Climate Change

The problem

 

Our planet is warmer now than at any point in the past 1,000 years, and heating fast. If we don’t cut carbon emissions and halt rising temperatures, by switching from fossil fuels to cleaner, green energy and transport and avoiding deforestation, the impacts – from flooding and storms to drought, crop damage and rising food prices – will be felt by all of us. But it’s the world’s poorest who are hardest hit.

Is there a Campaign for Climate Action in Swale?

We'd like to tell you more about it and hope that you'll be able to get involved - there are lots of ways to engage. Firstly, a National and Global campaign kicks off ahead of UN climate talks and Swale residents will be urged to take part in a nationwide campaign starting in September to highlight the need for urgent action on climate and nature ahead of COP26, the crucial UN Climate talks, in Glasgow later this year.

 

Taking place between 18-26 September, the Great Big Green Week will see thousands of people across the UK organising local festivals and events. The campaign aims to draw attention to climate change and destruction of the natural world, making a connection with these issues in communities like Swale, which are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. It will also showcase positive actions and solutions individuals, councils and the government can take to tackle climate change.

Swale Borough Council is holding its own Great Big Green Week, and as part of this, Swale Friends of the Earth is hosting a range of events and actions under the heading, RISE. The aim is to maximise awareness in the run-up to COP26 about the risks to North Kent and Swale from increasingly damaging weather events, such as high flood levels due to creek surges and sea level rise.

RISE! TO ACTION - THE CLIMATE CRISIS AND WHAT WE CAN DO

 

Climate change is happening now and it’s happening here. From record-breaking temperatures to flash flooding and sea level rise, we are already seeing the climate crisis at first hand. But we have the power to make a difference. 

RISE! is Swale Friends of the Earth’s campaign to RISE to Action. We want everyone talking to each other about the climate crisis, not just during Great Big Green Week, but all the way up to November’s crucial international climate talks COP26 - and beyond. Our oceans are rising – and so is our action.

 

FIRST OF ALL, THE FACTS 

“Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe.” - UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Between 1880 and 2020, the 19 warmest years on record have all occurred within the past 20 years. Our additional greenhouse gases have increased the temperature of the Earth by over 1oC. It has caused sea levels to rise by over 20cm since the beginning of the 20th century.

Whatever happens, current emission rates of atmospheric greenhouse gases are likely to lead to global warming of 1.5℃ by 2030 and well over 2℃ above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century – a devastating outcome – unless deep reductions and removals of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.

What might climate change mean for those of us living in Swale?

It means we may not be immune from the dangers of extremes of heat or intense rainfall. Did you know that the Environment Agency’s Flood Risk Strategy for England is already planning for a 2oC warming and getting prepared for a possible 4oC warming?

According to the latest independent climate change risk assessment for the UK, climate change in the future will “continue and intensify depending on how successful we are at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” 5 

 

Flooding - high temperatures - extreme weather - sea level rise - drought

The following projections, from the latest 2018 UK Climate Projections, are measured from a 1981-2000 baseline. They show the range of outcomes from a possible climate warming of 2oC to above 4oC above pre-industrial levels by 2100:

[add a temperature/heat icon]  Annual temperatures are expected to rise approximately 1.3oC by the 2050s and between 1.4 and 2.4oC by the 2080s. Rainfall in winter will increase approximately 6% by 2050s to 8-13% by 2080s, leading to an increase in the likelihood of flooding of infrastructure, businesses and homes.5

[drought icon] Conversely, summer rainfall is expected to decrease 15% by 2050 and 15-22% by 2080s. Water scarcity is projected to become more prevalent.

In terms of weather extremes, temperatures above 35oC will become more common in the south-east and temperatures of 40oC will be more likely. Up until now, summers of above 40oC days have a return time of 100-300 years. In a high climate change scenario, this could increase to once every 3.5 years by 2100.

A 25% increase in the intensity of rainfall is projected, particularly in the south-east. Even in summer, when overall there will be more drier days, rainfall will become more intense.

Warmer ocean temperatures and higher sea levels are expected to intensify the intensity and impacts of hurricanes and tropical cyclones globally. NOAA has suggested that an increase in Category 4 and 5 hurricanes is likely, with hurricane wind speeds increasing by up to 10 percent.  Sea level rise intensified the impact of Hurricane Sandy which caused an estimated $65 billion in damages in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut in 2012.6

Heat extremes will have an impact on health and well-being, and more intense rainfall has implications for agriculture, industry and infrastructure.

 

Sea Level Rise affecting London is expected to be between 23 and 29cms by 2050s, and 45-78cms by 2080s. Sea level rise is expected to be greater in the south of England than in other parts of the UK. That could lead to saltwater seeping into agricultural land and flooding of coastal communities, leading to serious economic damage.

 

Flood Risks in Swale

Many people will remember the most significant recorded tidal floods which occurred in 1953, 1978 and 2013 in parts of the Isle of Sheppey, Sittingbourne and Faversham.

Our area of the Swale has 111km of coastline, and the Medway, Swale and Thames estuaries are the principal source of flooding. Much of Swale is low-lying and mostly on impermeable London clay which has allowed the wetlands, creeks and small streams, so characteristic and beloved of the area, to form. The northern part of the Isle of Sheppey is mostly on clay hills which form cliffs and are subject to erosion from the sea.

The permeable chalk bedrock in the south of the borough can become saturated during periods of prolonged rainfall. During very wet periods the water table may rise to the surface, causing groundwater flooding or temporary springs.

A total of 16,110 dwellings in Swale are considered to be at risk from tidal or river flooding, and 9,382 of these are at a medium-high risk of flooding, i.e.  a 1% (1 event in 100 years) Annual Exceedance Probability (AEP).6 For instance, in Sheerness, of the 6789 dwellings considered to be at overall risk (0.1% or 1 event in 1000 years), 5185 of those are considered to be at medium-high risk (1% or 1 event in 100 years).

But the ever-increasing frequency of climate events recently, such as the wildfires in the US and Greece, extreme heatwaves in southern Europe and Canada, and the localised flash flooding in London, lead the IPCC to state that previous projections about weather outcomes may already be conservative.

The rest of the UK

Whether Swale suffers serious flooding or not, any region in the UK affected by extreme weather events, will make its costs felt in the rest of the country, affecting supply chains and important transport and communications infrastructure - things we all rely on in daily life.

 

The rest of the world

We aren’t just an island.  Global trade and communications mean we’re all interconnected across the world . Extreme weather events, high temperatures, droughts, cyclones and inexorable sea level rise are already imperilling and impoverishing the lives, health and security of many people, mainly in the southern hemisphere, leading to serious implications for global food security, migration and conflict over resources. As Professor Mark Maslin, a member of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, says, “Over 40% of the world’s population live less than 60 miles from a coast and will be affected by extreme sea level rise…Over 20% of Bangladesh is underwater…many small island states are already being abandoned.”

People are already trying to claim that climate change is too expensive to fix. But as Mark Maslin points out, “economists suggest we could fix climate change now by spending 1% of world GDP. This cost could be less if we count the cost savings due to improved human health and expansion of the global green economy”9, proving that rising to action will lead to a win-win, for both people and planet.

But “if we don’t act now, by 2050 it will cost over 20% of world GDP. Climate change is too expensive not to fix.”9

 

RISE! - IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Currently the fossil fuel industry receives $5.2 trillion in subsidies….which amounts to 6% of world GDP.8  That’s a lot of money to do something positive with. 

That means switching investment from fossil fuels to clean, green technologies, such as wind and solar power, electric vehicle charging, public transport, energy efficiency and heat pumps. And planning for a decarbonised, sustainable and fairer future where nature is protected and enhanced  [positive images of technologies & communities & green jobs]

We know the solutions, we can solve the problem, we just need the political will - and we need action to be taken at the scale and speed necessary to avert climate disaster.

 

COP26 - last chance

World leaders must step up their action to cut carbon emissions. At the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November, they will be discussing progress against commitments made at the 2015 Paris climate talks and submitting new national pledges on emissions reduction.  COP26 will be a test to see if countries are prepared to close the gap to reach the emission cuts we  need to stay below 1.5°C (the recognised maximum temperature by which the planet can warm before irreversible damage is caused).

Call on the UK to end support for fossil fuels

In the UK, the government has set a target in law of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which is a positive  step. But it must follow this with action and end its support for fossil fuels:

  • Stop  financing fossil fuels overseas (the government refuses to withdraw its $1 billion of support for a gas mega project in Mozambique)

  • End oil and gas extraction in the North Sea and across the UK in a way that’s fair to the workers in those industries, by investing instead in green jobs and skills

  • Stop all extraction of coal - including the proposed mine near Whitehaven in Cumbria

 

Protect and regenerate to remove carbon

As well as reducing emissions, we also need to remove them from the atmosphere, and then repair our natural life support systems.8 All forms of natural habitats have a big role to play here. Swale has lots of saltmarsh, yet many findings report on ‘major risk of saltmarsh loss’, for example, an ‘80% probability of marsh retreat possibly occurring in southern and eastern England by 2040’.

Whatever technological solutions we might pursue, we must not undermine natural regenerative solutions to this crisis. Protecting and expanding nature will be essential: keeping floodplains as floodplains, and nurturing and expanding existing woodland and open pasture, Swale’s bounteous natural assets, will help us remove accumulating, polluting and dangerous levels of greenhouse gases.

Think global, act local

Our local councils, Swale Borough Council and Faversham Town Council, have declared a climate and ecological emergency.  This is a welcome and positive step forward, reflecting public concern about the climate crisis and how nature is under threat.  

SBC has also passed a number of positive policies and set targets to cut carbon emissions and make Swale cleaner, safer and more sustainable.  We need ensure progress is monitored and hold our councillors to account to meet the targets set, for example by ensuring that planning and development does not increase traffic and polluting emissions. 

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO - 1,000 Actions on Climate

We can RISE! to this more than dramatic occasion with personal and political action.There is no underestimating how important it is to reduce our emissions immediately, now. 

Choose one or more of our 1,000 Actions on Climate to see what you can do to reduce emissions from your daily life, such as:

  • eat less meat and dairy and eat seasonally

  • Walk and cycle more and have no-fly holidays

  • Choose a greener electricity supplier and save energy at home

  • Put pressure on politicans by writing to your MP or local councillor to urge an end to fossil fuel investment.

 

Find out more at 1,000 Actions on Climate in Swale

 

Will you RISE TO ACTION?

 

References:

1.       Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Sixth Assessment Report (2021)

2.       Professor Mark Maslin – Climate Change: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press)

3.       David King and Jane Lichtenstein, Centre for Climate Repair, University of Cambridge – in an article ‘Climate Repair: three things we must do now to stabilise the planet’ published in The Conversation 12/8/21

4.       Environment Agency – ‘National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England’ (2020)

5.       The Third UK Climate Change Risk Assessment – Summary for England (2021)

6.   Center for Climate and Energy Solutions: Hurricanes and Climate Change

7.       Flood Risk in Communities – Swale (2017)

8.       Professor Mark Maslin – ‘How to Save Our Planet’

9.       David King and Jane Lichtenstein, Centre for Climate Repair, University of Cambridge – in an article ‘Climate Repair: three things we must do now to stabilise the planet’ published in The Conversation 12/8/21

10. The Third UK Climate Change Risk Assessment – Summary for England (2021)

What is causing climate change?  and How will it affect us? - a useful guide to the science and impacts from the UK’s Climate Change Committee

The basics of climate change - a great short animated film ‘Climate Change in 60 Seconds’ plus lots of data from the Royal Society.

How climate-friendly is Swale?

You can check how Swale is doing in reducing carbon emissions and meeting climate targets – for example, the levels of insulation, renewable energy, car use etc - by entering your postcode here

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London Array offshore wind farm (Faceboo
5 things we can do about climate change.

OUR CAMPAIGNING

In 2019, Swale FoE became a Climate Action Group, part of a growing network across the UK to focus on climate change as a priority and create local solutions to a global crisis.

 

Our campaigning activities on climate change include:

  • adding our voice to climate strikes and demonstrations

  • reviewing and commenting on local council climate policies and pushing for effective Climate Action Plans

  • lobbying our MP, petitioning the government and Kent County Council and encouraging others to do the same

  • promoting green energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport infrastructure in local developments

  • providing top tips on how we can all lead a low carbon lifestyle, such as cycling, saving energy and eating less meat

ACT NOW

Sign the climate petition to demand a Climate Action Plan

Join us to work with our councils on local climate action

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