The easy-to-read report has been published by the Climate Coalition − a diverse umbrella group of more than a 100 organisations from Greenpeace, the National Trust and the Women’s Institute to the Croydon Real Nappy Network and Surfer’s Against Sewage
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New report shows just how climate change is striking at the heart of the places we hold most dear
14th February, 2017
Where are the places you hold most dear? According to a new report from the Climate Coalition - published to coincide with Valentine's Day - they may already be under threat from climate change which is closer to home than you might think. JOE WARE reports
If the country as a whole can wake up to these impacts and demand changes in the way we use energy and protect our environment, then our politicians are more likely to act
When most people think of climate change I suspect two of the images that readily spring to mind are drought-stricken parts of Africa and polar bears. This is partly because sub Saharan Africa and the Arctic are two of the most severely affected parts of our planet. It's only natural then that those stories are told most often. The problem is that although they are the most impacted parts of our planet, they are not the most impacted parts of our world, in the personal sense.
Most people will never visit the Equator or the North Pole. And so talking about climate change in these terms can make the problem seem distant and far away. Imagine if when people thought of climate change they considered the destruction of their favourite holiday getaway in East Sussex, their local pub in Manchester or the home of British poet William Wordsworth in the Lake District. These three examples are included in a new report published to coincide with Valentine's Day, highlighting how the places we love are under threat from climate change. If we want people in Britain to take climate change seriously we have to start talking about how seriously climate change is affecting Britain.
The easy-to-read report has been published by the Climate Coalition - a diverse umbrella group of more than a 100 organisations from Greenpeace, the National Trust and the Women's Institute to the Croydon Real Nappy Network and Surfer's Against Sewage. Written with the help of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at Leeds University to ensure its scientific rigour, the report covers 12 places in the UK, all of which have borne the brunt of climate change.
I was personally struck to see the Cumbrian town of Keswick make an appearance; 2015's Storm Desmond flooded the town centre causing homes and the local youth hostel to be evacuated. I have many happy memories of Keswick, a place my family visited every year during my childhood. And this is surely the point of this new report - it reminds us that climate change is striking at the heart of places we know and hold dear.
In Lancashire, the iconic Mark Addy riverside pub (mentioned above), was forced to close after floods on Boxing Day 2015 caused £200,000 of damage. Attempting a refurbishment, the owners of the popular watering hole, famous for its unique domed entrance and bay windows, were left unable to get insurance due to the location and so had to give up the lease. The ruined shell remains derelict. In the North East, there is the plight of Northumberland's Corbridge Cricket Club which saw its historic, 100-year-old, clubhouse demolished after Storm Desmond wrought £100,000 worth of damage.
Elsewhere we read about the floodwater that washed away the hidden gardens of Plas Cadnant in Anglesey; of a 75-year-old priest trapped in his flooded home and church in West Yorkshire and of changes to the delicately balanced wetlands in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. There's also the ruined house and gardens of William Wordsworth on the banks of the River Derwent and Orkney's Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae, which incredibly predates both the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge, and is under threat from sea level rise and coastal erosion.
To coincide with the report launch is a short film made by the production company of Oscar-winning director Ridley Scott. It features actors Miranda Richardson, David Gyasi, Jason Isaacs and Game of Throne's Charles Dance reading a poem by Anthony Anaxagorou to a choral soundtrack by Elbow. The beautiful images of the British countryside are elegantly juxtaposed with pylons and motorways, little nods to our use of carbon, while Isaacs sits in a lower league football ground, a subtle reference to the disruption flooded pitches cause to the sporting calendar.
Cancelled football matches may be trivial compared to the suffering of fellow humans in the developing world or the shrinking habitats of the polar bear. Those stories must continue to be told, not least because Britain is a country of animal lovers who care about the suffering of those less fortunate. But let's not forget that climate change is also increasingly having an impact on the day to day lives of people in the British Isles, from their pastimes to their livelihoods.
If the country as a whole can wake up to these impacts and demand changes in the way we use energy and protect our environment, then our politicians are more likely to act.
Joe Ware is a journalist and writer at Christian Aid and a New Voices contributor for The Ecologist. He is on twitter at @wareisoe.
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