It‘s not possible to identify exactly which weather events are caused by which aspect of climate change, just as it wouldn’t have been possible to identify exactly which bits of ice were the ones that actually punctured the hull of the Titanic. But if anyone needed convincing that climate change is happening now and that we need to do something about it, surely the events of this summer – not just in Suffolk but around the world – will have convinced them.
If we don’t reduce our emissions of CO2 and methane, climate change will not just continue but will accelerate. Because the atmosphere is warmer, the Siberian tundra is melting, and yet more methane is being released. The ice in the arctic is melting and it won’t reflect so much heat away from our planet in the future. And if the temperature of the oceans increases too much, sulphur dioxide could start to bubble up from the depths rendering our air unbreathable. We have got to start taking global warming more seriously, and we’ve got to do it now.
Of course, we need people throughout the world to change, but we won’t get change if we don’t start with ourselves. As a rich and educated nation we are in a far better position to make a difference, and to persuade others to change too.
There are things you can do yourself, and they will mostly make you healthier and wealthier as well as giving you the satisfaction of knowing that you are acting wisely. If you can, walk or cycle to work, or use public transport. If you are buying a new car, consider a hybrid or an electric car. If it’s a toss-up between holidaying in the UK or abroad, why not stay here – you will help the UK economy as well as your own.
Most people could sensibly eat less meat and dairy – cows’ flatulence is a major factor in the greenhouse effect, and methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 is. Make sure your house is properly insulated – that way you will be more comfortable and save on heating bills. If you can, buy things that will last, rather than throw-away items. When you do need to throw things out, try to recycle as much as possible – it takes far less energy to make a new can out of recycled aluminium than making aluminium from fresh ore, and the same principle applies to steel and paper and some plastics too.
But of course, all these things would be easier to do if Councils and the Government were offering the right incentives. The plastic bag tax has reduced the use of throw-away plastic bags at supermarkets by over 85%. The 3-bin system for waste in Suffolk led to recycling rates going up from 14% to 47% between 2001 and 2004 – the fact that those rates are now coming down again is a disgrace. We need premium cycle-routes in Suffolk – for instance, Ipswich needs routes along the river to Martlesham Heath. Many pedestrian crossings in Ipswich are still not helpful, and there are still places without adequate pavements.
There’s not enough information and financial incentive for home insulation. Electric cars are still too expensive, and there still aren’t enough charging points. We need improvements to our railways to help people travel more sustainably, and improvements to broadband so less people need to travel in the first place. We need a better standard for new homes, and more new homes being built, and more renewable energy generation so we can continue to build a thriving economy while reducing our reliance on oil and coal and gas. We need a properly financed action plan to wean ourselves off fossil fuels altogether, and we need to do that over the next ten years, not at some time in the distant future – if we don’t act now, there won’t be a distant future.
I have been elected to speak for the best interests of the residents of Ipswich. I cannot think of a more important interest than making sure that Ipswich – and the whole of the rest of our planet – is still habitable in 20 years’ time. I will call for action the government can take. I will continue to urge our Councils to put the facilities in place. And I will not stop encouraging you, as a responsible member of society, to do your bit too. We can see the crisis rearing up before us – let’s not go down with all hands.