Climate change wake-up call

Gemma Hume
January 24th, 2013

“The threat of climate change is real and we’re seeing its effects now.” If Practical Action had a pound every time a news story said that, we’d be able to able to help a lot more people who are hit hardest by the devastating impact of climate change.

So what’s new?

The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon says one of his top hopes for 2013 is to reach a new agreement on climate change.

He said this in an interview before heading to the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, saying he plans to take the opportunity of being with 2,500 government, business and civil society leaders to exchange frank views on the issue.

“Climate change is fast happening – much, much faster than one would have expected,” he said. “Climate and ecosystems are under growing strain.”

A UNEP assessment says the world is on course for 4°C warming by the end of the century if the global community fails to act. And a recent report commissioned by the World Bank says this will trigger a cascade of cataclysmic changes that include extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks and a sea-level rise affecting hundreds of millions of people.

But will this stimulate action? Despite previous compelling scientific evidence, there has been little action on climate change.

What will it take for people to open up their eyes to the reality of climate change?

The latest situation

2012 was one of the 10th warmest years on record and the 36th consecutive year since 1976 that the yearly global temperature was above the 1960-1990 average, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Climate change has shrunk Andean glaciers between 30 and 50% since the 1970s and could melt many of them away altogether in coming years, according to a study published on Tuesday in the journal Cryosphere.

Australian meteorologists had to add a new colour to its weather maps to denote an off-the-charts high temperature of 54 degrees Celsius. This was after a climate change enduced record-breaking heat wave hit the country and set off hundreds of bush fires.

Kate Mackenzie from the Financial Times wrote an article entitled ‘Australia wrestles with climate change’ which included the following quote:

“We were sitting there looking at the fires and Dad turned to me and said: ‘There might be something in this climate change thing that everyone’s talking about.’ It doesn’t get to 42 degrees in Hobart very often.”

Does it take first-hand experience for people to act?

Practical Action experiences the impact it has on some of the world’s poorest people every day. And in 2013 we expect to see more poor people affected by climate change.

We believe that as the climate changes, poverty and hunger is likely to increase. Many people in developing countries rely on agriculture for their livelihood, and increasingly erratic weather patterns mean that crops will fail.

Progress on tackling preventable diseases will be severely threatened by climate change as people become more vulnerable due to the spread of disease.

Access to clean water will also be threatened as our climate changes. The lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is a major cause of ill health and life threatening disease in developing countries.

Yet we see that for many people – businesses, governments and the general public, although it is a concern, it’s not high on their agenda.

Practical Action believes it  should be, because climate change will also affect our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren. Take a look at this tube map – is shows how a lot of London will be under water by the end of the century.

We can all make a difference by taking personal responsibility to cut our emissions.

Here are some top tips on how you can help to tackle climate change:

  1. Work out your carbon footprint http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/ http://carboncalculator.direct.gov.uk/index.html
  2. Reduce it by 10% in a year http://www.1010global.org/
  3. Offset your remaining carbon emissions http://www.carbonfund.org/ http://www.climatecare.org
  4. Raise the issue of climate change and poverty reduction with your councillor/MP/MEP
  5. Support Stop Climate Chaos http://www.stopclimatechaos.org/ and Climate Week from 4-10 March http://www.climateweek.com/
  6. Support Practical Action’s #adaptnow campaign to help millions of people facing the effects of climate change in Bangladesh

But according to this research these lists don’t go down well with people because they want to leave all the lights on because it made the house feel welcoming. People want to fill the kettle to the top in case someone else wanted a cup of tea. People want to heat the whole house and keep the fridge well-stocked in case her visitors drop in.

So what can make a difference to how we feel and talk about climate change? Apparently, the existence of a ‘safe space’ where feelings can be explored, dilemmas examined and people’s creativity engaged.

Feel free to use this as a safe space and use the comments to tell us your feelings. We’d be really interested to know.

5 Responses to “Climate change wake-up call”

  1. raymond saansum Says:

    Hello Margret
    As an investor in carbon credits myself I wonder if Practcal action have ever considered getting involved in getting their members to invest in
    them.
    There are many low carbon projects going on around the world in particular India China and Brazil.which are all approved by the low carbom emmisions bodies
    .
    I am informed that there a big future in carbon credits so it could through some of your ,more adventurous members be arranged that an agreed percentage of the returns could be used to help fund your schemes

    If you would like to contact me to discuss this I would be happy to do so.

    Regards
    Ray Sansum
    Regards.

  2. michael Says:

    The climate change is real in our villages, when i was growing up, there used to be forests all over our village, rainfall was every time, food was in plenty, grazing land was big enough to accommodate over 500 cows and 200 sheep.This is contrary to the situation now. It hardly rain and i can stand from my homestead and see a rat at the furthest point of the village.What am i saying? If we don’t plant trees, then in the next ten years we should be ready to bury a generation that will have been swept by the floods of hunger.
    In that note i find upon myself to sensitize the community on the dangers we are likely to face and the need to do both afforestation and re-forestation. This will not only save us from dangers of communicable diseases that are a clean water deficiency diseases but also reduce carbon emission in the air.
    I therefore strongly support this initiative with all my strength and wealth.

  3. Henry Mitei Says:

    As a meteorologist, I appreciate the concerns raised. I think a lot about climate change although I stopped working as a meteorologist immediately after graduation in 1979 and ventured into ICT instead. I now concentrate on innovations which can contribute to addressing Climate Change, e.g use of solar energy.

    H Mitei

  4. Angela Shaw Says:

    Barbara Kingsolver’s brilliant new novel Flightpath is, among other great things, very interesting and thoughtful about what makes people resistant to the message of climate change-including a fear/dislike of science, dislike of being told what to do by experts, a sense of not being in control generally, let alone re something as big as climate change, and fatalism-religious or otherwise. She also makes the point, in what is in fact an ironically funny passage, that the sort of list of “actions to take” in the article above are largely irrelevant to poor people, even in rich countries. Effectively, we need to live as if we were poor, and that is not a message that a lot of people will willingly hear- it goes against millenia of conditioning. And I guess we all have our sticking point- I know that travel is mine.

  5. Business Reviews Says:

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