Living the Questions: Fancy a pint?

This week, from 4-10 March, is Climate Week, and Climate South West are running a climate-themed pub quiz in Exeter. There may well be a pub quiz in your area.

It seems that many people have forgotten about the climate since the Great Recession bit, and it’s not helped that the Coalition has had its head firmly in the sand. I find it hard not to let rip at this point. So instead I’ll hand over to a good friend of mine, Eve Edwards, writing in the History Girls blog at the dawn of the new year:

I would put my money on us missing the really significant events of last year.  Dohar anyone?  Did you pay attention to what was called the ‘useful housekeeping’ on the UN climate change at the end of the year.  By this they meant, they got an agreed statement out at the end.  They are housekeeping, changing the sheets, but unfortunately the bed is in a cabin on the Titanic.  Historians are going to be looking back and wondering why we didn’t notice the socking great iceberg we are chugging towards full steam ahead.  America looked out the porthole briefly thanks to the terrible storm in the autumn, but they can’t seem to drag themselves away from the boring party of Democrats versus Republicans long enough to do anything.  To change my metaphor, we are in a dangerous round of ‘who will bell the cat?’ – no one stepping forward to do the job.

So let’s have a look at the Met Office submissions to “The 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC and the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol” (i.e. Copenhagen+3), which met at Doha in November 2012. Here are three of the Met Office’s key findings, edited a bit:

  • Human influence has already shortened the odds of some types of extreme events. The type of extreme heatwave occurring in Texas in 2011, a La Niña year, has changed from a 1 in 100 year event in the 1960s to a 1 in 5/6 year event in the present day. The odds of a cold winter in the UK, like 2010/11, have roughly halved.
  • On 16 September 2012, Arctic sea-ice extent reached its lowest recorded level of 3.4 million km2, some 20% less than the previous record in 2007, and the rate of decline in extent in summer sea-ice has increased.
  • A more sophisticated computer model confirms earlier climate projections: that ‘business as usual’ greenhouse gas emissions could lead to global temperature increases by 2100 of more than 5 °C, and in some parts of the world of over 10 °C. Rainfall patterns and water availability will also change. Temperature increases may also cause large reductions in permafrost, which could further increase warming.

What are the likely impacts in the UK? Well, here are the projections with the highest scientific confidence:

  • The south and south-east of the UK are currently vulnerable to water shortages. These pressures are likely to grow as more droughts take place here.
  • Projected increases in rainfall are likely to increase the risk of flooding from heavy rainfall, particularly in winter. Rivers are also more likely to flood across the UK as a whole.
  • As sea levels rise, coastal flooding is likely to have a major impact on the UK, which is one of the most vulnerable countries in Europe.

Yes, more severe winters like 2010/11, more drought like the first quarter of 2012, and more floods like the rest of 2012 and what feels like living memory. Thanks for that, Met Office.

But here is a fourth key finding:

  • The scale of climate change is greatly reduced with rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions beginning in the near future. However, even in the case of the lowest emissions considered here, some further climate warming and impacts are expected.

Right, so we can do something about it. In the best Gandhi tradition, “be the change that you wish to see in the world”, go to a pub quiz, find out more, read the Met Office’s Climate guide (which is a bit more accessible than the Doha stuff). And then think about what you can do and should do, and tell your MP and the rest of the government what you want them to do too. Cheers!