Observations of an Expat: Climate people

Climate change affects every single one of the7.8 billion people living on planet Earth and each one of them is an individual with homes, jobs, families, friends, dreams and aspirations.

Already these are being shattered by floods, fires, droughts, desertification and storms. Millions have already been affected. Below are a sample of specific cases that herald future problems for the rest of the world.

Cecile Rvanavaluna used to work in her local rice paddy every day. Now Madagascar’s rice fields—which take up a third of the East African Island’s agricultural land—are dust. Madagascar has been suffering a drought for a record 40 years. It is, according to the UN, the victim of the first climate induced famine.

Cecile and her family are being kept just above starvation levels by handouts from the World Food Programme. Other Malagasy’s are less fortunate. At least 30,000 are said to be dying from starvation. Many are reduced to eating cactus leaves which would otherwise be fed to livestock. With so many in a weakened state disease is rampant.

Shakeeh Bano and her family can’t sleep inside their one-storey home for at least a third of the year. They have to move to the roof in an attempt to find respite from day after day of temperatures topping 50 degrees centigrade. Her three grandchildren regularly suffer from heat exhaustion, rashes and diarrhoea.

Kuwait at the head of the Persian Gulf is dependent on the fossil fuels which feed the growing climate crisis. It has also recorded temperatures as high as 68 degrees centigrade reflected off the desert sands. Most days the thermometer reaches at least 50 degrees. Between 11Am and 4pm the streets of Kuwait City are empty as the occupants seek a break in air conditioned homes which only push up the outdoor temperature. Unbearable temperatures have become a fact of life in recent years throughout the Middle East and South Asia. In fact, the Middle East is heating up at twice the rate as the rest of the globe.

Grandpa Joe dropped in for dinner at Tina Stege’s house on the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. This would not have been unusual but for the fact that Joe Stege was buried in a seaside plot thirty years ago. Rising sea levels meant that his coffin was lifted from his grave and deposited on the Tina’s front porch 200 yards up the beach. The Marshall Islands are one of many low-lying island nations that could literally disappear as polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise.

Meteorologists have warned that a quarter of million Australian homes could be lost to the sea over the next ten years. But that is only part of the problem down under. Australia is already the world’s driest continent and in the past ten years it has suffered a drought. Lack of rain and soaring temperatures have, according to experts, made the continental nation one of the three most fire prone areas in the world. In 2019-20, New South Wales suffered its worst bush fires in history. Three billion animals were either displaced or burned to death.

Canada’s British Columbia is usually associated with one of the world’s most pleasantly temperate climates. But over the past decade the numbers have been steadily rising. This summer Patrick Lytton received a text picture from his wife of the thermometer outside their home in the town of Lytton. It showed 53 degrees centigrade. Moments later the town burst into flames. Mrs Lytton and her pregnant daughter and her children were forced to flee with nothing more than the clothes are on their backs.

Further down the West coast, the combination of a prolonged drought and high temperatures is responsible for a record number of wildfires. In 2019, 118,000 acres was destroyed by fire. In 2020, the figure exceeded two million acres. The smoke and flames could be seen from the International Space Station. As the flames spread, firefighters draped in foil  world’s largest tree, the giant Sequoia known as General Sherman, to protect it from nearby fires.

Severe weather is also one of the consequences of rising world temperatures, especially in the Caribbean region and the US east coast. Hurricanes heading for that region start off the West coast of Africa where the higher temperatures draw up evaporated water from the Atlantic. The higher the temperature the more water that rises into the air, develops into hurricanes and starts being pushed northwest by the trade winds.

Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, Louisiana and Texas have all been hit in recent years by devastating hurricanes. Climate change storms are said to be responsible for floods that killed 242 people across several European countries in July and August. There was also severe flooding this summer in Turkey, China, India, Afghanistan, New Zealand and the US.

The world leaders gathered in Glasgow are said to be discussing ways to head off the consequences of climate change. They are already with us.

* Tom Arms is the Foreign Editor of Liberal Democratic Voice. His book “America Made in Britain” has recently been published by Amberley Books. He is also the author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War.”

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14 Comments

  • Kyle Harrison 6th Nov '21 - 9:08am

    It is funny to me that Australia is so resistant to carbon neutral even though it’s clearly going to be one of the worst effected countries in the developed world. You’d think in a place close to reaching 50°c in the summer even in its cities by the coast, more people would be recognising the problem.

  • Brad Barrows 6th Nov '21 - 9:40am

    As we sit and watch the effects of climate change on other people from the comfort of our own homes, the questions is…are we willing to give up ‘the comfort of our own homes’ for the sake of other people? Truth is, while most of us want to help other people suffering from drought or famine, we don’t want to make ourselves significantly poorer or to have to radically change our lifestyles. Our elected leaders know this so will try to reduce harmful emissions only in ways that allows us to continue to live our lives as before. Therefore the talk is about more electric cars rather than less mobility, or about electric or hydrogen planes rather than less holidays abroad. Anything we do to reduce harmful emissions will help but let us not pretend that climate change will be stopped – we are still going to have to plan for living with a changed climate.

  • Tom Arms……………Climate change affects every single one of the7.8 billion people living on planet Earth and each one of them is an individual with homes, jobs, families, friends, dreams and aspirations………………

    Watching the way politicians and the super-rich actually ignore the promises they make reminds me more and more of Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel ‘Make Room! Make Room! i(Soylent Green). Set in world with a population of 7 billion with overcrowding, resource shortages and a crumbling infrastructure it depicts how the super rich avoid the problems whilst the rest suffer…

    I’m afraid that, for all the hot air expended at CoP26, greed, by the few, for far more than they could ever use, makes Harrison’s dystopian future more likely than David Attenborough’s dream..

  • John Barrett 6th Nov '21 - 12:12pm

    Brad Barrows says – “As we sit and watch the effects of climate change on other people from the comfort of our own homes, the questions is, are we willing to give up the comfort of our own homes for the sake of other people”……..and “we don’t want to make ourselves significantly poorer or to have to radically change our lifestyles.”

    I think there is another way to look at the problem and making people feel they will be both poorer and less comfortable will not encourage them to change their behaviour.

    We have made a number of changes which have reduced our household’s impact, without feeling a loss of comfort or feeling any poorer. In some cases we are actually better off by making those changes. for example, insulating the house, replacing our old car with one which has cut our petrol bills in half and not flying abroad so much for holidays.

    Sadly changes made by individuals worldwide will be more than cancelled out by governments and industry who continue to pollute.

    I do agree with Brad in that we should also be planning to live with a changed climate, as the damage in many cases has already been done and will be irreversible.

  • Brad Barrows 6th Nov '21 - 1:37pm

    @John Barrett
    Yes, part of what is required is to present changes in a positive light as you appear to suggest, but I think we also need to use taxes and subsidies to influence individual choices – any money raised by Green taxes should be earmarked to subsidise the alternative to the items that are being taxed.

  • John Barrett 6th Nov '21 - 1:55pm

    Another way of reducing our carbon foot print and saving money is to reduce the amount of food waste we create. It is estimated that around 25% of the food we buy is then thrown out, so if people reduced this by half it would save both money and carbon and methane produced. Not to mention health benefits, if everyone was more concerned about the quality and quantity of food consumed.

    Eating less red meat would have the same effect. Many meat eaters, like me, are not going to become vegans, but it is very easy to replace a steak with something tasty, but which is much less damaging to the planet.

    I agree that sensible subsidies, or support, can make a very positive impact and encourage action like the installation of solar panels for electricity generation, which was cut a few years ago and which a was a real hammer blow to the solar panel industry.

  • Laurence Cox 6th Nov '21 - 3:27pm

    @John Barrett

    And make sure your pension provider is investing in Green funds. The total value of UK pension funds’ holdings is £2.6 trillion, more than our annual GDP.

    https://makemymoneymatter.co.uk/21x/

  • Chris Moore 6th Nov '21 - 5:20pm

    I gave up meat in the last year for health reasons and because of inreasing awareness of the cognitive and emotional capacities of animals.

    I no longer miss it, and there are numerous alternatives nowadays.

  • >Another way of reducing our carbon foot print and saving money is to reduce the amount of food waste we create.
    This is one of the things that puzzled me during lockdown. There were huge surpluses of fresh food due to the closure of the hostility sector, yet none of the supermarkets reported an upturn in purchasing that would reflect that people were purchasing more food because they weren’t eating out and thus largely cancel out the surpluses. Which would seem to indicate there is a huge over production that under normal circumstances is hidden from sight.

  • Nonconformistradical 6th Nov '21 - 7:53pm

    @Roland
    “hostility sector” = “hospitality sector”?

    Some places were doing takeaways during lockdown so maybe some ‘eating out’ meals might have been accounted for through those?

    And maybe less food was being wasted by individual households – which might have accoounted for some of the lack of upturn in buying from supermarkets?

  • Roland 6th Nov ’21 – 6:05pm:
    There were huge surpluses of fresh food due to the closure of the hostility sector, yet none of the supermarkets reported an upturn in purchasing that would reflect that people were purchasing more food because they weren’t eating out…

    Supermarkets, online grocers, and convenience stores all reported an upturn in food sales…

    ‘Supermarket sales in record surge during lockdown’ [27th.May 2020]:
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2020/05/27/supermarket-sales-record-surge-lockdown/

    Grocery sales surged at a record pace over the past three months as consumers were forced to eat at home during the coronavirus lockdown.

    Sales rose by 14.3pc in the quarter to May 17 compared to a year earlier, and by more than 17pc for the four weeks to mid-May according to data firm Kantar – the sharpest increase since it began compiling figures in 1994. Online sales also rocketed.

    ‘Record breaking grocery sales begin to slow as pubs and bars reopen’ [21st. July 2020]:
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/supermarket-grocery-sales-record-coronavirus-lockdown-a9630156.html

    Morrisons was the strongest performer of the UK’s “big four” grocers, as it reported a 17.4 per cent jump in sales over the period.

    Meanwhile, Tesco reported 15.1 per cent growth, Sainsbury’s saw sales rise by 13.5 per cent, and Asda sales grew by 11 per cent.

    Online retailer Ocado was another particularly strong performer, as sales rose by 45.5 per cent, while the Co-op and Iceland both also saw strong demand, with sales jumping 30.6 per cent and 34.1 per cent respectively.

    Sales from independent grocers and convenience stores also surged higher over the period.

  • John Marriott 7th Nov '21 - 9:01am

    What’s this ‘hostility sector’? I’ve heard of aggressive selling but this takes the biscuit!🤪

  • >What’s this ‘hostility sector’?
    Well… obviously, problem between brain and fingers, however looking at it another way, it could be a rebranding of the defence sector…

    @Nonconformistradical & Jeff – Yes, I did see the increased sales, but am not sure as to how much was redirected from the hospitality sector ( 🙂 ).
    My local egg producer is still giving away significant amounts of eggs to local third-sector organisations. But then having been doing the food collection from a local supermarket for a few years, the wastage is at times something to behold – the local (non-Trussell Trust) food bank is pleased to get all we can deliver.

  • Canada’s British Columbia is usually associated with one of the world’s most pleasantly temperate climates.

    On the coast, but inland it has hot summers.

    Further down the West coast, the combination of a prolonged drought and high temperatures is responsible for a record number of wildfires.

    Wildfires are caused by a source of ignition such as lightning strikes, electrical shorts on power lines, discarded cigarettes, out of control barbecues or garden fires, arson, etc. The ambient air temperature isn’t going to change that. Long droughts and wildfires are normal for these areas.

    In the US, the number of wildfires in 2020 was lower than for almost all years since 1985…

    ‘Climate Change Indicators: Wildfires’:
    https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indicators-wildfires

    In 2019, 118,000 acres was destroyed by fire. In 2020, the figure exceeded two million acres.

    Which is a small fraction of the annual acreage burnt in the 1930s…

    ‘Wildfire acres burned in the United States (not comparable), 1926 to 2017’:
    https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/acres-burned-usa-full-series

    Although reported figures may not always be directly comparable, the area burnt by wildfires appears to have been in decline for some decades…

    ‘Global trends in wildfire and its impacts: perceptions versus realities in a changing world’ [June 2016]:
    https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2015.0345

    …global area burned appears to have overall declined over past decades, and there is increasing evidence that there is less fire in the global landscape today than centuries ago. Regarding fire severity, limited data are available. For the western USA, they indicate little change overall, and also that area burned at high severity has overall declined compared to pre-European settlement. Direct fatalities from fire and economic losses also show no clear trends over the past three decades.

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