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Climate changed?

Coffee beans and cupIt’s been such a busy few weeks for environmental news we barely know where to start! Firstly, the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) released a really long report on the risks to lives and jobs from climate change. The IPCC is a group of world respected climate scientists from many difference fields of study and so when they speak we should listen.

It can be hard to get people interested in climate change – people feel that it’s something abstract that may happen in a long time, or something that won’t affect them. It’s always difficult to engage with something that is happening slowly (when compared to other things, say, how long it will take me to drink this cup of tea), especially as people often confuse weather (what is happening right here right now) with climate (what is happening over a longer time period – an average pattern of the weather).  What many people in Europe don’t understand is that climate change is already affecting many people worldwide – the reason that we don’t see it so much in Europe is because we have a temperate climate (meaning that our climate does not fall into any extreme) and because as a wealthy continent, we are often separated from nature.

Because of this, we just wanted to highlight a couple of stories that have appeared recently about people who live in places where they are more closely connected to the environment or the environment is harsher than it is in Europe.  The first of these was on the BBC news website and is about seaweed pickers in Zanzibar.  Zanzibar is an island off the coast of Tanzania in Africa and is unfortunately very poor. One of the biggest exports that Zanzibar has is seaweed – but climate change is making it hard for the seaweed to grow as it is making the sea too warm. The result is that many people who used to work on the seaweed farms are now unemployed.

The second story that we’d like to highlight is about coffee. Coffee grows best on cool mountainsides but because mountain environments are warming quickly, coffee crops are becoming less good, with plants producing less beans. According to the article, the 2013-2014 crop is 40% smaller than the 2011-2012 crop, with warming local climates being the main factor. You might think “so what?”, coffee isn’t necessary to live so that’s not such an issue, but this is a huge issue for the people who grow the crop, who often live in poorer countries. And there is a related problem, the deadly disease malaria thrives in warmer environments, so as the coffee is leaving the mountains, malaria is arriving (you can learn more about malaria in our Waterworld activities).

We generally like to leave the blog on a positive note, but we must admit that we’re struggling a bit today. One positive outcome of the recent report might be that finally many new people and governments are waking up to the realities of climate change, and the more people who accept the problem and vow to change it, the more chance there is for the future. Are you doing your bit? To help you along, we’ve got a lot of resources to help you understand and reduce your energy use in our Iceworld activities.


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Blog post by Linda Seward of Seward Technical Writing, providers of original science content.

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