Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Climate change is fact, not a belief

YOU either know about climate change or you don’t. It is not a matter of belief but of knowledge.

“When public figures abuse scientific argument, citing some studies but supressing others to justify policies they want to implement, it debases scientific culture and leads ordinary people to not trust science at a time when scientific research and progress are more important than ever.”

Stephen Hawking, 2017

I knew 30 years ago when I crawled across the dunes of the Hayle estuary to observe the little egret, egretta garzetta, the first white herons to arrive from western Europe and North Africa.

Now they breed all along the south coast and are ranging gradually northwards, visiting Oxfordshire occasionally, and what a beautiful sight.

Egrets spend up to a third of their day preening their feathers, oiling them with the secretions of the uropygial gland, located on the upper surface of the rump.

As the bird works through the feathers, the movement stimulates the production of oil from this lobe. It emerges from a duct concealed by a circlet of tiny plumes.

It is then transferred by the beak to the feather and dribbled along it, so the whole feather is zipped up, reconnecting the barbs and barbules lining each strand and making the plumage waterproof again.

This work also serves as a display to other egrets in the colony, for this is a social bird, nesting in groups in trees and bushes by lakes and marshy areas, eating fish.

Al Gore’s new film, An Inconvenient Truth — The Sequel, is a reminder that we also must bear responsibility and take action to mitigate climate change.

The film, watched by a very select audience in Henley, featured the key role that drought is playing in the civil wars and unrest of the Middle East and Central Africa, driving migration where agriculture is no longer supporting the population.

If you are measuring the cost benefit of installing solar panels or buying an electric car, add in the peace dividend.

P.S. Don’t forget to go and pick those super blackberries in the hedgerows all around us. Funnily enough, they have been ripe for two weeks already — exceptionally early.

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