Leaders: Weather blows a warning for our future

Storms lash Britain again, bringing flooding, power cuts, and general misery to thousands. Across the Atlantic, the eastern United States and Canada are weighed down by huge snowfalls and temperatures more akin to the Arctic. In the southern hemisphere, Australia has just experienced the hottest year on record, sparking ferocious forest fires.
Heavy coastal surges and strong winds battered the coast at Troon. Picture: Robert PerryHeavy coastal surges and strong winds battered the coast at Troon. Picture: Robert Perry
Heavy coastal surges and strong winds battered the coast at Troon. Picture: Robert Perry

Some may see this coincidence of extreme events as just that, an unlucky happenstance. They, however, are increasingly in the minority. The evidence now argues pretty conclusively that severe storms and heatwaves are the product of climate change and that even more extreme events are on the way.

The World Meteorological Organisation says that record extremes of weather will always occur somewhere in the world every year, but recent years have seen an increase in the number of records being set annually. Climate change science, while arguable in the detail, is clear and irrefutable in principle – the more carbon dioxide and methane there is in the atmosphere, the less energy escapes to space and the more is retained within the atmosphere. And the more energetic the atmosphere becomes, the more extreme events will occur.

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And the majority of scientists believe that people – not solar cycles or wobbles in the earth’s orbit round the sun – are responsible for increasing the concentration of climate changing atmospheric gases. The records for this, obtained from sampling ice cores, now go back more than 600,000 years. And while the concentration of carbon dioxide has gone up and down over that period, it is only in the last half century has it shot up to levels that Earth has not seen since the first man lit his first fire.

Things will get worse before they get better. But that does not mean that people should just shrug their shoulders and think of it as somebody else’s problem or expect governments to do something. Every individual’s contribution, even if it is simply taking public transport to work instead of their own car, is a contribution.

On a larger scale, the transition to more energy coming from renewable sources and less from burning fossil fuels is a trend that has to continue. True, renewable energy is comparatively expensive, a cost that many are increasingly reluctant to bear. Research and continuing development of wind, wave, tidal and solar power should eventually reduce these costs. And to get through these cost barriers, switching to less carbon intensive fossil fuels – from coal to gas – by making use of fracking technology should be considered.

Even if some still have doubts about direct causes and effectiveness of action, surely it makes sense to strive to live in a more sustainable way, so this generation does not become the first generation to leave the world in a far worse condition than when they came into it.

Morally bankrupt

Most voters will think Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, to be politically and morally bankrupt. News that he is now financially bankrupt as well will certainly raise a few chortles. They should be short-lived though, for Mr Griffin is also laughing.

The extreme right-wing politician, elected an MEP for North West England in 2009, will continue to sit in the European Parliament. The court order declaring him bankrupt placed no restrictions on his financial affairs, so he is not barred from his elected job.

No wonder then that he tweeted that it was “a good day”. Good for him maybe, but not so good for the legal firm that represented him in various lawsuits and whose bills, assessed at £120,000 in a court action last year, he failed to pay, triggering the bankruptcy proceedings.

Bankruptcy exists so that people, often through no fault of their own, who find themselves with debts that they cannot repay in full, can have the slate wiped clean and make a fresh start while their creditors get a little of their money returned.

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But the money mess created by Mr Griffin, who earns £76,000 a year (with generous expenses), was all of his own making. Anybody who employs lawyers to act on their behalf has to know that their meters constantly tick. For him to end up unable to pay is simply irresponsible.

Even more galling is his complete lack of contrition, either to the public who he expects to place trust in him or to the firm of local solicitors (not a deep-pocketed big city law firm) he has deprived of rightfully-earned income. Truly, Mr Griffin has shown himself to be an all-round bankrupt.