In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set out the impact of global temperature rise of 1.5oC from pre-industrial levels. The report warns of increasingly extreme weather events with rising sea levels and melting glaciers; wildlife becoming threatened and at risk of extinction and our own health deteriorating; food becoming scarce and clean water running dry; tensions rising between people and increasing migration and environmental refugees as people flee inhospitable parts of the Earth.
This next decade is critical. The World Economic Forum sets out that climate change is not incremental. The ways the earth stores and releases carbon could change suddenly in response to the gradual global warming that is underway. Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet’s climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency. Recent research suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15 per cent since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the cessation of arable farming in the UK, for instance.
These global changes can sound far away but in fact in Essex, we are already experiencing some of the impacts. The Met Office’s State of the UK Climate report for 2018 shows the ten hottest years in the UK since 1884 have all happened in the last 17 years and note that we can expect warmer, wetter winters, hotter drier summers and more frequent and intense weather extremes.
This has real impacts on us. The number of homes at risk of flooding in Essex could double by 2050. We already experience water shortages in the summer, and this is expected to worsen. It will negatively affect our health and wellbeing. Our homes, jobs, businesses, and agricultural land could all be at risk. The green spaces and wildlife, which were so important to us during the COVID-19 pandemic, are also threatened.
Page updated: 28/06/2021