Climate change and how it may affect us in Bridport
Opinion polls show that 90% of the UK population agree that we are in a climate crisis, and that human activity is a major cause. We can see that extreme weather events are happening more often in Britain and worldwide. The leading official group assessing all this is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Their sixth report, in August 2022, describes the outlook as alarming unless major changes are made in the next few years to cut emissions.
The major human activity causing climate change is emission of gases such as carbon dioxide (from burning coal, petrol and natural gas), and methane (mostly from farm animals). These are known as greenhouse gases, because they trap heat from the sun in the Earth’s atmosphere, and therefore cause global warming. This has already caused average temperatures to rise by 1.0˚C above the 1981–2010 long-term average. Whilst this may not seem much, this is an average, and we can see that this has already led to longer and more extreme heatwaves, and to periods of more intense rain causing floods.
Currently the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) insistence is that national governments reduce emissions dramatically and keep the global temperature rise to 1.5˚C. Without major change, the rise could be 2˚C or more by 2050, which would have major impacts such as floods, wildfires and food shortages.
Although Bridport is fortunate to have a temperate climate, we could face severe heatwaves, droughts, floods, and shortages of imported food anytime over the next few years and beyond. Indeed, more violent storms and the steadily rising sea levels are already increasing erosion of the Jurassic Coast
What do the outcomes of COP26 tell us?
This November, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, took place in Glasgow. What do the outcomes of COP26 mean for Bridport residents? COP26 has demonstrated that governments on their own are reluctant to commit to actions and policies that are ambitious enough to avoid the climate crisis. National climate policy is not significantly changing after COP 26.
We must do what we can in our own town without waiting for leadership from central government, and join forces with others who are also doing that. But that does not mean that solving the climate challenge is just up to us: we the public, as voters and citizens and activists, should hold our government to account for delivering on their commitments, and press them to up their game by doing everything we can locally.
What’s the outlook?
Currently, the outlook is pretty worrying. On current trends, global average warming will exceed 2˚C before 2050, which would imply a major aggravation of problems we are already seeing with extreme weather, food shortages, etc. Avoiding this essentially requires two things: one is for millions of people across the world, including us, to make lifestyle changes in diet, travel, etc. The second is that national governments must go much further in policy changes and financial commitments to support them. There’s plenty that each of us can do, at household and community level, and in putting pressure on national policymakers. For a short overview of practical actions, click here.
We live in a democracy! We can help the policy changes we need by contacting our MP and councillors, and supporting lobbying groups and petitions. For example:
- www.writetothem.com shows you how to contact your MP and local councillors. Tell them your concerns, the changes you want.
- www.friendsoftheearth.uk have a West Dorset branch, and a list of local Climate Action Groups.
- www.greenpeace.org.uk highlights many climate-related issues and offers various ways you can support positive action.