Opinion: Climate change is here – don’t believe the deniers

A few weeks ago I was listening to Radio 4’s The World Tonight as I did the washing up.

The hairs on the back of my neck started to prickle as I listened to reports of extreme weather lashing the globe from Alaska to Antarctica, from Austria to Australia.

That night, as I tried to sleep on the living room floor with my two-year-old son to alleviate the record-breaking heat upstairs, I felt both genuinely worried and angry – for him.

After decades of warnings from scientists, the climate has reached a tipping point and the world will never be the same. Our children are the ones who must live with it.

See also: Huge fire rips through farmer’s field in North Yorkshire

About the author

Joe Stanley
Farmers Weekly Opinion writer
Joe Stanley, ARAgS, is head of sustainable farming and knowledge exchange at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Allerton Project, researching how farming and the environment can work in harmony. He is also chair of Leicestershire, Northants and Rutland NFU, sits on the NFU Environment Forum and is a trustee of the Henry Plumb Foundation. Views expressed in this column are his own.
Read more articles by Joe Stanley

Climate change is real, today. Many would still disagree with this, but they are wrong. The scientific evidence is overwhelming.

Temperatures of 40C in Britain are not “just weather”; the rapid disruption of our climate in the past decade is not the result of solar cycles, the tilt of the earth or wokism.

The rise in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere isn’t “a good thing” for crops; 1976 wasn’t “worse”.

Yes, there are crackpots on social media who will tell you these things, but there are also corners of the internet where people believe Elvis is holed up with Hitler on the moon, playing Buckaroo and planning their big comeback tours.

All 10 of the warmest years in UK history have occurred since 2002, along with eight of the hottest days; winters are getting milder and wetter, and farming and food production is on the front line.

For me, by far the biggest impact on farm profitability in the past five years has been climate change. The predictable tempo of our normally benign temperate weather has been truly disrupted. So what must happen now?

  • Net zero In 2019, the NFU committed to a “net-zero ambition’. Many farmers remain openly dismissive, but as an industry we emit 10% of national greenhouse gas emissions. We must play our part in decarbonising the economy.
  • Carbon sequestration Farming and forestry are the only sectors which can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in our trees, hedges, crops and soils. Yet, at this early stage, think carefully before you trade away your carbon to offset the emissions of others. You may come to regret it.
  • Trade It is a disgrace that the government recently slid the ratification of the UK-Australia trade deal through without any parliamentary scrutiny, allowing the import of food with a far higher carbon footprint than that which we can produce here. Offshoring our emissions in this manner is morally reprehensible. It must stop.
  • Society Climate change isn’t happening because of cows. It’s happening because for 200 years we’ve been burning fossil fuels and injecting fossilised carbon directly into the atmosphere in huge volumes. And in 2022 we’ll burn more than in any previous year. British farmers already produce enough renewable energy to power 10 million homes. We can do more. But society must accept the reality of climate change and place the emphasis where it belongs. To focus on cows, as some plant-based charlatans would have us do, is to rearrange the garden furniture as our house burns down.

There’s more, much more. But if we don’t act now, the heaviest burden will fall on our children – which is a price we shouldn’t be willing to pay for lazy inaction.

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