(From the Climate Coalition ‘Show the Love’ Week of Action, February 2017)
This February, people across the country – joining in with the Climate Coalition, will show the love for all the things that are affected by climate change through the power of green hearts. Whether you make one, wear one or share one, each green heart is a moment of possibility — a chance to begin a conversation about the things we love that climate change threatens and the opportunities for a world powered by clean and secure energy.
With an iconic view over the Severn Vale, we will be flagging up the need for action on climate change, but we will also celebrate this landscape that has nurtured humans for thousands of years; a landscape which, sadly, we cannot take for granted any more. Increased temperatures due to climate change, are expected to make the Severn Vale an arid and less hospitable place.
The wonderful complexity of life and society, with its ecosystems and human cultures is threatened by climate chaos and the blinkered rush to burn more fossil fuels, and release more greenhouse gases into our overburdened atmosphere.
Our health and well being, the safety of families and communities are being put in jeopardy by current policies that cause greenhouse gas emissions. The elderly and infirm are particularly affected by heat waves and floods. Food supplies will be hit.
We need to protect the things and the people that we love through sustainable regional policies on renewable energy, industry, transport, business, farming and land use, so that we do not emit greenhouse gases.
There are moves in the right direction: energy saving measures in council houses by Stroud District Council, local food growing schemes, solar panels on buildings such as Gloucester cathedral, proposals for a tidal lagoon energy scheme in Swansea bay, solar farms, cycle routes, recycling and composting to reduce emissions from our waste products, green energy companies, and many many more. But our emissions are still about 13 tonnes per person per year in the UK, whereas we should be aiming for 2 tonnes per person, and zero net emissions by 2030.
If we are to act, as a nation, in line with the global aim of avoiding 2 degrees of warming, then Government policies are currently wide of the mark. The Government’s Committee on Climate change states that in order to meet the requirements of the 2008 Climate Change Act (which is an 80% reduction of 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (2)), ”…current policies, at best, will deliver about half the required reduction in emissions” (1).
In addition, the commitments we subsequently signed up to at the 2016 Paris Agreement require yet more ambitious policies than those in the Climate Change Act.
GlosCAN has explained the gap that exists between what is needed and what the government is doing, in a letter to Neil Carmichael, MP.
Through global warming, features of the Gloucestershire landscape are expected to be damaged, if not enough action is taken to avoid 2 degrees of warming.
With a 2 degree of temperature rise, we expect to see:
Sea level rise
Gloucester cathedral, Kingsholm stadium and Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetland Centre flooded by salty estuarine water.
Drought and heat stress
Beech woodland die back, the British beech tree is at the edge of its range and would struggle to survive on the dry slopes where it currently grows.
Orchard trees will die in increasingly dried out soils.
Frogs and toads, and other aquatic life that needs ponds, and boggy areas, will be jeopardised.
Migratory birds such as the cuckoo are declining, because there is drought on their migration routes, such as that of the cuckoo as it flies through Spain, and it therefore cannot find adequate food. Another factor is that the timing of leaf budding, caterpillar emergence and bird fledging, is getting out of synchrony, due to warming, and therefore the young birds are starving.
The soil itself, is expected to dry, as summers get hotter. This in turn leads to reduction of the vegetation that grows here, as it is adapted to a moist Atlantic climate. The bare soil is more likely to blow away, as dust. It therefore gets harder to produce local food crops, just as we find that local food is a crucial part of the adaptation to climate change that is needed. Distant and longer food supply chains become more vulnerable.
Streams and freshwater are under threat as agriculture seeks to irrigate more crops in a drier environment.
Low lying areas such as Frampton on Severn and Tewkesbury near the Severn are expected to flood increasingly due to heavy rain events, causing rapid swelling of tributaries in local catchments washing down, and flooding streams and rivers.
(2) The 2008 Climate Change Act makes it the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the net UK carbon account for all six Kyoto greenhouse gases for the year 2050 is at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline, toward avoiding dangerous climate change.