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Sunday, 7 November 2021

University of 3rd AgeClimate and Ecological Crisis – What's all the fuss about?

Speaker: David Ramsden MBE

David began by saying we have continued to live on Earth because it has a Balanced Climate System. The system depends on multi-year ice and permafrost, fertile soils, natural water cycles, healthy ecosystems (terrestrial and marine), and a good balance of atmospheric gases. But if we lose any of those factors, Earth becomes uninhabitable.

David then asked and gave answers to the question 'What's all the fuss about?' by dividing it up with things we've heard, and might well have said, ourselves.

On Earth, ice loss is accelerating, crop failures and droughts are increasing, wildlife decline is accelerating, fish stocks are declining, and air pollution currently kills 8.7 million people each year.

David's next question was 'Why is all this happening?' The answer started with description of fossil fuels, and their creation and origin. Their increased use has led to a stronger greenhouse effect, making the temperature of the planet heat up, because we are trapping more of the heat entering our atmosphere from the sun.

David dealt another with question we're probably familiar with – 'What does this actually mean?' First, when the world is warmer, there are more storms – leading to more displaced people; more floods, again more displaced people and less food; and ocean acidification, caused by oceans dissolving more carbon dioxide (CO2), poisoning plants and marine life. There are more droughts, heatwaves and wildfires than before, the combined effect of these being more deaths, less food and even more CO2 being released into the atmosphere.

The levels of CO2, sea, and global temperature have remained relatively constant for the past four hundred and fifty thousand years, with fluctuations reflecting 'ice ages' and glacial activity over this time. But since the 'Holocene' period, which is when human civilisation began – about twelve thousand years ago – the CO2 level increase has outstripped the rise in temperature and sea levels.

David showed a chart showing the rate, actual and predicted, of the increase of global temperature because of CO2 levels. At the current rate, it will be 3.2 to 5.4 Celsius in the year 2050. This would result in most life on Earth being wiped out.

In the Paris Agreement of 2015, nearly every country in the world agreed to take steps to keep the increase in global temperature below two degrees. David was far from optimistic about the prospects and results of this agreement, citing problems such as America opting out for four years, our country not on track to meet this target, and the continued growth in use of, and investment in, fossil fuels.

The world's population depends on the productive capacity of the 'Ecosphere', to survive. Yet it seems that we are currently exceeding the capacity by almost 60%.

A question often asked is 'Why should Britain take the lead? What about China?' David's answer is that BP and Shell, two of the world's biggest oil companies are 40% British owned, and we give fossil fuel companies ten billion pounds a year in subsidies. Per capita, the UK emits only 13% less CO2 than China.

A musical interlude, with pictures, brought the message home even further, before David reminded us that what we still have is time.
Time to improve our prospects globally. For us locally, they involve giving up perhaps, but definitely reducing, any activity that contributes to global warming.

The U3A members who had listened to David asked varied questions at the end of his presentation, and his answers again demonstrated his knowledge and genuine concern about global warming. He said that, despite the position we are all in because of what has happened, he was happy. He reduced his 'Eco-anxiety' by personally taking all steps that he could, towards averting or mitigating the worst effects while we still have time.

The next Todmorden U3A Monthly Members Meeting will be on Thursday 18th November 2021 at 1.45 p.m. open to all fully paid-up members at the Central Methodist Hall, Todmorden.

Our speaker for November will be Jim Holmes, RGS, Documentary Photographer. His talk is titled 'Japan, Bowing to Tradition'.

Not yet a member? You can attend one talk free by requesting an invitation to this zoom event. We're always delighted to welcome new members. Contact details: website at www.u3atod.org.uk or email at info@u3atod.org.uk.

Many thanks to Colin Sanson for this report


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