It’s been the strangest of times; an 18 month shock to our system, which has sometimes felt like 18 years, has dominated our lives, the news, our way of working and our very consciousness.
It was December 2019 when news came out from Wuhan that a virus had spread rapidly in the city; the ninth largest in China, and the alien concept of a ‘lockdown’ hit our television screens. COVID 19 warranted a five minute feature on the news and it skidded across social media, as the western world collectively wondered what might be ahead. At that time the news was dominated by the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit vote, Boris Johnson’s landslide election victory, just three weeks earlier, and climate change continued to cover lengthy column inches.
Well, the pandemic has hogged the headlines ever since, but over the past month the world has had a timely reminder of the danger that unchecked carbon emissions pose to our way of life. Floods in central Europe and wildfire raging across North America have made us sit up and take notice again, mainly because the disasters have destroyed lives and livelihoods in western civilisation.
Over 180 people died in the floods in Germany last month, and prosecutors are now considering opening a formal investigation into failures to warn the population about the potentially devastating effects of the flooding, which engulfed much of the west of the country, as well as causing mayhem in Belgium and northern France. Meanwhile fire raged across California with equally devastating consequences.
Back in the UK new data revealed, last week, that our country is already undergoing significant climate change. 2020 was the third warmest, the fifth wettest and the eighth sunniest according to the UK State of the Climate report. No other year has been in the top ten in all three criteria, since records began, as scientists reported that the UK has become 0.9C warmer and 6 per cent wetter in three decades.
Mike Kendon, climate information scientist at the UK Met Office says: “A lot of people think climate change is in the future, but this proves the climate is already changing here in the UK. As it continues to warm we are going to see more and more extreme weather such as heatwaves and floods.”
Last Friday, right on cue, Storm Evert brought heavy downpours and ripped through the South Coast of England as holidaymakers were airlifted to safety from a boat off the coast of the Isles of Scilly, and campers in Cornwall took refuge in their cars and in a community hall.
Meanwhile, in Turkey, wildfires have been spreading as temperatures hit 40 degrees centigrade in regions that have not seen rain for months. By Friday, fire-fighters were tackling over 20 outbreaks across six provinces of the country and four lives were claimed after parched land and bush caught fire and miles of pine forest were reduced to smouldering ash.
The evidence continues to mount and governments, consumers and the business world must act quickly to counter the growing threat.