As we enter a new year, Andy Blowers muses on the massive challenge of climate change that lies ahead, globally and locally, in the column for Regional Life, January 2020.
While there is some relief that the General Election is over, it does not feel like ‘glad confident morning again!’ (Robert Browning). On the environment there is a deep and pervasive anxiety, felt acutely among the younger generation, that things will continue as before. But, to adapt an election mantra, to ‘get climate done’ is not so easy.
The climate crisis presents a sense of something, indefinable yet ineluctable, revealed in the images we see of hurricanes and droughts, melting ice caps, rising seas, storm surges, floods, loss of forests, drowning coral reefs and islands, pollution, plastics – together making a disturbing yet incoherent presentiment of a developing global disaster. And we can no longer view these events as far away but not disturbing our own lives.
In East Anglia, we are increasingly aware of record heatwaves, milder and wetter winters, retreating coastlines and loss of precious habitats and declining and disappearing species. To an extent, these may be tackled by adaptive measures such as managed retreat of the coastline or hard defences. Even then, land loss and inundation will be unavoidable
The United Nations has warned that ‘2020 is emerging as a critical year for galvanising support from across all of society for bolder climate action’. The world is on course for a global temperature rise of 3°C above pre-industrial levels, twice the 1.5°C. target. Without concerted and continuing efforts at greenhouse gas reduction, sea levels could be as much as 2m. higher by 2100, 4m. by 2300 and there are more alarming but scientifically credible predictions of far higher levels. Unfortunately, the latest round of climate talks in Madrid have been inconclusive and the COP 26 in Glasgow next November must produce more robust and hopeful results.
Returning to the Essex Coast, the idea of a massive nuclear power station at Bradwell on a site threatened by the impacts of climate change seems foolish in the extreme. Far better to go for cheaper, less risky and easily deployable renewable options. Concerted action worldwide and locally, by governments, businesses and individuals, is needed now if we are to reduce carbon emissions to net zero and avert catastrophe. That was a clear message from the General Election. Now we must get on with it.