“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:
- Work out your carbon footprint http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/ http://carboncalculator.direct.gov.uk/index.html
- Reduce it by 10% in a year http://www.1010global.org/
- Offset your remaining carbon emissions http://www.carbonfund.org/ http://www.climatecare.org
- Raise the issue of climate change and poverty reduction with your councillor/MP/MEP
- Support Stop Climate Chaos http://www.stopclimatechaos.org/ and Climate Week from 4-10 March http://www.climateweek.com/
- 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.