We ran out of water during the summer – I’ve blogged about it before, laughing at the irony of our borehole running dry in a place where it can rain for months at a time. Literally, for months. My most quotable quote since moving to Scotland has been ‘there’s no adverse weather, just unsuitable clothing’, and the only criteria for new shoes and jackets is that they’re waterproof.
But then, we had a dry winter; a beautiful, crisp winter of blue skies and sparkly frost; pink cheeks and long walks. And a dry spring: lambs gambolling and picnics on the porch. And a dry summer – days out on the shore, hats, sun cream and dinner al fresco. Brown grass, the burn below the house narrowing and then drying out completely, the soil hardening and cracking on the road, dust. We started moving the animals around according to what streams were still running, we stopped flushing the toilets, we dropped the pump in the borehole and talked about dowsing. One by one the houses on the island ran out of water, and then we did.
After a few weeks... a month. We made a plan. We farmed ourselves out for showers and filled jerry cans on the mainland. And then, it finally rained.
We got back to normal, but for other people the climate crisis has had longer, more devastating effects. They have lost homes, livelihoods, loved ones, their world forever altered by the changes to our environment, climate, and habitat.
Governments have come together before to tackle environmental disasters and succeeded – acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer, leaded petrol. ‘CFC’s’ were a huge part of my childhood – I still don’t use body spray and am crazy about keeping the fridge closed – and no antipodean child of the 80’s goes anywhere in summer without a hat; but they won’t be a part of my children’s.
Success is not instantaneous though, and some things, like the hole in the ozone layer, got worse before they got better. This is why the COP26 in Glasgow happening next week is so important. This meeting between world leaders and representatives has been called a ‘tipping point’; ‘critical’; a ‘last chance’ to really push back against global warming.
Here’s what you need to know:
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It stands for Conference of the Parties, and this is the 26th time it has been convened. Key topics will include net-zero emissions targets, support for developing countries and vulnerable communities, and how everything will be financed.
‘Net-zero’ is the term for when the volume of greenhouse gas emissions released into is equivalent to the volume of emissions removed from the atmosphere.
In 2015 most countries committed to the Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate
change. Its objective was to limit the rise of global temperatures to ideally 1.5 degrees but at least to below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. A key goal of COP is to establish how countries are getting on with meeting this target, but also to enforce just how urgent this is.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) is the United Nations’ body for assessing the science related to climate change and has just released a report confirming that if targets to reduce global warming aren’t met during this decade, temperature increase is inevitable and irreversible, and ultimately catastrophic.
Ten years: it’s not long. Knowing about climate change and seeing it happen are two different things, but we are seeing it happen, and now is the time to do something about it. Governments will gather and debate, and it’s easy to be despondent when our own government is saying one thing and doing another. But there is always hope, and our power as individuals to make small changes is great.
Choose to make one change to better the environment and do it. There’s no better time than now.