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Opinion

A lot of hot air

Climate Change. It’s that controversial come-of-age subject that is intriguing for some, a nuisance for others and for many a big worry.

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It arrived in the economic and political scene during George Bush’s terms in the White House, largely because scientific facts became obvious, followed closely by the denial lobbyists mainly at the behest of big business and big government. So where are we now and does it affect where we might travel to and why?

Well not a lot has actually changed. Yes, governments around the world have agreed on various mechanisms to reduce CO2 levels, but CO2 levels remain historically high and most of the graphs that measure levels around the world continue the upwards trend.

Not just CO2 either, but methane – another greenhouse gas – has the same kind of accelerating pattern. Indeed, actions now will take decades to reverse the current cycle – a bit like turning the Titanic in very slow motion. And yes, the anti lobbyists remain as steadfast as ever – some with no political or economic axe to grind, so it’s not all about big bucks – though most arguably is.

In order to put a perspective on climate change and map out how the future may look, it’s necessary to think about the past and how climate change has affected the Earth long before humans arrived on the scene. It’s certainly fair to say that climate change is something that has happened before on countless occasions; in fact climate change is an ongoing, everlasting process that has affected every single part of the Earth. Moreover, every single one of the major changes have been a natural process of one kind or another. I guess we are talking tectonic plate actions, volcanic disturbances, meteorite impacts and other processes that in the short or long term have literally changed the face of the Earth, the climate and day-to-day weather.

So nothing new there then you might think? Well all of that has occurred across billions of years and even within the ages of Man that runs into hundreds of thousands of years. Within that time the human population has reacted to climate change by leaving one place and inhabiting another – simply to survive and prosper (yep, we aren’t talking holiday choices here folks). Forever and a day vegetation, insects, animals and humans have packed their bags has the climate has changed and turned up somewhere more favourable to life……or (and it’s a big or), perished!

Sadly, that’s evolution and extinction for you, there have been far more numerous losers than winners when it comes to climate change. So the big picture is a very big picture at all, and in terms of where we might travel to see climate change at work at an accelerating level you need look no further than the ever-retreating Arctic ice shelf. It’s being eaten away as we speak and a similar thing is happening down below in the Antarctic. Inevitably, as sea levels rise we will lose some of our low lying-islands – with places such as Tuvalu, Kiribati and Vanuatu in the mid-Pacific on the front line. Time is probably short for them and maybe for you too, if you want to experience some of what is, before it becomes a what was.

Jim N R Dale is a Senior Risk Meteorologist for British Weather Services

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