Climate

March 2021

For what you can do yourself, see Please do below.

Surrey County Council will soon publish its "climate change delivery plan", and asks for your comments. For details see https://surreysgreenerfuture.commonplace.is/ .

By now, most people are probably aware that there is something called the climate emergency; that it is caused by carbon emissions (e.g. from home heating, vehicles, industry and farming), which cause a greenhouse effect; and that its effects include Arctic and Antarctic ice melting and the bush fires in Australia and the western USA.

In 2008, the Climate Change Act was passed, and among other things obliged the government to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. In May 2019, the UK Parliament (but NOT government) declared a climate emergency. Later that year, one of the last actions by the May government was to change the target to 100% reduction. There is reason to believe that the government is not on course to achieve even the first target.

Local authorities such as Elmbridge Borough Council and Surrey County Council have now published climate emergency policies, in www.elmbridge.gov.uk/news/climate-emergency-update/ and www.surreycc.gov.uk/people-and-community/climate-change/what-are-we-doing/climate-change-strategy respectively.

The ice melting is important for several reasons. The ice becomes water, and raises sea levels throughout the world by several feet; ice reflects sunlight much better than water, so melting ice causes temperatures to rise faster; large quantities of methane are trapped under the ice, and methane is a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. To limit this effect, the global temperature rise must be limited to 1.5°C. (There is disagreement about the effect of methane; see below.)

Some dates: As things are, the worst effects on the climate may be reached by 2100. Some countries including the UK (but not the USA, China or India, which are the biggest emitters) have agreed to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050, which may be too late. There was going to be a United Nations Climate Change Conference later in 2020, but because of covid-19 it will now happen in 2021.

 

Please read

At www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/27/the-uninhabitable-earth-review-david-wallace-wells , there is a review of David Wallace-Wells’s deeply pessimistic book. Chapter headings that are mentioned include Heat Death, Dying Oceans, Unbreathable Air, Plagues of Warming.

Some parts of this book, concerning methane in particular, have been questioned by other scientists who are far from being climate change deniers; see https://climatefeedback.org/evaluation/scientists-explain-what-new-york-magazine-article-on-the-uninhabitable-earth-gets-wrong-david-wallace-wells/ . (N.b. This is actually about the magazine article that was later expanded into a book.) For instance:

“The evidence that climate change is a serious problem that we must contend with now is overwhelming on its own. There is no need to overstate the evidence, particularly when it feeds a paralysing narrative of doom and hopelessness.”

At www.theguardian.com/books/2019/oct/06/jonathan-safran-foer-we-are-the-weather-saving-planet-begins-breakfast-review , there is a review of J. S. Foer’s scarcely less pessimistic book about the effect of livestock farming on climate. Estimates of its contribution to total carbon emissions vary from 14.5% to 51%, depending on what is included. According to Foer, the most damaging product is beef, but the second most damaging is cheese.

 

Please do

As the reviewer of Wallace-Wells’s book says, “There’s a temptation to focus on denialism as the villain of the piece. The bigger problem is the much vaster number of people (and governments) who acknowledge the scale of the problem, and still act as if it’s not happening.” So think about what you can do.

Many things that need to be done can only be done by governments or large companies. The following list is actually based on https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate-change/how-uk-government-can-tackle-climate-breakdown-our-6-point-climate-action-plan , which explains FoE’s ideas about what the UK government should do. However, there are some things that individuals can do:

*          Avoid flying if at all possible. As well as slowing down climate change, this would slow down the spread of a disease like covid-19.

*          Avoid driving if public transport, walking or cycling is an alternative.

Public transport is not advised during the covid-19 crisis. Avoid it if possible, but if you can't, wear a mask, and wash your hands before and after your journey. Also see https://tfl.gov.uk/campaign/coronavirus-covid- .

*          Use electric power from a renewable source, e.g. Ecotricity.

*          For the government’s grant scheme for subsidising house insulation and associated improvements, see www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-the-green-homes-grant-scheme . The deadline for completing the improvements, which used to be 31 March 2021, has now been extended to 31 March 2022, but with little finance, and because of admin problems insulation companies have largely abandoned the scheme.

*          For heating your house, change to a more climate-friendly source of heat – see https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate-change/eco-heating-what-are-options . For practical advice on carrying out these improvements, see https://seclimatealliance.uk/meeting-the-retrofit-challenge/ . If you continue to use gas, use less, e.g. by turning your central heating down.

*          Use LED light bulbs, which are the most efficient.

*          Plant trees in your garden to absorb carbon dioxide.

*          Become vegetarian or vegan, or drastically reduce your consumption of meat and dairy products such as cheese.

*          Make things last, particularly clothes. Repair them if at all possible. Avoid single-use plastic packaging.

For a longer list of things to do, see www.surreycc.gov.uk/people-and-community/climate-change . For more explanation, see https://energysavingtrust.org.uk .