Mike Redwood


International Leather Maker

Last week, I attended a Climate Adaptation Training session. It was a first for me as we start to recognise that we are too far gone to stop some drastic changes. Mitigation must continue to try and keep temperatures low, but adaptation now needs to be on the agenda to consider how to get through those situations which are now inevitable.

The latest IPCC Synthesis Report makes this clear, highlighting that well over three billion people will end up migrating because of rising seas, regular flooding, water scarcity and intolerable heat. Without a doubt, we need a faster reduction in all things related to fossil fuels, and to edge towards producing an excess of energy totally with renewables.

That excess energy could, among other things, allow us to undertake more thorough recycling, produce extra green hydrogen and sort out the immense problems caused by plastics; even if the technology works eventually help extract and sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

East African farmers

However, all this is unlikely to be in time to save the farmers of East Africa. Our Somerset training meeting was scary enough. In Somerset, we have a very long coastline, so-so sea defences and a huge land area on or below sea level. So, when future housing was discussed along with climate change considerations, some said we should only try to meet the requirements of cheap houses for local, young people.

There was an immediate outcry that the climate-induced migration affecting Latin America and Africa was already growing quite rapidly and will accelerate dramatically if we cannot hold global temperatures down. While Britain will lose a lot of coastline, it and other developed countries will have a duty to welcome higher numbers of refugees from countries suffering from heat and water stress, where crops fail too regularly for ongoing survival.

21.5 million displaced annually since 2008

The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, reports that an annual average of 21.5 million people have been displaced by weather-related events – floods, storms, wildfires and extreme temperatures – since 2008.

Africa is already feeling the effects of consecutive failed harvests as a result of drought and increasingly we read harrowing tales from the vital nomadic farming sector in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. If the new loss and damage fund can be made effective, it is proposed to be used to help this sector in Africa by improving practices so that soils, for example, can hold more water and overgrazing can be eliminated but, for many, the Doomsday Clock is already close to midnight.

Some figures suggest that already about 30 million people in East Africa are in food poverty, and this means that millions of vital livestock have died of dehydration or starvation, pushing the sector towards becoming non-viable. We may feel that adaptation will be easy in the wealthier nations – it will not, given the number of vulnerable ancient cities they have – but it will be impossible for most of these communities in the Global South.

Reducing the use of fossil fuels, the rush back to coal and arguing that green technologies have to be postponed for cost reasons will not work. We must accelerate production of green technologies and look for other mitigation routes so that the adaptation requirement can be diminished.

Tanneries have wastes that are often used for power generation, and they often have land where solar and shallow or deep geothermal energy is available. We are part of the problem of history, our raw material is universally available and we need to get behind pushing for a safer, less disruptive future.


Follow Dr Mike Redwood on Twitter: @michaelredwood

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