Climate change is real!

At a risk of writing another article about a topic we have heard a lot about in the past few years, this one, again, focussed on climate change. Why? It is abundantly clear to all who read from a scientific perspective, that climate change is happening. We have seen wildfires destroying large swathes of land in Australia and the USA, we are seeing weather changes causing flooding and destruction in the UK, and an ever increasing magnitude of storms. We have been warned by scientists, the United Nations and many international governments that the time to take action is NOW.

At our own Liberal Democrat conference, whilst making our statement that we were going to cancel Article 50 as our leading policy in September 2019, we did also approve our policy as it pertains to climate change. Reducing the amount of pollution is one thing and we need to get the entire planet to be carbon neutral and the carbon negative, and we need to do it as quickly a physically possible.

As of last year, we added 33 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere, that is 33,000,000,000,000 tons. This is an enormous number and there are only two ways to adjust for it, we put less, or we take more out, and a combination is key. Governments can, and should, be leading the way, encouraging use of re-usable power sources, promoting eating that is good for the individual and good for the environment, car-pooling discounts, cheaper public transport; there are ways. If we consider that in the wake of COVID-19, which is hopefully a shorter term initiative, we have mobilised entire countries and the entire world to stay home, to socially distance, and to change their behaviour, why are we so inept to deal with what is, ultimately, a challenge to every species and the very future of our planet?

This short term view, or the selfish view that it doesn’t impact us, is just so typical of a millennial led society, where narcissism is the new word of choice and communitarians and those with a more charitable mind, are looked at through eyes of disbelief.

This capitalism on steroids, where more is better and money is valued above all things, may cost our children, our grand-children and our great grand-children the chance to experience the wonder of the world, and it may even stop them coming into existence at all. As Liberal Democrats, our duty is to work with our colleagues around the world in search of a humanitarian future, and this has to begin with ensuring existence, there is nothing that can matter more

* Steve Castree is a member of the Liberal Democrats Overseas Executive Committee.

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19 Comments

  • Steve – do you think denial is the problem here (‘climate change isn’t real/isn’t a problem’)? Or rather is it about the ‘how’ to get to neutral – the solution and timelines and the political will to act? My impression is it’s the latter.

    Recalling the general election, I can’t think of much difference between the parties manifesto promises – everybody in agreement about the problem and broad solution, some tinkering in the details on timelines and number of trees planted.

    What is our solution?

  • Freddie, you have hit the nail on the head. I fear this is another article which outlines the parlous state of the environment. However, like the blessed Ms Thunberg, good at scaring the bejesus out of us, short on solutions, except crashing the world economy overnight. Bring us answers, not problems.

  • Climate is changing. Most things on our planet are changing, thanks to our activities. This includes our land, our oceans, our air.
    The question is how to manage our planet so as to be sustainable.
    I believe that the only way is for us to use all of the talents of humanity to manage our planet.
    We have the means to at least try to move towards this. That is by using technology.
    As a party we should be striving for this in our own organisation. We should be finding ways of working together to work out ways of contributing to solving the problems that in reality we have always faced. We now have the means to contact each other in real time as we never have had previously.
    I see no sign of this.
    It won’t happen in my opinion. We will continue the way that we have for thousands of years.

  • The real big issue is the 6th Extinction Event. We sit at the top of a complex web of plant and animal interactions sustaining the biosphere, and keep taking Jenga blocks out of the pile that supports us. Sooner or later (probably sooner) we won’t be able to grow food anymore, then it’s game over for our species (as it is already for many others). Darwinism will ensure something exploits the new situation.

  • Andrew Tampion 3rd May '20 - 11:21am

    It is an indisputable fact that human activity has affected Earth’s climate: but it is also a fact that the Earth has undergone climate change unrelated to human activity, for example the geologically recent Ice Ages.
    What I don’t see from this piece or others I have read on the subject is any attempt to assess what proportion of the current warming is caused by natural processes and what proportion is caused by human activity.
    There are three possibilities:
    1 The climate is in a period of temperature equilibrium and would not be warming but for human activity, or
    2 The climate would be getting colder but for human activity, or
    3 The climate is naturally warming and human activity is causing more warming than would otherwise be the case.
    Which is it?
    If it is the first case then action such as Mr Castree advocates is necessary.
    If it is the second case then some human induced warming may be desirable to prevent the climate getting too cold.
    If it is the third case then we need to know the relative proportions of human induced as opposed to naturally warming and in particular whether human induced warming is tipping the climate over from a sustainable increase to an increase that will cause long term damage to the Earths ability to sustain human life.

  • John Marriott 3rd May '20 - 11:50am

    I, or rather we, have hit on an answer to the climate crisis by accident, or rather thanks to Covid-19. Stay at home. Clear skies, no more foggy air in places like Bejing or Delhi. Clear water in our rivers and places like Venice. But at what a price.

    Clearly reducing human activity, especially flying, and using less energy, has had a massive effect; but can it be sustained in the long term? When mankind eventually emerges from lockdown and activities resume, if we are to avoid a major relapse, a few of our environmentalists might have to do a bit of backtracking.

    Let’s start with transport. Is travelling by car that damaging to your health compared with being crushed in a bus, train or underground? With Zoom dominating, what now HS2? And as for that travel bucket list, perhaps it needs rethinking in the light of recent events. Perhaps visiting Hadrian’s Wall May have to be a substitute for the Great Wall of China.

    Then there’s food. Do you HAVE to have an avocado any time you want? What’s wrong with what we used to call ‘seasonal produce’. Why NOT wrap it in plastic after all? That intimate meal out with friends and family might still have to be put on hold for the time being, as may that visit to Old Trafford/Anfield/Twickenham etc. Mind you, I generally prefer to watch sport on TV anyway and, to be quite honest, I haven’t even missed that so far.

    Talking of soccer, do you remember those words of the late Bill Shankly, who reckoned it was more important than “life or death”? Well, Bill, if you are looking down from that great stadium in the sky, I reckon, in the words of Mr Castree, that “a humanitarian future” definitely is. Yes, we SHALL have to change, both in small and large ways and it won’t be easy. However, that applies equally to the George Monbiots and Greta Thunbergs of this world in their absolute dismissal of everything that, in their view, is not “natural”.

    I don’t think that saving the planet can or ever will be the sole preserve of any one party. Things like pandemics should be teaching us that life in all its many forms is precious. Don’t mess with Mother Nature. She has a nasty habit of biting back. However, in the fight to achieve environmental sanity, please don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

  • Barry Lofty 3rd May '20 - 11:59am

    John Marriott : Well said could not put it better, we will have to take a sensible and pragmatic approach to the future.

  • Laurence Cox 3rd May '20 - 12:57pm

    @Andrew Tampion

    The answer to your question is probably (2), but as the scientists say, it’s not that simple. Look at this NASA article on Milankovitch cycles: https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2948/milankovitch-orbital-cycles-and-their-role-in-earths-climate/

    Back in the 18th century we were probably heading towards an ice age (although not for thousands of years), then we started burning coal on a large scale and that started putting CO2 into our atmosphere. At that time the CO2 level (pre-industrial revolution) was 280 ppm; now it is around 416 ppm, while 350 ppm would have been more than sufficient to hold off an ice age. So we have already put far more CO2 into the atmosphere than needed to protect us against another ice age and even if we stopped all emissions tomorrow, it would take, perhaps, a thousand years or more for the CO2 level to go back down again.

    I hope that this answers your question.

  • There is so much nonsense claimed about climate change that it is difficult to know where to start. Anyone who thinks that we need more renewables should watch “Planet of the humans” on youtube. It was produced by two leading environmentalists and is free for a limited period. It lasts for about 100 minutes.

  • The greenhouse effect is likely to be real though it has never been proven (demonstrated) and there is no direct evidence to support it. The often claimed magnitude and consequences are based on models. The models are wrong.

    We know the models are wrong because the validation of any model is to compare its predictions with reality. We have been doing that for over thirty years and the models cannot predict warming correctly, they are not even close. We now understand why the models are always wrong, there are many reasons.

    We know that some of the assumptions used in the models are wrong. We know that there are climate drivers much larger than CO2 that have not been modelled and we know that other predictions of the models are wrong too.

    The climate scientists have convinced themselves and other that CO2 is the only driver of our climate yet they cannot explain what caused the Little Ice Age, Medieval Warm Period, Roman Warm Period or previous major climate change when CO2 was constant.

    Real scientists now believe that the climate sensitivity to CO2 is so small as to be not worth worrying about. Even the science shows that if you calculated it from observational (real) data rather than using model predictions you get a low sensitivity.

    Politicians should initiate a full independent enquiry into climate change using real scientists.

  • @Chris Cory – “… I fear this is another article which outlines the parlous state of the environment. However, like the blessed Ms Thunberg, good at scaring the bejesus out of us, short on solutions, except crashing the world economy overnight. Bring us answers, not problems.”
    Chris, climate change is just one aspect of the perfect storm heading our way; the economy is going to crash. So the problem is those who much prefer to keep their heads stuck in the sand rather than engage.

    Given the forecasts made since the 1970’s, which in general terms have been vindicated, the choice is very simple either start planning now and manage the change – potentially being able to get to sustainable population of circa 35M by 2050, or wait to pick up the pieces after to storm has doings its worst – at which point the population is probably going to be somewhere around 5M ie. pre-industrial revolution, with no functional society.

    Brexit and CoViD19 have made good inroads into downsizing our economy, we probably need to let CoVid19 rip through the population to make a start on that downsizing… Unpalatable, but we need to start thinking, or nature will do it for us…

  • “Given the forecasts made since the 1970’s, which in general terms have been vindicated..”

    What? Vindicated? I’ve lost count of hearing that mankind has 10 years left, the poles will be ice free, the UK will be frozen because the gulf stream will stop or a desert because we will be scorched or under water because of sea rise, etc, etc.

  • At the start of the 70’s they told us we were entering an ice age. At the end of the 70’s they told us to expect catastrophic warming. I suppose that using the logic and flawed statistics of climate science, on average they got it just right.

  • @Peter – The crucial issue is whether we adapt or die. To adapt we need to take proactive and preparatory action; we can avoid the worst excesses of the perfect storm if we take action and when steeering the super tanker of a society, that action has be taken well in advance…
    W2K, CorVid19 are just a couple of examples where action was taken and the worst case scenario avoided.

    As for the forecasts: population growth, fossil fuel and resource consumption etc. combined with the relatively static crop yields – GM over 20+ years hasn’t delivered on the promise.
    Yes once we start trying to get beneath the headline trends, it gets complicated and it is easy to jump to conclusions.

  • R A Underhill 4th May '20 - 10:15am

    Steve Castree | Sun 3rd May 2020 – 9:00 am
    Car pools save money and conserve parking space.

  • @Roland – Yes, we should always adapt, whether our location is prone to earthquakes, wildfires, floods, droughts or instances of extreme weather. Most populations have understood this for thousands of years but fail to act, usually due to poverty or other priorities. We still insist on building on flood plains.

    However I don’t agree that the alternative is to die, not from global warming anyway. There is no scientific evidence of catastrophic warming and those who claim it have their own agendas. The IPCC still use ridiculous assumptions in their models but they need to provide evidence to support their wealth redistribution policy for which global warming is the vehicle.

  • Peter Hirst 4th May '20 - 12:59pm

    The government must see Covid as a warning sign of the dangers of ignoring climate change. It is an opportunity to introduce a swathe of measures as we come out of lock down that benefit the climate. It does not take a genius to see these assuming someone in Downing Street understands the issue.

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