23 Jun HT Blog 36 – Climate Change
Last Monday, during a Year 9 Geography lesson, our students engaged in a session with a climate change expert, John Huckle from the Environmental Department at the University of Bedfordshire, and in a few weeks’ time, on July 12, students in Year 7 & 8 will have the opportunity to take part in workshops with a visitor from Oxfam on the same theme. This is in addition, of course, to our Year 8 students visiting Southwold last Thursday in order to look at coastal erosion in our country and the impact that this has on people who live in the worst affected areas. Understanding what is happening in the world around us is a fundamental element of life in the 21st century, and at Daubeney we are proud of how we are preparing our students to be responsible members of their local, national and global communities. In our subject curricula, our Year 7 students consider during PHSE sessions what it means to be a global citizen and how they can live a more sustainable life as well as studying the environment (extreme weather, climate change, human and physical effects on our natural world) in Geography at both KS3 & KS4. Climate change, clearly, is a (if not the) major issue in our modern society and it is quite right that all schools give it the coverage that it needs in lessons, wherever appropriate. What our students will learn not only at Daubeney but also from other external sources will be that the Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Indeed, just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives. The current warming trend, however, is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and is proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia. Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate. Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate does indeed respond to changes in greenhouse gas levels and ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming. What is also both worrying and already widely known is that the planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere. Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with the five warmest years on record taking place since 2010. Last summer in Kempston, for example, is one that we won’t forget for a long time. Our oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of more than 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969. What this has led to, of course, is that the global sea level rose about 8 inches in the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century and is accelerating slightly every year. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.
Something, clearly, needs to change and we are running out of time in order to act. In many ways, we can all learn some valuable lessons from Greta Thunberg, the 15 year-old Swedish activist who began protesting outside of the Swedish parliament in 2018 and who has led the Skolstrejk för klimatet which have spread to other countries around the world. Although I would not advocate any students missing school in order to protest (in school is almost always the best place to learn), some of the comments of Miss Thunberg during her most recent presentations to politicians and citizens alike are certainly worthy of our attention. In January of this year, for example, she said the following to an assembled group of world leaders: “I am here to say that our house is one fire… I want you to act as if your house is on fire, because it is,” and only a few weeks earlier she made clear to thousands of people at a Democracy Now! rally that “We cannot solve a crisis without treating it like a crisis… If solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then… we should change the system itself.” Not everyone can be Greta Thunberg, but I would expect all Daubeney students to be at least the best versions of themselves when it comes to playing their part in tackling climate change. At its most basic, this means not only not dropping any litter ever but also refusing to accept that others in our community consider it ok for litter to even be present on the ground, and moving up a level or two this also means ensuring that walking or cycling to school is always favoured over getting a lift, especially if home and school are not really that far apart. Climate change is real and it is affecting us now; although we will continue to learn about it in school, we need to actually do something about it as well.