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About A Week: A Warming Warning

Peter Hinchliffe feels guilty for buying a new leather jacket.

A sunny autumn day in Antwerp, Belgium.

Sunny, but very cold.

I’m shivering in a jacket more appropriate to June than late October. I'm on holiday. Irrationally I always associate holidays with warm weather. Right now it's not much above the freezing point.

There's only one thing for it. I'll have to buy a jacket more appropriate to the time of year. Into a large store I go. And here's a black leather jacket that could have been tailor-made for me.

"Don't put it into a bag,'' I tell the lady manning the Pay Here desk. "I'll wear it now.''

Out into the street I go, feeling much warmer in the great outdoors. (I should add here that I had been intending for some time to by a leather jacket. Yorkshiremen of my age and upbringing do not impulse buy).

The main label stitched inside the jackets bears an Italian name. Now, sipping tea in a street-side cafe, I examine its other labels. Tucked away inside a pocket is one that says where the garment was made. China!

Ah, China. Manufacturer to the world. Earning $2 million a minute, day and night, month after month, from its exports. A country whose burgeoning industries are powered by coal. A new coal-fired power station comes on stream every week in China.

I'm beginning to feel somewhat guilty for making a small contribution to atmospheric pollution by buying the leather jacket, which is now slung across the back of my chair. It doesn't take much to arouse guilt in the eco-conscious in this menacing 21st Century.

Another sip of tea - and I start to read today's Guardian newspaper. My guilt is instantly multiplied a hundredfold.

David Adam, the newspaper's environment correspondent, announces:

"Scientists warned last night that global warming will be 'stronger than expected and sooner than expected', after a new analysis showed carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere much faster than predicted.

Experts said that the rise was down to soaring economic development in China, and a reduction in the amount of carbon pollution soaked up by the world's land and oceans. It also means human emissions will have to be cut more sharply than predicted to avoid the likely effects.''

Corinne Le Quere, a climate expert at the University of East Anglia and British Antarctic Survey, who helped conduct the study, was quoted as saying "It's bad news because the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide has accelerated since 2000 in a way we did not expect. My biggest worry is people are discouraged by this and do nothing. I hope political leaders will act on this, because we need to do something fast."

The new study, published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), says three processes have contributed to this increase: growth in the world economy, heavy use of coal in China, and a weakening of natural "sinks" - forests, seas and soils that absorb carbon.

In the following day’s edition of the same newspaper there’s further reason for gloom and despondency.
Warming could obliterate half the animal species on Planet Earth, along with many plants.

Scientists at the University of York and the University of Leeds, both in Yorkshire, the English county in which I live, examined the relationship between climate and biodiversity over the past 520m years using fossil records. During phases of global warming extinction rates were high. During cooler conditions biodiversity increased.

Can hundreds of scientists be wrong in believing that the burning of fossil fuels is damaging the Earth’s atmosphere? Could we be entering a cyclical warming stage that would have occurred irregardless of human activity?

In an OhmyNews story last week I suggested that we should all do our bit to befriend the environment by planting a tree. A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs per year.

One reader, Mike Smith, responded “Simple and effective idea. Plant a tree. Let's follow Mr. Hinchliffe's lead and plant some trees.

Global chilling is probably just around the corner, and Al Gore's admonishments will go the way of Silent Spring's predictions of a birdless world and the documentary Hellstrom Chronicle which predicted the take over of the Earth by insects by 1990 however there can be no disputing the deplorable loss of trees and parks all throughout the world.

Thanks Peter I will plant a tree.’’

Another, sceptical about Al Gore’s claims in his Oscar-winning film about climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, wrote:

“Do not believe everything in Al Gore's commentary. Polar bears are not endangered -- people are, especially in the Third World. Thousands are dying every day due to hunger and starvation. Forget global warming. Think today. Instead for governments to set aside money to fight global warming, why not donate the amount to the poor countries so thousands would not die of hunger. Forget Al, for global warming. Those are all hype -- political maneuverings of Al Gore, the future expresident of the US.’’

Having worked as a journalist in Africa, I know at first-hand the plight of millions of people who do not have enough to eat, or access to fresh water. Cash must be given by those in the rich countries to those who have virtually nothing. There are dozens of charities in the UK alone which strive to bring help to the needy. One of them is Harvest Help http://www.harvesthelp.org.uk/ This small charity helps people in Malawi, Gambia, Ghana and Togo to grow enough food to feed their families, to find ways of earning a living, and to help communities manage their own development.

Of course we should help the needy. But that does not preclude helping the planet at the same time.

We’re past the point of arguing whether global warming is a natural cyclical phenomenon, or man-made. My view – entirely unscientific – is that it is a combination of these two.

Citizens in the richer countries should become acutely aware of their duty to consume less and pollute less. Rapidly developing China produces 3.2 tonnes of CO2 per person each year. India produces just one tonne.

The UK produces 9.1 tonnes per person.

There’s a very good reason why the UK should provide the “shock troops’’ in the battle to beat global warming. We started the pollution ball rolling.


The Industrial Revolution began in the textile mills and coal mines which once existed within a 30-minute walk from my home.

Perhaps the time has come for draconian laws.

· No one allowed to buy more than one new car in a ten-year period.
· Familes not allowed to own more than one car – except in cases of special need.
· Only one foreign holiday which involves flying in each three-year period.
· No one allowed to buy a new garment without trading in an old one.

With a bit of luck and a lot of resolve I might still be wearing that black leather jacket with the made-in-China label ten years from now.

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