Green Tau: issue 70

30th May 2023

Understanding Net Zero Targets


Global temperatures have fluctuated considerably over the geological lifetime of the plants, and indeed in the past have been at much higher levels than we are currently experiencing. What is different now is the rate at which global temperatures are rising – far faster than at any previous time. The current rise in temperatures is not ‘natural’ but anthropogenic- human-made. The cause of this rise in temperatures has been the increasing quantity of greenhouse gases (principally carbon dioxide) that through human activity has been released into the atmosphere. These act like an insulation jacket on a hot water cylinder keeping in the sun’s heat. 

The earth’s ecosystem can cope with a certain degree of fluctuation in global temperatures and still stay pretty much the same  – with snow and glaciers on mountain tops, ice sheets at the poles, a stable Gulf Stream in the Atlantic  and an equally stable jet stream in the high atmosphere – both ensuring  reliable  weather patterns. However there comes a point at which increases in global temperatures causes changes that are irreversible and/ or which accelerate further temperature rises. 

A 1.5C temperature rise is one such tipping point. Exceeding this will likely lead to the loss of the Greenland ice sheet and the Western Antarctic ice sheet. Both will expose ground that unlike the ice sheet, absorbs  rather than reflects the sun’s rays, and will thus accelerate rising temperatures. Whilst the sudden thawing of the northern permafrost which will release large amounts of methane which in the short term has an even greater greenhouse (warming)  effect than carbon dioxide. The 1.5C tipping point is also likely to see the death of many coral reefs which would otherwise be absorbing carbon dioxide, again leading to further increases in temperature. These will all be irreversible events in our human timescale. 

The need for action

For many decades scientists have been arguing for a reduction in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – and this has not gone un-noticed by governments and communities. Here in the UK, the Climate Change Act was passed in 2008 and sets out legally binding emissions targets, initially aiming for an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050. The Act also established a series of national carbon budgets, with a decreasing cap on emissions  for succeeding five year time spans. (These budgets exclude emissions from aviation, shipping and from imported goods).

In 2016 nearly 174 nations plus the EU signed up to the 2015 Paris Agreement that tasked them with reducing   emissions to a level that would keep the global temperature rise well below 2C and ideally no more then 1.5C. The  agreed target was that the world – as represented by the parties at COP21 that had produced the agreement – should seek to half greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and to cut them to net zero by 2050 (at the latest).

By this time there was a growing grassroots movement of climate activists calling on governments and institutions to take action. Across the world the demands from climate activists led to many institutions and authorities declaring a ‘climate emergency’. The first such declaration was made by the City of Darebin in Melbourne, Australia in 2016. Bristol City Council, in 2018, became the first local authority to do so in the UK,  and in 2019 the UK Parliament itself declared an environment and climate emergency. This latter following 10 days of protests by Extinction Rebellion.

Net zero is the end reference point rather than absolute zero because it is recognised that there will always be some areas of human activity that produce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions – simply breathing produces carbon dioxide – but that these can be offset by increasing activities that absorb carbon dioxide. Such activities includes creating maintaining woodlands, peat lands, sea grasses etc.

Carbon neutral is a similar term related to net zero. It is used when an organisation/ production process etc has neutral balance vis a vis carbon produced and carbon absorbed. Another term in use is carbon negative. This is when an organisation/ production process removes more carbon dioxide than it produces. A well maintained forest could achieve this. Net zero on the other hand assumes that as far as possible all greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced with offsetting only used to compensate for a small and impossible to remove residue.

Net zero for nations 

Since 2016, more nations  have signed up to the Paris Agreement, with now just under 200 signatories. Each nation is tasked with working out its own plan to achieve the global net zero by 2050 target, producing a quota that is their Nationally Determined Contribution. Each NDC is added to a register at the UN, and at each subsequent Climate COP, they are invited to review and ideally improve upon their NDC.

The UK chooses to distinguish between emissions produced from within the UK borders and those from without. The UK’s measure includes thus emissions produced by companies who export products from the UK (which are often in the form of financial services which tend to have a lower footprint) and excludes emissions produced elsewhere on items that are imported (which are often manufactured goods coming in from China, India etc). The UK’s measure has also excluded emissions from aviation and shipping, but this is  going to being adjusted in relation to proposals for future decades.

New Zealand for its emissions budget, chooses to exclude biogenic methane being the emissions arising from livestock, agriculture and rotting organic waste. Whilst Costa Rica’s targets covers all greenhouse gases and aims to reach net zero within national boundaries – meaning it won’t use international offsets – by 2050. The plan sets out a strategy for decarbonising ten areas of the country’s economy, with interim goals such as 30% of its public transport fleet being zero-emissions by 2035.

To help nations predict the effectiveness of their plans, and to enable their progress to be independently monitored, The Climate Action Tracker scrutinises nation’s  climate actions and measures them against the globally agreed Paris Agreement aim of “holding warming well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.” They report publicly the progress being made by leading  countries. The most recent assessment grades the UK’s rating as ‘almost sufficient’. (Costa Rica has the same rating whilst New Zealand is rated as ‘highly insufficient’.

CAT also draws data together to give a global overview of policies to determine likely trends in temperatures over the coming century. For example in November 2022 CAT reported on the future shape of  liquified natural gas production based on future projects (approved and proposed) and showed that the projected increase in production was well outside the scenario needed to keep with it the net zero target.

Net zero policies in the UK

The 2019 Environment and Climate Emergency Declaration  itself has no legally binding requirements, rather the legal obligation to reduce UK emissions lies with the 2008 Climate Change Act. This, in the light  of the Paris Agreement, was amended such that the end target for 2050 is now set to be net zero. And action has been taken:- UK terrestrial (ie emissions that occur within the UK borders) have fallen from 800million tonnes of CO2 in 1990 to 424.5 Mt CO2e in 2021.

The 2008 Climate Change Act also set up  the Climate Change Committee as an independent statutory body which advises the Government on achieving its emissions targets. To this end the CCC produces a five yearly carbon budget. The most recent, the Sixth Carbon Budget, covers the period 2033-2037. It includes the following four key steps:

  1. Enabling people  and businesses to choose low-carbon solutions, as high carbon options are progressively phased out. By the early 2030s road transport and home heating will be largely electrical. Industry too will shift to using largely non fossil fuel energy.   
  2. UK electricity production will be zero carbon by 2035 with offshore wind the main source. With new and expanding uses for electricity (arising from the above) electricity demand is likely to increase by 50%. Hydrogen production will also increase to fuel shipping and industry. 
  3. Reducing demand for carbon-intensive activities through insulating buildings, reducing air and car travel, and reducing meat and diary consumption. These will additionally improve health and well being! 
  4. Increasing the absorption of greenhouse gas through transforming agriculture, increasing tree planting and restoring peat lands.

The effect of these steps would be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2035 to 20% of their level in 1990, putting the UK on track to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement. 

The Climate Change Committee is also tasked with reviewing and reporting back to  Government the progress being made. The most recent assessment published in March 2023  covered the period of 2018 – 2023. The CCC stated that the “found very limited evidence of the implementation of adaptation at the scale needed to fully prepare for climate risks facing the UK across cities, communities, infrastructure, economy and ecosystems.” 

Net zero for businesses and organisations 

However it is not just governments that have pledged to take action to achieve the net zero 2050 target.  Educational institutions, businesses, health providers, local authorities, service providers, financial institutions etc too have drawn up climate action plans. As of 2022 75% of UK universities committed to net zero targets under scopes 1 and 2 (see below to learn more about scopes).

The Church of England has a route map to net zero by 2030 which includes church schools.

As of July 2022, the NHS became the first health system to embed net zero into legislation, through the Health and Care Act 2022 covering scopes 1,2 and 3..

The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames declared a climate emergency in 2019, and has a Climate Change Strategy and Action plan with the target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Unilever has a Climate Transition Action Plan which aims to achieve zero emissions by 2030 for their operations (eg manufacturing products – scope 1 emissions) and net zero across their supply chain by 2039 (scope 2 emissions) and are working on reducing the emissions arising from when their products are used by customers (eg when they consume energy having a shower or running a washing machine scope 3 emissions).

Greggs bakery chain plans to become net zero in its operations by 2035 and in its chains by 2040.

Network Rail is aiming for net-zero emissions by 2045 in Scotland and by 2050 in the rest of Britain. whilst the train operator South West Trains, proposes to be net zero (scope 2 and 3) by 2040

 Of course it is in everyone’s long term interests to take such action. Every activity whether it’s teaching a class of 5 year olds, running a train service, or producing bread will become much harder as the climate crisis escalates. How do you teach 30 children when temperatures rise to 40C? How do you run a train service when floods and landslides block the line? How do you produce bread when high temperatures and extended droughts halve the wheat crop?

Monitoring emissions and what is included.

Just as the Government has it advisory committee, so businesses, institutions and others have advisers – some commercial, some not for profit and others operating as charities. The UN is backing the global campaign ‘Race to Zero’ helping companies, cities, regions, financial and educational institutions, to  halve global emissions by 2030 and to net zero by 2050. , and the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi): The SBTi is a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) that drives ambitious climate action in the private sector by enabling companies to set science-based emissions reduction targets: 

About a third of Britain”s largest businesses have signed up for the Race to Zero campaign, pledging to eliminate their contribution to carbon emissions by 2050. 

The UK government records its net zero progress by measuring greenhouse gases emitted within its borders. (This means incidentally that it does not include in its assessment emissions that arise from items consumed in the UK but produced elsewhere such as China). Businesses likewise have to determine which emissions they are going to ‘own’. To assist this, emissions are categorised as falling into three areas – 

Scope 1 emissions which are directly related to their business – eg burning gas to smelt steel, burning petrol to run a bus.  

Scope 2 emissions which are generated off-site such as electricity which is produced in a regional power station but which is used to power a café‘s coffee machine, the emissions generated when your staff/ pupils travel  to work school. 

Scope 3 emissions which includes emissions relating to the products you use upstream of your business – eg the emissions arising from growing, transporting and roasting the coffee beans bought by the café; the emissions arising from manufacturing the bus; emissions arising in extracting the  iron ore that is used at the steel works – and those expended downstream – the emissions arising from recycling or otherwise disposing of used coffee cups, the emissions that arise from running a shower for someone  using Unilever’s soap,  or in the case of an oil refinery, the emissions arising when that oil is burnt to run someone’s boiler. 

Of these, scopes 1 and 2 are relatively easy for businesses to identify and adapt to achieve a net zero target. It maybe that they will have to shop around and find alternative suppliers for some items – eg a green electricity supplier, someone who grows organic coffee beans etc, or provide staff with bicycles. Scope 3 emissions can be trickier to adjust, and may involve a lot of working with suppliers to change the carbon footprint of what they produce – a café might work with both coffee roasters and coffee bean growers to grow, roast and ship a bean with a smaller footprint – or may mean finding new suppliers. Equally a café might look at the waste they produce – paper cups, plastic packaging, used coffee grounds – and work out ways of ensuring that the resulting emissions are reduced by for example, replacing single use cups with reusable ones, replacing plastic packaging with paper bags, or finding ways of recycling coffee grounds.

There is obviously an overlap between the different scopes – scope 3 emissions from one organisation being the scope 2 emissions of another. Working together is a key part of achieving net zero targets. This includes us as individuals as we make choices about how to travel to work/ school, whether to bring a keep cup for our take out coffees, or how long we spend in the shower. 

For some organisations such as fossil fuel companies, reducing scope 3 emissions can be a challenge to the raison d’être of the company: their  whole business is all about extracting and selling greenhouse gas emitting products.  One such company, Ørsted, faced this challenge head on: “In the late 2000s we were one of the most coal intensive power generators in Europe with an expanding oil and gas production business. But we took a strategic decision to become a green energy company, as we were convinced it was the right approach strategically, financially and environmentally. To drive our transformation, we invested heavily in renewable energy, particularly offshore wind; exited our fossil fuel businesses, and formulated our vision of creating a world that runs entirely on green energy. We are now one of the largest renewable energy companies by capacity globally and the leading offshore wind company. Financial performance has significantly improved whilst we have reduced our carbon emissions by 86%.”

Other fossil fuel companies however are trying to combine fossil fuels with renewables such that they can continue to extract and sell oil and gas (which still remain highly lucrative). Is this compatible with a net zero target? There are at least three ways in which this can be orchestrated. 

One is to set the net zero target for 2050, and to sit lightly to any interim targets such as halving emissions by 2030. In theory a company could continue its high emissions production until 2049 and then cut all production in the last year and achieve its net zero target. 

Second, it could mask its emissions in the interim by adding renewable energy production to its portfolio, and thus show a reduced intensity of their overall emissions  without cutting back on fossil fuels. 

Third it could invest in carbon absorbing projects – such as planting trees – or invest in carbon capture projects – where carbon dioxide emissions are trapped as they are produced and ‘locked away’ through physically storing the gas underground or by mixing it with other materials to store it as different chemical compound. The former take time to become effective: trees need to grow before they become efficient stores of CO2 and managed to ensure a long and useful life; whilst as regards carbon capture, much of that is based in untested technology that is not yet available at the necessary scale needed. 

Net zero targets and green washing 

Investopedia defines green washing as “the process of conveying a false impression or misleading information about how a company’s products are environmentally sound. Greenwashing involves making an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly or have a greater positive environmental impact than they actually do. In addition, greenwashing may occur when a company attempts to emphasise sustainable aspects of a product to overshadow the company’s involvement in environmentally damaging practices”.

Reliable monitoring and certification schemes are critical if ‘green washing’ is to be avoided. 

In 2022 the Uk government passed legislation that requires Britain’s largest companies to report on the climate risks they face and their strategies to overcome these. In other words they must have thought through climate transition plan that shows how they will transition to a low carbon future  in line with the Government’s net zero target. As well as having a duty under the UK companies Act 2006 to promote the success of the company, company directors must also have regard to the impact of the company’s operations on the environment and the community. (For more info see

Having legislated for the requirement to disclose and for the directors’ responsibilities vis a vis the environment, it is now possible for interested parties (principally share holders) to challenge companies at law to prove that they are indeed shifting their businesses in the direction needed to address the climate crisis. 

In February 2023, the environmental law organisation ClientEarth announced that it was taking Shell to court. ClientEarth. “The shift to a low-carbon economy is not just inevitable, it’s already happening.”But the Shell board is persisting with a transition strategy that is “fundamentally flawed,” Benson claims. He says it leaves the company seriously exposed to the risks climate change poses to their success in the future – “despite the board’s legal duty to manage those risks”. Shell says its ‘Energy Transition Strategy’ – including its plan to be net zero by 2050 – is consistent with the 1.5C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement. The company also claims its plan to halve emissions by 2030 is “industry-leading”. But ClientEarth says this covers less than 10 per cent of its overall emissions and independent assessments have found that Shell’s climate strategy is not Paris-aligned. (NB Shell’s Energy Transition Strategy covers only scope 1 and 2 emissions)

This year’s Shell AGM faced a shareholder vote backed by big pension funds and investors to set carbon emission reduction targets for 2030, while dozens of protesters called for an immediate end to fossil fuel production – However the level of objection was insufficient to win a resounding vote against the Shell board. 

Interim conclusion 

The pursuit of net zero targets by governments and organisations will continue to be live issue.

Green Tau: issue 69

Earth Overshoot Day

13th May 2023

If I had a capital sum of £10,000 that provided me with an income of £1000 a year and provided my annual expenditure did not exceed £1000, I would be set up for life. 

If however I spent £1500 a year, whilst I would not have a problem in the short term, I would in the long term. For to have £1500 to spend I would have to use £500 from my capital which would be fine in the first year. In the second year however my income would be only £950 because the capital driving it had been reduced. I would either have to curtail my living expenses or if I was less wise, extract more from the capital. If in year 2 my expenditure was still £1500, then in the following year my income would be further reduced £895. To maintain my expenditure at £1500 I would have to extract £650 from my  capital sum, reducing it still further to £8905. In less than 20 years I would be bankrupt. 

We are in the same situation here on earth. The earth represents our capital sum. Each year the earth produces resources (crops, minerals, clean air and water plus the ability to absorb unwanted pollutants) which is our income. If we live within our income then our lifestyles are sustainable. If we live beyond our means, drawing down capital as well as income, then we are heading towards bankruptcy. 

Since the 1970s scientists at the Global Footprint Network  have been calculating how much of the earth’s resources we are using. For millennia our human consumption of resources to feed and clothe ourselves, to build homes and cities, to travel and pursue leisure habits, has been well within the capacity of the earth’s resources. However since the early 1970s this has ceased to be so. We have so increased our consumption that we are eating into the earth’s capital reserves. As of 2022, we would require 1.75 worlds to satisfy our global needs. We don’t have any spare worlds, so we are, year on year, sinking further into the red.

Each year the Global Footprint Network calculates the day on which we will have consumed our full quota of available resources. This is known as Earth Overshoot Day. In 1971 Earth Overshoot Day was 25th December. In 2022 it was 28th July. The only year when the date when into reverse was in 2020 during the Covid pandemic when Earth Overshoot Day was 22nd August – which at least shows we can make a positive impact if we choose.

As well as calculating Earth Overshoot Day for the whole world, the Global Footprint Network makes similar calculations of each country. Some countries don’t even consume their full quota, but of those that do, their individual Earth Overshoot Days vary from 21st December for Mali, 11th November for Egypt, 31st August for Mexico, 2nd June for China, 13th March for the USA, 10th February for Qatar. 

And the UK? Our Earth Overshoot Day falls next week, on 19th May.

Globally and as individual countries we need to be adjusting our lifestyles to ensure that they are sustainable and at the same time, restoring the depleted parts of the planet – restoring the fertility of soils, improving biodiversity, increasing tree cover on land and kelp forests under the sea, cleaning up waterways and seas, and reducing green house gas emissions.

This will need system change across the world, but it is also something we can effect as individuals. To explore how you might reduce your environmental footprint try the Global Footprint Network’s calculator. By playing around with the answers you give, you may find ways in which you could comfortably make positive changes to your lifestyle.

Green Tau: issue 68

Green and pleasant land

6th May 2023

I have recently spent a few days away in Settle in North Yorkshire. Settle is a small and active town, located on the Settle to Carlisle railway so easily accessible by train. Whilst here we have enjoyed exploring the local area follow some of the numerous footpaths. The Yorkshire Dales are traditionally appreciated as vast expanses of open moorland, green fields crisscrossed with dry stone walls, and sheep! And that is certainly what you find here. Being spring, the fields are full of lambs – gambling about in pairs but still keeping in close proximity to mum.

But it hasn’t always been so. In the past farming was more diverse and included beef and dairy cattle,  poultry, and arable crops, as well as the cultivation of trees such as willows for basket making. Diversity in farming lends itself to diversity in the environment. One writer commenting on current biodiversity in the Yorkshire Dales, noted that more diversity is to be found along the roadsides and  verges than in the fields. From my observation that is true – on a roadside I might count as many as a dozen plants (I am no expert) in few meters, whereas in the fields I was seeing just the occasional dandelion and celandine amidst the short cropped grass. Sheep do eat everything! Even more rewarding where the sections of footpath, river and railway banks where all grazing animals had been excluded. Here there were bluebells, primroses, cowslips, violets, lady’s smock, buttercups, daisies, and wood anemones – and in large number!

Sheep farming has become a monoculture form of agriculture and it is to the detriment of biodiversity. In some areas, tree planting is happening which benefits biodiversity. Over the couple of  days we were walking we saw only one pair of buzzards and they were circling above a copse (which may have been coincidental). Elsewhere we came across a notice telling us that trees had been planted on the banks of the Ribble to shade the water to mitigate the effects of rising temperatures. If water temperatures rise above 22C for a week or more fish die! The Ribble is currently still home trout and salmon.

Without sheep the landscape would return to a mix of grass and woodland – and would therefore also be a greater storer of carbon. Such a landscape would be as attractive for walkers. Walkers and tourism is an important part of the local economy, but can it bring in enough money to support a rich and diverse local economy? One of the things that sadden me as we walked, were the disused barns and farm houses. The smaller farms may have ceased to be economic some while ago, and equally with a shift from mixed farming to sheep farming with bought-in animal feed, many of these buildings are surplus to requirement and inconveniently placed vis a vis roads and services. Could they become homes for people who prefer to work remotely? This is apparently one way in which remote islands are gaining an influx of younger people. Or should we accept their decline as part of the natural cycle and see them as potential new habitats in the same way that dead trees support an ongoing stream of life as they decay into their locality?

Should we, as tax payers, pay farmers to become nature wardens? They could enable the rewilding of greater parts of the landscape, repair the dry stone walls – which are as a valid part of our heritage as ancient castles – maintain pathways and mark them at regular intervals to encourage people to use not just the well-known routes  but the lesser used ones too. In essence such people would be employed to maintain the health of our environment and be as important as those in the NHS who maintain people’s health. 

My husband is a railway enthusiast so we took the train to see the Ribblehead viaduct. Now embedded into its moorland environment, where the grasses and mosses have covered over any remaining marks of the building site that enabled its construction, it is a thing of beauty. It is an industrial artefact that has come to lend grandeur to an otherwise commonplace wild landscape. It is probably as much photographed as the nearby Three Peaks. I wonder if this windswept area could also absorb into its identity silvery white turbine blades. Wind farms could generate energy to support the local economy – and maybe too, an electrified railway line. 

For further reading:-

Green Tau: issue 67

1st April 2023

The Big One 

The Big One is this years demonstration of people power in support of the well being of our environment. Over the course of the weekend 21st – 24th April, Extinction Rebellion along with many other organisations – such as Christian Aid, Greenpeace , Ecotricty, Ecosia, the Quakers, the RSPB – will be gathering to allow people to share their passion for the wellbeing of the environment and justice, and to call upon the Government to take action to genuinely address the climate crisis.

There will be processions, talks, workshops, music and worship. The Saturday will have particularly festive feel with people in costumes celebrating Earth Day, and on the Sunday space will be made for the passage of the London Marathon. There will be welfare and first aid points and the whole weekend will be coordinated with the police ensuring its legality as a legitimate protest. 

What is The Big One asking?

  • A citizen-led democracy to end the fossil fuel era.
  • A fair society that includes reparation.
  • Existing Demands – XR’s three core demands remain the same: Tell the Truth, Act Now, and Decide Together.
  • And a demand for an immediate end to all new fossil fuel licences – added in 2022 to recognise the need for definable action – also remains.

Faith groups will have a particular presence – look out for flags and banners pinpointing who’s where. From the Christian organisations there will be a big ‘No faith in fossil fuels’ service outside St John’s Waterloo at noon on the Friday with an onward procession to Parliament Square. Midday worship led by different groups will take place on the other days in the Faith Zone, plus a Catholic Mass or Eucharist at 3pm and a daily  prayer walk at 5pm starting from the Mahatma Gandhi statue.

Do come along and add your presence to this demonstration of people power. A better world is possible. 

‘We’re not going to disrupt the public, but together from 21st – 24th April, we will show the Government exactly what people power looks like’ – Extinction Rebellion.

Do make use of this prayer booklet in the run up to The Big One –

Or join in in spirit for the daily prayer walk if you can’t be there in person –

And follow this link to the order of service for “No faith in fossil fuels’ worship –

Green Tau: issue 66

23rd March 2023

Food security

Having enough food to eat is a necessity for life, and a human right. 

The right to adequate food is realised when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has the physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement. – General Comment 12 (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, CESCR, 1999).

Yet looking around the world this is not the case. For many people food security is not a reality. Why?

1. Food insecurity can arise because a person cannot afford to buy sufficient food – this might be in absolute terms of calories or in the equally important terms of sufficiently healthy food needed to avoid malnutrition. The issue is not a lack of food, but the lack of money to buy it. 

Sadly this scenario is true even in countries such as the UK. “The UK’s food poverty rate is among the highest in Europe. In 2020-21 Government statistics record that 4.2 million people (6 per cent) were living in food poverty. (

The pay and/ or benefits that people receive is insufficient to pay for a healthy diet.  This is compounded by the fact that food inflation is running higher than the average rate of inflation. That people  with less money are affected more significantly  has been highlighted by Jack Monroe (

It is an even more widespread problem across the world where 40% of people cannot afford a healthy diet.  

Pay-related food insecurity can be a particular problem in urban areas. In rural areas it is possible that people will have access to land such that they can grow their own food. This is often referred to as subsistence farming as it does not necessarily produce additional income to spend on other things. 

“The world’s smallholder farmers produce about a third of the world’s food according to detailed new research [June 2021] by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). Five of every six farms in the world consist of less than two hectares, operate only around 12 percent of all agricultural land, and produce roughly 35 percent of the world’s food” –

Whilst for many people, subsistence farming does ensure they have food to eat, it can be a precarious existence.  In Kenya smallholder farmers are being forced to buy commercial seed which then needs both fertilisers and pesticides to ensure a good harvest. Previously these farmers would collect and swop seeds from their own crops, but this has been made illegal  as the Kenyan Government tries to ensure that all seeds are certified.

2. Food insecurity can arise because of a failure of one or more harvests. This particularly affects poor countries who struggle to pay the cost of importing food to make up local losses, and subsistence farmers who may not have the capacity to grow and store food to cover more than one year’s needs. 

Food security is particularly sensitive to climate change. Climate change is increasing the frequency of both droughts and heavy – destructive – rainfall, raising temperatures and increasing the frequency and intensity of winds, all of which are potentially damaging for crops and for livestock. 

Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are now facing the sixth consecutive year of drought conditions. Hunger is widespread: an estimated 43,000 people died last year in Somalia as a consequence of an inadequate diet. The affects of failed harvests has been accentuated by the rising cost of food that could potentially be imported.

On a far smaller scale, shoppers in the UK have been faced with shortages of cauliflowers, tomatoes and salad ingredients. In part this has been because farmers in the UK and the Netherlands have cut back on the amount of crops grown under glass because of rising energy costs, plus sharp frosts which damaged brassica crops, and in part because of unseasonal cold weather in southern Europe and North Africa damaging crops grown there. Last summer’s drought across Europe led to many harvests being reduced by 30% and which has been felt by consumers in the form of higher prices for risotto rice, olive oil durum wheat pasta. 

3. Food insecurity may arise because the farmers cannot afford to grow the usual amounts of food. Whilst consumers need enough money to buy food, producers need to earn enough to cover there expenses. The last 18 months have seen soaring costs for energy (baby chicks for example need to be kept at a temperature of 30C), fertilisers, and for basic labour. Many farmers in the UK are tied into contracts with supermarkets with fixed prices, making it hard for them to over their costs. Equally as rising costs are not always reflected in rising prices because of supermarket competition, many farmers are reducing the amount of crops their will grow for the coming season. It is better financially not to grow the crop than to grow it and then sell at a loss. 

4.  Distribution systems can also affect food security. We have seen this recently with exports from Ukraine. Without access to the Black Sea ports, there was no effective way of shipping grain from the Ukraine to countries such as Egypt, where it was most needed. Delays in the distribution system may mean that food perished before it reaches its market. Partly due to distribution issues, but also  mismatches in the supply chain between what the supermarkets order and what the consumers buy, as much as 17% of the world’s food production goes to waste.

An average block of cheese or loaf of bread produces less than a penny for farmers, and fruit producers do not fare much better, making just 3p from each kilo of apples.”

5. Global food security would be greatly enhanced if meat production was reduced. 

Livestock takes up nearly 80% of global agricultural land, yet produces less than 20% of the world’s supply of calories … This means that what we eat is more important than how much we eat in determining the amount of land required to produce our food.”

 Eating less meat and using the land instead to grow food for direct human consumption would provide the food needed for the world’s growing population (subject to affordability and distribution issues).

6. Food production is ultimately reliant on healthy soils. Yet it is reported that ‘more than a third of the world’s soil is already degraded, and the IPCC estimates that could rise to 90% by 2050 if nothing is done. Even moderately degraded soil produces 30% less food and stores around half the water of healthy soil.’

“The UK is 30 to 40 years away from “the fundamental eradication of soil fertility” in parts of the country, the environment secretary Michael Gove has warned.“We have encouraged a type of farming which has damaged the earth …. If you have heavy machines churning the soil and impacting it, if you drench it in chemicals that improve yields but in the long term undercut the future fertility of that soil, you can increase yields year on year but ultimately you really are cutting the ground away from beneath your own feet. Farmers know that.”

7. Food security can be potentially threatened by diseases – whether diseases that affect crops or diseases that affect livestock. Recently in the UK we have seen the impact of avian flu on supplies of chicken and egg. Whilst in the Mediterranean the Xylella pathogens is infecting olive trees across the region – it can also infect similar plants such as  cherry, almond and plum trees. It was first discovered in  olives trees in Puglia in 2013. The spread of the disease have been devastating, with an estimated 60% decline in crop yields in Italy since the first discovery in 2013. The world food supply is particularly vulnerable to the affects of disease because our food supply is dominated by a very limited number of species.  Of the 6,000 different plant species used as food, only nine (sugarcane, wheat, rice, maize, potatoes, sugar beet, cassava, oil palm and soybean) contribute 66% of total crop production. Increasing the diversity of plants we grow and eat as food is essential. It is also equally essential that we safeguard our food security by improving biodiversity as a whole for the ecosystem is highly interconnected.

“Biodiversity for food and agriculture is all the plants and animals – wild and domesticated – that provide food, feed, fuel and fibre. It is also the myriad of organisms that support food production through ecosystem services – called “associated biodiversity”. This includes all the plants, animals and micro-organisms (such as insects, bats, birds, mangroves, corals, seagrasses, earthworms, soil-dwelling fungi and bacteria) that keep soils fertile, pollinate plants, purify water and air, keep fish and trees healthy, and fight crop and livestock pests and diseases…Less biodiversity means that plants and animals are more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Compounded by our reliance on fewer and fewer species to feed ourselves, the increasing loss of biodiversity for food and agriculture puts food security and nutrition at risk,” added Graziano da Silva.”

What can we do? See the next Eco Tips

Talk for Green Christian

12th March 2023

A talk given to St Michael’s Highgate as they set out to become a green church.

Thank you for inviting me here to speak to you today.

Water is one of those things that you only realise how much you need it, when you haven’t got it. Certainly that was the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness. Being a slave in Egypt hadn’t necessarily been fun, but at least there was always water to hand.

Some years ago we spent a year living in Zimbabwe. When we arrived there had already been several years of drought and water was rationed. We were allowed 50 litres of water a day per household and there were five of us. 10 litres a person – about two buckets. Any water that we didn’t drink was reused. Washing up water flushed the loo. Cooking water was used for the washing up. And how often do you need a shower? One thing you always remembered was to clean your teeth before you washed your pants!

Water is precious. Water is life. And  without it, we die. 

But do we notice when it is running out? Does the tap flash red like the petrol gauge on a car? 

Last year we experienced a drought caused by high temperatures and a lack of rainfall that affected all the countries across Europe.   Harvests of olives, wheat, rice,  and even potatoes fell by a third.  Homes were consumed by forest fires. Here in England our green and pleasant land was reduced to the colour of sand. In the Alps glaciers are receding at an alarming rate. These are Europe’s  frozen reservoirs which – in the past – ensured water throughout the summer. As they shrink and disappear, so the rivers they fed disappear. This winter snowfall in the French Alps is down by 63%. In February south east England received a mere 6% of its normal rainfall.  We are entering the 2023 growing season with a decided lack of water. 

Water – you only realise how much you need it when you haven’t got it.

In Genesis 2, God contemplates the barren earth and notes the absence of water needed to make things grow. So God causes a spring to gush up and water the whole earth. Then God takes some of the earth and moulds into the first being – an earthling named Adam. And God instructs Adam to till and tend, to care and protect the garden of Eden. Thus the first role given to humans is to be God’s gardeners. God took some more of the  earth and  created all manner of  creatures to help with this task of tilling and tending, of caring and protecting, the earth.

From this we should note two things. 

First – we humans and all living beings are co related; we are made of the same substance; we are kin, brothers and sisters in God. 

Second – all living beings have been created by God to care for the earth, to ensure that its verdant ecosystem flourishes. 

This is something perhaps that we have overlooked. Without earthworms, without bees and pollinators, without birds to spread seeds, without badgers and pigs that rootle the earth, without the 101 creatures whose poo manures the soil, would we have life on earth? Would we have plants and flowers, trees and forests, grasslands and meadows?

And don’t forget the whale!

The whale is an amazing creature. In the sea there are tiny beings called phytoplankton. They are the ocean’s equivalent of green leaves converting sunlight into edible energy and releasing oxygen into the water. Phytoplankton are eaten by slightly bigger beings – plankton and plankton form the diet directly or indirectly of all other sea creatures, including whales. Now phytoplankton needs iron, but iron doesn’t appear naturally in the water. Problem? No because of the whale! Or rather because of the whale’s poo which is rich in iron! And as the whale swim up and down in the oceans so it continually redistributes important minerals such as iron. The whale is fulfilling perfectly God’s injunction to till and tend the earth!

As you can see from this tale of the whale, we live in a highly complex, intricate and amazing ecosystem. Yet it is only belatedly that we humans have come to realise that we have not measured up well as  promoters and protectors of life on earth – rather we have rather been its destroyers. 

Wild animals now account for only 4% of the world’s mammal population. We humans account for 34% of global mammal biomass whilst our livestock  accounts for a staggering 62% ! In other words even we humans are outweighed by all the cows, sheep, pigs etc that we keep to feed ourselves. We humans are completely transforming the pattern of life on earth.

Not only have we replaced two thirds of the wild animals with domesticated stock, we are killing off so many different species – birds, insects, trees, plants, fish, and animals – that we are triggering the world’s sixth mass extinction of life on earth. 

We are also the cause of climate change on a scale never before seen in human history. Since the days of Moses, 3000 BCE until the 19th century, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere hovered around the 250 parts per million. 

In the 19th century as the west industrialised, CO2 concentrations rose towards the 300 mark. There was some warming of the atmosphere but within the bounds that the ecosystem could accommodate. 

Come the 20th century with more countries are using fossil fuels, CO2 emissions continue to rise, but now at a faster rate. By1970 CO2 concentrations passed the safe 350 PPM limit. From then on we have been filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide at a faster rate than the earth’s ability to absorb it. Using the analogy of a bath, the CO2 flowing into the bath is doing so at a faster rate that it can escape through the plug hole. 

Global temperatures are rising rapidly adding large amounts of energy to weather systems around the world, triggering droughts in one region, floods in another, heat waves and cold snaps, and far more frequent and intense storms. Last year was not an exception but an indicator of the future. It is this change of  weather patterns that is the root cause of the droughts we are now experiencing. 

Will this lack of water turn us back to God? Will it prompt us to focusing on God’s command that we should tend and care for the earth? Will it focus us on the commandment Jesus gave that we should love our neighbour – both human and creaturely?

I was invited to speak to you today because as a church you have discerned that you have a calling to be a ‘Green Church’. I salute you! 

You are beginning a journey just as were the Israelites when Moses led them out of slavery.  Like the Israelites, you are beginning a journey of discovery and adventure, of challenge and joy. You will discover new ways of living. You will discover new ways of trusting in God, and new ways of relating to your neighbour. You will learn the joy of being God’s gardeners. 

I was asked to suggest some practical actions that you can take as first steps – and I’ll give you three.

First, change the way you eat. Green Christian has produced a very simple nemonic to help us choose a more sustainable diet. LOAF – local organic animal-friendly fairly traded. Use this as you guide when you’re shopping, when you’re planning meals, and when you are serving food at church. 

Second, zero waste. The earth’s resources are finite.  The ability of the earth to absorb pollution is finite. We can’t afford to waste anything. Before you go shopping, think what it is you need? 

Could you reuse or  repair what you already have? Could you reuse something someone else no longer needs? Before you buy, consider the packaging? Is it superfluous? Is it going to go straight in the bin? Can it be recycled? And what about the thing you are buying – will happen to it when it comes to the end of its life? Can it be reused, repurposed or recycled? Or will it linger somewhere polluting the earth?

Thirdly, active travel. Active travel is what we do when we walk or cycle. It’s good for us physically and mentally. Active travel is closely aligned with public transport – together they protect the environment, reduce air pollution and carbon emissions,  and reduce our consumption of resources. If you can walk or cycle there, do it. If you can get there by bus or tube, then do it. If you can get there by train and sleeper, then do it. If you can avoid flying, then do it – and why not sign the flight free pledge?

I offer you these as first steps. I say first steps as you will find that you hit many obstacles to greening the way you live. You will soon realise that what we also need is system change. For example we need a public transport system that enables and encourages people to use public transport. We need a tax system that doesn’t favour air flights over train journeys. We need an energy system that produces renewable energy, that insulates homes and subsidises the replacement of gas boilers. But you will not be alone. A lot of other Christians are pushing for system change, including those in Green Christian and those supporting Christian Climate Action. And to that end I warmly invite you to come along to The Big One 21st to 24th April in Parliament Square and join the 100,000 others calling on the government to tackle the climate crisis.

Green Tau: issue 65

6th March 2023

In the last Green Tau I wrote about Ash Wednesday and penance: ‘Maybe our penance – the penance for those who see the harm we have as humans have caused – is raise the cry, to sound the alarm, to be prophetic, so that others too can be called to account.’

Yesterday across the UK, Christian Climate Action held a day of action in which Christians around the country visited their local cathedral (Church of England and Catholic) to either thank their diocese for making a fossil fuel divestment commitment or ask them to do so as a matter of urgency.

I joined one such group attending the service at Southwark Cathedral. At the notices, at the end of the service, I got up and knelt on the dais steps and began to cut of my hair. (My son then took over the cutting). At the same time my husband went to the lectern where the sub Dean who was presiding at the service allowed him to read out a statement explaining the action (see below). Meanwhile others from Christian Climate Action stood on the dais with a long  banner that read:  “C of E Divest Now from Fossil Fuels.” When Paul finished the congregation applauded. We all walked to back of the cathedral whilst the sub Dean called for a time of silent prayer before giving the remaining notices. 

“Today Christian Climate Action is calling upon Southwark diocese to rid itself of all investments that finance the fossil fuel industry and its destructive activities, and instead to make investments which will safeguard the environment and benefit our neighbours.

As a member of Southwark diocese, Judith is cutting off her hair today as a sign of penitence, in this season of Lent. With grief and alarm Christian Climate Action members accept that we have been complicit in both causing the climate crisis and in benefitting financially from the profits of the fossil fuel industries. We have between us unsustainably eaten meat, driven petrol cars, taken air flights, and used gas central heating. We have variously had mortgages, received home insurance payouts and received pensions, all financed in part by fossil fuel investments.

And we repent. All our actions have contributed to the deep and widespread damage being caused to God’s creation. We have failed to love our neighbour – both here in London and as far away as the island of Vanuatu in the Pacific. We have failed to tend and care for the earth – the one role God gave us in the Garden of Eden.

Yet we believe God does not turn away from us. Rather God invites us to try again. Thank you for listening to this addition to today’s notices. We would be happy to meet and discuss further our urgent call for divestment from fossil fuels, both with the Bishops of Southwark and with other members of the diocese.”

Afterwards talking with the sub Dean, the  Revd Canon Michael Rawson

Green Tau: issue 64b

Ash Wednesday reflection

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the first day in a journey through the wilderness – through a landscape devoid of creature comforts, where the reality of who we are can be more keenly felt. We begin this journey in a state of grace – having had our sins forgiven – but also marked out as penitents, as those who must make recompense for the harm and injury they have caused. This mark takes the form of ash – the burnt remains of last year’s palm crosses – usually applied as a cross marked on one forehead but also – as I have experienced – sprinkled on top of one’s head as water might be applied in baptism. We are as Christians baptised into both the death as well as new life of Christ, and so are called to be ready to bear what sacrifice that may involve.

The words used tell us that from dust we came and to dust we shall return, reminding us of the second chapter of Genesis when God created the first human, the first earthling or groundling, using the dust of the earth,  and the Spirit of God which breathed life into that first being. God did not just make the first humans from the dust of the earth, but in the same manner every living creature, so that together this crowd of God-inspired beings might tend and till the earth, maintaining its life to the highest standards of God’s own planting in the garden of Eden. 

Ash Wednesday seems a very apt day for bringing to mind all the ways in which we as humans have harmed and damaged the living earth: killing wild and indigenous plants, replacing them with monocultures. Killing off the insects that we need to fertilise many of the crops that provide us with food. Killing directly and indirectly wildlife in such numbers that we are now the cause of the world’s 6th mass extinction. Polluting the soil, the air and the water. Over filling, many-fold, the atmosphere with CO2 and causing the first human induced climate change. Disregarding not just animal life but also the lives and well being of our human brothers and sisters across the entire globe. Maybe our penance – the penance for those who see the harm we have as humans have caused – is raise the cry, to sound the alarm, to be prophetic, so that others too can be called to account. So that others too can be offered forgiveness and the means of making reparation. Such penance is not easy but it can change hearts and minds. 

Let us be prophets this Lent. Let us be prophetic in action, prophetic in the minutiae of daily life and in the investments we make for the future. Let us be prophetic in actions that make God’s word made loud and clear. Let us be prophetic in our words. Let us be prophetic in our listening tuning into the what God is saying to us, both directly and through the voice of creation. And let us be prophetic in praising God, hopeful that in God’s wisdom the future will be full of joy and peace.  

Green Tau: issue 64a

Shrove Tuesday reflection

21st February 2023

Today is Shrove Tuesday. The word shrove derives from the Middle English word shriven meaning “to make confession; to administer the sacrament of penance to,” In the 15th century (and earlier) Shrovetide wasn’t just a Tuesday but was the three days before Ash Wednesday. Three days, including a Sunday, would have given more opportunity for people to formally confess their sins and receive their penance – what they must do to atone for the sins they have committed. 

Once shriven – absolved from sin – the penitent was ready to embark on the forty days of Lent: forty days of fasting and observing the penance they had been given. Fasting is holding back for pleasures and often includes food. Not ‘not eating’ but not eating certain foods, typically meat and dairy products. In many countries the days preceding Ash Wednesday are called Carnival. The name comes from the Medieval Latin ‘carnelevamen’ meaning to put away, to not eat meat.

Not wanting perhaps to waste food, or perhaps to enjoy one last pleasure before the fast began, the days before Lent have becomes days for feasting and merriment. Hence Carnival and shrove Tuesday pancakes! For those of us who are carnivores or vegetarians, giving up meat and dairy products for forty days could be a challenge. In the 15th century it may have been less so – Lent coincided with the lean time of the year when winter supplies had largely been eaten and spring foods had yet to appear. Fasting from meat and dairy products may have been a necessity rather than a choice. 

But now, as more people swop to plant based diets, the restrictions of Lent can seem less daunting. There is a growing range of plant based foods, recipes, cuisines etc that makes not eating meat no penance. What then is the purpose of fasting? Fasting can be a way of cultivating self discipline. It can be a way of focusing our awareness on the needs of others: some people opt to limit their food intake to the limited amount that many brothers and sisters ensure as a necessity. Some opt to eat only locally grown produce such as the Fife diet as a way of rooting their awareness of local food production. Some might concentrate on foods that adhere to Green Christian’s LOAF principles – local, organic, animal friendly and fairly traded.

Such fasting for Lent shows us how penance can be constructive. It helps us both to address the harm we have caused and to learn new habits to stop us from committing the same sins again. Fasting and penance need not apply just to food. Some people practice a carbon fast, cutting back on activities or use of equipment that has a high carbon footprint. Some might opt out fast from consumerism, and cut back on new purchases, cut out of retail therapy etc. some might fast from work – some of us put work and achievement as a priority in our lives and may wish to spend more time with friends, with family, with nature, with God.

In some cultures past and present, those who were penitent wished to make a clear statement of their decision – their need – to repent and would put on clothing made for sacking, would cut their hair, or go barefoot. Such action strengthened their resolve and was a witness to others for the need for repentance.

If we want to take Lent seriously as a time for re orientating ourselves towards the resurrection and life lived in Christ, then observing Shrove Tuesday as a time to confess our sins and to accepting a penance that will be make good at least some of the harm our sins, is a good starting point. However you may find yourself in a minority with most people deferring such reflection and preparation till Ash Wednesday. Even in the church, Shrovetide has been replaced by ‘pancake day’ and become a day in which to eat pancakes in all shapes and sizes and adorned with all manner of flavourings from the sweet sour lemon and sugar, to the meaty ones of bacon and maple syrup.

Ash Wednesday is the modern Shrovetide.

Green Tau: issue 63

4th February 2023

Imagining life in 2033 – an alternative scenario

By 2033 we should be at least half way to net zero. How will things have changed? What will daily life look like? 

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece imagining it as a letter from the future. That piece was positive and realistic about what we could achieve. But what if that optimism is misplaced? How will it be if everything that could have been done hasn’t? What if we don’t get on top of our net zero targets?

In many ways life in 2033 is not that different from in 2023. I still live in the same house, with the same husband and even the same – now rather elderly – cat. We had hoped to replace our equally elderly solar panels but  production of these is so limited that there is an 18 month waiting list. Similarly we are still waiting to upgrade our storage batteries. So like many people we still have to rely on our gas boiler for heating but this is expensive and as far as possible we rely instead on extra layers of clothing. I have finally managed to persuade Paul to wear leggings under his trousers – I assure him that they are not long john’s in another guise!  Everyone in our end of the street has an electric car now, as well as off street parking and recharging points.This allows us to use the car battery as an electric supply during peak periods (recharging off peak later) for which the National Grid rewards us. The only benefits those with off street charging points, which even  here in East Sheen is a minority.

What you will notice about East Sheen is the sparsity of combustion engines. Everyone has replaced their old car with an electric model, but just as with the combustion cars, each new model of electric car is wider, taller and longer than the last. The roads are just as congested as before and parking is even more a premium. The parking issue may push more people to use car clubs which would be a step forwards. With congested roads and a lack of investment in public transport and cycling infrastructure, average journey times are still increasing – although this is prompting some people to return to home working which is not part of the government’s plan!

The growth in electric vehicles has had a significant impact on energy costs. Powering all these vehicles as opposed to powering electric buses and trains (much more energy efficient per passenger mile) has not been matched by investment in electrical power plants and the laws of supply and demand have come into play. For those of us with financial capacity this is something we live with  but for people on low incomes, it has been horrific. In many part of the country – both urban and rural – there are many homes which are no longer connect to the grid as their occupants cannot afford either the per unit cost nor the standing charge. Instead such households use candles for lighting and camping stoves for a minimal amount of cooking. Heating is by body heat only, helped by fleece onesies and layers of jumpers. Schools open early and close late so that children can a) be some where warm, b) get a hot meal (the government was forced into providing all primary pupils with free school lunches in 2024), and c) have good light by which  to do their homework, and power to recharge laptops. 

The energy shortage has produced some interesting innovations. On street corners you can regularly find ‘electric’ bike stands. For a fee the rider pedal the stationary bike and by so doing recharges your mobile phone, laptop or battery pack!

As energy prices have risen so has the cost of rail travel. The government has been forced to provide low paid workers (not just minimum wage earners but teachers  and nurses) with free local bus passes to enable them to get to work! This was first introduced by Sadiq Khan for London in 2023. People don’t travel as readily or as far as we did in 2023. 

Health and social care continues to be an issue. We now have a divided health service – as good as you can afford if you can go private; second rate if you rely on the NHS. (By way of comparison think about how dental care worked  in 2023: if you had the money you could  have excellent dental care; if not then you had to wait for treatment and the treatments available were limited usually involving extractions rather than say a crown or implant.) A similar set up exists for social care, with families increasingly having to provide care for family members. 

Life expectancy rates continue to drop for the majority of people. For those in the most deprived areas, male life expectancy is now 69 years, and for females 75 years. However for those in the least deprived areas, life expectancy has plateaued at 83 and 86 years respectively. Major factors here are the affect of the high cost of living which for many people is unaffordable, and the adverse affects of the weather. Summers now consistently have heat waves when temperatures exceed 44C and with night time temperatures that don’t fall below  the mid 30sC. These can last from between just a few days to a fortnight – when they usually end with a cataclysmic downpour. These high temperatures, particularly when they combine with high night time temperatures have continued to cause fatalities amongst the young, the elderly and those with health issues. It is not unusual for excess deaths in these periods to measure more than 100 people  per day.  The flooding in the aftermath adds to the numbers of deaths we now accept as normal.

In the winter, the weather fluctuates between very mild spells, very cold spells, and in between days of storm force winds and torrential rain. The cold snaps are a major cause of deaths in winter – 15,000 a week is not unusual. And again this number increases when combined with flooding. 

Flooding is a recurring problem. It is not just from short spells of torrential rain, but from rising sea levels. A sea level rise of 15cm doesn’t sound like much but when that is added to higher tides, and stronger winds which effectively heap up the waves as they are funnelled into the valleys of river estuaries, it can actually be experienced as 75cm.  The Thames embankment walls have already been raised by 1m, using glass where there are tourist views to be preserved, but reinforced concrete elsewhere. Further upstream many householders can no longer get house insurance because of the increased risk of flooding. In East Sheen we have had 3 floods since 2023 when the water has reached the South Circular. 

Floods and heatwaves are not only adversely affecting human life but also wildlife, arable crops and farm livestock. Some farmers have switched from growing potatoes to sweet potatoes, from spinach to lambs lettuce, from wheat to sorghum and millet, as well as growing  chick peas, haricot and soya beans, Others are experimenting with planting trees alongside grass crops so that both the grasses and the livestock can benefit from the shade. Others are experimenting with hydroponic cultivation as a way of making best use of limited water supplies. In the southern half of the country there are a growing number of olive and pistachio orchards, whilst much horticultural farming has moved northwards – tomatoes from Newcastle, strawberries from Scotland. One thing everyone has noticed is the growing cost of producing, and therefore of buying, food. This is due not just to the difficulties of farming in the UK but also the climate induced crisis in agriculture across the world. Coffee is no longer grown in Kenya and Ethiopia, sheep are no longer farmed in Australia and wheat no longer comes from the American prairies. 

The crisis in agriculture is felt not just in rising food prices but also in conflict and migration. The war in Ukraine may have prompted a reassessment of our use of gas, but was not itself driven by climate issues. Since the we have seen conflict along the length of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and the Nile and its tributaries, as nations previously reliant on these waters compete to control its limited flow. Similar conflicts are also taking place along the Congo river where they are compounded by the desire to protect the oil supply now coming on tap for the same region.  All these areas of water shortages and armed conflict have produced an ever growing flow of people into Europe with a real focus of reaching Northern Europe where water security seems more likely. In the United Sates there has been an exodus of people from drought strike states putting increasing pressure on coastal states where there is another but smaller movement of people away from land inundated by rising sea levels. Australia ha a particular issue with pressure from the rest of the world that they should accommodate Pacific Islanders who have been rendered island-less. 

Life is much harder for everyone, but especially for those with limited resources. The UK is a much more divided nation. On the one extreme there are those who have no regular income and who are reliant on food banks, second hand clothes and warm hubs. Home is usually a single room with no provision of either kitchen or bathroom as these have become luxuries –  people’s cooked meals com from soup kitchens and laundering and washing happens in the equivalent wash and shower room at the local amenity centre. It feels as if we are returning to the Victorian model of boarding house. 

At the other end of the spectrum are those with jobs and/or income streams who can afford what ever they want and who can live lives completely separate from crisis. In between is a spectrum of those who can afford food,  and/ or accommodation, and /or heating, and/ or transport, and/or leisure activities. A lot of people find that they can afford some but not all of these, whilst some struggle to afford just one. There is an ever increasing number of people who choose to forgo parenthood so that they can afford other parts of life.

We are still asking ourselves if there is just enough time to keep global temperature increase below  below 3C. It seems to be human nature to always have hope despite the odds!