The Boxing Day 2015 floods reminded us that climate change affects us all.
On Friday 23 September local people drew a twenty metre fabric red line across St George’s Square to raise awareness of the impact of record breaking temperatures and call for adequate Government action to prevent climate change.
The event highlighted four key facts:
We’re experiencing record breaking temperatures and extreme weather across the world. 2016 is likely to be the warmest on record, just as 2015 was the warmest before that. Each of the past 15 months has been the warmest recorded for that month.
Over the summer there have been record breaking temperatures in southern and eastern African countries and the Middle East. 15 southern African countries have asked for $2.8billion to help feed 40 million people hit by one of the worst regional droughts in 35 years.
Drought has also hit Haiti, Central America, Vietman, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. California has suffered from severe wildfires, India has experienced one of its most intense monsoons and Iraq has experienced 50C temperatures.
The arctic is melting. Summer arctic sea ice has melted more than in any year except 2012. This year’s minimum is 1 million square miles smaller than the 1979-2000- average.
Our Government is back-tracking on climate change . Since 2015 it has undermined renewable energy and energy efficiency and fast-tracked fracking. Theresa May abolished the Department for Energy and Climate Change and still hasn’t ratified the Paris climate agreement.
The Boxing Day floods across Yorkshire reminded us of the disastrous consequences of not tackling climate change. Taking action on climate change would be a win-win situation for Yorkshire. There are 240,000 households living in fuel poverty in Yorkshire while 1000 people die prematurely each year as a result of air pollution in West Yorkshire alone. There are also swathes of Yorkshire ear-marked for fracking. The actions that we need to take to tackle climate change will also improve people’s health, create jobs and protect communities from the risks of fracking.
A clean future isn’t just achievable. It’s happening now in countries that want to make it happen. Renewable energy forms 25% of China’s power generation. Last year 42% of Denmark’s electricity came from wind power.
The vigil took place from 6.15pm to 7.30pm. It included readings and periods of silence as well as opportunities to learn and to meet others.
For the first half of the event, the twenty metre fabric red line was displayed as a giant banner with the messages “The ice is melting” and “Don’t cross the red line on climate change.”
Our red line drew attention in St George’s Square. Since the Paris Climate Talks the red line has become a symbol of the compromises that we cannot make with the planet. It draws attention to the fact that current fossil fuel use does not match the action that science tells us is needed to stabilise earth temperatures.
The event featured three readings (links to resources below): a response written one week earlier to the news of the second worst arctic melting on record; an article written at the time of the Paris Climate Talks by the Chair of the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change, Angus MacNeil, on the Government’s backtracking on climate policies and extracts from the final chapter of ‘The Burning Question’ by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark.
We borrowed an out-of-use bus shelter for the vigil. It became an information point for people to step into (links to resources below). It included a timeline of the Government’s backtracking on climate policies since early 2015 along with headlines about record-breaking temperatures and climate impacts in recent months. The information point also featured facts and statistics about the surge in renewable energy that is taking place across the world.
Halfway through the vigil, the sun set and we lit tea lights. The red line was laid on the ground. Participants – many of them wearing red – wrote messages and placed them together with tea lights on the red line.
Through the evening, the vigil created awareness and stimulated conversations among passers-by who were offered outreach fliers (links to resources below) which included a link to call on the Government to ratify the Paris climate agreement.
Many thanks to everyone who helped to promote the event and supported it.
Information point resources
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