Climate Change, Science

Climate Change Corner: Is extreme weather here to stay?

Following the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on Monday 9 August, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres has categorised the climate crisis as a “code red for humanity”. Between the slow-moving storms causing ruinous floods in Europe, the surge of summer wildfires in the Mediterranean, and countless other natural disasters littering the front pages of newspapers, it looks like extreme weather is here to stay. 

Flash floods saw three inches of rainfall in 90 minutes in parts of the UK, including the nation’s capital, on Monday 2nd August. Mainly affecting north, north-west, and south-west London, one particularly alarming video shared on Twitter showed torrents of water rushing down the steps of Sloane Square tube station. The local councils of Hammersmith and Fulham declared a state of emergency in their boroughs. As roads began to close and sewers overflowed, 120 people were evacuated from their homes and temporarily placed in hotels. The London Fire Brigade took more than 1,000 calls relating to the flooding. Though meteorologists predict dry spells for the UK over the coming weeks, the latest UK State of the Climate report indicates an increase in the intensity of rainfall for future summers. 

However, while the UK is planning to implement expensive carbon-cutting strategies, a big proportion of the blame has fallen with China, India, and the US – widely regarded as the three biggest polluters. Many point to the emptiness of China’s promises, a nation which aims to reach net-zero emissions by 2060 yet is still introducing new plans for coal-fired power plants. In 2017, China made up 29.34% of global fossil CO2 emissions, while the UK contributed only 1.02%. Some believe this may be explained by China’s enormous population standing at 1.386 billion in 2017, in comparison to the UK’s 65.84 million. Taking this into account, however, China was still producing over ten times more CO2 per person than the UK. 

Leaders across the globe are under immense pressure to implement change before we run out of time to reverse the damaging effects of climate change. The latest step in progress takes the form of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). This year, the COP26 summit is hosted by the UK in Glasgow on 31st October – 12th November and brings together representatives from 197 countries to “accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change”.  

Alok Sharma, the COP President-Designate has stated: “we can’t afford to wait two years, five years, ten years – this is the moment”. However, he has refused to condemn the UK government’s plans to allow more fossil fuel projects. While Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an end to the direct funding of the overseas fossil fuel energy sector in December 2020, a UK government regulator is due to approve a new oil field in Cambo – ironically, only a few hundred miles from Glasgow, the host city for COP26. The chief scientist of Greenpeace UK, Doug Parr, argues world leaders have not been listening to clear messages surrounding the severity of climate change: “This year, this has to change. We don’t need more pledges, commitments, and targets – we need real action. Right here, right now”. 

In a world where our every move is dictated by the Doomsday Clock, it seems many of the leaders who could be steering us away from the climate crisis are, instead, blindly leading us towards it. Our only hope for real, long-lasting change lies in the COP26 summit – an opportunity to act before the effects of climate change become truly irreversible. 

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Dolly Carter

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January 2022
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