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Blog: Climate change deniers be gone!

Lisa MacKenzie, EMEC’s Marketing and Communications Officer, takes a look at the facts about global warming.

A couple of weeks ago I had a lovely, although slightly nippy, couple of hours out of the office at EMEC’s Billia Croo wave test site being interviewed by Nick Clark, senior correspondent at Al Jazeera.

Our waverider buoys sited 2km offshore were recording peaks up to 3.4 meters (max wave height), and as the white horses stampeded toward the beach, the news crew were in awe. Unsurprisingly, as this happens with almost every media visit, they wanted to film for longer than they’d anticipated to capture the full force of the Atlantic Ocean crashing against Orkney’s west coast. So, once we’d completed the EMEC substation tour and interview, we hobbled over Billia Croo’s boulders to get a closer look at the powerful waves. Leaving them to get the ‘perfect shot’, I had time to marvel at the spectacular seas that surround my island home.

Having visited Scotrenewables the previous day, Nick and his cameraman flew up to Shetland that afternoon to meet with Nova Innovation, another tidal energy developer. Their purpose for galivanting around Scotland’s islands was to film a short news segment on new energy sources. This was broadcast this week to correspond with the COP 22 talks in Marrakesh.

COP 21 in Paris has gone down in history, with 195 nations signing an unprecedented agreement on limiting a global temperature rise to below 2°C, and I eagerly await to hear what comes out of Marrakesh this year: it’s all very well putting pen to paper, but what we really need to see is joint, focused, targeted action.

Last Thursday, I finally got around to watching ‘Before the Flood’; a brilliant yet emotional and harrowing movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. However, this wasn’t one of his Oscar-nominated acting performances – although just as deserving – this was real life!

The most vivid stat for me was this: by 2040 you will be able to sail across the North Pole as there will be no sea ice left during the summer! None! Nada! All gone! This NASA animation maps the change in the North Pole from 1984 to 2016: compare the first couple of seconds to the last and it’s impossible to argue that something has gone terribly wrong.

The following day, while compiling EMEC’s weekly news bulletin, I came across a related article in the Guardian, discussing new research (published by Science journal) which calculates that the average westerner’s carbon emissions destroy 30 square metres of Arctic sea ice every year. Now this hit home: finally, someone had put a price on each individuals impact on climate change.

However, it surprises me that there are still people out there – quite a lot of people – who don’t believe climate change is happening, or at least do not think it is being caused by human activity. At the beginning of ‘Before the Flood’, one US broadcaster even referred to global warming as a “hoax” as if every scientist in the world were colluding to pull off the most elaborate April Fool’s Day prank ever!

How is it that today, when there’s overwhelming consensus among the scientific community, and news report after news report showing the impact that climate change is having, that anyone could be so willingly ignorant?

Let’s look at the facts:

  • The climate is warming: this colourful spiral animation from climate scientist Ed Hawkins (National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading) shows the temperature change from 1850 (pre-industrial revolution) to 2016. Most alarming is the giant leap in temperature half way through 2015!
  • Global warming is correlated with human activity: this animation, based on findings from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, charts temperature changes from 1880 (again pre-industrial revolution) to the present day against the influence both natural and human factors have on global temperatures. Spoiler alert: it’s the human factors (specifically greenhouse gases) that are to blame.
  • Climate change is already causing devastation to humans, wildlife and natural habitats across the world: ‘Before the Flood’ made specific mention of the island nation of Kiribati which is making preparations to relocate (to another country!) when rising water levels consume their homes; in Miami, Florida, pumps are being built around the city to protect against ‘sunny-day flooding’ (at a cost of $400 million); entire species are at threat, with the first extinction due to climate change already recorded in Australia; prolonged rises in ocean temperature are causing our coral reef ecosystems to die; and climate change has even been directly linked as a trigger for the Syrian civil war.

Unfortunately, these examples are just the tip of the (melting) iceberg.

We are heading towards catastrophic and irreversible climate change if something is not done now!

The scientists mentioned above join 97% of the international science community in stating that climate change is real, and happening because of us. The religious community too have acknowledged the problem, with Pope Francis himself declaring: “we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair”.

If 97% of doctors were to tell you that you had cancer, would you question them? “Well there’s still a 3% chance that I’m fine, so….”

No! You’d take every little bit of advice and treatment that you could to get better. And you’d act straight away!

Climate change is a cancer which will destroy humanity as we know it.

The agreement made at COP 21 in Paris last December came into effect last Friday, and this week we’ve seen the world’s leaders come together once more to discuss how to put the Paris accord into force.

This needs to be a global effort, but there are things we can do at every level – national, local and individual – that can help us turn our current trajectory around.

If we do not act now, this cancer will metastasise further, and before long it will be too late to stop it.

In September 2016, the Mauna Loa Observatory recorded a new world record: atmospheric carbon dioxide failed to fall below 400 ppm. The use of fossil fuels is one of the main contributors to carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and therefore must be reduced drastically, and quickly, in order to slow the impact we’re having on the climate. As global energy use is set to continue rising, we must add new forms of renewable energy to the energy mix as soon as possible.

At the European Marine Energy Centre, this is our mission: we aim to ensure marine energy – that’s energy from the tides and waves – rapidly plays its part in international energy systems. ‘Before the Flood’ reiterated to me why the development of wave and tidal energy is so important. And I sometimes have to pinch myself that I have the pleasure of working in this small yet determined sector which has the potential to play such a significant role in the global movement to save our planet.

Lisa MacKenzie
Marketing and Communications Officer, EMEC








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