The UK is among the least concerned in the world about climate change, according to a recent YouGov poll. Research claims Southern China will reach its limit of ‘survivability’ by 2100, and numerous incidents such as the UK flood crisis of 2007 leave a desperate question.
Should we be frightened? Are we doomed? Hurricane Irma has prompted us once again to consider the impacts of the human lifestyle on this planet. It appears that now, more than ever, we must analyse the UK’s response to the growing threat of global warming amid international politics. Time is ticking on, so what are we doing about it?
A history of environmental disasters plagues the UK. Flash floods in 2007 killed 13 people and caused over £3 billion in damages, whilst 40,000 deaths alone are attributed to air pollution each year.
The UK government’s most significant commitment to tackling climate change has been to join the Paris Climate Agreement, aiming to limit temperature rise to 1.5-2.0℃ by 2100. But its annual ‘Emissions Gap Report’ found the emissions levels, resulting from a full implementation of all unconditional contributions, would lead to a temperature increase of 3.2°C until 2100. It also found that 2030 emissions are expected to reach far above the 42 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent needed to limit global temperature to 2°C this century. The report, therefore, urges enhanced the pre-2020 action. A global rise in temperature of this kind would lead to more extreme weather, and limiting temperature rise does not prevent environmental disasters such as the recent Hurricane Irma. At an increase of 7℃, it’s ‘game over’ – including the UK.
The Conservative government in their 2017 manifesto promised a commitment to nuclear power and developing the Shale gas industry. Recently, the government supported the construction of the new Somerset Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, a controversial move as we now know offshore wind farms have become cheaper to subsidize. The cost for three new mega offshore wind farms is at a record low, where ministers last year awarded the French state-owned EDF £92.50 per Megawatt hour (MWh) for Hinkley. This is compared to the £57.50 cost per MWh for new wind farms. However, neither wind farms nor nuclear power reverses the effects of climate change. Indeed, a more fundamental change is needed.
The UN has presented data concluding that ‘a global shift towards a Vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty, and the worst impacts of climate change’. For instance, the UN found that approximately 3/4 of the world’s fisheries are either being exploited or depleted. This will lead to a complete depletion of current fishing areas by 2048, seriously affecting the lifestyle of the UK. Furthermore, agriculture of meat and dairy accounts for 70% of global freshwater use, 40% of the world’s land, and produces almost 1/5th of all greenhouse gas emissions.
In the UK, Veganism has more than tripled, figures increasing from 150,000 in 2006 to over 500,000 in 2016. But none of the UK’s major political parties manifesto’s mention the words ‘Vegan’ or ‘Vegetarian’. Shortly after coming to power, Theresa May abolished the ‘Department of Energy and Climate Change’, replacing it with the ‘Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy’.
Any serious UK change would involve reforming its arable land which, on a Vegan planet, would feed over 200 million people – more than 3 times the UK population. This looks unlikely, to put it mildly, in a profit-driven society, where cattle and land treated as capital will not be given up if industry stands to lose its investment, even if it benefits the world. The goal should be to reverse climate change by restoring the ozone layer and removing greenhouse gases, but the UK will not achieve this through wind turbines or nuclear power. Refined action is not just needed, but a matter of urgency.