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How will Climate Change Affect Letchworth?

For our May 2019 Transition Tuesday we set ourselves the ambitious challenge of trying to determine how Letchworth might be affected by climate change. The evening used risk management techniques to guide us through the complexities of how climate change might play out locally.

The risk management exercise first considered a scenario which could keep global warming to no more than 1.5 degree and asked was there any risk that key elements of Letchworth society would fail to function. There was general agreement that changing weather could increase the risk around access to water and food. The audience felt population movements from countries where 1.5 degrees has more drastic effects could also put pressure on key services, services that are already under pressure.

A second scenario was one that not enough will be done and warming will go beyond 1.5 degrees and the Gulf Stream will disappear which could make the UK a much colder climate. This was very thought provoking. As an island would we end up as cold as Montreal or would we be luckier? Population movement was seen as a very likely consequences of reduction in hospitable land mass worldwide along with countries like the UK getting colder. Further increases in the UK population, with services already under pressure and our position as a net food importer, combined with a less favourable climate for food growing, led to lots of high risks being identified by the audience. The scale of change in the way we will manage our country from farming to transport was too much to consider in the time we had. Ditto scenario 3 where world order starts falling away as people desperately try to find the best place to survive.

The evening was thought provoking, illustrating that:

  1. Even if mitigation’s for climate change can keep us to 1.5 degrees we need to do things to increase our food and water security locally.

  2. Population growth is bringing its own risks, and that we definitely cannot contain world temperatures with a growing world population and people continuing to live the current carbon-hungry western lifestyle. Even if we don’t live a western lifestyle we need to think about measures that would best curb the growth of the human population.

  3. Understanding the Gulf Stream tipping point, and how loss of the Gulf Stream will affect the UK climate would be a worthwhile area of research, as it’s this climate change scenario that will have most affect locally. Climate change will no longer be an issue on a far shore that we will be immune from, but it will be something that will affect us locally. This could be the scenario that captures the imagination of more of the UK population…and inspire them to change.

TTLs message has always been one of working to both limit climate change whilst ensuring we are as resilient as we can be for the change that is inevitable. Fortunately what TTL projects require from us is activity and community engagement, all of which are positive for our health and wellbeing, and this message was threaded into the evening. TTL recognised quite a while ago that if we just focus on the problem, and there are lots of poor quality films out there to help us do that, we just end up feeling pretty miserable. We have to lead, show the vision for a better way, and show that we are happy with living a low carbon lifestyle. We should all feel proud of the changes we have made and plan to make. How we live may be a little different but the quality of life we live seems infinitely better than when we were drawn into the competitive world of consumption.

So one important learning point for TTL from the evening is that we need to keep spreading a positive message of hope, providing a space where people feel there is energy and happiness in what we do and how we live. A fellow TTL member on a litter pick remarked recently that, “it’s surprising how good ‘decluttering’ our green spaces can make you feel once you get out there and do it!”, a remark with which fellow TTL members can readily concur.

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