‘Is it time to get angry about climate change?’

In 2018 the UN’s International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted that we have just 12 years to prevent average world temperatures rising above 1.5C.

Beyond that and we risk a future of biblical flooding, massive forest fires, daily temperatures in some cities approaching 50C as well as mass migration and species extinction.

To achieve temperature stabilisation carbon emission must be reduced by 45 per cent. It would be too easy to dismiss these warnings as fake news or even to shrug one’s shoulders and say, ‘so what?’

Where and how we live, work and travel and manage our neighbourhoods not only affects our own lives but every creature and plants we share the planet with.

Some local councils recognise this and have placed carbon neutrality at the centre of their future plans. Obviously carbon is a natural part of the atmosphere but we add to it mostly from transport, energy, farming and buildings.

Offsetting emissions with zero carbon solutions is necessary and achievable. Improving technologies such as electric cars, hydrogen-powered trains, renewable power, energy efficient homes and more sustainable farming can all make a measurable difference.

Nature itself is a formidable ally in the battle for human survival. Trees and hedges absorb CO2 and through photosynthesis re-charge the atmosphere with oxygen. Of the 150 top prescription drugs 120 are based on plants.

Two thousand square kilometres of our countryside has been lost to development in six years and Britain’s tree cover is lowest in Europe at 13 per cent against a European average of 35 per cent. The government has promised a greener future with a raft of measures over the next 25 years.

A 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, addressing the world’s top business people in Davos, said: ‘We have to understand the emergency of the situation. Our leadership has failed us. Young people must hold older generations accountable for the mess they have created. We need to get angry, and transform that anger into action.’

‘Havant is under threat – act now to save our wildlife’

Under Threat, The water vole is a rare sight nowadays
Picture: Derek Middleton, Sussex Wildlife Trust

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust recently described some native species as ‘in freefall’ with significant reductions in water voles, white butterflies, nightingales, ringed plovers and sparrows.

Across the UK the Trust estimated that 56 per cent of species have declined over the past 50 years, with 15 per cent at risk of disappearing altogether.

The losses show no sign of slowing as the government demands tens of thousands of new homes and their infrastructure in South Hampshire mostly built on green fields, including flood plains.

It’s not just rapid urban development that is contributing to the loss. Intensive farming methods with their reliance on fossil fuel-based chemicals to deal with pests and diseases and the ripping out of natural habitats like hedges and trees are another major cause.

Our changing climate, while it may benefit new and possibly some unwelcome species, will cause others to move north and eventually disappear.

We don’t need an expert to tell us that our wildlife is in trouble. Responses to a recent survey organised by Havant Environment Group in which 670 residents from across the borough took part provides further strong evidence.

In reply to a question about observing the loss of local wildlife, most people came back with a list headed by hedgehogs, butterflies and garden birds, frogs, wild flowers and even insects.

Another question about the greatest threat to Havant’s natural environment put urban development as greater that pollution and flooding.

Havant’s future housing plans will see hundreds of acres of green land concreted over.

The question is how we combine meeting community needs and protect the continued viability of nature.

Sustainability is simply living within our means but for politicians and planners, it has become a byword for trade-offs between economic, social and environment factors where nature usually comes off being the loser.

‘Pesticides harm wildlife’

A RECENT landmark judgement in California involving a school groundsman successfully suing a major chemical company for causing his terminal cancer has reignited the global debate about pesticides.

The California case concerned one of the best known pesticides on the market called Roundup, produced by Monsanto which has global sales of over $1.4bn (£1.06bn) and is familiar to most gardeners and local authorities.

The jury found in favour of the plaintiff and awarded exemplary damages of $280m (£212m). Up to 8,000 further actions are pending and Monsanto’s (now Bayer) share price has been hit.

Following the case, dozens of local UK councils are reviewing their own use of glyphosate based products like Roundup and some multiples are considering its removal from their shelves.

Last year the EU parliament narrowly voted to re-licence glyphosate for only five years instead of 15 years requested.

This was after a 1.3 million Europe-wide petition was received to ban glyphosate and a report from the World Health Organisation in 2015 claimed that it was ‘probably carcinogenic’.

Pesticide users would testify that it does what it says on the container – namely, it kills weeds and pests.

The problem is that it also kills, directly and indirectly, other living things as well including wild flowers, invertebrates, amphibians, fish and the animals such as birds and mammals that feed on them, including humans. 

Pesticides run off into aquifers and so contaminate water supplies, costing water companies tens of millions of pounds to remove it.

Now new regimes adopted by some councils are helping the recovery of pollinating insects to offset the loss of 95 per cent of the UK’s wildflower meadows and almost half of its farmland birds.

Public concern is rising as a poll by the campaign group, Pesticide Action Network (PAN), shows almost 70 per cent of the public want their schools, parks and playgrounds and other open spaces to remain pesticide-free.

The benefits are obvious: improved health for council employees, reduced exposure to the public, improved habitats for wildlife and less spent on chemicals by councils.

And there are alternatives such as hi foam systems, mulching and mechanical extraction and high pressure water jets, diluted acetic acid (vinegar) and other solutions.

Fifty Pesticide-Free Town campaigns are running in the UK while some countries and cities abroad have stopped using pesticides years ago.

Some councils, including Hampshire County Council, are reviewing their use of Roundup while others have banned it.

The message is clear – if you want to help nature recover, don’t use pesticides.

A study shows the UK would need 1,000 wells on 5,000 fracking pads

The government has given its blessing to the UK’s first fracking operation in Lancashire, despite massive local opposition and mounting evidence of a warming planet.

Most of the claims made for shale gas have been proven wrong. It won’t create significant new jobs or make energy cheaper, since it will be sold at market prices, and it won’t help to reduce carbon emissions.

A study by Cardiff University shows that the UK would need 1,000 wells on 5,000 fracking pads – each larger than a football pitch – to replace 50 per cent of imported gas. Millions of gallons of water will be needed in an area currently subject to a hosepipe ban. For some, Lancashire may be far away but sites much nearer to home, around the South Downs, are being planned to drill for shale oil.

The industrialisation of our English countryside moves a step nearer and I say ‘English’ because the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments have banned it, as have several European countries.

The energy minister, Clair Perry, likes to hold up Trump’s America as a model to follow where they have pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, restored coal mines, weakened the Environment Protection Agency and seized Native American land.

Worryingly, there are signs that sites in England could go ahead without the approval of local planning authorities as a process known as Permitted Development Rights, used for small house extensions, is applied to exploratory fracking sites. With fracking and Heathrow’s third runway approved in the same week, Mr Gove’s assurances of a greener future are fading fast.