This month we welcomed two guest speakers - Ellen Worrell and Hannah Bedard from Green Welford1. This group has been working very hard to make Welford more environmentally friendly including putting on Kidsfest events in 2022 and 2023 – family-friendly events designed to introduce children and their families to a greener way of life.
Hannah and Ellen have both undertaken full Carbon Literacy training, so are certified as Carbon Literate, and gave us an hour-long overview of Carbon Literacy and what it means. Their excellent slides are available to be downloaded here.
This meeting was recorded and can be watched on the CA-WN YouTube channel2.
Present: Adrian Sherlock, Alexina Cassidy, Amanda Goddard, Briony Askew, Clare Slater, Dave Pearson, David Garlick, Emmie Williamson, Harry Mellor, Jane Wood, Jonathan Harris, Leonie Beale, Martin Coombs, Mick Lorkins, Mike Longman, Rosie Humphreys.
Apologies: Clare Robertson-Marriott, Dave Anderson, Ella Sage, Judy Burrage, Lynne Hackworth, Rupert Knowles.
Introduction to Carbon Literacy
The full Carbon Literacy course is 8 hours; EW and HB have squeezed as much as possible into an hour. Carbon Literacy is run by a charity - the Carbon Literacy Project3, its purpose being to help people understand what actions they can take to make a difference, and which make the biggest difference. It’s also important to get used to talking about climate change so it becomes part of mainstream conversation.
EW and HB thanked Jen Gale of Sustainable-ish where they did their Carbon Literacy training and who has allowed them to use her slides as the basis for the ones they are delivering today. [Jen was a recent guest speaker for CA-WN4]
Some think individual actions can’t make a difference to climate change. EW and HB don’t agree; they both have young children and are making changes to leave behind a planet that is safe to live on.
Knowledge is power – not all the information in this presentation is easy to listen to but it is important. Having knowledge gives you confidence to talk about the big issues.
· We need everyone on board
· Nothing changes if nothing changes!
· We don’t have long left in this critical decade
Weather vs Climate
The difference between weather and climate is key as the two are often confused (“how can global warming be a thing when it’s really cold here?”).
Weather is what you can see out of the window; climate is the expected weather conditions in a place at a time of year.
Climate change is the change in average conditions in a region over a long period.
Climate ‘haiku’ or Climate Science 101 created by Professor Kimberley Nicholas5
This inspires the structure of the presentation.
The ‘warming stripes’ created by Ed Hawkins of Reading University6 illustrate this clearly. In every region around the world the stripes turn from blue to red over the period 1850 to 2022. Interim data for 2023 indicates we will need a darker shade of red.
The same message is illustrated by other graphs showing different datasets7:
- Streak of days breaking daily records in 2023
- Daily global average air temperature
- Daily average sea surface temperature
There is clear correlation between emissions and CO2 in the atmosphere8. 70% of carbon emissions since 1751 have occurred in the last 50 years. Excessive consumption is now too high and as demand rises, we are releasing more CO2 than natural processes can remove. The safe level of CO2 is around 300ppm (parts per million), we are now at around 420ppm. Which doesn’t sound like a lot but you wouldn’t want to drink wine containing that level of arsenic.
There are four main GHGs (greenhouse gases) plus water vapour:
- Carbon dioxide (CO2)
- Methane (CH4)
- Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
- F gases (various)
These last for varying amounts of time in the atmosphere and have varying levels of effectiveness at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
- CO2 - cement industry; fossil fuels; natural gas
- CH4 – agriculture; food waste; landfill
- N2O – agricultural fertilisers
- F gases – refrigeration; air conditioning
There is an overwhelming scientific consensus about this.
Reports issued by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) since 1995 have reported an increasing level of certainty that climate change is caused by human activity. Bear in mind that the scientists writing these reports will have wanted the words to be stronger but the text is watered down by the governmental review process.
Climate change has many impacts all of which affect human health and wellbeing, from making some areas of the world uninhabitable, to increased incidence of respiratory diseases due to heat and pollution.
Many extreme weather events are now closely linked to climate change by scientists.
Biodiversity loss is a very important issue that doesn’t get as much attention as climate change, but is closely linked to the climate crisis. On average the global population of birds, mammals, reptiles and fish has fallen by around 69% since the 1970s, as shown by the Biodiversity Stripes created by Professor Miles Richardson of the University of Derby9.
The UK is below the world average, with only about half of our biodiversity remaining. Animals that were fairly common within our lifetimes might only be seen in books by future generations.
Not all countries are equally vulnerable to the climate crisis: there is a clear divide between the global north and the global south, with the latter much more vulnerable10. In addition the most vulnerable countries are often also those which contributed least to the cause of the problem. This doesn’t mean wealthier countries are immune – the supply and cost of goods like coffee, maize and wheat which we rely on will be affected by the increasingly adverse growing conditions in producing countries.
We also need to consider that within the next 30 years there will be 1 billion environmental migrants, driven from their homes by the effects of climate change.
Who is responsible for climate change?
There are some countries which emit a huge amount of GHGs – with China and the US the two biggest11. But it’s also worth looking at which countries have the highest per capita emissions. By this measure the leader is Qatar, with China’s per capita emissions only just above average. And don’t forget that China’s manufacturing output supplies the world, as many countries have outsourced manufacturing to China.
At this point EW and HB showed a short video12 of countries' cumulative emissions over time from the industrial revolution, with the UK starting in the lead but being quickly overtaken in recent decades.
- The poorest 50% contribute 10% of lifestyle consumption emissions 13
- Richest 10% globally have incomes of >£27k pa; richest 1% >£100k pa
Climate change is a global problem which no country can fix alone. Allocating responsibility can be complicated, but the solution is potentially very simple – we all need to do as much as we can.
The current level of global warming is 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Doesn’t sound like a lot but as a human a body temperature 1.5 degrees above normal would make you feel pretty ill.
Also note that an ice age is only about 4 degrees colder than preindustrial temperatures.
· An increase of 1.5 degrees cannot now be prevented. No major tipping points would be reached at this level - the Earth’s system would be warmer but still recognisable as the stable conditions we are used to.
· An increase of 2 degrees would mean some very significant changes – sea level rise of 56cm; widespread hunger due to lower agricultural yields; 49m people displaced. Current climate policies put us on a trajectory to hit 2 degrees by 2060.
· An increase of 3 degrees is the likely result of late and uncoordinated action. This would mean irreversible impacts on almost all Earth’s ecosystems – sea levels rising by 7 metres; crop failures and food scarcity lead to widespread global starvation; 150m people displaced. 14
What will climate change look like near me?
Hotter drier summers, warmer wetter winters, more public health warnings due to heat, more flooding in winter, no snow. 15
What is Net Carbon Zero?
This means the amount of GHGs emitted is equal to the amount taken out of the atmosphere. Zero carbon i.e. no GHG emissions is better but harder to achieve.
There have been global climate conferences since 1979 yet emissions have continued to rise. The annual conferences (COPs) are increasingly dominated by fossil fuel company delegates and national governments are not doing enough. Others need to step up too – communities, business, local government.
The Council Climate Action Scorecards issued by Climate Emergency UK show that our local council is not doing terribly well so far16.
We can fix it
People often talk about reducing carbon footprint but what does this mean? Everyone has one and they vary hugely across countries and regions. The book How Bad are Bananas by Mike Berners-Lee is good on this.
The average UK footprint is 12.7 tonnes. There are numerous online tools to calculate your own carbon footprint. In the UK we all need to get our footprints down to 2.5 tonnes by 2030. How?
Through actions that we take:
· As consumers – how we spend our money
· As citizens – how we vote and interact with politicians
· As agents of change in our workplaces, schools, clubs etc.
· As influencers - by breaking down stereotypes and making visible changes
Food - different foods have very different footprints, so changing what we eat is one way. The same food from different sources can have a different footprint. But try eating less meat and eating seasonally, and avoid food waste.
Energy – various changes at home can save energy.
Travel – drive and fly, reduce the number of trips we make by combining trips, use public transport if possible.
Green Welford created their own set of challenges.
Tips on talking climate
Climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe17 says talking about climate change is the most important thing we can all do. You don’t need to be an expert. Talk about how you feel, no-one can dispute that, but be gentle and respectful to help open up conversations.
It’s not all about your personal carbon footprint, we all also have a ‘climate shadow’.18 This is about the non quantifiable influence we can have by talking about climate change and sharing what we are doing.
- Consultations on LCWIPs (local cycling and walking infrastructure plans) for Brackley, Daventry & Towcester opened this week and will close on 25 February 19
- A climate summit is being planned for west Northamptonshire later this year
- JW and HM have been working with Illustration students at the University of Northampton and will soon be sharing their work
- Don't forget tree harvesting event on Sunday 28 January (see CA-WN Exchange Whats On page)
1 Green Welford https://www.welfordvillage.org.uk/green-welford1
2 CA-WN YouTube https://www.youtube.com/@climateaction-westnorthamp8784
3 Carbon Literacy Project https://carbonliteracy.com/
4 CA-WN meeting notes with Jen Gale https://exchange.ca-wn.org/ca-wn-monthly-meeting-notes-16-november-2023/
5 Professor Kimberley Nicholas https://www.kimnicholas.com/
6 Warming stripes https://www.reading.ac.uk/planet/climate-resources/climate-stripes
7 ‘It’s Warming’ graphs https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-67861954
8 Emissions and CO2 concentration https://www.climate.gov/media/14596
9 Biodiversity stripes https://biodiversitystripes.info/global
10 Country rankings for vulnerability to climate change https://gain.nd.edu/our-work/country-index/rankings/
11 Country total emissions https://globalcarbonatlas.org/
12 YouTube video cumulative carbon emissions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jx85qK1ztAc
14 1.5 degrees impact vs 2.0 and 3.0 degrees impact https://www.facebook.com/ParentsForFutureUK/posts/pfbid0xC8efA4swRtRX74QcFBe6ppsWYVsqrdeuqXog8KJ4kApZLxgfTtBACxB63Hg6owcl
15 What will climate change look like near me?
16 Council climate action scorecards – previous analysis by CA-WN https://exchange.ca-wn.org/council-watch-2023-council-climate-action-scorecards/
17 Katherine Hayhoe https://www.katharinehayhoe.com/
19 LCWIP consultations https://westnorthants.citizenspace.com/