This is a proposal that I've circulated to our Parish Council, (Merton, near Bicester) as a first step to establishing a local Climate Change Forum, in case it's of interest to anyone else setting up similar schemes.
What Can We Do About Climate Change?
Over the past couple of years, climate change has been moving steadily up the political agenda and has gained ever more prominence in the news media. In the main, the issue has been presented in terms of 'what should the Government do about it?'. As for the rest of us, we're told not to put more water than we need in our kettles, and avoid leaving the TV on standby & small and seemingly insignificant acts in the face of such a huge global challenge.
But is there anything more that we can do? And in any case, is there really a problem in the first place? There are still articles and TV programmes telling us that human-induced global warming is just a myth; a great con-trick perpetrated by a bunch of anti-capitalist environmentalists in an unholy alliance with climate scientists who are trying to scare governments into funding their research.
Most of us need some help to pick our way through this minefield of conflicting information and advice. Help with both the scientific and the practical issues; is it real, and if so, what, if anything, can I do about it?
To address those questions, Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute has set up an outreach programme called ClimateXChange (http://www.climatex.org/). Its aim is to help local groups and communities set up their own programmes of action, ranging from information on the issues (talks, presentations, quizzes, films) though to advice on what individuals, households and communities can do.
It's an issue that I've long been interested in. Having worked for many years in the ski industry, I've seen at first hand the rapid and dramatic changes that are taking place in the mountains. These changes are not just affecting skiers, but stand to have a major impact on many of Europe's river systems and water supplies, as glaciers shrink and their associated summer meltwaters diminish.
Even here in Oxfordshire, effects can be seen. The timings of bird migrations are changing, as are those of the budding and flowering of many plants and the patterns of hibernation for mammals such as hedgehogs. Wetter winters and drier summers are causing problems of flooding and drought, as well as altering local ecologies. On our own doorstep, the RSPB's Otmoor reserve is seeing changes in the range, numbers and breeding success of species coming to the area. Over the next half-century, the predicted reduction in soil moisture during the summer and early autumn is likely to cause increasing problems for many of the reserve's species.
But saving the planet isn't to everyone's taste. It'll see me out, so why should I worry? is a not altogether uncommon response. Well, apart from the moral arguments about our obligations to future generations, how about saving ourselves money? Though they've dropped back a bit recently, the last couple of years have seen a major hike in fuel prices, a trend that's likely to continue as oil output begins to peak and emerging economies like China and India add to the global demand.
You don't have to follow David Cameron's lead and stick a windmill on your roof. In fact there are good arguments for saying that's one of the last things you should do. Sticking an extra six inches of insulation under your roof can be a much better place to start. Not to mention draught-proofing your house, and not leaving any of your appliances on standby. And most people can more than offset recent rises in the price of petrol by making minor adjustments to the way they drive.
So to help people get to grips with the problem and what we can all do about it, the aim is to set up a local forum, supported by ClimateXChange. Its detailed objectives are still to be established, indeed, that's one of the first topics for discussion. But possible activities include talks from guest speakers, film shows, information on grants for domestic energy saving, and a discussion group for anyone with an ongoing interest in the subject.
As a first step, I'm seeking the Parish Council's support for the initiative. My aim is to give a short presentation at the next Parish Council meeting, to gauge reactions, obtain feedback on what topics might be of interest, and to find out if any of the current councillors would like to get involved.
I hope that you will support this proposal.