Britain is currently experiencing an unusually extended winter, with an icy Siberian blast bringing record snow falls to many areas, and temperatures hovering around freezing over most of the country. It’s a marked contrast to last year, when we were basking in warm spring weather. Nobody minds a bit of seasonal cold weather, but it’s three months since Christmas, and we’re all getting a bit fed up with cold and gloomy. I suspect the whole nation is suffering a collective deficiency of vitamin D as the sun has been in very short supply. Next week I will be sending in my three-month solar panel readings, and I can confidentally predict it will be the lowest quarterly yield of power since the system was installed 2 years ago.
We can’t definitively link one weather event to wider changes in the climate, but comments made today by Professor Sir John Beddington are a stark reminder of the impacts that climate change will have. Prof. Beddington retires next week from the post of chief scientific adviser to the UK government. In a wide ranging interview with the BBC he stated that there is a “need for urgency” in tackling climate change. He said that the later governments left it, the harder it would be to combat:
“The [current] variation we are seeing in temperature or rainfall is double the rate of the average. That suggests that we are going to have more droughts, we are going to have more floods, we are going to have more sea surges and we are going to have more storms.
“These are the sort of changes that are going to affect us in quite a short timescale,” he warned. He also bluntly dismissed the claims of climate sceptics that increasing CO2 levels were not responsible for rising global temperatures: “The evidence that climate change is happening is completely unequivocal, but the issue has been clouded by the fact that the planet’s climate system operates slowly to changes and so there are long delays in CO2 level rises in the atmosphere resulting in changes to weather patterns. So the (weather for the) next 20 or 30 years are going to be determined by what’s up there now.”
Authoritative voices such as Prof. Beddington’s need to be listened to. Unfortunately, the minority view of climate scpetics seem to get as much, if not more coverage. Yes, it’s a complex issue, rarely fully understood by the lay person, but to me that doesn’t mean we should just sit on our hands until every last sceptic has been converted. In one respect Prof. Beddington is wrong – his comment about Governments needing to make the key decisions. They are part of the solution for sure, but more important are the decisions of hundreds, thousands, hopefully millions of people to reduce our impact on creation. If all of us decided to fly less, drive less, consume less, insulate our houses better, eat more local produce, and all the other things we can already do but somehow choose not to, this problem would be half-way solved.