Can we afford to smash any more weather records?

  • Posted: 29 Jan 2016

As much as we might dream of a white Christmas, this year seemed to suggest  they are now  a thing of the past. Snow was firmly off the agenda for most of us, and with sightings of daffodils, primroses and blossom in the festive season, our climate refused to adhere to our more sentimental Christmas wishes.

But rain dampening Christmas spirits was really the least of our woes as 2015 came to a close. Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank left many in the North of the UK with terrible flooding, often hitting the same homes more than once and exposing this country’s seriously lacking environmental provisions. It was the wettest December[1] since records began for Scotland and Wales, the fourth-wettest for Northern Ireland and the second-wettest overall for the UK – but why?

It’s a sad fact that the phrase ‘since records began’ has become a regular feature in our weather reporting. The Met Office have predicted that 2016 will be the hottest on record[2] , which will mean the three hottest years on record have happened in a row. Rainfall in December will make 2015 one of the top 10 wettest years since 1910[3] . And in the US, more than 6,000 warm-temperature records[4] were set this December.  The link to El Nino is often cited, but the meteorological community confirms that 2015’s extreme weather was partially due to El Ninio, but primarily driven by climate change[5] .

This extreme weather means more than just the tragic droughts and floodings. The Met Offices’ prediction indicates the global average temperature in 2016 will be 1.14°C above pre-industrial temperatures, making the 1.5°C goal set at COP21 a huge challenge. 

It’s clear that temperatures are rising and more extreme weather is likely to be on the cards for years to come. We take some comfort from David Cameron’s  pledge of £40m[6] to enhance  flood defences – but we all need to work together to address the cause, as well as mitigating the immediate symptoms.  Energy contributes to 30%[7] of UK emissions By generating more power renewably and consuming energy more consciously reductions are being achieved. Accelerating progress here is a more sustainable way of addressing the long term problem than building ever higher concrete barriers.If we really want to keep to the pledges of COP21, investment in a more sustainable energy system is a clear path to a concerted effort from this country to help put the brakes on climate change.

More extreme weather is something that we are going to have to approach in a multi-faceted way. While weather damage prevention is important, reducing green house gas emissions is key to addressing climate change.

We can all play our part and contribute to cleaning up the energy system and consuming energy more consciously. Triodos Renewables is delivering a growing volume of renewable energy, and we’re also identifying ways to contribute to the wider energy system through energy efficiency, demand side management and storage; all of which are jigsaw pieces in a more sustainable system. 

With the last of the storms hopefully behind us for now, we need to continue to deliver the solutions, not wait for the next disaster to hit.