Continuing our new series of stories from our Young People’s Voices project – funded by Victorious Festival and supported by the University of Portsmouth – students at Havant and South Downs College, Frayja Roberts and Ella Younger examine the impact of climate change on Portsmouth.
Climate change is the most serious environmental challenge we face in the 21st century. It poses a threat to human civilisation as well as creating huge economic costs. As scientific research shows, climate change has a direct correlation with human activity and how we are treating our Earth.
We are changing the natural greenhouse gases on Earth. We need greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide to trap some of the Sun’s heat in our atmosphere to maintain a temperature that we can live in. However, over the last century humans have been burning fossil fuels like coal and oil and in turn have increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. As well as this, the clearing of land for agriculture, industry and other human activities has increased concentrations of greenhouse gases. It is important that we are aware of what we are doing and what it is causing.
Climate change comes with a number of consequences. Overall, Earth will become warmer. This will lead to more evaporation and precipitation which would negatively affect many regions. A stronger greenhouse effect will also have an impact on the oceans. The warming of the oceans will melt glaciers and increase sea levels.
Portsmouth is incredibly vulnerable to a number of consequences of climate change. We have already seen temperatures increase as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. Predictions for the 2080’s from the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) in 2002 suggest that in summer, temperatures will have risen by 2-6°C and rainfall will have decreased by 30-45%, and that winters will be warmer by 1.5-3.5°C and have 15-30% more rainfall.
We can also expect an increase of extreme events such as storms, floods, heat waves and drought. Weather extremities can present the risk of floods and Portsmouth City Council’s Climate Change Strategy states that by 2026, around 60,000 Portsmouth residents will live in flood risk areas.
Unpredictable weather and more frequent storms and floods would also damage property and mean that developments in the city will have to cater for this. As a coastal city, Portsmouth is also vulnerable to rising sea levels which can cause destructive erosion, wetland flooding and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.
Portsmouth City Council states on its website, ‘As a coastal city, we are incredibly vulnerable to the predicted impacts of climate change with sea level rises increasing the risk of flooding, and rising temperatures increasing the risk of heat-related deaths for the most vulnerable of our residents’. With hotter summers and reduction in cloud coverage, the risk of skin cancer is increased and the spread of any disease is heightened.
With things like population growth, increasing energy demands and the dependency on the use of fossil fuels for energy, it is urgent that we take action on tackling climate change. The fate of Portsmouth’s climate depends on everyone working collectively to create a low carbon city. We all need to take responsibility for the state we are in currently and the action we should take to tackle this. Young people are the future leaders of society and will be the ones handling the negative consequences of climate change. As young people, we need to be the generation to eradicate the denial and misconceptions surrounding climate change. We are living in a society in which such issues are dismissed and the continuation of this attitude will have a negative impact on a global scale. We have to learn that if we don’t start acting for our future, nobody else will. We have to be the ones to make the first move.
For some, the fight against climate change has become either overwhelmingly challenging or abstract enough that it is easy to ignore. However, there are a number of ways that everyone can help to cut carbon on a daily basis. Altering your commute reduces transportation emissions – taking public transport, riding a bike or car sharing are options for this. This includes flights – air travel contributes to almost a quarter of the average person’s annual emissions, so where possible, travel by train. While using electric vehicles help to reduce fossil fuel consumption, walking and reducing journeys from 15,000 to 10,000 miles per year will save more than a tonne of carbon. Additionally, committing to a vegetarian or vegan diet can cut emissions from food by up to a fifth as cows and sheep emit methane which is a powerful global warming gas.
As you can see, there are many easy, small changes we can all make that will have a big impact on our mission to tackle climate change. But this has to be a collective effort. We must not only put energy into making our own changes, it is important to make others aware of the crisis we are facing. Distribute leaflets in your community, post about it on social media, attend and host meetups dedicated to the subject and organize activities in your area that focus on climate change. Simply encouraging friends and family to plant more greenery, use public transport and avoid using plastic can make a huge difference. We need to take responsibility for the mishaps that we have made while trying to make a world for us. And for that, there is no time to waste.
Find Out More
Climate change articles on S&C
Portsmouth City Council, 2010, How climate change affects Portsmouth
Portsmouth City Council, 2010, Portsmouth Climate Change Strategy
Portsmouth City Council, Climate change – Portsmouth’s priorities
Portsmouth City Council, Headline Summary – how the climate will change
The Climate Reality Project, 2019, How Do We Know That Humans Are Causing Climate Change?
UK Climate Impact Programme, 2002, UK Climate Impact Programme
The Young People’s Voices project aims to provide young people with a platform to share their opinions, report on topics that affect them and advance standards of literacy. We worked with students from St Edmunds School and Havant and South Downs College to investigate and write their own stories, in a variety of styles and mediums – from creative memoir and opinion pieces to their own investigations. All their work will be published on S&C throughout July, and all participants have the chance to enter their work into a competition to read their story on the Spoken Word Stage at the 2019 Victorious Festival. You will find all the Young People’s Voices stories here as we publish them.
This project is supported by the University of Portsmouth, with thanks to the teams in Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI). It was delivered by University of Portsmouth MSc and PhD researchers Maddie Wallace and Lauren Jones.