Friends of ours have just returned from a holiday in Tenerife to temperatures some 20C lower in Sussex and snow on the ground. Of course this time of year is difficult for naturists, but it can be fun to strip off and brave the cold for a short time – indeed Stark Trekkers went walking a few days ago and were rewarded with some winter sunshine. Our group – East Sussex Naturists – continues with winter events and we have a lovely afternoon eating brownies and drinking tea in front of a log burner last week.
The world is warmer now than a few hundred years ago and the finger has been put on our way of life and the industrialisation it requires. A great deal of benefit has been brought by this process – for instance, life was far more brutish in Tudor times http://www.localhistories.org/tudor.html.
However, scientists from University College London have come up with a new idea to explain why there was a decided cooling of the world from the 16th to the 19th centuries in spite of the industrial revolution. When Christopher Columbus set foot in the New World there were about 60 million indigenous people in North America. A century later this population had been reduced by 90% and as a result the forest and savannah regrew so that an area the size of France was re-afforested – that’s about 140 million acres. As a result the concentration of CO₂ in the atmosphere fell by 7-10ppm. The evidence is locked in the ice as tiny bubbles of air trapped at the time the water froze. Analysis of this trapped gas can also tell us that the reduction was in CO₂ from land based sources. Records of charcoal and pollen deposits in the Americas also match this theory. The indigenous population used fire to manage the forest for hunting and for agriculture.
So for the optimistic amongst us, the idea of planting trees to stop and perhaps reverse climate change looks good, but to put the numbers into focus, the current rise in CO₂ is about about 3ppm per year so a 10ppm reduction would reverse only about 3 years of the current rate of CO₂ emissions.
So much more needs to be done. In Belgium school children have joined protests week after week rather than go to school https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-47070853 to pressure the government to keep to the targets for the reduction of emissions agreed in Paris in 2015. Youth demonstrations have also taken place in Germany and Switzerland and thousands of people made human chains or held other climate events around France. In France there has been recent petition for legal action to force the government to set more ambitious goals for reducing carbon emissions, but as we have seen the way the French government chose to try to reduce emissions (by increasing tax on fuel) sparked huge protests countrywide. Reports in the well respected magazine Nature say that in 2017 ‘None of the major industrialized nations were implementing the policies they had envisioned and have not met their pledged emission reduction targets’ and neither would keeping to those targets achieve the goal of the treaty, which is to keep the temperature rise to below 2C https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Agreement. The second biggest polluter, the USA, where emissions per person are the highest in the world, has decided to pull out of the Paris Accord in 2020. However, there is some hope since American business leaders say they will continue support for reducing carbon emissions as they see jobs and economic growth will be generated.
To lighten the tone, I found a story that came about because of the weather, caused a great deal of confusion, but ends up with a happy if unforseen resolution http://winnie-pooh.org/house-pooh-corner.htm. It’s a story in which Eeyore is so cold he decides to build a house (‘the other animals had not realised that Eeyore was feeling very cold, especially at three o'clock in the morning, perhaps because, like Eeyore says, most of them don't have brains, and some just have fluff’). Later that morning Eeyore finds his house had mysteriously vanished! I won’t spoil the story.
As a footnote: a law of 1547 said vagabonds could be made slaves for 2 years. This terrible law was abolished in 1550 and simple flogging became the punishment again. Luckily Eeyore lived in modern post-industrial times.