By Henri Brocklebank
Director of Conservation Policy
In 1986, our A level biology teacher wheeled out the big school TV in the assembly hall and put in the video for the class to watch. For me it was a life changing experience. The video was about the role of greenhouse gasses in a changing climate. The future through my 16 year old eyes looked pretty bleak. My knee jerk reaction was a decade long run of vegetarianism (reducing methane from livestock) and my longer term response is my career choice.
The recent report from the IPCC does not surprise or shock me. It just makes me sad, I feel let down and I feel personally that I should have done better.
The latest IPCC report tells us what we have known for a long time (surely my class weren’t the only people watching videos on global warming over 30 years ago?) We have waited for our Governments to make the decisions we need and we bury our heads in the sand as the consumerist zeitgeist prevails over all. So here we stand at the fork in the road.
But what joy, in the news yesterday… the Netherlands (a low lying country facing rising sea levels) has got straight in there. Yesterday a court in The Hague upheld a historic legal order on the Dutch government to accelerate carbon emissions cuts, a day after the world’s climate scientists warned that time was running out to avoid dangerous warming. Appeal court judges ruled that the severity and scope of the climate crisis demanded greenhouse gas reductions of at least 25% by 2020 – measured against 1990 levels – higher than the 17% drop planned by Mark Rutte’s liberal administration.
We need more of this (the ramifications include shutting down coal fired energy plants), but change will not just come from Government’s (In fact many will no doubt try and drag their heels). Change has to also come from society and the choices we make as communities and also our individual decisions.
I think change will be led by the brave, the creative and the innovative. The Dutch have set a bar…who's in?
How does this all relate back to Sussex Wildlife Trust? Actually, I simply want to shine a light on the need for climate resilience. We have all established that a future without wildlife is not possible, and that the natural world has a huge contribution to make to a landscape that has resilience in the face of changing climate (too wet, too dry, too hot, too cold, too windy) and rising sea levels. Our floodplains (when they are not built on) can take the flood water away from our communities, our woodlands can hold back water so that our rivers don’t run dry in hot summers. Meanwhile, all the natural habitat - both existing and new - provides the insect life that not only keeps the food web going but pollinates our crops. If we can wisely share our space with nature, nature will give us the landscape we need to live our lives. Is it clear yet? Nature is not a ‘nice to have’.