As billions of eyes around the world watch helplessly the unprecedented wildfires in Australia, one of a growing number of extreme weather events globally, we are publishing a series of special articles to ask: what does this mean for residents and communities in south Leeds?
How can we help tackle climate change on a local and global level? What can we do in 2020 to help heal our planet, reduce extreme weather, and also prepare for the challenges facing us ahead? Can we set a path for our children and families to lead a healthier, happier, and more planet-friendly life in the future?
Over the course of the next week, we will be covering a broad range of topics including the science and the protesters, but also how local people are making changes in their lives. We will, of course, also cover your usual news topics – but watch out for this logo, signalling a story that links to the climate crisis.
What is climate change and how will it affect us?
The Earth’s climate has always changed over time. However, a very wide range of scientists say that temperatures are now rising faster than at any other time in human history, to levels not seen for at least 130,000 years.
Over the past 250 years, we have – mainly through industry and agriculture – released increasingly large levels of ‘greenhouse gases’ (especially carbon dioxide and monoxide) into the atmosphere. These are trapping ever more heat around the world, and increasing the temperature. This is known as climate change or global warming.
In Leeds, and across the world, we are therefore seeing an ever hotter climate: 18 of the world’s 19 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001. The last five years have been the hottest five in the last 140 years.
But it’s not simply a case of a happily warming climate: higher temperatures mean there is more energy in our weather systems. This leads to growing unpredictability: this winter has been one of the warmest ever so far, but also one of the wettest.
Elsewhere in the world, the flooding in Bangladesh is a direct result of rising sea levels. Countries like Pakistan are suffering freak levels of rain and snow this winter. And alongside droughts and heatwaves, increasingly strong and frequent hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are battering communities everywhere – most recently, in the Caribbean and USA, Mozambique, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Locally, here in central and south Leeds, we were subject to the 2015 Boxing Day floods – and the past months saw more massive floods in South Yorkshire. We are all also affected by global impacts including rising food prices, and political instability.
It’s hard to make sense of how those events and realities link with how we live our lives – but they do. We live in a society soaked in fossil fuels – and it is these especially that are contributing to an ever-more polluted environment, and a world heating up by the day.
Meanwhile, many south Leeds residents suffer from breathing conditions such as asthma and COPD – a secondary result from the heavy car emissions of our congested environment. Clean air campaigns are not working fast enough to benefit real people, in their real lives, right now.
But the good news is: we can all take action, to create the changes we need for a different future. This special edition features a range of local stories, to inspire each of us to do more. And we’ve also included loads of easy ways and helpful Green Tips on how to become more planet-friendly as an individual, family, community, or society as a whole.
These simple steps will make a big difference to your lives, health, wealth, mind-set, and the local environment. Then with luck, over time, these small steps can lead us towards the very different society we need to create together.
Time is short, but there are opportunities across our communities, for people to help build a healthier and happier society. We are calling on all of our readers to join in, and be part of the change we all need to see.
This post was written by Kushmina Begum and Ed Carlisle
Photo: Bushfire in Australia by bertknot via Creative Commons