The Last Decade Was the Second Hottest in UK History

A series of shocking weather statistics at the turn of the year told most of us what we already knew about 2019: it was a hot one. More significantly the entire decade—2010 to 2019—was the second hottest in the last 100 years in the UK, according to the Met office.

Four new UK records were set last year alone, including the highest winter and summer temperatures ever recorded.

The rising temperatures are a consequence of climate change, the Met Office said. It means the 2010s were the second hottest and second wettest in the last 100 years of UK records.

The hottest and wettest decade was the one immediately prior to the 2010s, ie 2000-2009. By now we all know that it wasn’t just a hot summer or hot year for no reason and that climate change is a big factor.

We also know that the burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil and natural gas—is super heating the planet and quickly changing our climate. 

Many scientists believe we need to cut carbon emissions by enough to stop the planet heating up by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.

Net zero—removing as many emissions as we produce—is touted as the key solution in combating climate change and agreed by governments. But groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion, who also have backing from scientists, say we need to get there faster. 

There is just a short window of opportunity left to avoid irreversible damage

A Friends of the Earth spokesperson said: “It is vital that the UK gets to net zero a lot sooner than 2050.

“We are already seeing the catastrophic effects of climate breakdown through floods and droughts.

“There is just a short window of opportunity left to avoid irreversible damage.”

It has drawn up a six-point Climate Action Plan it says the government needs to follow in order to reach net zero emissions before 2050 and to reverse the catastrophic effects of floods and droughts we are already seeing around the world.

Its solutions are aimed at reducing emissions from transport and power generation, making buildings and homes fuel efficient, planting billions of trees, ending intensive farming techniques, getting individuals to dramatically reduce their consumption of “stuff” and making developed countries answerable for droughts, floods and famine caused in the developing world.

Among its key aims are a ban of new airport construction, the phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles within 10 years and for public transport to be made the go-to option for travel.

It wants all power to be generated by green sources and for the use of dirty fuels like coal, oil and gas to end.

It has called for greater government investment and for it to double the speed of renewable energy roll out and achieve 100 percent clean energy from wind, sun and sea.

It also wants the government to fund an insulation scheme for homes to stop energy being wasted. It says the government should invest heavily in tree planting and move away from intensive farming which is eroding soils and destroying insect populations. The government should also drive a reduction in consumption—to reduce emissions and waste—and also pay more to help poorer countries affected by drought and flood.

It wants the government to adopt its Climate Action Plan by the end of 2020. If we fail, melting ice sheets and rising sea levels will destroy coastal cities sooner rather than later, it is feared.

The warning on the website of protest group Extinction Rebellion is stark: “We are facing an unprecedented global emergency.

“Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making.”

It is deliberately apocalyptic in tone though increasingly the stark warnings are being heeded with more political promises to do more and faster. The government is committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the UK to net zero by 2050.  

There is no doubt that governments are waking up to the warnings and protests of the pressure groups. But only time will tell if they are acting quickly enough. David Timms, Friends of the Earth head of political affairs said: “The tide of concern isn’t going to turn with the dawn of a new decade, and it isn’t going to be held back by token gestures or warm words. 

“It demands a decisive shift in government policy—like those set out in our Climate Action Plan—and a transformation of the effort—especially the funding—needed to create a sustainable economy.

“Only a fundamental shift in the ambition of government policies on climate change, enforced across Whitehall and backed by a massive and immediate increase in investment in solutions, and an end to carbon belching infrastructure projects such as new airports, can hope to get the UK on track to meet our fair share of global climate effort.”