Aside from attempts to undermine the authority of climate scientists and outright deny scientific facts, one of the biggest PR problems faced by climate change is that it is such a large, systemic issue. This makes it difficult for most of us to understand how it affects our lives. The nature of science itself is partly to blame: scientists routinely remind us that we can’t say X-issue was caused by climate change, only that it was made more likely/more severe etc. While objectively true, this can lessen the sense of urgency demanded by climate change. We humans are not scientifically minded. We want a simple ‘X causes Y’ not an ‘X contributes to Y’. When we hear the latter, many of us see climate change as less pressing and more inconsequential than it really is. Continue reading “What Everyone Missed About the California Forest Fires – Climate Change Affects Us All”
While most of us can intuitively understand the relationship between a hotter planet and more intense tropical storms, droughts, forest fires and glacial melting, some of the effects of a hot, high carbon atmosphere are less tangible. A cursory glance at the geological record reveals that it doesn’t take much to upset the fine balance of processes that drive the climate, and the slightest shift can have a domino effect resulting in bizarre consequences that seem totally unrelated to the original cause. Here we look at four of the more unusual effects of anthropogenic climate change on the planet. Continue reading “Four Unusual Horsemen – Weird Consequences of Climate Change”
With increasing public awareness of climate change and carbon emissions, much attention is given to the ‘big boys’ of pollution – energy and transport. But how many of us realise that the internet is also a major producer of emissions? Or that the emissions from the internet are growing rapidly as the online world expands and becomes more data intensive? I spoke to the Managing Director of Wholegrain Digital, Tom Greenwood, who is actively working to reduce the emissions of the internet, to find out more.
What fundamental pillar has underpinned every civilisation from Ancient Egypt to the modern globalised world? The one called agriculture. After all, without food there can be no people; and when food is insufficient, populations collapse. So it should come as no surprise that the rise and fall of many past civilisations can be directly tied to their agricultural production, which in turn depends on water supply and – by extension – climate 1.
Continue reading “Apocalypse Then…Apocalypse Now? – Three civilisations caught out by climate change”
With an ongoing drought in South Africa, the authorities in Cape Town are counting the days off till ‘day zero’, predicted to be sometime in early July 1, when the water runs out. Until then residents are having their water rationed in efforts to ensure reserves stretch as long as possible. Undoubtedly the situation has both a climate and management component, but climate change is likely to make many areas of the world increasingly dry and droughts increasingly frequent 2. Continue reading “When The Wells Run Dry – Groundwater and the challenges of sustainability”
Extinction is a natural part of life and evolution. However, there have been several episodes in Earth’s history when the rate of extinction increased dramatically. Perhaps the most infamous of these events was the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
That was the fifth great extinction event the planet has witnessed, but the current rate of extinction (a rate that has persisted since the end of the last ice age) puts this period – the here and now – firmly in the ‘mass extinction’ category. Yes, we are living through the sixth great extinction event Continue reading “A Beastly Burden – Fourteen Extinctions of the 21st Century”
The hurricane season of 2017 saw several massive cyclones batter the USA and Caribbean in quick succession. First Harvey, then Irma, Jose and Maria all reached category 3 or higher. The intensity and frequency of these events resulted in huge media coverage and led many to speculate on the role of global warming in these storms. Continue reading “Global Storming – Tropical cyclones and climate change”
“Compared to a star, we are like mayflies, fleeting ephemeral creatures who live out their whole lives in the course of a single day.” Carl Sagan
One of the biggest cognitive barriers to understanding climate science, and indeed many other scientific fields, is the short nature of a human life. According to the World Health Organization, the average global life expectancy is 71.4 years. That’s just 857 months or a measly 26000 days! Given that our planet is 4.54 billion years old, our perception of time is extremely short-term – far too short to fully comprehend the universe we live in. Continue reading “Climate Change and the Paradox of Time”
Picture the scene: The air is cold, crisp and dry. You stand on an expanse of grassland extending as far as the eye can see with nothing but gently rolling hills to break the horizon. Tiny flowers sparsely cover the ground which crunches slightly under foot, a thin powdering of frost on the surface. This is the Late Pleistocene some 15000 years ago. The age of ice and mammoths, a time when multiple human species roam the earth. You are standing in what will become the North Sea, a land connecting what will become Britain to continental Europe, a land commonly dubbed ‘Doggerland’. Continue reading “The Ghost of Climates Past”
While a lot of attention is given to the most tangible effects of climate change- rising temperatures, rising sea levels and more powerful storms, another significant effect tends to slip under the radar. This is ocean acidification, often dubbed the ‘evil twin’ of global warming. But what does ocean acidification actually entail? Continue reading “Ocean Acidification: How does it work?”