IMMINENT CONSEQUENCES OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN UK
Watching the continuing rain this summer (2012) now officially the wettest on record, made me think how many outdoor activities I had cut down on this year, including birdwatching. It got me thinking how many other people and companies will have been adversely affected too. For sure the tourist industry and all the related retail activity that goes along with it. All the outdoor theme parks and holiday letting concerns, and the historic and cultural visits and visits to nature reserves and national parks. This is just one aspect of climate change.
Due to increased carbon dioxide from manmade pollution since the industrial revolution, overall the planet has been gradually warming up but at an ever accelerating rate and now we are in the tipping point for catastrophic climate change, which we could have avoided. This will cause disruption to humans far worse than any war and cause more deaths and will also wreak total havoc and devastation on the natural world, with a mass extinction event which has already started, with amphibians and corals. If these effects were caused by war we would be doing everything in our power to end the war, but because it is climate change and vested interests of the fossil fuel industry might lose money we are forced to accept the totally meaningless and inadequate deals our corrupt politicians make on our behalf at conference in exotic lands on ours (the tax payers) expenses. And since most oil companies pay no tax at all and actually get given huge subsidies, the culprits don’t even pay a penny towards resolving the problems they have created.
Predictions scientist said would happen are coming true all around the world. The world is warming up, the last decade has seen half those years be the warmest globally on record. It may not get warmer locally overall, climate change predicts extremes at both ends of the temperature scale can increase, but overall the world is indisputably warming. Climate is getting more and more disruptive, unpredictable and violent, with, heat, wildfires, snowfalls and flooding of epic proportions breaking records year on year. The ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising. Here in Britain, the climate has got warmer and wetter in summer as predicted and colder and drier in winter as also predicted. So what can we look forward to.
Well more of the same except the extremes are predicted to continue to increase. To those of us old enough to remember and have enjoyed a climate when the seasons, even the months were distinctive and predictable today’s weather is saddening and frightening. When I was young each month could be described by recognisable characteristics. January would be cold, with early snow, February was much the same with more snow and strong winds towards the end, March would be cold and feel worse because of the winds and gales would be frequent, April would be wet and blowy, with very few nice warm spring days, May would have many nice warm to hot days but showers often, June could be hot and calm but would have days of showers, July would be much the same but the rain would come in heavy thunderstorms, August would be calm, hot, bright and sunny and this could continue well into September, with beautiful long evenings and just a touch of autumn, October would usually reverse this, with few of those nice days and more normally an autumn feel often enhanced with a few frosty morning, and other days restless winds which would tug on the leaves on the trees telling them it was time to fall, November would tell us summer was now well and truly over, with high winds and rain and frequent frosty days, December would be cold and wet with snow just before Christmas which may last until the day, but snow would never fall on Christmas day (well I’ve never seen a white Christmas yet).
So what have been the economic consequences so far. We have already mentioned the effects on the tourist trade and associated retail concerns. The flooding here in Britain has increased and now every year some part of the country and several thousand people are affected badly by flood damage, something that happened in the past certainly not annually but maybe once a decade. This is affecting insurance premiums, even for people who like me never make a claim. I can no longer expect a small annual drop in my premium due to no claims, instead it now seems to be the other way around. The wet weather has affected agriculture too, perhaps more so on the continent but with knock on affects here as well. For instance, Oil Seed Rape is not ripening on the continent due to poor springs (it flowers early so needs good weather early in its growth) in Britain we have retained our sun in spring with our summers becoming extremely wet, but at least that little early warmth allows our Oil Seed Rape to set and it has now assumed the position of a major crop here, with the displacement of other traditional crops such as Wheat. Wheat is often forsaken here precisely because our summers are now so wet, it does not ripen as well or it gets flattened and wasted due to the continuous rain. We therefore now import a lot more Wheat from overseas, particularly the USA.
These points then raise issues of food production and food security. Britain more than virtually any other country is prone to these fluctuations and changes because we are an island and because overall we are the most densely populated country on earth. We also remember the food shortages and subsequent rationing from the war years with the rationing lasting well after the war had finished. We do or at least did therefore produce a lot of our basic food commodities since that period to try to obtain food independence. Produce such as potatoes, wheat, barley, oats, eggs, beef, chicken and lamb we were up until the 1990s just about self-sufficient in. Times have been changing though and with a fast increasing population and less conservative tastes we have for some time been relying on more and more of our produce from abroad, much of which could not be grown in our climate even if we wanted to. Now with climate change we are going to have less reliable crops and this will not be different abroad. This means price increases, increases as we have never seen before, especially for food from tropical countries which will be sold to the highest bidder. Don’t just think of fruits but also remember how reliant we have become on palm oil and soy product, which appear in most processed foods.
Still not worried? Well, also don’t make the mistake it is just food crops which are likely to be affected either. Where do you think cotton comes from? Tropical and sub-tropical countries. And it will not just be crops either, where do you think most oil comes from, abroad. While peak oil is a myth and there is still plenty for everyone, what happens when commodities in those oil producing countries become scarce and expensive also? Prices go up, inflation follows and the price they want for their most valuable assets rises too, hence more expensive petrol here in the UK. But not just fuel is made from oil, plastics are as are many thousands of other products and their prices will rise as well.
Worrying about whether you will be able to afford to live on a well-balanced, healthy diet anymore might not however be your biggest concern. Finding somewhere you can afford to live probably will be. We all know how expensive and difficult it is to buy property now, with sea level rise and retracting of the coast line and much more flooding on the flood plains we built on inland, the property prices in this already overcrowded country are set to go through the roof. Britain is set to loose around quarter to half a million hectares of land, an area the size of Greater London. All the money spent on that fancy Thames barrage will do no good either, it was not designed to cope with the amount of sea level rise they are now saying is inevitable.
Property and food price increases will lead to shortages and inflation, it will be difficult to get a job, any job to pay your way as government and industry alike tighten their belts. The public both here and abroad will have less money to spend, tourism will collapse and exports will decrease. Decreases in these sectors will mean a collapse in retail spending and a slowing down of rampant consumerism; those last two points are not so undesirable you may say, but they would be happening for the wrong reasons and in these situations would not help matters.
Overall the country would become poorer and consume less and stay at home more. Money for overseas aid would diminish, not that by now it could help the situation in say Africa, where the population and deserts are both expanding rapidly. As for the environment, whatever may be left through the ravages of climate change may not be worth saving. It would not be able to adapt as well to climate change as it might have before man’s influence on the planet became overwhelming because in environmental terms there may be no other suitable habitat in a cooler climate left to move to due to human over-population and habitat destruction. Mass extinctions in every animal Class would be the norm.
Finally, we could probably look forward to wars on an unprecedented scale due to the desperate and over-populated people becoming increasingly restless and lawless. Governments may not be able to keep control and any civil unrest would be infectious and spread to neighbouring countries as citizens took matters into their own hands.
So a grim prospect then. Am I right? Well since I believe most of this will happen in the next 10 or 15 years, I may still be around to say I told you so to the rioters looting my house. Not that they will care (or that even now I have anything worth looting). Will there be any beneficial effects of climate change. Well Antarctica should lose most of its ice shelf in 50 years so there will a lot more land available and resources to exploit, who knows they may even find more oil in Antarctica!