The Climate Emergency
Climate change, brought about through human activities, threatens our world. Destruction of forests, moorland, peatbogs and other natural habitats reduces the earth’s ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere, while also causing devastating damage to wildlife.
What is climate change?
The world's climate is constantly changing and in the past it has done so to dramatic extremes, but there is now clear evidence that human activities are contributing to rapidly increasing climate change. The problem has to be tackled on a global scale, but there are little actions that we can all take to lessen our impact on the climate and our environment.
Climate change is the catch-all term for the shift in worldwide weather phenomena associated with an increase in global average temperatures. It's real and temperatures have been going up around the world for many decades.
Reliable temperature records began in 1850 and our world is now about one degree celcius hotter than it was in the period between 1850 and 1900 – commonly referred to as the "pre-industrial" average.
The change is even more visible over a shorter time period – compared to average temperatures between 1961 and 1990, 2017 was 0.68 degrees warmer, while 2016 was 0.8 degrees warmer, thanks to an extra boost from the naturally-occurring El Niño weather system.
While this temperature increase is more specifically referred to as global heating, the climate crisis is the term currently favoured by science communicators, as it explicitly includes not only Earth's increasing global average temperature, but also the climate effects caused by this increase.
Global efforts are now focussed on keeping temperatures from increasing more than two degrees above that pre-industrial average, and ideally no more than 1.5 degrees. That goal may still be possible if the international community pulls together.
Climate Change and Shropshire
Will it impact us in Shropshire?
In short, yes. Our ability to grow crops to feed a growing population has depended on a relatively stable climate and seasons. Increasingly wet summers and warmer winters make land conditions unfavourable to many of the food types that farmers grow.
In the UK, we also depend heavily on the import of food from all over the world. In parts of Africa and Asia, droughts have become more regular and last longer, so we have to look to import from elsewhere. As the global demand increases, food prices will also increase, so Shropshire consumers are likely to feel the impact of climate change on their wallet as well as availability of a diverse array of food.
In Shropshire, dormice brought out of hibernation by warmer winters are unable to find food. A raised water temperature can affect the ability of fish, such as salmon to breed in the River Severn.
It is time to stop carving up our wild places and pumping out carbon by building new roads.
It is time to start capturing carbon and let wildlife thrive through major investment in our natural world, urgently through peatland restoration, woodland regeneration and tree planting.
It is time to pass new laws for nature’s recovery and accelerate action on climate change.
Plans for a road around north-west Shrewsbury, a continuing increase in planning approvals for chicken farms and an increase in development across Shropshire, are all factors that will contribute further to climate change.
Spear-headed by the Trust and a partnership of conservation organisations, work is taking place to restore peat bogs in the north of the county - these fragile habitats store more carbon than forests.
Climate change and wild habitat loss are inextricably linked. Where ecosystems are damaged or fragmented, the impact of climate change becomes more significant. Worse will come if we don’t take action now. We need to give nature the best chance to adapt by developing nature recovery networks.
What is Shropshire Wildlife Trust doing?
We take climate change very seriously
Our combined land stores 90,000 tonnes of carbon.
• restore damaged and fragmented areas of habitat;
• recreate habitats and natural corridors and stepping stones in the landscape; and
• reconnect these habitats, including linking them to the green space in our cities, towns and villages.
Our nature reserves protect sites that often have an undamaged soil and higher species diversity that other areas. The effects of climate change may change the species composition of these sites but their underlying value as protected 'reservoirs' of wildlife will not diminish and they will remain important sources of biodiversity.
Only by taking a strategic view, and involving local communities, will we be able to secure the survival of wildlife-rich places, and aid nature’s recovery in the face of pressures such as development and climate change.
Climate Change Motion
At our AGM in October 2019, Shropshire Wildlife Trust members agreed the following 6 point plan to help tackle the climate crisis. We will:
1. Declare a climate emergency and biodiversity crisis. Our target is zero carbon by 2030 in relation to the CO2 emissions from fossil fuels in our activities and operations including energy purchases.
2. Ensure that any financial investments divest from companies with fossil fuel interests. This includes the pension scheme for SWT staff.
3. Comprehensively use and vigorously promote biodiversity net gain in all our advice and policies except where irreplaceable habitats are involved such as ancient woods, veteran trees, fens and bogs.
4. Provide sound advice about adaptation for the increasing effects of the rapidly changing climate. Resilient ecological networks are needed where habitats are joined up by green and blue corridors. These need to be extended for species to colonise new areas. Our mantra is ‘More, Bigger, Better, and Joined-up habitats’.
5. Create clear narratives to explain why dealing with both the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis is critical to our future. Shropshire Wildlife magazine will contain regular articles about the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis.
6. Report on progress to the AGM and to the Members’ Forum in future years.
What can you do?
Lots of small actions can together, make a big impact. Here are some ideas:
Other ways you can help
You can get involved with your local climate action group: