No sooner had we emerged from the depths of the cold war and the ever present threat of nuclear annihilation that humanity suddenly faced yet another decidedly grim fate, this time at the hands of mother nature herself. Yes, I’m talking about climate-change.
Not so long ago, I was one of the original ‘climate sceptics’. I honestly believed that the environmentally traumatised eco-hippies, who tended to pedal the notion of ‘death by global warming’ were just a bunch of cranks who had some sort of ideological gripe against ‘the bourgeoisie’. All I could see was a very angry bunch of ‘zen’ weirdos doing their level best to rain on other people’s parades, trying to bully the middle classes out of their four wheel drive vehicles by shouting ‘’shame on you’’ from the lofty canopy of an ancient oak tree.
So. There it is, I confess to my former aversions towards acorn-throwing hippies draped in khaki trousers and ponchos.
I was just weary of the constant noise as they endlessly griped about global temperatures rising by a whole one and a half degrees. It just seemed completely ludicrous. How could such a paltry one and a half degrees possibly melt the polar ice caps and turn Hudson Bay into a vast basin of Slush Puppy? There was even a fervent belief that London, New York and Venice would vanish into the depths of the briny - ne’er to be found again.
This chorus of dreadlocked doomsters with their perfect storm prophecies looked to me like a gaggle of psychedelic Nostradamus wannabes who foresaw nought but heinous ecological catastrophes.
But here we all are in 2021 and guess what? The ‘weirdos’ weren’t altogether wrong about ‘the climate’. It’s taken the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Gretta Thunberg to help yank my cantankerous head out of the sand. I just hope it’s not too late.
OK. London, Venice and New York are still there and they remain largely unscathed but there are numerous low-lying Pacific islands which have already been swallowed up by rising sea levels. And that’s a real life disaster for real live people whose actual homes have been lost to the waves. And yes - it’s down to climate-change. This is real.
There are areas as close to home as parts of southern Europe which are now facing desertification. This means that evidence supporting climate-change and global warming is actually stacking up and it’s not just hippies who are warning us about it. It’s scientists and numerous dome headed boffins with their huge number crunching computers providing plenty of evidence combined with scary climate modelling. They clearly demonstrate the absolute correlation between accelerating climate-change and human activity, mainly in the form of relentless carbon emissions and large-scale deforestation. Irrefutable stuff that’s clearly visible to those who choose to see.
We see this evidence all around us. Every year seems to be producing record breaking temperatures along with increasingly commonplace wild weather events such as flooding or lengthy periods of drought.
In June 2017, Portugal experienced devastating wildfires which tore through the central town of Pedrógão-Grande, killing 64 people and injuring more than 250. It was the worst disaster in modern Portuguese history.
Even recently, there have been some real concerns reported over water shortages on the Iberian Peninsula. A concern which is becoming a constant burden as more and more demands are made on increasingly scarce supplies.
I recall speaking to a middle aged farmer in southern Spain who showed me a dried up river bed near to his farm. He told me that when he was a boy, he was able to swim in that river, even during the hot summer months. Not any more. Hardly any water has flowed in it for many years. It’s now just a bone dry bed of grey, rounded stones. I just can’t imagine anything like that happening in my childhood village in Wales. But it happened to this Spanish community and witnessed by a man not much older than myself. How devastating must this be for him and his family?
Today, 32 million Spanish people are said to be adversely affected by the effects of climate change. Summers in the southern regions last five weeks longer than they used to in the 1980’s and temperatures keep getting higher with regions such as Alicante, Murcia and Almeira becoming increasingly arid. The Spanish Agriculture Ministry fears that three quarters of the Iberian Peninsula could be subject to the same semi-arid climate as the Tabernas Desert by the end of the century. This is a truly sobering thought.
Whenever I read articles such as this and see such statistics, I’m invariably left with far more questions than answers.
Despite the economic devastation wrought by the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak and the massive impact it has had on all of our lives, global CO2 emissions only dropped by a paltry 7% over lockdown periods to-date. That’s with all the grounded fleets of passenger jets and the countless millions of daily motor car journeys that weren’t made because we all stayed at home and obeyed Covid-19 restrictions.
7 percent! That’s hardly scratched the surface. And, just look at how devastating curtailed activity has been when considering the economic well-being of millions of families world-wide. How can modern societies be asked to cut back even further and even deeper in the name of environmental salvation?
Can we cut back? Will we? Can we even afford not to?
As we gradually emerge from lockdowns, our natural collective hopes seem to be geared towards rekindling old norms and rebuilding economies, promoting economic growth and injecting prosperity back into beleaguered communities which have been so badly impacted by the ravages of the pandemic. And I get it. I really do. Oil traders are already salivating at the prospect of greater demand for barrels of crude and all this is being reflected in rising commodity prices.
All this makes me wonder if politicians really will be having the right conversations about climate change and our precious environment? As far as I can see, climate summits tend to be expensive talking shops for egotistical political types. Much talk, little action. Not to mention much opulence and a huge carbon footprint thrown into the mix.
I may well have become a reformed climate-change sceptic but I’m afraid that I’ve developed a new form of scepticism instead. Now, I question the collective sensibilities of our esteemed leaders as well as that of humanity in general. Fact is, we cannot really afford to get this one wrong. Not this time. Too much depends on us getting it right. Everything depends on it actually.
I’ve been looking at those fabulous new pictures sent back from the planet Mars by NASA’s Perseverance Rover. And guess what? I don’t think I’ll be booking a trip with Elon Musk Space Tours anytime soon. From what I’ve seen, Planet Mars isn’t really all that much cop. It’s kind of dead and the pictures unnerve me somewhat.