Wales has its warmest winter days on record – should we be concerned?

Last year we were facing the worst end of the Beast of the East, this year we’re sunbathing in parks during a winter heatwave. The average maximum temperature for February is 7°C but this year we’ve seen highs of 20.3°C. Although nobody is complaining about the warmer weather, should we be worried that this could be the prolonged effects of climate change?

Warmer weather means that ice sheets and glaciers are melting, this adds water to the sea and then causes flooding during heavy showers – damaging our homes and our landscapes. While the Met Office has stated that the drastic changes in weather cannot be directly linked to climate change, human activity can be playing a major role.

Air pollution is a factor that contributes massively to climate change. When the air becomes polluted, it impacts the health of people, animals and vegetation. The main greenhouse gas emission that experts worry about is carbon dioxide which gets released when we burn fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas. There are a number of industrial factories across Wales that all contribute to air pollution and studies show that living in heavily polluted areas often leave locals with health problems from cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses to added stress to the heart and the lungs. Port Talbot Steelworks has impacted the community so much that the town has been named the most polluted in the UK.

But climate change isn’t something that happens overnight, it’s a long-term shift in our normal weather patterns – which is why everyone must take action now and achieve net zero in order to prevent some of the more catastrophic results. ‘Net zero’ means only putting the same amount of emissions into the atmosphere as we take out.

So should we be concerned? The weather on our shared planet is changing drastically. We’re seeing wildlife and plants appearing much earlier than they should and though we may all be enjoying the sunny afternoons, we may be paying the price in years to come. It threatens not only the homes and health of animals but also our homes, health, agriculture and infrastructure.

Pope Francis has encouraged everyone to take responsibility for our common home. He said:

“There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyles.”

We can treat our home with respect by leading the way, taking responsibility and forging new habits. Although we have come far in the fight against climate change, if we want to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C we need to be going much further, faster.