Wake Up! Wake Up! This is your final wake-up call. Or is it?
Floods, fires and fatalities. Time for action at last?
On 5th July a thunderstorm in Edinburgh delivered half a month’s rain in an hour. The water flooded shops, blocked roads and stalled cars.
On 12th July heavy rain led to flash floods in Southwest London, again with flooded shops, blocked roads stalled cars and cancelled trains.
Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands
A week later torrential rain hit Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The water didn't just flood shops, and block roads, it washed away bridges, demolished houses and killed nearly 200 people.
This week Mumbai in India experienced extreme rainfall, more intense than normal monsoon weather. Flash floods and mudslides caused dozens of fatalities.
As I write this, news comes in of devastating floods in Henan province, China. 12 people are dead and more than 100,000 have been evacuated from their homes.
Earlier this month parts of Northwest America, from California to British Columbia, came under the influence of a heat dome. You’ll remember that the small community of Lytton experienced a record temperature of 49.6°C and days after the whole town was consumed by a wildfire. In Death Valley, California, temperatures exceeded 54°C or 130°F.
Christopher Harley, a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia, has calculated that more than a billion marine animals may have been killed by the unusual heat. Experts from the Union of Concerned Scientists warn that North America is trapped in a cycle of heat, drought and fire.
The Beckwourth Complex, a wildfire in Northern California developed a fire tornado and has so far devastated 140 square miles or 360 square kilometres. Meanwhile, the Bootleg fire in Oregon, still burning as I write, has consumed 470 square miles or 1200 square kilometres, and that’s only one of 300 fires burning across the United States. The latest word is that the Bootleg Fire, more extensive than New York City, is developing mile-high “fire clouds” which can carry ash and embers to start fires in other areas. And in the UK, the Met Office has just issued its first ever amber warning of extreme heat.
In an article in the journal Nature, Luciana Gatti, at the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil, warns that partly as a result of clearances for ranching, the Amazon is now emitting more CO2 than it absorbs.
Is it Climate Change?
The key question is, “Is all this due to climate change?”
Joe Biden thinks it is. He has THE BIDEN PLAN FOR A CLEAN ENERGY REVOLUTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE. His Climate Envoy John Kerry says rich countries must meet a promise to mobilise $100 billion a year for poorer nations to tackle climate change, before November's COP26 talks in Glasgow. Biden’s plans may still be blocked by sceptics, mainly Republicans, in the House and Senate.
Commentators, myself included, when reporting on extreme weather events have always said that this is not proof of climate change although it is consistent with the theory of climate change. Now the tone is changing.
Scientists are saying that the probability of such events as these occurring without the influence of climate change is negligible. They’re using the word “existential” more and more. Now is the time for action. (Again)
Is this finally a wake-up call?
I have been podcasting on this for 14 years. When I started 14 years ago the message was that if we started action now it was not too late to solve the climate crisis. That message has been repeated across those 14 years by Ban Ki-moon at the UN, by naturalist David Attenborough, by economist Nicholas Stern, by campaigner Greta Thunberg and many, many others. 14 years on it’s apparently still not too late if we start now. And yet in general governments are not doing nearly enough to address the crisis. Yesterday I asked someone whether we should concentrate more on mitigation or adaptation. “We need mitigation, adaptation and education,” she replied.
The general public is far more aware of the climate crisis than it has been, but still has a poor understanding of the facts. Governments are not educating the public. In the UK the government and the mainstream media seem determined to suppress or ignore the facts.
In response to the one-sided reporting by a number of national newspapers, last September 50 XR supporters blockaded a print works and prevented an edition of the papers reaching the shops. Some were arrested and sentenced for obstruction. So far they have been fined and given conditional discharges; there have been no imprisonments. They have broken the law and must expect to pay the penalty. But these protests should not be necessary. XR is calling on the government to recognise the science and take urgent action to address the crisis. Priti Patel, UK Home Secretary and minister responsible for the police, seems determined to ignore the reasons behind the protest.
During the latest trial, the court heard how Home Secretary Patel had made multiple calls to police commanding officers about the protest and requested them to “expedite” removal of the protesters. The role of the police is to uphold the law, not to do the bidding of politicians, and the judge commented that in this case they had not been influenced by Patel’s interventions. All that could change. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which is currently going through Parliament gives police the powers to decide whether a protest is too noisy or inconveniences the public, and to close it down. In the terms of this law a protest can consist of as few as one person. Patel told Parliament that she had consulted the police on this new legislation. The police have denied that there was any consultation and have said they don’t need or want it.
Three Wise Monkeys
The insistence on suppressing protest so you can ignore the message is like government by three wise monkeys - speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil. It is reckless in the extreme in present circumstances. Even the rich and powerful will find that the consequences of the climate crisis will affect them too, though probably not until many millions across the world have suffered by their negligence.
Managing the Message
Even once there is consensus that things must be done, convincing the public will not be easy. In a keynote speech at the BPS' Division of Counselling Psychology conference, Professor Emeritus David Uzzell, a leading climate psychologist, will argue that we should see the climate crisis as an ‘opportunity to rethink our priorities’, rather than an issue where a sacrifice in an individual’s living standards is necessary to create change.
Rather than focusing on behaviour change, we must focus on creating societal change in a fair, caring way that encourages everyone to participate.
“Too often we are told that the solutions to climate change involve giving things up, through the lens of putting the environment ‘first’, and the self ‘second’. We know from psychological research that people regret a loss more than value a gain. Too often, behaviour change campaigns give the impression that [they] will necessitate a sacrifice in individuals’ living standards, their happiness and their image of the ‘good life’.”
Some way to go, then.
We need governments to lead this process of understanding and re-prioritising. Maybe COP26, the UN climate conference postponed from last year, will see the start of such a process when it convenes in Glasgow in November. The British government’s new Transport Decarbonisation Strategy is not an encouraging example. It promises that domestic aviation will be carbon-neutral by 2040 and long-haul flights will be close to zero carbon by 2050, so we don’t need to worry about continuing to fly. They seem to have overlooked the emissions which will created in the years before these new technologies are available. And it’s not altogether clear how realistic these new technologies are. Too much business as usual.
And in Other News…
There is a lot of other news, so keep this episode at a manageable length I’m going to give you the headlines and as usual you’ll find all the links on the website at www.sustainablefutures.report where you can find the full stories. Some of them I’ll pick up in more detail in future.
First of all, though, let’s acknowledge the latest patron of the Sustainable Futures Report, Mark Spencer, presenter of the Climactic podcast which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Mark, thanks for your support. You can find Climactic on all good podcast host sites.
There’s continuing discussion about nuclear power following the recent incident at Taishan. European Scientist complains that overblown safety debates are killing European nuclear energy. You’ll remember that there are three sites in Europe under construction using the same design as the Taishan plant.
According to WIONEWS China has begun construction of the world’s first commercial small modular reactor. Apparently it will have a potential output of 125MW, enough to service 500k households. Research into small modular reactors (SMRs) continues in the UK and elsewhere, although none is yet under construction.
Taylor Wimpey, one of the UK’s biggest housebuilders, has opposed government plans to slash carbon dioxide emissions from new homes by at least three-quarters and argued against heat pumps, which are proposed as a replacement for gas boilers. So far it seems to be out of line with the rest of the industry.
The RIBA has said that demolition should be avoided wherever possible. Refurbishment has a far lower carbon footprint than demolition followed by new construction.
The Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets has called for a new body to regulate carbon offsets. Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England, has given the scheme his support while Greenpeace denounce it as an attempt to create a “Get out of jail free” card.
Meanwhile CIBC, Itaú Unibanco, National Australian Bank, and NatWest Group have partnered to launch Project Carbon, a Voluntary Carbon Marketplace. The project aims to help the banks’ clients to achieve a net-zero carbon goal.
Wind and Solar
The world’s wind and solar energy capacity grew at a record rate last year while the oil industry recorded its steepest slump in demand since the second world war, according to BP.
The Electric Viking
This must be good news for the Electric Viking. Not sure why he’s called that, he’s an Australian. Anyway he reports that Toyota believes that petrol and diesel cars will be a significant part of sales even after 2030 and the corporation is lobbying governments to make sure that happens. Toyota has largely ignored electric cars and is concentrating on hybrids and hydrogen. The Electric Viking is highly critical of Toyota’s position. He believes that future energy needs will be totally satisfied by SWB. Electricity from solar, wind and batteries. There will be no need for nuclear, gas or coal. Not sure where he gets this from, but you can find him on YouTube - link below.
Yes, that's it for another week. Next week we’ll be talking to Ria Rocha from the Eco-side podcast about rewilding. And of course there will be other news, there always is.
Before I go I would like to thank you for listening and to let you know that people are suddenly listening in ever greater numbers, so please do tell your friends. Let's hope that new listeners will tell their friends as well!
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That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
I’m Anthony Day.
Until next time.
Flood alert system criticised for ‘monumental failure’
Dozens dead in Mumbai after ‘monstrous’ monsoon rains cause landslide
What on Earth’s going on, and are humans to blame?
‘Heat dome’ probably killed 1bn marine animals, experts say
Health warnings as Death Valley scorches in 54.4C heat
American west stuck in cycle of ‘heat, drought and fire’, experts warn
Extreme Heat Warning
Amazon rainforest now emitting more CO2 than it absorbs
Six Extinction Rebellion protesters found guilty of blocking news printers
Priti Patel ‘misled’ MPs over plans for protest crackdown
Transport Decarbonisation Plan
Taylor Wimpey opposed plans to cut new home emissions
Businesses and experts reveal plans for carbon offset regulator
Global wind and solar power capacity grew at record rate in 2020
SWB and Toyota
The Electric Viking