After the Deluge

3rd August 2021

Erin LynchErin Lynch

From Wallonia to Maharashtra, July saw unprecedented floods devastate communities in Germany, Belgium, China and India. After rapid rainfall triggered landslides in Western Europe, it’s estimated over 180 died in Germany and Belgium. At least 99 people are believed to have died in China, and more than 200,000 people were moved to shelters. In India at least 100 are believed to be dead after heavy rains in western Maharashtra. Lasting damage to homes, agriculture and infrastructure will cost billions, but the human cost is incalculable. These unprecedented natural disasters are reminders of our vulnerability to climate change.

The connection between ‘freak’ weather events and climate change is inextricable. Without climate change “you would not see as much precipitation as you see today” said senior research scientist Xuebin Zhang, “simply because the air is now hotter and it can hold more moisture, as such it will give you more rain in intense storms than before”. Densely populated urban areas and rural towns alike are radically unprepared for extreme weather events and research is now turning towards how to  develop more efficient warning systems for residents likely to be impacted by extreme weather. Scientists are bracing residents to psychologically and financially prepare for ‘evacuation’, and the UK government is issuing guidance to lay tiles instead of carpets and move plug sockets higher up walls to cut risks associated with flooding.

If that weren’t quite enough, earlier last month, scientists confirmed that the Amazon Rainforest is now emitting more carbon dioxide than it is able to absorb, and that many of the planet’s key indicators of the global climate crisis are either approaching or exceeding key tipping points. It’s been a tough summer for climate deniers.

In the face of such devastation the UK’s plan to approve a controversial new oil field off the coast of Scotland is particularly shocking. The Cambo oil field contains 800 million barrels of oil — a resource Shell and Siccar Point Energy want to exploit until 2050. In its first stage, the field would extract and burn 150-170 million barrels of oil, creating emissions equivalent to 16 coal-fired power stations. While the UK recently decided to bar new oil exploration licenses unless the driller can pass a ‘climate checkpoint’ test, Cambo will not be subject to such a test, since it was originally licensed in 2001. Climate groups and activists joined forces to urge UK ministers to reject these plans, saying that it undermines the UK’s credibility and leadership ahead of COP26 later this year. Shell argues ‘it’s better to find oil in our own backyard’.

There’s a way you can help. Friends of the Earth are gathering signatures on their open letter to the government to reject the plans and are 87% of the way towards their target. Add your name today and tell the government that we refuse to endorse their reckless fossil fuel hypocrisy.

Good Tythings

  1. Blue Marine Foundation is joining a movement to stop deep-sea mining. The deep-sea plays a vital role in sequestering carbon and preventing a climate catastrophe but scientists are worried deep sea mining, which extracts minerals for batteries and the technology industry, could cause irreversible damage. Some believe the increasing demand for electric vehicles is driving a surge in mining activity. You can join the call by signing Defend the Deep’s petition.

  2. After a decade-long battle for more access to justice by ClientEarth lawyers, the EU agreed to open the way for the public to challenge environmental wrongdoings in EU Courts. Until now, only NGOs could use the Aarhus Regulation to challenge EU decisions.

  3. Excellent Development’s work developing sand dams and climate-smart agriculture in southeast Kenya was highlighted as an excellent ‘nature based solution’ to poverty, climate-change, and biodiversity loss in a new report by researchers at the Climate Action Network UK.

  4. The Clean Air Task Force’s research on decarbonising the transport sector found that, in some cases, clean hydrogen, biofuels, and even jet fuel could prove to be more cost-effective strategies when offset through carbon capture technologies. CATF argues that ‘pursuing various pathways simultaneously’ is imperative to maximizing the probability of decarbonising by 2050.

  5. The Financial Times featured The Sustainable Food Trust’s efforts to increase sustainability in the food industry. The Global Farm Metric is a benchmarking system that will increase transparency and help consumers, farmers and governments progress towards international sustainability targets. The GFM will involve 35 organisations such as key retailers, banks, and environmental NGOs.

  6. Trees for Cities has been awarded £1.2m through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund to plant 55,000 trees in 7 coastal towns and cities. Seaside towns’ struggles are ‘often overlooked’ and research shows that there is a strong correlation between environmental deprivation and social deprivation.

Ways to Engage

  • There are a lot of important petitions circulating this month. As well as Say No to Cambo and Defend the Deep, also check out the Environmental Justice Foundation’s call for action to tell world leaders to put marine ecosystems at the heart of climate policy.
  • If you’re from Scotland, consider emailing your MSP to demand protection for Scotland’s inshore waters by reinstating a coastal limit on bottom-trawl and dredge fishing.
  • Birthdays coming up? Researchers at Exeter University estimate that sending one greeting card produces on average 140grams of carbon dioxide. With two billion greeting cards sold every year in the UK, this makes for a whopping environmental impact. UK Greetings is partnering with The World Land Trust’s Carbon Balanced Paper programme to make all their single-use cards fully and widely recyclable. This will see UK Greetings offsetting almost 100,000 tonnes of CO2.
  • Still confused about cultivated meat? The Good Food Institute has put together a resource guide for alternative protein newbies.
  • Want to tackle food waste and hunger in your area? Hubbub is supporting 100 community organisations to launch new community fridges. Apply by 16th August to receive up to £4,000 in funding, free membership, guidance, and support in order to start your community fridge.
  • Looking for some summer reading? The Sustainable Food Trust has made a list of the best food and farming reads of 2021.