UK climate projections betray Copenhagen agenda

I thought that I should take a look at how Winchester fares in the new 25 km² resolution climate projections for the UK.

In a very small way I fall within the target audience of the Met Office research which aims “to help those needing to plan how they will adapt to help society.” In one of my volunteer roles I assist with the upkeep of a village cricket ground just outside the City.

For a medium emissions scenario the Met Office “central estimate” of 50% probability warns that by the 2050s our area will experience a reduction in summer rainfall of between 20% and 30% and an increase in summer mean temperature of 2.7 degrees.

These are big changes and not that far away. Some of the boys in our youth section could still be playing for the club in 2050.

For English cricketers accustomed to wearing two sweaters, the prospect of warmer drier days will be welcome. For those who prepare the grounds, these projections spell serious trouble.

Our hard-pressed committee will be in no mood to hear what I have to say. Here’s a back-of-the-envelope shopping list for adaptation of the cricket ground over the next 40 years:

  • Complete reseeding of the outfield with a tough ryegrass or a drought resistant variety, replacing the “meadow grass” inherited from the original farmer’s field
  • Extend sprinkler system to cover more than the central pitch area
  • New drainage system to cope with heavier downpours
  • Water harvesting and pumping equipment. A hosepipe ban is the worst nightmare of any cricket club.
  • Tree planting programme to replace about a dozen mature oaks which frame the setting. They are already showing signs of stress and we lost one a couple of years ago. These trees are reproduced on the logo that we use for our club kit; it may have to change.

The price tag for this lot could approach £100,000 in current values. For a small club like ours, any purchase over £1,000 is a struggle.

I could go on in this vein, painting a picture of a vulnerable village organisation ambushed by Mediterranean weeds, fungi and pests; of storms wrecking our fragile buildings and equipment.

As Editor of OneWorld Guides, I feel quite the reverse, preferring to emphasise how incredibly fortunate we are in our resources to tackle the impact of climate change:

  • The Met Office Hadley Centre projections at 25 km² resolution are arguably the best in the world. For Africa, good regional projections are scarce; the IPCC 2007 reports were based on 250 km² global models for which the quality of input data was poor.
  • Although projections of climate change in Northern Europe are scary, the impact in tropical regions is more acute and more imminent even at lower temperature rises
  • Small UK organisations such as cricket clubs are surrounded by institutional support frameworks, from turf management professional associations to the sport’s governing body. Advice and grant funding are never far away. Most African farmers don’t even know about climate change. And adaptation requires capital resources which are rarely available.
  • Agribusiness suppliers of new seed varieties and chemical inputs are tightly regulated in the UK, both in product quality and impact on the environment. African governments lack capacity to protect vulnerable people from unscrupulous business activity.

One final difference to remember. Our cricket club is concerned merely with preserving a traditional English pastime. Households in Africa have to adapt to feed their children.

This is what brings home to me the true symbolism of the new Met Office tool. It concedes defeat to the first wave of climate change.

The tolerance of a 2 degree temperature rise implicit in these UK climate projections betrays the reality of the Copenhagen negotiations. The agenda of the rich countries has moved on. It’s now concerned with protecting themselves against the more advanced and catastrophic stage of climate breakdown. Protecting Africa from social dislocation threatened by marginal climate change is not on the agenda because it’s too late.


this article was first published by OneWorld UK