Brexit climate change and a summer to remember

Football, Brexit and a heat-wave: a summer to remember by Peter Horton

Our Chief Research Advisor, Peter Horton, reflects on summer 2018 – and how Brexit distracts from catastrophic climate change.

Professor Peter Horton.

The summer 2018 will be remembered for 3 things. The World Cup, Brexit and a heatwave.

Brexit: a state of emergency?

It is with bewilderment that I see that the Government plans for Brexit as a state of emergency.

They are stocking up on food supplies and medicines and new car parks to accommodate stranded good vehicles. And they are taking precautions against civil unrest, even thinking of using the army. We learn about the huge amount of money this costs and the dire economic consequences predicted by the Bank of England. Not to mention the time, effort and talent from Government departments that could be used elsewhere. And we see the focus of our elected politicians being on nothing else – Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, morning, noon and night.

What a mess!

But this is a self-inflicted mess. Did that narrow majority, 37% of eligible voters, really vote for all this turmoil, waste and hardship? I am yet to hear any evidence or even a convincing argument for any proven benefit that will flow from leaving the EU under the circumstances being considered. ‘Taking our country back’ is an empty meaningless slogan. For the hard-line Brexiteers on the right and the left this is a vanity project, satisfying long held beliefs, contempt for foreign institutions, and nothing to do with improving the lives of the British people.

The heat-wave

One might compare this to the other crisis covering our news this summer – the summer heat-wave.

We are witnessing catastrophic weather events affecting huge swathes of the Northern hemisphere. Extreme temperatures, drought, floods, wildfires, as far North as the Arctic Circle.

This summer’s events follow record breaking low temperatures and snow falls. Extreme monsoons, disastrous hurricanes, events happening all over the globe. We see alarming images of melting of polar ice sheets and retreat of glaciers. And descriptions of biodiversity loss everywhere. The list is endless.

It is clear why this is happening: global warming arising from the burning of fossil fuels. We have changed our atmosphere and our climate and are already seeing the consequences. Like Brexit this is self-inflicted. Unlike Brexit, it affects every person on the planet, threatens our very existence and can’t be stopped.

A wake up call

These extreme weather events should be a wake-up call. This is serious, it is happening, people are dying and lives are being ruined. Action is needed, now.

We need new policies

Firstly, the Paris Climate Agreement needs to be pursued with renewed vigour.

Secondly, people need to persuade their governments to act with more urgency. We can take inspiration from the “climate kids” who are taking out lawsuits against governments all over the world. Or the way governments and businesses have been forced to take action to reduce plastic waste following public pressure arising from campaigns and TV documentaries.

Thirdly, we need new policies. Policies based on evidence that will stop fossil fuel burning within a decade. Not phasing out or reducing the rate of increase. Not setting self-monitored, non-binding targets. And not a switch from coal to gas or burning imported wood chips.

Furthermore, we need to account for outsourced emissions associated with our import of food and manufactured goods.

We need urgent action on climate change

The world cup shows what can be achieved when people come together with a common purpose.

All countries, including our own, need to take urgent action to adapt to climate change. It is for this reason that the Brexit folly must stop. The Government’s energy, creativity and resources need to go into this. Now. It is a national emergency. A real one this time, not one created by misguided politicians.

We need to secure our supply of food, fortify our coastlines, protect our wildlife, preserve our landscapes and water courses. And we need to make our infrastructure more resilient, modify our homes, adapt our health care and social care. Plus we need to learn how to deal with floods, drought, winds, heat-waves, cold, snow and ice.

Our way of living has changed the climate, and that climate is something beyond our control. There is no technology to control the weather. No proven way to quickly reverse the elevated CO2 level.

We have to adapt

Even if we stop emitting CO2 altogether, tomorrow, it will take hundreds of years to return to pre-industrial levels. So we have to adapt. Luckily, we have the means to do it: working together, with bold and imaginative solutions and new technologies.

Football – and another inspiring news story this summer, the rescue of the trapped boys team in Thailand – shows what can be done when people work together. When human endeavour and technology combine with bravery, ingenuity and determination in a multinational effort.

It is the Government’s overriding duty to protect its population from adversity, from whatever source. Not to blindly follow a course action that it knows will needlessly add to it.

And so, instead of pursuing Brexit, it needs to focus on the real problem – mitigating and adapting to climate change! The summer of 2018 is not yet over – let the events so far bring us all to our senses.

Want more on Brexit and sustainability? Then you can read this interview with our George Asiamah Brexit, food and science.

Or you can read Professor Colin Osborne on the need to rethink how we consume post-Brexit. Read: Brexit, consumption and sustainability.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels.