What’s going on with the weather?
In recent weeks we’ve seen horrifying fires in Greece, Colorado and the Arctic circle, record breaking temperatures around the world and extreme drought in places like Cape Town – to name a few. And in the UK, we’ve been feeling it too with blistering heat followed by dramatic storms. So while we race for air conditioned spaces, hang out in our straw-like parks and dodge the storms (almost simultaneously it feels like) let’s address what’s causing all this.
It won’t be a surprise to anyone that there’s an elephant in the room. While newspaper headlines are often keen to focus on the ice cream sellers working overtime, or the nationwide shortage of fans, they often fail to report on one of the biggest underlying causes of the heatwave: climate change.
It’s not that we haven’t experienced weather like this before, but thanks to man-made activities like burning fossil fuels, the earth’s overall average temperature has risen since previous occasions. Because of this, extreme weather patterns including droughts, flooding and storms are becoming more and more common, and will continue to do so. The video below sums it all up.
The scientific community is pretty well in agreement about the cause of the extreme weather we’re experiencing:
Speaking to the Guardian, Professor Myles Allen from the University of Oxford said “there’s no question human influence on climate is playing a huge role in this heatwave”. Michael Mann, a US climate scientist adds:
What we call an “extreme heat wave” today we will simply call “summer” in a matter of decades if we don’t sharply reduce carbon emissions. The choice is up to us… https://t.co/WWdq06xI1v
— Michael E. Mann (@MichaelEMann) July 19, 2018
Yes, it’s true that the fires that swept through Greece and Sweden were started by humans – there are reports of arson, bbqs and dropped cigarettes starting the flames. But crucially, it was the long, hot, dry summer that meant that fires were able to spread rapidly. And yes, no single weather event can be attributed to climate change, but we know that it makes extreme weather a lot more likely.
There is no doubt that the recent alarming heat wave is linked to climate change, and we need to start dealing with the root cause.
All this comes at a time when our government seems to be shirking responsibility to meet the carbon emissions reduction targets it signed up to: just last week they approved fracking in Lancashire, adding to our repertoire of damaging fossil fuels when renewable energy is cheaper and more efficient than ever.
They’re also blocking crucial support for onshore wind and solar – two of the cheapest and most popular forms of renewable energy. And this summer, we saw the Commons vote for a third runway at Heathrow when we know that aviation is one of the biggest single contributors to our carbon emissions in the UK.
Things you can do
Climate change is a global problem that will take coordination from governments around the world, but change starts with each of us. Here are a few things you can do to make a difference.
- Pressure our government to deliver on the UK’s legally binding climate change commitments. One immediate way they can do this is to stop supporting old, unreliable energy like nuclear and back renewables instead. Signing this petition is a good first step.
- Speak to your MP about supporting the frequent flyer levy to increase tax on those who fly the most.
- Stand up for climate refugees: people around the world – often in the world’s poorest regions – have already been displaced because of the effects of climate change. Some brilliant organisations like the Environmental Justice Foundation are working to raise their profile.
- Think about changes you can make to reduce the amount of carbon you use, like eating less meat, flying less, or switching to LED lights at home.
- Switch to a renewable energy provider – they’re competitively priced and climate friendly.