23/09/2020

The prime minister must explain how his government is going to tackle the global warming emergency – and he needs to do it soon

Anyone pondering a climate-saving pledge to give up flying, stop eating meat or buy only ethical products may feel daunted but they pale next to the commitment made by Boris Johnson.
The prime minister must explain how his government is going to end the UKs contributions to global heating altogether and although that will not happen until 2050 he needs to do it soon.
He has David Attenborough and his own climate change advisers breathing down his neck and an international conference on the subject in November, when he will be humiliated if he is seen to have failed.
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Now, you might imagine that is focusing Mr Johnsons mind, but there is little evidence that the man intent on delivering Brexit and on public-pleasing domestic policies is paying much attention.
As the independent Committee on Climate Change pointed out, the UK is missing existing legal targets for cutting carbon emissions in the 2020s and 2030s  yet has now promised net zero by 2050.
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Thus far, the prime ministers only contributions to the debate have been dodging a TV grilling when he was replaced by an ice sculpture and an intention to pursue the pipe-dream of nuclear fusion. 
So, while I will eat less meat, use public transport instead of the car and pay over-the-odds for energy from renewable sources (dont tell Mrs Merrick!), my pledge is to watch the government like a hawk.
We can expect a blitz of policy announcements as the clock ticks down to COP26 in Glasgow, in November, but will they cut the mustard? The necessary measures ending sales of petrol and diesel cars, replacing gas boilers, cutting meat from diets will be hugely expensive and potentially unpopular, in a country that will be poorer after Brexit.
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1/20 Athens, Greece
In this decade, humans have become ever more aware of climate change. Calls for leaders to act echo around the globe as the signs of a changing climate become ever more difficult to ignore
2/20 California
Fierce wildfires have flared up in numerous countries. The damage being caused is unprecedented: 103 people were killed in wildfires last year in California, one of the places best prepared, best equipped to fight such blazes in the world
3/20 Redding, California
Entire towns have been razed. The towns of Redding and Paradise in California were all but eliminated in the 2018 season
4/20 Athens, Greece
While wildfires in Greece (pictured), Australia, Indonesia and many other countries have wrought chaos to infrastructure, economies and cost lives
5/20 Carlisle, England
In Britain, flooding has become commonplace. Extreme downpours in Carlisle in the winter of 2015 saw the previous record flood level being eclipsed by two feet
6/20 Hebden Bridge, England
Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire has flooded repeatedly in the past decade, with the worst coming on Christmas Day 2015. Toby Smith of Climate Visuals, an organisation focused on improving how climate change is depicted in the media, says: “Extreme weather and flooding, has and will become more frequent due to climate change. An increase in the severity and distribution of press images, reports and media coverage across the nation has localised the issue. It has raised our emotions, perception and personalised the effects and hazards of climate change.”
7/20 Somerset, England
Out west in Somerset, floods in 2013 led to entire villages being cut off and isolated for weeks
8/20 Dumfries, Scotland
“In summer 2012, intense rain flooded over 8000 properties. In 2013, storms and coastal surges combined catastrophically with elevated sea levels whilst December 2015, was the wettest month ever recorded. Major flooding events continued through the decade with the UK government declaring flooding as one of the nation’s major threats in 2017,” says Mr Smith of Climate Visuals
9/20 London, England
Weather has been more extreme in Britain in recent years. The ‘Beast from the East’ which arrived in February 2018 brought extraordinarily cold temperatures and high snowfall. Central London (pictured), where the city bustle tends to mean that snow doesn’t even settle, was covered in inches of snow for day
10/20 London, England
Months after the cold snap, a heatwave struck Britain, rendering the normally plush green of England’s parks in Summer a parched brown for weeks
11/20 New South Wales, Australia
Worsening droughts in many countries have been disastrous for crop yields and have threatened livestock. In Australia, where a brutal drought persisted for months last year, farmers have suffered from mental health problems because of the threat to their livelihood
12/20 Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Even dedicated climate skeptic Jeremy Clarkson has come to recognise the threat of climate change after visiting the Tonle Sap lake system in Cambodia. Over a million people rely on the water of Tonle Sap for work and sustinence but, as Mr Clarkson witnessed, a drought has severley depleted the water level
13/20 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
In reaction to these harbingers of climate obliteration, some humans have taken measures to counter the impending disaster. Ethiopia recently planted a reported 350 million trees in a single day
14/20 Morocco
Morocco has undertaken the most ambitious solar power scheme in the world, recently completing a solar plant the size of San Francisco
15/20 London, England
Electric cars are taking off as a viable alternative to fossil fuel burning vehicles and major cities across the world are adding charging points to accomodate
16/20 Purmerend, The Netherlands
Cities around the world are embracing cycling too, as a clean (and healthy) mode of transport. The Netherlands continues to lead the way with bikes far outnumbering people
17/20 Xiamen, China
Cycling infrastructure is taking over cities the world over, in the hope of reducing society’s dependency on polluting vehicles
18/20 Chennai, India
Despite positive steps being taken, humans continue to have a wildly adverse effect on the climate. There have been numerous major oil spills this decade, the most notable being the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010
19/20 Amazon rainforest, Brazil
More recently, large swathes of the Amazon rainforest were set alight by people to clear land for agriculture
20/20 California
This decade may have seen horrors but it has led to an understanding that the next decade must see change if human life is to continue
1/20 Athens, Greece
In this decade, humans have become ever more aware of climate change. Calls for leaders to act echo around the globe as the signs of a changing climate become ever more difficult to ignore
2/20 California
Fierce wildfires have flared up in numerous countries. The damage being caused is unprecedented: 103 people were killed in wildfires last year in California, one of the places best prepared, best equipped to fight such blazes in the world
3/20 Redding, California
Entire towns have been razed. The towns of Redding and Paradise in California were all but eliminated in the 2018 season
4/20 Athens, Greece
While wildfires in Greece (pictured), Australia, Indonesia and many other countries have wrought chaos to infrastructure, economies and cost lives
5/20 Carlisle, England
In Britain, flooding has become commonplace. Extreme downpours in Carlisle in the winter of 2015 saw the previous record flood level being eclipsed by two feet
6/20 Hebden Bridge, England
Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire has flooded repeatedly in the past decade, with the worst coming on Christmas Day 2015. Toby Smith of Climate Visuals, an organisation focused on improving how climate change is depicted in the media, says: “Extreme weather and flooding, has and will become more frequent due to climate change. An increase in the severity and distribution of press images, reports and media coverage across the nation has localised the issue. It has raised our emotions, perception and personalised the effects and hazards of climate change.”
7/20 Somerset, England
Out west in Somerset, floods in 2013 led to entire villages being cut off and isolated for weeks
8/20 Dumfries, Scotland
“In summer 2012, intense rain flooded over 8000 properties. In 2013, storms and coastal surges combined catastrophically with elevated sea levels whilst December 2015, was the wettest month ever recorded. Major flooding events continued through the decade with the UK government declaring flooding as one of the nation’s major threats in 2017,” says Mr Smith of Climate Visuals
9/20 London, England
Weather has been more extreme in Britain in recent years. The ‘Beast from the East’ which arrived in February 2018 brought extraordinarily cold temperatures and high snowfall. Central London (pictured), where the city bustle tends to mean that snow doesn’t even settle, was covered in inches of snow for day
10/20 London, England
Months after the cold snap, a heatwave struck Britain, rendering the normally plush green of England’s parks in Summer a parched brown for weeks
11/20 New South Wales, Australia
Worsening droughts in many countries have been disastrous for crop yields and have threatened livestock. In Australia, where a brutal drought persisted for months last year, farmers have suffered from mental health problems because of the threat to their livelihood
12/20 Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Even dedicated climate skeptic Jeremy Clarkson has come to recognise the threat of climate change after visiting the Tonle Sap lake system in Cambodia. Over a million people rely on the water of Tonle Sap for work and sustinence but, as Mr Clarkson witnessed, a drought has severley depleted the water level
13/20 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
In reaction to these harbingers of climate obliteration, some humans have taken measures to counter the impending disaster. Ethiopia recently planted a reported 350 million trees in a single day
14/20 Morocco
Morocco has undertaken the most ambitious solar power scheme in the world, recently completing a solar plant the size of San Francisco
15/20 London, England
Electric cars are taking off as a viable alternative to fossil fuel burning vehicles and major cities across the world are adding charging points to accomodate
16/20 Purmerend, The Netherlands
Cities around the world are embracing cycling too, as a clean (and healthy) mode of transport. The Netherlands continues to lead the way with bikes far outnumbering people
17/20 Xiamen, China
Cycling infrastructure is taking over cities the world over, in the hope of reducing society’s dependency on polluting vehicles
18/20 Chennai, India
Despite positive steps being taken, humans continue to have a wildly adverse effect on the climate. There have been numerous major oil spills this decade, the most notable being the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010
19/20 Amazon rainforest, Brazil
More recently, large swathes of the Amazon rainforest were set alight by people to clear land for agriculture
20/20 California
This decade may have seen horrors but it has led to an understanding that the next decade must see change if human life is to continue
My suspicions have already been aroused by the admission that a decision on funding will not come until that autumn? How much worth will promises have without hard cash behind them? How hopeful can we be that Tory hearts are in it when the party pocketed more than £1m in dirty money from investors in fossil fuels during the election campaign?
Scrutiny must also stretch to the opposition parties which must resist the temptation to capitalise on a voter backlash if the measures are right, but unpopular.
After the hottest decade on record, the heat must be put on the politicians and The Independent will be doing just that.