By Stephen Le Quesne
WHEN I started writing again for the JEP back in February last year, the plan was to cover a wide range of subjects, mainly on the interests and passions that I follow, read about and are a part of my working life. These subjects include nature conservation, rewilding, well-being, mental health, outdoor play for children and families, gardening, and inequality. However, one subject has dominated my writing output, quite unexpectedly, for which it is again the subject today. That subject is climate change.
Unfortunately, though, when writing about and exploring the science and topic of global warming and climate change, it brings with it some baggage, which is cloudy, murky, and full of vested interests and individuals who pick bits of science to suit their argument, or just refuse to be open to what is happening to the planet right now. I remember being taught the greenhouse effect in school in science class and never remember anyone questioning the subject in school, out of school, in politics or anywhere else. It is essential we discuss and move forward with climate solutions.
When writing about climate science and what is happening to our weather systems, it is incredibly important to be factually correct. It carries a big amount of responsibility. This is because of how far-reaching the topic is and how much it is going to directly impact our lives and wallets in the future. There is a lot of noise on the subject, a lot of useless noise that can confuse facts and mislead people who are trying to learn more about the subject.
It is of critical importance that we listen to the right people, especially scientists and academics within this field and that we ignore individuals or organisations who have reasons to want to keep things as they are, even as the planet effectively burns. We are dealing with an issue that is terrifying in its scope, complex in its science and will determine what our society and communities look like in 20, 50 and 100 years’ time.
A timely warning was provided last week when it was announced by the EU’s climate service that for the first-time global warming has exceeded 1.5°C across an entire year. We are living in a time of climate breakdown and to say otherwise goes against the consensus of the global scientific community. We are at a point where action must be swift, direct, well communicated and followed through on. This is about my future, your future and your family’s future, which I find hard to comprehend and deal with most of the time.
Let’s jump to the JEP headline from last week, which led with “Row over climate-policy sceptic’s talk in the States”. The story was taken from tweets and social media chatter, but the heart of the matter needs greater explanation. The story revolved around an individual, a Dr John Constable, who was scheduled to give a talk titled “Lessons from Economic History – Can Wind and Solar Sustain a Modern Economy?”. The talk was scheduled to be within the States building but was later cancelled.
The reason this event is and was alarming is that the speaker was not a climate scientist. The individual in question was previously director of policy and research at the Renewable Energy Foundation, which appears to be against wind power (important since the new Environment Minister has been quoted as being “ambivalent” on the proposed offshore wind farm). In effect Dr Constable is a lobbyist who is also employed by the Global Warming Policy Foundation who also campaign as Net Zero Watch.
It is also important to note that the GWF was sanctioned in 2014 by the charity commission for its persistent promotion of climate-change denial.
It’s quite right that we scrutinise and question a public presentation from an individual who posed many more questions than answers, especially when evidence suggests that the presentation was not going to be balanced nor objective.
The science and facts of climate change can be argued against, but only by opinion, not by facts, the data is overwhelming, the evidence is clear. What we need to focus on is solutions, action and assisting all in society to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as we can.
In a perfect world, everyone from all sides of the political spectrum would be able to come together, to work together, to move away from fossil fuels, rather than constantly trying to challenge facts with opinions and causing us to slide more towards climate and ecological catastrophe.
Stephen Le Quesne is a naturalist, conservationist, forest school leader and nature connection advocate.