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Peter Hale “Climate Change: where are we now?”

Mr Hale not only gave an interesting talk on global warming but led a lively discussion with the members on what has now become a controversial topic.Peter is a graduate engineer with a background in computers, he has a long term interest in climate change & began giving talks in 2004.

The majority of climate researchers believe that the main cause of the rapidly changing climate, especially since 1975, is our fossil fuel-burning activities, which increase the amount of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere, these act like a giant blanket causing global warming.  There are now 12 times as many people in the world (and in the UK) than 300 years ago. On top of that, each of us in industrialised countries is consuming vastly more energy and therefore creating many times the greenhouse gas than anyone living previously.

 Although burning of coal, oil and gas is the main contributor, other causes of greenhouse gas emissions include: deforestation, decaying material in landfill sites & the rapidly increasing world population adds to the scale of all these things.  Since pre-industrial times, we have added around one-third more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and doubled the methane, plus nitrous oxide and a range of industrial gases.  The IPCC (International Panel for Climate Change) predict a global temperature rise of between 1.1ºC and 6.4ºC by 2100 & a sea level rise, due to both warmer water (greater volume) and melting ice, of between 28cm and 43cm by 2100, with consequent high storm wave heights, threatening to displace up to 200 million people.

International initiatives such as the Kyoto Agreement have tried to curb the growth of greenhouse gases & mitigate the effects this may have on the planet.  However, the countries responsible for 55% of 1990 emissions did not ratify this treaty, after the USA refused in 2001. The large developing countries, especially China, India and Brazil, took part in the discussions but did not adopt reduction targets. Notwithstanding the failure of others, the UK undertook to reduce its emissions by 12.5%. The EU has adopted a market -based approach: to give incentives through carbon trading; e.g. a company or country finding it expensive to achieve an emissions reduction has the alternative of paying money ("buying credits") so that the money can be used elsewhere on projects where an equivalent emissions reduction can be achieved at less cost. Conversely, a company or country exceeding its target receives money ("selling credits").

In Europe, carbon is being traded at around £10 per tonne.  In the short term the best strategy is to reduce the use of energy as far as possible. In the medium term other methods of generating energy, for example tidal power, wind power & cleaner nuclear power need to be developed.  There are now a panel of speakers & a website (http://www.climate-concern.com ) where facts & political developments on climate change are to be found.

A vote of thanks was proposed by Dan Humphrey