Climate change

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Climate change

News and views from the RSPB on climate change and what you can do about it.
  • All the numbers: one in six and unlucky 13

    Almost overnight two important new pieces of research on climate change have been published.

    Research by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute has managed to find the fingerprint of global warming in increasingly warm years in England. 2014 was a record-breaking warm year, despite not having any individual record-breaking months within it. The signs of climate change have become so obvious that it is now possible to see the effect at scales as localised as England, rather than just seeing the impact at a global scale.

    The report finds that hot years like 2014 are at least 13 times more likely due to climate change. Several years ago there was severe reluctance to attribute individual weather events or changes in local weather to climate change, but that reluctance seems to be slipping away as the evidence becomes clearer.

    Warmer weather might sound nice, but it could play havoc with many things, including our wildlife.

    The second piece of research, carried out by the University of Connecticut, shows that if we keep climate change within politically agreed limits of a rise of no more than two degrees, one in 20 species will go extinct. If it rises by four degrees by the end of the century, not even the highest estimate, then one in six species of wildlife could go extinct. Those with restricted ranges or on islands (and unable to move to escape the impacts) will be worst affected - in places like Australia and New Zealand.

    So, two new pieces of research, undertaken separately, but that tell a compelling story: we are seeing climate change's local impacts more and more clearly, and we're increasingly sure about the kinds of loss and damage that climate change will cause. Together, these both spell bad news for wildlife.

    If you want to Speak Up for the wildlife you love and that could be affected by climate change, come along to the largest ever climate meeting with MPs, on 17 June. We hope we'll see you there.

    Research shows orangutans will be more affected this century by climate change than by habitat loss

    Photo: Matt Adam Williams

  • Biofuels are capped, but the job isn't done

    The European Parliament has today voted to approve a cap on the use of first generation biofuels, those from land-based crops. This cap places an important restriction on the use of a form of energy that can put wildlife at risk and in some cases be more polluting than the conventional fuels it is designed to replace.

    The RSPB has been working on biofuels for a number of years because of the threat they pose to wildlife and the evidence that Indirect Land Use Change can result in large, unaccounted for greenhouse gas emissions.

    This cap sends a strong signal that there is no future for the worst of all biofuels.

    But the job is not done, and bioenergy more widely is increasingly being used across the EU to provide heat and electricity. In the UK, for example, Drax power station imported around four million tonnes of wood pellets last year, gathered from forests in the Southeastern US, to burn for energy.

    Ten NGOs, including BirdLife, have today launched a series of recommendations for a sustainable biomass policy for the EU’s post-2020 climate and energy plans.

    Among the recommendations are:

    -          Properly accounting for all emissions from biomass. The EU and the UK Government currently don’t require accounting of the emissions caused by burning biomass, including trees. In many cases these emissions could make biomass worse than the fossil fuels they’re designed to replace.

    -          Placing a cap on the amount of biomass that can be burned in line with the available sustainable supply.

    -          Ensuring strict and binding sustainability criteria for biomass. This would ensure that where biomass is grown or harvested it is done so in a manner that doesn’t harm wildlife or natural ecosystems.

    The full report goes into more detail, and if you want to read it you can find it here.

  • The Return of the Spring

    On the drive to work this morning I saw my first terns of the year; common terns I suspect although they were too far and facing away from us to pin them down to a particular species. But I still got a rush of excitement nonetheless.

    The last three weeks or so have been a whirlwind of vaguely remembered birdsong and unusual silhouettes – swallows flapping overhead and bees (or bombus, the scientific name, as I prefer to call them) buzzing past me. My garden and the green opposite my house have been full of a succession of butterflies – first brimstones, commas and peacocks, then small whites and now, in the past week, orange tips too.

    Comma butterfly, photo by Matt Adam Williams

    Spring is an exhilarating time of year, when everything feels like it’s in a rush to get somewhere or find something or someone.

    But beneath the hurried pace of birds shuttling twigs to the hedgerows and bees and butterflies seeking out nectar and pollen, slower, deeper rhythms are at play. Climate change is affecting not just Spring but all of our seasons. Recent results released by the Woodland Trust show that warmer Springs are affecting acorn crops and potentially reducing the numbers of new oak trees.

    This is just one among many observed and possible effects of climate change on Spring and its wildlife.

    I don’t want to see our wildlife negatively affected by climate change. So on 17 June I’ll be joining with the rest of The Climate Coalition to head to London and Speak Up for wildlife and all the other things I love that could be affected. I’ll be heading there to speak to my new MP and explain what I love and why I want them to take positive action on climate change at the UN conference in Paris in December, and over the course of the next Parliament.

    If the wildlife you’re seeing this Spring is invigorating your love for nature or inspiring you to take action, you could do little better than sign up to come along too on 17 June.