Overlooked by many people in the UK in recent years have been the annual tundra and forest fires in Siberia, ongoing extreme droughts in South American and Southern Africa as well as heat records being broken everywhere, particularly in polar regions.

2021 seems more significant, in terms of the extremity of the weather, the number of records being broken, and the impact of COVID on people’s perception of what an unfolding global disaster looks and feels like. Last night’s Scilly Isles report, which followed stories about a drought producing famine in Madagascar caused entirely by climate change, devastating floods in Europe and China and terrifying temperatures in Western US, really had the impact it intended on me.

What next? Governments are behind in actioning targets. A slew of announcements this year from the EU, US and UK to commit to aggressive goals by the end of this decade are not being matched by the action needed now to meet them. The US political system is in gridlock, with an increasingly unhinged Republican party seemingly unwilling to partake in policy making, unless you include dismantling democracy. The EU’s recent announcements on carbon reduction have been met with opposition by national governments. As for the UK, a country that has been mismanaged, abused, dissolved into an Orwellian post-truth dystopia, Prime Minister Johnson presiding over the COP20 summit in Glasgow later this year fills every right-minded human on the planet with trepidation. His sociopathic disregard for his country, the planet, and every other human being around him, including close family members, does not

There are signs of hope, however. Climate change is putting a question mark of US food security. China has experienced, in the last few days, a one in 10,000 year rainfall and flooding disaster. India is looking nervously at it’s long term viability with shrinking glaciers as a source of water supply. The need for the world to stand up and take notice has been great. A great rupture in our climate is now taking place and countries can no longer ignore it. If the US, China, India and the EU can come to some agreement on the need for action, Johnson will be the irrelevance he so deeply deserve. For the sake of my children, and everyone else’s, I hope he is.

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