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.

What is ‘Net Zero’ and why is it so important?

Climate change is happening, and it’s happening fast. The UK has the chance to end its contribution to climate change and avoid some of the worst effects like drought and hunger, which will have a bigger impact on some of the poorest countries in the world.

Net zero is a term that many people are using in the campaign to end climate change but what does it actually mean? Net zero refers to the planet achieving zero carbon dioxide emissions by either eliminating the carbon emissions as a whole or creating a balance between the amount of carbon emissions with carbon removal.

If our planet warms more than 1.5°C then the effects could be irreversible. But making simple everyday lifestyle changes such as waste, housing and transport could have a huge impact.

Sarah Croft, our campaigns manager, said:

“Climate change affects our health, our homes, our heritage and our beautiful landscapes. Our community centres where we meet, our sports fields where we play and our places of pilgrimage where we reflect. It also ruins the work we do to fight poverty.”

She discussed how the UK would impact other countries to fight climate change upon successfully achieving net zero, she said:

“The UK was the first country to legally respond to the threat of climate change. We now know if we are going to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C we need to be going much further, faster. By setting a target in law of net zero by 2045 the UK would show strong international leadership and send a signal to countries, businesses and civil society that we need to be going further and faster with our emissions reductions.”

The national assembly for Wales have set in place the “Well-being of Future Generations Act” which requires the Welsh Government and other public bodies to ensure that any decision made must take into consideration the short term and long term impacts it could have socially, culturally, economically or environmentally. These small steps in decision making could have a massive impact on the lifestyle and well-being of future generations.

Parishes in Wales have also come together recently to celebrate World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation which was established my Pope Francis and encourages every person living on this planet to care for our shared earth. Pope Francis wrote:

“The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming.”

The next three decades are fundamentally important for the UK in terms of protecting our earth and if successful we would no longer be a country that contributes to climate change. Once we begin to tackle the issue, more countries will follow suit, with many countries such as Sweden, France, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Norway, Bhutan, Iceland and Portugal already signing up.

To encourage the government to get behind our urgent climate action, sign the petition here.