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Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea 4

6th February 2019

Snow-less ski piste
Snow-less ski piste, Val Thorens, France

Climate change made the front page and was the top story on the BBC website today. It should have happened sooner.

Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea 4: Met Office prediction

The Met Office says the world is heading for the warmest decade ever. The next 5 years are likely to be at or above 1C warmer than pre-industrial levels, and may exceed the critical 1.5C threshold that we're supposed to be staying below. The decade 2014-2023 will be the warmest of any during the 150 years that records have been kept.

Dr Anna Jones, an atmospheric chemist at the British Antarctic Survey, said that the Met Office's forecast is no surprise. 'Temperatures averaged across the globe are at a record all-time high, and have been for a number of years. They are driven predominately by rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, that result from our continued use of fossil fuels. Until we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we can expect to see upward trends in global averaged temperatures.'

Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea 4: more about climate change

In October 2018, the IPCC published a Summary for Policymakers, calling for rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes to society if we are to have any hope of limiting warming to 1.5C. That threshold could be exceeded in 12 years. The world is currently heading for a disastrous 3C.

Building new roads, so as to expand the volume of traffic and increase the amount of fossil fuels burnt by vehicles, is incompatible with the urgent, large-scale changes required.

On 1st February 2019, the BBC reported that Australia had experienced the hottest January on record. Average temperatures exceeded 30C for the first time. The heatwave surpasses the previous record, which was in 2013. There were bush fires in Tasmania. A couple of months earlier, in November, one third of a bat species, the spectacled flying foxes, died in just two days - about 23,000 animals that couldn't cope with the heat.

On 4th February 2019, the BBC reported that the melting of one third of the Himalayan glaciers is already locked in. If warming exceeds 1.5C, more ice will go. 250 million people rely on the glaciers as a critical water source. 1.65 billion people living in river valleys below are vulnerable to flooding and destruction of crops.

Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea 4: the deniers

There are still some people who will try to mislead us into believing nothing is happening, or the effects will be anodyne.

There are people who are so blinded by their own ideology that they refuse to accept the facts about what is happening to our climate. Some oil and coal companies pay for dishonest propaganda, putting their profits above a habitable climate.

Some people buy the propaganda from the ideologues or the vested commercial interests, but it has less and less traction as people see the changes with their own eyes.

Harrogate is not immune to the effects of a rapidly changing climate. In summer 2018, it may only be that the grass on your lawn went brown for the first time ever, but there is trouble ahead.

Why Harrogate relief road is a terrible idea 4: what do the proponents of the road have to say about climate change?

Absolutely nothing.

Aside from the destruction of countryside and wildlife that the building of a road through the Nidd Gorge would involve, an expansion of the road system will inevitably increase traffic and emissions of CO2. At a time when we should be treading lightly, and looking to travel sustainably, the proponents of the road want to do the exact opposite.

Since they have nothing to say on the subject, devining their opinions comes down to speculation and guesswork. My guess is that they think of themselves as 'realists'. Unfortunately, their reality is based on the facts of a few decades ago.

Genuinely intelligent and inspirational leaders pay attention to convincing scientific research, and are open to new facts - particularly when they are demonstrated in such a compelling and clear way as the facts of climate change have been. We can look across the Atlantic for an example of a leader wallowing in ignorance and populism, and that should be enough to inoculate us against it.

Intelligent and inspirational leaders base their policies on the facts available to us now. The proponents of the road are failing in this. Their blinkered project is from a previous era, and it must fail.

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More climate change news

More climate change news: Antarctic ice sheet instability spreading

17th May 2019

A British-led study in Antarctica shows that instability of the West Antarctic ice sheet is spreading. Some glaciers have thinned by 120m, and loss of ice has accelerated dramatically in the last 10 years.

Dr Malcolm McMillan of Lancaster University spoke of 'rapid, sustained thinning'. Ice loss contributes to sea level rise, and the current rates are towards the upper end of projections.

More climate change news: central banks warn of climate catastrophe

22nd April 2019

There has been a large fire on Ilkley Moor over the Easter weekend, with 70 firefighters combatting the blaze. Water has been dropped from helicopters.

The owner of White Wells café on the moor said, 'We've seen some fires here in the past, but I've never seen anything like the scale of this one.

Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland had all-time record temperatures for Easter Sunday. There is currently a wildfire in the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland. There have also been wildfires on the Isle of Bute, Scotland.

More climate change news: central banks warn of climate catastrophe

19th April 2019

The governers of the English and French central banks have warned of the financial risks of climate change.

The BBC reported on 17th April that they wrote a joint open letter. In it, they describe 'the catastrophic effects of climate change'. There is damage to infrastructure and private property, and negative effects on health, productivity, and wealth. Mass migration and political instability are other consequences.

The governers signal the need for 'a massive reallocation of capital'. They say that companies should integrate climate-related financial risks into day-to-day risk management.

More climate change news: glaciers on Mount Everest melting fast

22nd March 2019

The bodies of many of the 300 mountaineers who have died on Mount Everest are being revealed. Previously, they were buried in snow and ice, but as it melts, they are appearing.

The BBC quotes Ang Tshering Sherpa, former President of the Nepal Mountaineering Association: 'Because of global warming, the ice sheet and glaciers are fast melting and the dead bodies that remained buried all these years are now becoming exposed.'

More climate change news: Arctic temperature rise of 3-5C inevitable

15th March 2019

Even if the world meets the emission-reduction targets set by the 2015 Paris agreement, winter temperatures in the Arctic are likely to rise by at least 3C above pre-industrial levels by 2050. The actual temperature rise could be 5-9C.

These findings were presented at the UN Environment Assembly on Wednesday 13th March 2019.

The heating will result in rapid ice melt, big sea level rises, and melting permafrost releasing methane (a powerful greenhouse gas). The release of methane may result in a runaway heating effect.

More climate change news: rain contributing to melting of Greenland ice sheet

7th March 2019

The number of spells of winter rain on the Greenland ice sheet is increasing. The rain changes the surface of the ice, making it smoother and darker, so it absorbs more heat from the sun in summer, and melts.

The region as a whole is warming twice as fast as the earth as a whole, and this may be disrupting the jet stream.

If the whole Greenland ice sheet melts, it will result in 7 metres of sea level rise, threatening coastal populations around the world, and cities including New York and London.

More climate change news: hottest summer ever in Australia

1st March 2019

Australia had its hottest summer ever in 2019, reports the BBC. The country's temperatures were 2.14C above the long-term average, and caused bushfires and a rise in hospital admissions. There were mass deaths of wild horses, bats, and fish.

'The real standout was just how widespread and prolonged each heatwave was - almost everywhere was affected,' climatologist Blair Trewin told the BBC. Average summer temperatures exceeded those of the previous hottest summer, 2012-13, by nearly 1C, which is a very large margin for a national record.

More climate change news: Saddleworth Moor on fire

27th February 2019

A fire started on Saddleworth Moor, West Yorkshire, yesterday evening. West Yorkshire Fire Service said it was 'one of the biggest moorland fires we've ever had to deal with.' An eye witness described the scene as 'apocalyptic'.

BBC Yorkshire climate correspondent Paul Hudson said, 'These kind of temperatures, 18C or 19C, are what you would normally see in early June.'

A fire also broke out on Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh.

More climate change news: another day, another temperature record

26th February 2019

The UK experienced its hottest winter day again today. Porthmadog hit 20.8C and Teddington, south-west London, 20.7C. The usual average for this time of year in the UK is 8C.

Update: the latest version of the article now mentions 21.2C at Kew Gardens.

More climate change news: more February records broken

25th February 2019

More records went today, and as if on cue, the BBC headline was 'UK basks in warmest February day on record.'

The report states that a new record fell today, with 20.3C in Ceredigion, Wales. This was a new hottest Welsh temperature for February, for the second day running, and was hotter than the previous UK highest temperature for February (19.7C in Greenwich in 1998).

I suggest we are heading for climate breakdown, and 'basks' is not helpful or serious analysis. We are getting August temperatures in February.

'Why is it so warm?' was a sub-heading in the article, and Nick Miller wrote about high pressure, warm air arriving from Africa, and the Foehn effect, plus sunshine. All factors, I'm sure, but have these things never happened before? They are reasons for it to be warm, not reasons for it to be hotter than ever before.

If you're breaking all-time records, it's because of global warming - but no mention of that from Nick Miller. (Note: some global warming information was later added to the article).

More climate change news: record February heat

25th February 2019

The UK has been experiencing record heat in February 2019.

Aboyne, in Aberdeenshire, hit 18.3C on 21st February, higher than the previous hottest February temperature of 17.9C in 1897.

On 24th February, Wales recorded its highest ever February temperature, 18.8C. The previous maximum was 18.6C in 1990. The average daily maximum in February in Wales is 6.8C.

It is not normal and not healthy to be constantly recording hottest-ever temperatures.

There is a problem with the way these facts are reported, particularly by our national broadcaster, the BBC.

If someone breaks a high jump record, that's great, and it should be celebrated. For temperatures, recording the hottest-ever for a particular month is not the result of great work by Great Britain. It's extremely worrying that the stable climate in which civilisation developed is rapidly spiralling out of control, and we risk experiencing a dangerous and chaotic future. It will have extremely negative consequences for the natural world, and for human beings.

I would like to see more serious analysis from the BBC, and fewer weather presenters with complacent grins talking about Britain 'basking' in the latest record-breaking temperatures.

More climate change news: 80% of insect biomass lost in 30 years

11th February 2019

A review of 73 existing studies of insect population decline was reported on the BBC website today.

40% of insect species are undergoing 'dramatic rates of decline' around the world. The causes are intensive agriculture, pesticides, and climate change.

Insects provide food for birds, bats, and small mammals, pollinate around 75% of crops, and replenish soils.

One of the authors of the paper, Francisco Sanchez-Bayo, told the Guardian, 'When you consider 80% of biomass of insects has disappeared in 25-30 years, it is a big concern.'

More climate change news: melting of Thwaites glacier

7th February 2019

On 31st January 2019, USA Today reported that NASA scientists have found a large cavity under the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica. It is 300m tall, and the area of Manhattan, and would have contained 14 billion tons of ice - most of which has melted in the last 3 years.

The cavity will allow faster melting in future, as more heat and water get under the glacier.

In total, the glacier is the size of Florida; it is 120km wide. If Thwaites glacier melts completely, it will add 0.6m to global sea levels. It supports and holds back neighbouring glaciers, and if they melt, sea levels will rise by 2.44m, flooding coastal towns and cities around the world.

Cote de Lofthouse Kilnsey CragParliament Street, Harrogate