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Dec 2000 Journal

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Viewpoint: Stormy weather

Torrential rain has fallen continually over large swathes of Britain bringing the most widespread flooding for centuries along our riverbanks and inundating the traditional homes which line the narrow thoroughfares of our historic villages and towns. Ill-conceived building development on the flood plains has reduced their capacity to store water, while the ploughing of grasslands for cereal crops has meant faster run-off and soil erosion..

Natural disasters were comfortably labelled ‘acts of God,’ but following two centuries of unfettered industrialisation, blame for climatological change of this order should at least, in part, be placed on man-made atmospheric pollution. A decade has now passed since scientific opinion accepted that human activities were responsible for changing the world’s climate and the Prince of Wales has dutifully blamed man’s “arrogant disregard of the delicate balance of nature”.

What causes this ‘greenhouse effect’? Put succinctly, it is the production of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, road traffic, industry and agricultural by-products. When these rise into the atmosphere they trap and reflect back the heat that would otherwise radiate into space, effectively raising the earth’s surface temperature.

Representatives of 160 countries recently gathered in The Netherlands in an attempt to reduce greenhouse gases by the 5% below 1990 levels agreed at the Kyoto conference in 1997. However, levels continue to rise while scientists tell us that cuts of 60-80% are required. Unfortunately, the United States, which alone accounts for more than 20% of gas emissions, procrastinates and George W Bush (in thrall to the oil companies) rejects the existence of global warming!

Weather forecast for the next 50 years: Warm, dry summers and more frequent droughts, wetter autumns and winters with flooding rivers. Coastal areas in danger of flooding from rivers and rising high tides. A storm surge across the Atlantic could threaten North Sea coasts. Mediterranean holiday resorts will lose their beaches as sea levels rise, temperatures will become too hot for comfort and Alpine glaciers will melt.

The longer governments delay the inevitable transition to the use of renewable sources of energy, the more catastrophic the consequences.
Ronald Channing

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