Monday, 21 March 2016

A ticking time-bomb

This column was published in the Llanelli Herald on March 18th 2016

I haven’t been asked about climate change much in this campaign, despite knocking on thousands of doors right across the Llanelli constituency.

About nine years ago it was a big political issue, but as soon as the economic slump hit people’s interest in global warming melted away as short-term considerations about the state of the economy understandably dominated debate.

But the effects of rising temperatures haven’t gone away.

This week America's space agency Nasa revealed that February had seen a 'shocking' rise in global temperature, breaking the record set just one month before.

Regions of the Arctic were more than 16C warmer than normal. In Alaska the warm temperatures has been sending snowmobilers plunging through thin ice into freezing rivers, and forcing deliveries of snow to the starting line of Alaska’s legendary Iditarod dogsledding race.

Does it matter?

Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years. Experts say it’s explosive compared to natural processes. This means it is almost certain that we are on course to breach the 2 degree danger limit for global warming that the UN climate summit in Paris in December agreed should not be passed.

Donald Trump and Nigel Farage things it’s a hoax - which means we really should sit up and take this seriously. The world’s scientific community - a dry bunch at the best of times - are screaming at us to sit up and take radical action quickly.

While temperatures going up a few degrees may not sound like the end of the world - and given the cold snap in our weather recently might be seen a relief - it really is much more serious than that.

The rise is disrupting nature’s rhythms. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means higher temperatures, and that has knock-on consequences. For example, the extra warming is increasing the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere, which further increases temperatures. But there’s worse to come, the real fear is the melting of the permafrost and the release billions of tonnes of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, currently trapped beneath it.

Once we reach these ‘tipping points’ irreversible change may come quickly, along with droughts, vicious storms, and flooding. All this will fuel even more migration as people flee parts of the world that may become uninhabitable.

It all sounds very alarmist, and people with a vested interest in profiting out of the activities which are driving this trend, will inevitably dismiss it.

But this is important, and will affect Llanelli. Much of the area is already vulnerable to flooding. This is why I’ve been campaigning against expanding Parc Trostre - both to stop further flood risk, and to stop developments which encourage greater car use (and extra emissions).

Though it’s not currently on the minds of many voters, it is on my mind. And it’s one of the reasons I’m going into politics. We need more long term thinking to tackle the big challenges that will face future generations.

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