“One minute you’re wearing wooly jumpers and overcoats and the next it’s tee-shirt weather,” someone told me when I first arrived in Mallorca.
I didn’t believe him until, indeed, someone flicked the summer switch and overnight winter became but a blustery memory. Now, according to locals this switch scenario happens earlier each year, with each of the two seasons more extreme.
In the past few weeks, an iceberg sized mountain of studies on the subject have been published and I will do my best to summarise them for you here.
Oxford University’s Rowlands study predicted a rise of up to three degrees celsius by 2050, which would wipe out 30% of animal and plant species. It would also render many African and Asian territories unlivable – with low-lying countries, such as Bangladesh, under water.
The displacement of population would in turn create political unrest. The study echoes releases from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as the Red Cross. It seems that the next generation will live in a world of food shortages on a global scale, lack of drinking water and in many cases in unlivable climates. The message is that we have to reduce emissions.
Yet there is little political interest to take a long-term approach. “We have a planetary emergency. We have to…create, in the generation of those alive today, a sense of generational mission,” Al Gore commented. But amid economic woes across the world and a race for economic supremacy in China and India, the climate remains at the bottom of the pecking order.
On a local level, Spain in 2050 will be hotter than ever, losing some of its touristic appeal. It will also face a tide of environmental refugees from Africa. Agricultural production conditions will be poor, especially impacting the wine industry. Ever wondered why the alcohol level in your bottle of Tinto has crept up from 14 to 15%? The answer is climate change, which is also why England is now able to produce some excellent wines. By 2050, the best vintages may well come from Sweden.
What we do matters – environmentalists urge us to reduce the use of the car, or switch to a hybrid or electric version. Avoid flying (video conference and holiday near home) and choose renewable power if possible. We should pull the plugs on electrical equipment when not in use, recycle and avoid both dairy and meat, whose production cause 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a tall order, but if we can avoid an apocalyptic future, it is surely worth the effort…