When trying to come up with a catchy title for this post, I toyed with several common sayings. “Drop in the ocean”, “reaping the whirlwind””, “tip of the iceberg” and “heads in the sand”; all seemed appropriate to the content of today’s post. Last night on radio 4 two news stories, or possibly three, caught my attention.
The first was that there has been severe flooding in the north of England, in and around Carlisle. I looked in vain through my Flickr uploads for a suitable image of flooding, but I digress. The cause apparently was a record-breaking amount of rainfall. While we cannot blame any particular severe whether event on climate change, the report stated that this is a record which has been broken several times over the past 15 years. What used to be 1-in-100-year events are now happening in a much shorter space of time. The good news is that nobody seems to be in denial anymore, climate change as a result of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is an accepted fact. Good, now can we please finally get on and take some serious action to deal with it, before it gets really bad? As we have come to expect following these events, the government has defended its investment in flood defence schemes and promised more. That’s all well and good, because greenhouse gas emissions have been high in recent decades and climate effects lag behind emissions (there’s the iceberg/ocean reference). But this is only treating the symptoms, it is high time we treated the cause. And, apparently, we are starting to: this morning I heard that greenhouse gas emissions actually decreased slightly this year compared to last year (largely thanks to China reducing coal consumption), but we need to cut emissions faster.
The second item of note last night, though I’m not sure if it is a separate story, was that the rain had caused a landslip which has closed the West Coast Main Line north of Carlisle, and the weather was so bad Virgin didn’t bother with rail-replacement buses. This morning, I read that lines in north Wales have also been closed due to the weather. The radio suggested passengers at Euston bound for Scotland go to Kings Cross and take the East Coast Main Line instead. At this point my Dad blurted out something about paraffin budgies (that’s what he likes to call aeroplanes, apparently). I said that would only make the problem worse (more planes = more greenhouse gas). Which brings me nicely to the other item of note on radio 4 last night. Apparently, there are rumours a decision on whether to build another runway at Heathrow is likely to be delayed by six months. I think something was said about an environmental review into the proposal. I got the impression that this would focus on local air quality and noise issues around the airport, but if the politicians observing the flooding had any sense they would see aviation for what it is, a huge contributor to the greenhouse gas problem, and rule out airport expansion once and for all. That would be a good first step in the programme of decisive action that we need to curb climate change. Dear Prime Minister, get your head out of the sand, show leadership and boldly stand up and say no to Heathrow expansion..
I don’t comment on the ISIS/Syria situation, the issues appear so complex I have decided it is beyond my comprehension, but George Monbiot (I like quoting him, don’t I) isn’t afraid to find examples from that debate. “During his statement on Syria, Mr Cameron told the House of Commons that “my first responsibility as Prime Minister … is to keep the British people safe”.” Mr Cameron, ISIS is not the only threat out there. We’re not safe while our power stations burn fossil fuels and biomass without carbon-capture technology, while aviation continues to expand, polluting as it goes, and while you’re government promote private motoring by building roads while you cut public transport. Climate change is a grave threat, but we know what we can do about it, it is time to start doing those things.