Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Climate Change to Climate Breakdown

 21st Nov 2018

The recent flurry of academic reports showing the worsening climate situation is deeply shocking, almost as shocking as the almost complete lack of action to counteract the threat we face, at every level of the political system.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has failed to even mention Climate Change once in the three budgets he has delivered, which is beyond alarming.

Last month’s IPCC report outlined that to keep global temperatures at or below the relatively ‘safe’ level of 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels will require a global cut in CO2 emissions of 45% by 2030, just 12 years from now. This goes much further than the UK’s current plans under the Climate Change Act.

Against a background of the threat of rising sea levels, the Government’s own body, the Committee on Climate Change recently said that coastal management plans are not fit for purpose, properly costed or adequately communicated to people who live on or near the coast. We are also now told that the oceans have been absorbing far more heat than previously thought, raising the likelihood of greater sea level increases and fish stock decline. As a coastal County, Somerset’s people need to understand what they can and should do to alleviate the risks to themselves and their properties.

With the above threats in mind, is it wise:

1. to build new houses with no renewable energy generation, water saving, environmental net gain aspects and electric vehicle charging points as standard, saving the environment and people’s pockets?
2. to continue downscaling public transport and contributing little to cycle networks?
3. to have no national policy to retrofit old housing stock to make them insulated, warm and efficient?
4. to explore for more fossil fuel sources (with the threat of fracking in Somerset in mind) when experts estimate we can only afford to burn approx. 10% of existing fossil fuel reserves?
5. to reduce financial incentives for electric vehicles, solar installations and make onshore wind virtually a planning impossibility whilst continuing to give huge tax incentives to the oil and gas industry?
6. to cut local government funding, leaving a leadership vacuum on the issues locally and just at the moment when local action on Climate Change is most needed?

Clearly we need to decarbonise our lifestyles, our houses, our businesses and our economy as rapidly as we can. This will take an effort akin to World War II where the United States for example retooled huge swathes of its industry to produce war material in less than a year.

A Zero Carbon society will be hugely positive, one where communities are stronger, control their own energy supply, spend and invest locally, commute less, eat healthily and care more for the natural world with all the benefits to our health and wellbeing, pollinators and farmers.

Some people are trying to shake things up and the new #ExtinctionRebellion is one new high profile group taking direct non-violent action to try and kick start the revolution needed. However, the vast majority of people do little beyond recycling and using less carrier bags. Why is that and how can the country be mobilised into positive action?

The threats we face and the government inaction we see is stark.

We don’t need consultations we need action.

We don’t need politicians bickering over a slightly less shittier trade deal with the EU, we need grand coalitions and a refocus to what is important.

We don’t need hope we need courage.

Time is short, we know what we need to do and we have the means to pick a different path.