Average summer temperatures in the 40s? Maybe forty per cent less rainfall? These are figures just published in a report produced by the Met Office for the government. It shows that temperatures in the southwest will probably be higher than other parts of the country and rainfall decrease more. And we are going to be among the more fortunate parts of the globe; other areas will suffer even more.
What will this look like? If Spain and Italy will be like the Sahara, what will it be like in north Africa? We are faced with some pretty disagreeable consequences of climate change, even in the UK. Effects on wildlife, new pests and diseases and extra deaths because of the heat may be the least of them. Sea level rises will hit us hard, even in this country – and especially in Somerset. With global shortages of water, global food production will suffer – no more out of season veg from Kenya. Indeed probably no more food from anywhere else at all. And there will be population movements as climate refugees try to find places where food is still available.
But these changes are not inevitable. They are the worst case scenarios, if we do nothing to reduce our carbon emissions. Certainly we are not doing enough right now but some recent signs are more encouraging. China, with the world’s highest emissions (though much lower per person than ours) is now taking massive steps to use solar power to reduce its reliance on dirty coal. The USA is about to pass climate change legislation that will overturn the inertia of recent years. All this means that the Copenhagen climate change summit in the autumn has a much greater chance of agreeing some realistic global targets to reduce CO2.
Of course, we all know that there’s not enough being done in this country. Government targets, though praiseworthy, have little chance of being met unless more urgent measures are taken. What about making sure that every home in the UK is fully insulated, which some estimates say will reduce household emissions by 40%? What about decent grants to install renewables instead of the pathetic amounts currently available? What about building low carbon homes now instead of in 2016? Some of these desirable actions might happen if government spending were to be switched from some less popular – and les vital – projects. It’s hard to find a sense of real urgency in national debate.
In West Somerset, the Carbon Reduction committee set up by Forum 21 is planning action to cut our local emissions. But we need to think about what to do if all else fails. All new buildings should be designed for shade and water saving. Shade will be essential, so we’ll need plenty of tree planting in populated areas. If we will eventually need to rely on producing our own food, we need to start planning for it now – more allotments, more community supported agriculture, maybe get used to eating less meat and with less reliance on food stuffs from abroad .Forum 21 is working with five Exmoor communities to produce sustainable energy plans, and the new Minehead and Alcombe Transition group has already set up local food projects to encourage more home growing.
We’re sure that there will soon be more of our local communities that decide to start planning for the future in a warming world, whether they call themselves Transition groups or not. Forum 21 looks forward to working together with them all. Get in touch with Forum 21 if you’d like to help.