Yesterday, an emergency meeting was held at the Met Office to discuss the unusual weather patterns experienced here in the UK. Examining the frozen winter of 2010/11, the wet summer of 2012 (the second wettest since records began) and this year’s bitter spring, scientists pointed to a number of factors thought to be responsible for our ‘weird weather’ – most of which (rapid arctic melt, disruption of the jet stream, warming oceans, more moisture in the atmosphere etc.) could be attributed to climate change.
But despite scientific consensus and a growing body of empirical evidence affecting the every day lives of citizens of this country, there exists a continuing juxtaposition between the reality of the world facing climate change and the alternate reality inhabited by politics and the press.
The failure to secure necessary green amendments to the Energy Bill in the House of Commons at the beginning of this month, Osborne’s proposed ‘Dash for Gas’, and rumours of renewed plans to expand Heathrow, demonstrate a ‘business as usual’ attitude held by a select group of political climate deniers apparently determined to pursue a path to growth at all costs.
Owen Paterson’s recent appearance on Any Questions presents a prime example of the kind of sceptical thinking coming from those in a position to know better. The Secretary of State for the Environment (yes, I know) publicly agreed with sceptic and Telegraph columnist James Delingpole, who voiced the myth that the climate hasn’t warmed since 1997. Paterson then argued against taking serious action on climate change saying instead that: ‘the practical measures we take to counter … the human influence may cause more damage then they gain, they may just export the problem – there is absolutely no gain whatever in closing down industrial activity here to give everyone a warm feeling.’
Your guess is as good as mine as to what he possibly could have meant by exporting ‘the problem’. Perhaps he believes that if we take action on climate change all our weird weather would suddenly emigrate to the continent. And overcome your anger at his suggestion that tackling climate change would somehow just give us all a ‘warm feeling’ and you might just see the irony in that statement.
Which brings us back to ‘weird weather’ and the media’s response to the Met Office’s emergency meeting. Today’s Guardian’s online features a piece by Richard Mabey, entitled: The Weather May be Grim But Let’s Learn to Enjoy it, in which Mabey encourages much needed adaptation to our new atypical, destructive, weather patterns – but also conspicuously avoids expressing the need for concerted action to prevent the situation from getting any worse. Having described our ‘weird weather’ as a ‘trivial nuisance’ angry retorts in the comments section outline personal stories of fuel poverty, repetitive flooding, and economic loss from across the country.
These responses give a true picture of the reality we are living in: where farmers dig dead livestock out of drifts of snow during spring, and the vulnerable die in cold weather – unable to heat their homes. The truth is that climate change is noticeably affecting the people of this country. The time has come for politicians and the press to shirk off their paradoxical reality and start working towards concrete action – realising that action on climate change will be action for everybody.