COP 26 – Why all the fuss?
COP stands for Conference of the Parties and is an annual meeting of representatives from over 190 countries from around the world, to assess the effects of measures introduced to “stabilise greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-induced) interference with the climate system.” It is part of the United Nations Climate Change Framework.
COP meetings started in 1995 and the latest was held in Glasgow in 2021. The ambitions of the meeting were to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, to limit global warming to well below 2°C and to aim for 1.5°C. Why is the 1.5°C target so important? Well, it must be remembered that we are talking about global average temperatures, and that 1.5°C represents a huge amount of additional stored heat, mainly in the oceans. The effects of this extra heat are already being seen around the world in extreme weather events (forest fires, flooding, extreme heat waves, and even extreme cold because weather is becoming more uneven across the globe).
So why is 1.5°C so important? Because that is about the level at which dangerous and irreversible changes will happen (such as melting of the arctic permafrost releasing huge amounts of GHG) and many earth systems will pass what are called tipping points. And make no mistake, the climate crisis is not something which will happen if we pass 1.5°C – the climate crisis is already here and it's going to get worse. What can we expect from now on? More extreme weather events; declining food availability including crops, livestock and seafood; mass migrations and rising political tensions; increasing species extinctions; water shortages. And that's not including the effects of the Covid pandemic and the global financial problems.
Has COP26 delivered on its promise of real change to limit global temperatures? Probably not, because most of the commitments are voluntary, the targets have been weakened and the hope of staying at or below 1.5°C is barely alive. At the last-minute China and India insisted on rewording “phasing out” coal consumption to “phasing down ”; the UK government and banks continue to fund fossil fuel projects; and the UK refused to end tariffs on environmentally friendly green goods. Sadly, yet another round of ‘blah, blah, blah'.
In aid of Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance
My trip out from Bridlington – not quite what I expected.
Some of you may remember that I was planning to row solo across the Atlantic later this year. After 18 months of Covid lockdowns I finally arranged to take my boat, now renamed Anna Belle, out from Bridlington for a couple of days of training. Over the spring months I had sorted through all my kit and food and had stored most of it on the boat. I checked the radios and satnavs, planned my trip and arranged to moor the boat for a couple of nights in Bridlington Harbour.
On Sunday evening, I was helped by one of the harbour men to launch the boat and get her tied up. A couple who had been watching from a nearby café later approached me to ask about the trip and then promised to make a donation online to one of my charities. I slept on the boat and set off into the North Sea at about 8:00 a.m the next morning. The first part of the journey, about 4 miles east from the harbour, went smoothly and took me about 2 hours and then I stopped for a break. I had intended to row east for about 8 miles but fortunately I decided to start back towards the harbour, with the option of doing an additional few miles south if I felt like it. I didn't! The tidal flow and the wind were against me. Try as I might to steer 270° to return to the harbour the boat would swing abruptly to the south or north and I just couldn't keep her straight. It became a prolonged battle but after about 4 hours I was within reach of the harbour, tired and dispirited. Eventually I got the boat moored again and packed up to come home!
Nothing particularly dramatic happened on the trip, but while I was struggling to steer the boat a little voice in my head was saying “You can't do this” and the more I thought about it the more I realised that the voice was right. I am not physically or mentally able to take on the challenge of rowing across the Atlantic! It has not been an easy decision to make and it has left me feeling defeated and quite depressed at times, but I know it's the right decision!
The last few months have been difficult for various reasons, and of course COVID-19 has added another layer of challenge to an already scary task. The weather over the winter months has been unhelpful to say the least. I didn't expect to get out on the water very often but it turned out to be not at all. Wind, rain, and cold all conspired to keep the boat (and me) decidedly house-bound.
A couple of weeks ago I had a pacemaker fitted for a minor but troublesome cardiac arrhythmia (my pulse kept dropping very low), so I've been unable to exercise at all since then. I should be able to restart at the weekend.
And now the virus! House arrest almost. No idea when I can get the boat out because of social distancing (I need someone to help me launch). Besides all that, as a doctor, I've volunteered to help out at Grimsby Hospital and I don't yet know when and how much I'll be needed.
But good things can come from bad, and it's been very heartening to witness lots of simple acts of kindness, people reaching out to help others. I've been chatting to strangers in the street (keeping 2 meters apart!) and generally there's an atmosphere of cameraderie. Perhaps that will continue after this has settled down. I do hope so.
I now have my boat! She is called Darien and has previously had two owners. Elsa attempted to cross the Pacific 3 years ago but was blown off course by bad weather and eventually was forced to give up. Damian Browne, an Irish international rugby player, then bought Darien and he successfully crossed the Atlantic last year. Now she's on our drive and I'm slowly getting her prepared for more maritime adventures. I hope to be getting out onto the North Sea with my mentor, Chris Martin (also an ocean rower), in the next few weeks.
Richard busy preparing Darien in June 2019.
Training is coming along steadily, but I've got a long way to go. At the moment I'm doing 2-hour stints on the rowing machine 4 or 5 evenings a week, a total of 8 - 10 hours per week. That will have to increase to at least 50 hours a week by next summer in order that my body is as prepared as possible for whatever the ocean will throw at me. Preparing for 3 months of solitude on an unpredictable ocean is a completely different kind of challenge!
Walking Land's End to John O'Groats
I decided to start walking from Land's End at the beginning of March. It was to be a solo camping trip, carrying everything in a trailer. The Beast from the East delayed my start by six days, but for the first couple of days the weather was dry. Skirting Bodmin Moor there was heavy rain and wind, but my weatherproof clothes kept me warm and dry. I stopped in Launceston for a rest day with my Mother and some old friends accompanied me on the start of the next section.
In Cornwall I had my first technical problems: one wheel of my trailer fell off. I got it fixed in Truro but a few days later another part snapped. The final disaster left one wheel dangling inelegantly south of Bristol. I abandoned the trailer and reverted to a rucksack.
As soon as I started I was struck by the kindness of strangers. I carried a sign saying “Land's End - John O'Groats for “Global Angels” and most days people would stop to ask me what I was doing, or give a donation. In the evenings I would knock on a door, explain what I was doing, and ask if I could camp in their garden. The answer was almost always ‘yes' and frequently accompanied by tea and food.
Leaving Bristol I joined the Sharpness to Gloucester canal, a joy after the scary traffic on busier roads. The peace was delicious and there were no hills! Going through the Midlands I had to spend longer on busy roads and walking through large conurbations like Coventry and Warwick. I met up with Anna in Derbyshire for a day of rest but setting off the following morning was difficult psychologically: I really wanted to go home.
My next stop-off was with family in Preston: again some lovely stretches along canal paths with my brother. Preston to the Scottish border was quite tough, particularly over Shap, where it was rainy and windy, but when I reached Gretna I was delighted to have made it to Scotland - only 360 miles to go!
I was getting tired by now but had fantastic support from friends and family via Facebook and texts. I did a video ‘blog' most days and enjoyed getting feedback in the evenings. The last week I pushed hard and was doing about 30 miles a day, keen to get home.
Finally reaching Duncansby Head, the real end of the road, was an emotional moment, looking out at the sea and remembering the previous 6 weeks. My strongest memory was of the kindness and generosity of strangers. It had been a wonderful experience and opened the door to my next adventure - rowing across the Atlantic.
"The needs of this world seem overwhelming. Together we can change the course of history and turn things around. Everyone has their chance to make their mark on the world and leave a legacy that counts. That has become my life's passion. I invite you to join me.. Step Up and Be an Angel!"
Molly Bedingfield CEO of 'Global Angels'
Richard told us about his planned walk in early in 2018
"I am planning to walk this iconic route starting in early March 2018 and hopefully completing the trek in one go. I'll be camping as much as possible but will stay with friends and family along the way so that I'll be clean and dry at least now and then!
Why am I doing it? I keep asking myself that question and will probably ponder it much more when I'm plodding along in the rain! Partly it's because I just want to know if I can, and how I'll react when the going gets tough. The other big reason is that I want to raise money for, and awareness of, a charity called Global Angels. Global Angels ( https://globalangels.org/ ) is a wonderful charity doing amazing work in some of the poorest places on earth. Since its inception in 2005 it has provided safe drinking water to over 160,000 people, provided medical care to another 170,000 and trained 60 medics. Over 2 million meals have been supplied through a school feeding programme and over 13,500 children are being educated in schools or classrooms built by Global Angels. Currently a pilot programme in Tsavo, Kenya is bringing water, education, energy and social empowerment to 2,000 people with a projected roll-out to 20,000 by 2023. Global Angels is actively supported by such celebrities as Prince Harry, Bear Grylls, Molly, Natasha and Nikola Bedingfield, Hayley Westenra and many others.
If you would like to support me please see my Just Giving page and you can follow my training and the walk itself I'll be posting updates regularly on Facebook ( http://bit.ly/2tNYyEw ). And if you fancy joining me for an hour or two (or more if you like!) I'll be keeping my proposed route updated on Google Maps ( http://bit.ly/2v7HJZg ). You can also contact me directly on 07711 494676 or email me at RWJHarries@gmail.com .
Thank you ....... Richard Harries, Consultant Radiologist
The weather has been unseasonably warm recently, so is that good? There have been news items about groups like Extinction Rebellion and School Strike for Climate, which have hinted at changes which might affect us. But that's all in the future. Isn't it?
Unfortunately not! It's happening now and it's extremely worrying. Are there things we should do, here in Middle Rasen, to either prevent these terrible events or to prepare ourselves for what is coming? The answer is 'Yes', and one of the best things we can do is talk about what is happening, how it may affect us, and what we can do in our village.
Climate change has been known about for decades and the first international conference was held in Geneva in 1979. Since then there have been the Kyoto protocol, the Copenhagen Agreement and the Paris Accord in 2016. The IPCC was set up in 1988 and produced it's first report in 1990, detailing the science behind climate change. The sixth report is currently being prepared and the message is that catastrophic changes can be avoided only if there is a major reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
Judging by our government's stance we could be forgiven for assuming there is no real urgency. We recycle, walk to the shops and try not to waste, so that should be enough shouldn't it? Well unfortunately few countries are keeping up with their commitments to the Paris agreement and it looks like limiting warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels is very unlikely.
One of the major problems will be the lack of food. Changing weather patterns mean more extreme weather events with disruption to crop production. This could lead to 'multiple bread basket failure', with raised prices for foods such as grain, and widespread starvation. Add to this the depletion of fresh water supplies and we have a recipe for massive humanitarian crises and mass migration from poor countries. Inevitably there will be conflict between the 'haves' and 'have nots'.
There are other worrying trends: increasing population, loss of plants and animals (some say we are in the sixth mass extinction), changes in oceans, loss of ice and pollution of land, air and seas.
If you would like to meet and discuss what the future may hold for Middle Rasen please contact me by email ( RWJHarries@googlemail.com ) or phone (07711494676).