WHEN Pembrokeshire County Council discussed its own climate change declaration, one of our county councillors suggested it wasn’t a subject to be overly worried about.


The councillor in question said he looked forward to growing his own lemons.


However, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that, whatever that councillor thinks, climate change is no laughing matter.

DAMAGE LIMITATION IS THE ONLY OPTION

In its most recent report, released on Monday (August 9), the IPCC said scientists can see changes in the Earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system.


Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years. Some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea-level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.


However, substantial and sustained reductions in carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change.


While benefits for air quality would come quickly, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilise.


The report provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the following decades and finds that unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.


In the UK, the temperature rise will not be as steep. However, the increase in temperature from 1995-2014 over the next ten years alone amounts to a minimum of 0.6°C with an outlying maximum change of 0,9°C.
Over the ten years from the end of this decade onwards, the temperature will continue to rise steadily across the UK. And the trend is forecast to continue for the twenty years after that.

PEMBROKESHIRE FACES BIG CHANGES

For those planning a Pembrokeshire citrus fruit bonanza, however, it’s not all good news.
The consequences of climate change for crucial Pembrokeshire industries could be devastating.
As extreme weather events increase in frequency, agriculture and tourism are in the firing line, and some of Pembrokeshire’s most popular coastal communities face radical change, if not extinction.
Food supplies will be disrupted.


Diseases and pests, once confined to the tropics, will move into currently temperate areas.
Alongside rising temperatures, rain patterns will change, and more disturbed weather patterns persist as the sea’s surface temperature rises.


The report shows that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900 and finds that – averaged over the next 20 years – the global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming.


That assessment is based on improved observational datasets to assess historical warming and progress in scientific understanding of the response of the climate system to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
“This report is a reality check,” said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte.


“We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare.”


Many characteristics of climate change directly depend on the level of global warming, but what people experience is often very different to the worldwide average.


For example, warming over land is larger than the global average, and it is more than twice as high in the Arctic.


“Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming,” said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai.

NOT ONLY TEMPERATURE

But it is not just about temperature.
Climate change is bringing multiple different changes in different regions – which will all increase with further warming.


These include changes to wetness and dryness, winds, snow and ice, coastal areas, and oceans.
For example:

Climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions.


Climate change is affecting rainfall patterns. Across the northern hemisphere and particularly across northern Europe, precipitation is likely to increase,
Coastal areas will see continued sea-level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion.
Extreme sea-level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.

Most of the world’s major cities are coastal, and the potential economic impact of increased flooding is difficult to overestimate.


Changes to marine ecosystems will affect the people that rely on them. Changing ocean habitats will affect both inshore and sea fishing.


Those changes will continue throughout at least the rest of this century.


“It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed,” said Masson-Delmotte.


“Yet the new report also reflects major advances in understanding the role of climate change in intensifying specific weather and climate events, such as extreme heat waves and heavy rainfall events.”


The report also shows that human actions still have the potential to determine the future course of climate.
“Stabilising the climate will require intense, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and reaching net-zero CO2 emissions.


“Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate,” said Zhai.

MAPPING LOCAL IMPACTS

New data allows the effects of climate change to be mapped at a local level.
The least-dire predictions from the IPCC modelling exceed the current South Wales Coastal Flooding plan’s minimum projected flooding levels.


The data show that coastal settlements like Amroth, Saundersfoot, the Havens, West Williamston, and Fishguard face grave danger from a combination of coastal flooding and increasing rainfall.


And increased rainfall and frequency of storms will also affect some of Pembrokeshire’s towns, with areas of Haverfordwest and Milford Haven being particularly vulnerable to river flooding.


Some of Pembrokeshire’s iconic beaches face significant changes to their profiles, and – in a few cases – changes in the coastline’s profile will cause sandy areas to be lost.


The A487, already unsustainable, could be cut off at Newgale even sooner than projected.
Even worse, the cost of preventative measures is too high to be met. Even if those measures were built, they would offer only a short-term patch: like placing a sticking plaster on a severed artery.

‘WE MUST ACT NOW’

For agriculture, changing weather patterns – warmer and drier winters followed by colder and wetter springs and even wetter autumns – interspersed with more frequent winter storms and summer droughts – will be disastrous.


Although Welsh farms are among the world’s most environmentally sustainable, they face additional pressures from the fallout from sledgehammer policies aiming to ‘green’ the Welsh economy.
FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The IPCC report has confirmed what farmers across Wales are already experiencing on the front line of climate change.


“In recent years, we’ve had increasing occurrences of extreme weather events such as flooding, drought, and challenging growing conditions.


“This will not only have an impact on farming businesses and family farms but on the ability of farmers to continue feeding the world’s growing population and maintain food security- while simultaneously reducing the 10% of UK emissions which come from agriculture.


“The FUW believes the government has a vital role to play in better supporting our farmers to deliver against various efficiency, biodiversity and sustainability goals to help the country achieve Net-Zero.
“We are, however, concerned that farmland could become a dumping ground for other industries’ continued emissions through carbon offsetting and tree planting schemes on farmland.


“The FUW believes family farms, that support the domestic production of food, are preferable to offshoring our environmental impacts or importing food produced to lower standards overseas.”


The Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Janet Finch-Saunders MS, said: “This report reinforces that we cannot sit idly by; we either act now or face a devastating climate catastrophe.


“Climate change because of human activities is one of the most severe threats facing Wales and the rest of the world.


“It will require global leadership and action both at home and abroad, and for our part in Wales, ministers must get on with taking serious decisions that match the severity of the situation we face.”


NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “Our industry is at the forefront of climate change impacts, and producing safe, traceable and affordable food is a daily challenge for Welsh farmers.


“As an industry, we are proud to produce some of the most sustainable food in the world and are committed to further reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sinks through our ambition of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.


“Agriculture is uniquely placed to be part of the solution to climate change, as both an emissions source and a sink.
“We are clear, however, that at the same time as reducing our impact on the climate, we should not reduce our capacity to feed consumers with high quality, affordable Welsh food.
“Wales must not achieve its climate change ambitions by exporting Welsh production, or our greenhouse gas emissions, to other countries.
“The development of favourable policies will be critical if we are to achieve our climate change ambitions – so we can better manage extreme weather events, lessen their impacts on farms and focus on delivering a secure supply of quality, affordable and climate-friendly food long into the future.
“We believe this can be achieved by utilising the world class expertise of academic establishments like IBERS and Bangor University in partnership with industry and other key groups to act with us to deliver this challenging, but achievable, ambition.”

COST AND BENEFIT

The post-Covid economic recovery could be an opportunity to reset the global economy and encourage governments to actively and meaningfully tackle an existential threat.
It won’t.


Despite all the declarations, accords, landmark speeches, and mutual understandings, effective coordinated action is still a pipedream.


It doesn’t matter how many people glue themselves to commuter trains, sit down in central London or chain themselves to railings in western democracies. The large carbon polluters in India and China won’t care. The protestors’ actions will change nothing.


What is the inconvenience to a few thousand commuters halfway around the world to the large mining companies and manufacturers of south and south-east Asia?


Instead, such actions could entrench an already prevalent mindset that ‘if they won’t change, why should we?’


National and political self-interest works against the sort of global cooperation needed.
For example, few Western democracies elect governments that will impose the sort of large and immediate tax rises needed to tackle long-term problems. You only have to look at the chaotic funding of social care in the UK to see that’s the case.


In the meantime, emerging economies and Asian economic giants will not easily surrender technologies that bring them increased national wealth. What compelling economic and political case can the rest of the world make to China, India, or Russia; countries with political and cultural systems different from ours?
‘Please stop’ won’t cut it.


And the offer of exports of Pembrokeshire-grown lemons will have no impact at all.