by Suzanne Humphries
Last year, 2019, was the 11th warmest year on record in the UK, which doesn’t sound too bad until you realise that all the other ten have occurred since 2002.
The planet is warming faster than we expected it to and last year three British temperature records were broken, with the probability that another fell during the last week of December.
– A maximum of 21.2°C was reached in London on 26th February: the hottest February day ever recorded.
– On 25th July, in Cambridge, temperatures rose to 38.7°C: the UK’s highest-ever recorded temperature.
– The third record-breaker for 2019 was for the highest daily minimum temperature in February: 13.9°C recorded on 23rd February in the Scottish Highlands.
– The hottest December day is the likely fourth broken record with a temperature of 18.7°C recorded in the Highlands of Scotland on 28th December, though this still needs to be validated.
What can we do? For a start, we can focus on the important things.
Cattle on the Westbury Hills (SMH)
Never mind the flatulent cows and going vegan for January, keep your eye on the main culprit which is carbon dioxide, the by-product of our use of fossil fuels, which is calculated to be responsible for 80% of the rise in global temperature.
Planet Earth spent hundreds of millions of years locking up carbon as coal, oil and gas, ultimately creating the atmosphere in which mammals (including ourselves) have thrived. In just three centuries we have dug up and burned enough of that carbon to raise atmospheric carbon dioxide to levels not seen for three million years – and we are still doing it.
Open cast coal mining in UK 2018, by Rab Lawrence (CC BY 2.0) flickr.com
The media seems to hold each of us individually responsible for this catastrophic outcome. We are told to eat less meat, buy an electric car, put a solar panel on our roof, recycle, reuse, the implication being that our personal lack of virtue is somehow the real problem. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industries and their hangers-on keep their heads below the parapet, and pass the buck.
Last week, the head of the International Air Transport Association criticised 16 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg, claiming that she is unfairly targeting his industry (click here). Australia, where every state in the country recorded temperatures over 40°C on New Year’s Eve (click here), is the world’s third largest exporter of fossil fuels; their politicians dodge the flames and the questions, and deny the connection. Corporations are still trying to sell us gas-fired central heating (click here).
Bushfire by Mark Modra (CC BY-SA 4.0) wikimedia.org
The UK Government subsidises the fossil fuel industry to the tune of £10.5 billion each year, significantly more than the £7 billion spent on renewable energy. Yet despite this, more electricity was produced in the UK from renewable sources than fossil fuel sources in the last quarter of 2019: the first time ever.
Don’t let the fossil fuel industry tell you that you are safe and warm at home; don’t listen when they tell you that eating less meat or planting trees will fix everything. They have irons in that bushfire, toes in those rising waters, fingers in the pie-charts.
The answer is simple: we must reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we put into our atmosphere. I don’t know how we are going to do that or how we are going to stop the rising temperatures – or even if we can. I do know that the answers won’t come from the fossil fuel industries.
Header and footer pictures by DKG