It was 17° a couple of days ago and it’s mid-November. In the summer it was over 40° in London. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of deaths here amongst the over 65s due to the heat was c.2,800. Floods this year in the UK have been far worse than normal; ask people living along the Severn or next to Yorkshire rivers.
Last year floods in Germany killed 185 people and caused $25bn of damage. This year forest and grass fires in Spain, Portugal, Greece, France, Russia, California, Australia etc. have been the worst in recent history. Between half and two thirds of Pakistan was flooded this autumn.
Fifteen Pacific Islands are drowning irreversibly, due in part to the Arctic temperature rise. Swiss glaciers are losing 6 per cent of their volume per annum. (Swiss Academy of Sciences). Russian permafrost is melting, releasing carbon dioxide and methane at scarcely measurable rates.
UK fish and seabird patterns are changing significantly, and we all see that primroses and cowslips flower throughout the year, due to the temperature.
How many other examples could we quote, either from personal experience or from around the globe? We are supposed to be keeping the global temperature rise to 1.5° but the vast majority of climate scientists say we are almost inevitably going to get to 2.7° by century’s end … Meanwhile the seven major oil companies have made £150bn in profits so far this year (figures from S&P Global Market). Our current UK government is still intent on granting over 100 licences to extract more oil and gas from the North Sea.
The UN General Secretary says ” We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator” and David Attenborough says “If we bring emissions down sufficiently we may yet avoid runaway climate change”.
Greenpeace has been demonstrating for decades on oil platforms; result: expanded fossil fuel production. How are we responding? Do we put our heads in the sand? (A suitable word for future decades.) Exeter University has produced a book entitled We still have a Chance. This had a public launch recently; the participating audience was around 40. And a recent public discussion of how scientists and authors see the climate crisis had six on the panel, just ten in the audience.
Another reminder of environmental reality was a march in Plymouth this month by climate-conscious Devonians. Numbers on the march – maybe 200. Plymouth population – 240,000. Many bystanders seemed uncaring about their climate future. Ironically, on the wall of a Plymouth cafe there are photos of the suffragettes who, in the early years of the 20th century, took very provocative actions to help achieve votes for women. Over 230 were imprisoned. How determined were those women and how essential their demonstrations? How much more important is the current crisis?
How do we get enough momentum amongst our UK population to forge a generation-inclusive, determinedly-motivated community that will take the profoundly important steps that are essential to give our children and grand-children a chance? Do we even have anything like a sufficient sense of community to make this possible?
A majority of MPs seem more interested in saving their seats than in their kids’ future. Some influential personalities on TV’s Good Morning Britain show profoundly worrying levels of bias when ‘interviewing’ representatives of Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain. Yes, some individual actions by demonstrators have been deeply provocative, but are these ‘impartial’ interviewers so angry because they feel guilt at their own inaction? Stuffed into their immaculate suits they bang the table with shouts of “terrorists, Fascists … I’ll shut you up …” One suggests that, as with the civil rights movement in the US, our police should beat up the climate protesters. Yes, individuals have suffered – a stroke patient was late for a hospital appointment. Why aren’t these powerful TV influencers so angry at government ministers who have created health waiting lists that kill people every week?
If you were a teenager or a 20 year old, and brave enough to grasp what the future holds, how would you react? How would you express your desperation? Would you ask the older generation and those in power “Please, if you can spare a moment …?” Do you really think that would work?