The UK is experiencing its longest and coldest winter for years. Since February 1st the temperature has barely risen above freezing. The snow is shutting roads and schools, bringing down power lines and preventing people going to work. It will inevitably be very expensive.
Channel Four News did go as far as asking the weather presenter what was going on and he talked about the fact that the jet stream, the high-level cold wind that circles the Arctic, is much further south than usual. What he didn’t say is that this is likely to have been caused by global warming, which has heated the Arctic far more than the rest of the world. Last year the jet stream got moved south over north America, giving them a winter like the UK’s current one, and also (because the heat has to go somewhere) giving the UK an unusually warm winter.
In January Australia had more consecutive days of record heat than ever before. It also had a second year of devastating floods and fires. Very expensive, both in the effect on people’s lives and in economic terms.
And still people are complaining about the carbon tax, which is aimed at reducing carbon emissions to slow down global warming. Not enough but at least better than nothing.
Most of my work is on wellbeing in education and although this is mostly focused on social and emotional issues for young people there is no doubt that climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing them in the future.
But there is near silence. There are no newspaper headlines. Apart from Al Gore there are few politicians making the case for really significant action. The public do not seem to be asking the hard questions. It is like watching a train crash about to happen with no-one making any attempt to put on the brakes. The few frantic passengers aren’t in the driving seat. It is as if the train driver is looking out of the wrong window and ignoring what’s ahead.
The media is full of articles and programmes about the economy – this issue is already affecting the economy significantly and is likely to bite with greater devastation in years ahead. We are concerned about education – the UK government appear to be taking climate change off the curriculum. There is regular media coverage about health and about the environment. But where is any sustained outcry about the health of the planet – who cares about future generations? There are some significant voices – David Attenborough is one, George Monbiot another – but they are not getting enough traction. More of us need to help them out. I know I’m not the only one thinking this – but I am only a tiny squeak – can we please together start making a very loud noise. Do it for yourself, do it for your kids, do it for your grandchildren. Write, text, talk, twitter, vote.
UPDATE: About eight hours after I posted this, this article appeared in the Guardian !: “Scientists link frozen spring to dramatic Arctic sea ice loss: Melting sea ice, exposing huge parts of the ocean to the atmosphere, explains extreme weather both hot and cold.“