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Humanist column: Hot summer should be a ‘wake up call’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 22 September 2018

Archant

2018 saw East London set a new record. But this is no cause for rejoicing. According to reports the grass fire on Wanstead Flats was the worst ever known in London.

Similar incidents, many far worse, have occurred all over the northern hemisphere where every continent has suffered scorching temperatures. It’s been the hottest period ever recorded. Yet only a few months before we were all shivering from the ‘Beast from the East.’ Schools across Newham had to shut. Operations were cancelled and transport came to a standstill.

There is of course nothing new about occasional extreme weather. But what was once exceptional has in our lifetimes become normal. The frightening fact is that this changing pattern had been predicted by most climate scientists. It should come as no surprise that the activity of humans has had an impact. There are now 7.5 billion of us, and counting. How can we expect to keep pumping out ‘greenhouse’ gases without having some effect?

While we can make small changes individually, it is only politicians who can collectively take the major action required. Many show no sense of urgency or responsibility. They squabble about issues which seem petty compared to this threat to our very existence. Trump set a shocking example by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement. Interestingly, though his tweets pour scorn on the experts, he is following advice to build extra sea defences to protect his Scottish golf course against rising sea levels. Our own government is little better. While it talks ‘green’ it has cut investment in renewable energy. At the same time it’s commitment to fracking will inevitably result in more fossil fuel being burnt.

Evidence confirms humans contribute significantly to climate change. It is only through human action that the emissions responsible will be reduced. There is no-one ‘out there’ who will do it for us. There is no Planet B!

Thankfully green shoots are starting to appear through the charred debris on Wanstead Flats. But this year’s weather should be a wakeup call to what the future might hold unless urgent action is taken now.

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