A Code Red for Climate

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report in August, following a review of 14,000 scientific papers.  They have also published an interactive global atlas to show observations and projections of change for different global regions.  The report’s conclusions were stark and very worrying.
  • It is indisputable that human activity is causing climate change, with profound effects for the biosphere. However, impacts have grown more quickly than predicted
  • The planet is warming quickly, with consequences everywhere; increased extreme heat, heavy rainfall, drought, and conditions conducive to wildfire
  • 1.5C is largely inevitable by 2040 or sooner
  • But, IF the world manages to achieve global net zero by 2050, it is ‘extremely likely’ that global temperature increase can be limited to below 2C, with a temporary overshoot of no more than 0.1C
  • Some further changes over centuries are now irreversible including further melting of global ice sheets and warming/acidifying of the ocean; but reaching global net zero by 2050 could slow these changes.

The IPCC are calling for very urgent and rapid reductions in Greenhouse Gases, and for joint action on climate and biodiversity loss, with recognition that climate change will have systemic effects on nature and is already doing so, and that restoring nature will help in turn to address climate change

 COP26 in Glasgow will be the best chance to get agreement to the action that is needed.  COP stands for Conference of the Parties and is the next (26th) annual UN climate change conference.  It will be attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – a treaty that came into force in 1994.

We can’t undo the mistakes of the past, but this generation can still put things right

Inger Andersen (UNEP Exec Director)

As individuals it is easy to feel helpless in the face of such a vast challenge but we each have the power to make a change.  Businesses respond to customers because they want us to buy their goods – as consumers we have power, which is why there has been a recent growth in sustainable products.  There has also been a recent rise in ‘Buy Nothing’ local community groups to encourage upcycling and swapping of items for free to reduce the need to buy new. 

Adults also have power as voters - politicians listen to voters, because they need your vote in order to stay in power.   We need to hold those in power to account and as individuals we need to speak out. We can also make changes by inspiring others through positive action.  A blog I wrote in 2019 includes ideas for individual action: Our Wilder Future – what does it mean and how can we get there? – The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (welshwildlife.org)

Research has shown that the support of at least 25% of a population is needed for any large-scale social change. We think we are at a tipping point and the Wildlife Trusts want to help harness peoples’ energy. Our vision is to see 1 in 4 people actively playing a part in nature’s recovery. 

To achieve change at this scale with limited charitable resources, we need to engage with individuals, communities and groups in new ways.  We will focus on developing ‘Team Wilder’ pioneered by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust; a network of local wildlife activists taking action for nature. 

We will inspire and support people to create a Wilder Wales by taking actions in their own outdoor spaces at home, in the wider community and across the region.   To develop and lead this work we are recruiting a Team Wilder Engagement Manager.

We have also committed to our Wildlife Trust’s own journey to reach net zero by 2030.  Our baseline carbon footprint has been calculated and we have a new strategy in place, and are now working on the first annual action plan.  This first iteration of WTSWW’s carbon footprint was based on data from the 2019/20 financial year. 

The total footprint was 280.5 t CO2e which is approximately half the typical wildlife trust footprint.  The top three largest contributions to WTSWW’s footprint were livestock (56.2%), staff commuting (15.2%) and the operation of diesel-fuelled fleet vehicles (13.6%).  Transport-related emissions overall accounted for 31.4% of the total footprint. 

The use of fossil-fuelled vehicles has been an essential part of most businesses and moving to full electric vehicles for site-based work will be difficult without financial help through grants and until suitable vehicles are available on the market, but the introduction of more sustainable modes of transport is likely to be a key focus. 

Other opportunities to reduce emissions may need to come from on-site renewable energy generation and optimisation of the use of livestock to deliver conservation grazing benefits, this latter being the subject of current discussions amongst The Wildlife Trusts and other conservation partners.  As we develop this work we will keep you updated via the ‘Climate Emergency’ page of our website.

-- Sarah Kessell, CEO of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales

Figure taken from the IPCC WG1 report. Graph shows the change in the global surface temperatures (as annual average), observed and simulated using human and natural and only natural factors (between 1850-2020)
Figure taken from IPCC WG1 report. "Graph shows the total cumulative CO₂ emissions taken up by land and oceans (colours) and remaining in the atmosphere (grey) under the five illustrative scenarios from 1850 to 2100"

Predictions suggest that as surface temperatures rise, the amount of CO₂ taken up by the land and oceans is smaller in scenarios which have higher CO₂ emissions.
An illustrated graphic from The Wildlife Trust State of Nature Report 2019 detailing notable impacts of climate change on nature in the UK