Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Mountains to climb

Back to the fracture clinic for the third and, barring unlikely problems, final time. This time I was seen one and a half hours after my appointment time (these really are fictitious), and again my appointment lasted 30 seconds. I had William Fiennes "The Snow Geese" with me to read: my body was in a past-its-best waiting room lit by fluorescent strips and ventilated by two oscillating desk fans; my mind and heart were standing on top of a prairie knob and leaning back into the wind, surrounded by the bromegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, bluestem, western wheatgrass, echinacea and leafy spurge of the Missouri coteau.

We had maybe an inch of snow over night. The Malverns under their icing were looking positively Alpine, but of course they are much older. The Alpine ranges (Alps, Apennines, Himalayas, etc) were formed 60 million odd years ago. The Malverns are "formed of some of the most ancient rocks in England, mostly igneous and metamorphic rocks from the late pre-Cambrian, around 600 million years old".

Meanwhile, climate negotiators are meeting from 29 November to 10 December at Cancun in Mexico, to try to hammer out a deal on limiting future emissions of carbon dioxide. And I would like to take this opportunity to say that record low November temperatures are not by themselves evidence that the climate is not warming. First, the UK forms less than 0.05% of the world's surface area, and weather in the UK is not exactly representative of the rest of the world; while we are experiencing below-average temperatures, Perth in Australia has been having a heat wave. Second, weather and climate are different beasties. Weather happens day-by-day, and is changing all the time; climate is the 30-year average and is a trend. So, climate change is happening, scientists are more than 90% sure that it is the result of human activity, it is already affecting people in the poorest parts of the world, it is a major issue of justice, it is still possible to avoid dangerous climate change if we get on with it. Please pray for the negotiations in Cancun.


  1. Thank you for your blog - a really interesting read.

    Yes, I shall pray that sense prevails in Cancun and that world-saving agreements are reached

  2. I thought the UK was meant to be getting colder because of climate change because we're messing up the Gulf stream?

  3. Confess - do you know what any of those look like? (Blue grass etc). Sound of the names is wonderful though.

  4. Lisa: Thanks!
    Katie: If the Gulf Stream shuts off, the UK could be 10 degrees colder, but it's a low probability event and the 'tipping point' impossible to predict.
    Julia: Spurge yes, echinacea yes, the rest I'm just imagining grasses swaying in the wind!