Sunday, 21 January 2007

Cut human-caused weather extremes by going green

January 20th marked the four hundredth anniversary of the huge tidal wave around the Bristol Channel that caused so much death, damage and distress. Such an anniversary reminds us of the awesome power of natural forces. This power has been clearly demonstrated to us all in Bristol and across the country in our recent weather, with several deaths resulting.

The tidal wave four hundred years ago was a natural event. Yet we are now living in a time where we cannot say that all the weather extremes we experience are wholly natural events. Firm, reliable and verified scientific evidence as collected together by the UN and others has now been saying for decades that pollution of the atmosphere with carbon emissions has altered our climate and thus our weather. Weather extremes have always happened and always will but science now says that as a result of human behaviour these extremes will occur more frequently and that they will be more intense and damaging.

As I write even more scientific evidence is being presented by the BBC/Open University in their report on the climateprediction.net project. Many Bristolians have taken part in this by downloading climate model software onto their home computers from the BBC website. The findings of this project are stark and go beyond a pleasant Mediterranean climate. Evidence of: increased flooding risk; more powerful storm surges; more torrential rain; stronger heatwaves, and more, are confidently predicted to occur if we dont act to substantially cut carbon emissions. Links between environmental problems are also presented eg year on year decrease of open, green space in Bristol reduces the natural capacity of land to deal with extra rain and so flooding risk rises. Unlike green space tarmac and concrete dont act like a sponge.

Problems like carbon emissions and open space loss caused by human behaviour can of course be changed by altering behaviour. Saving energy through upgrading home insulation keeps you more comfortable and saves you money on bills as well as cutting carbon emissions. Taking the train and/or holidaying in the UK instead of flying cuts emissions but also boosts your local, regional and national economy as you spend here and not abroad - there's also a lot to discover in our diverse country. Helping to save a piece of local open green space from development will maintain the ability of land to cope with rain and campaigning to build and maintain genuinely local facilities like swimming pools cuts car use, making our air healthier to breathe. There are many big plus points in such behaviour change - so go green!

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