British Groups Mass Millions of Members to Halt Global Warming

LONDON, UK, September 1, 2005 (ENS) - Some of the largest British campaign organizations, united their millions of supporters today to demand action on climate change. Eighteen groups have joined forces to launch the biggest climate change coalition in British history. Five hundred volunteers formed a giant human banner on London's South Bank to mark the launch of the new movement, called Stop Climate Chaos.

The new coalition wants the Blair government to slash the UK's greenhouse gas emissions and make fighting climate change a key part of its plans to deal with global poverty. The UK holds the European Union Presidency until December 31, a position the coalition wants to see used to cool the global climate.

The National Federation of Women's Institutes, Greenpeace, Oxfam, Christian Aid, WWF, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Friends of the Earth, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, People & Planet and Tearfund are some of the groups in the new coaliton.


Climate activists formed a human spiral this morning in London to urge government action. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace UK)
The coalition will use its base of support "to campaign against government failings while mobilizing public support for government initiatives that reduce the huge levels of carbon dioxide being emitted."

Ashok Sinha, director of Stop Climate Chaos, said this morning, "We're facing a catastrophe, with hundreds of millions of people at risk from severe drought, starvation and disease, and by the middle of the century up to one third of land-based species may face extinction."

"Before this decade is out world leaders like Tony Blair need to live up to their duty to prevent catastrophic climate change," Sinha said. "Politicians can save millions of lives by keeping the average global temperature rise under two degrees Celsius. That's the target. Our supporters are ready for the challenge."

Scientists have said that a global temperature rise of more than two degrees Celsius will trigger irreversible climate warming.

"The time has come to respond with the utmost urgency," said Sinha. "The organizations that have come together today are supported by millions of people who will be called upon to demand the steps that must be taken right now."

In advance of the debut of the Stop Climate Chaos campaign, one of the member organizations, WWF-UK, released a report Wednesday warning that the warming global climate will "wreak havoc on the United Kingdom's marine environment.

In its report "Climate change: Plunging our Seas into Deeper Crisis," the conservation group says that an increase in sea surface temperature will be a major factor in deepening the decline of cod, threatening the future survival of some sea bird colonies, and causing coastal disruption.

power plant

The two gigawatt Eggborough coal fired power station in North Yorkshire owned by British Energy emits clouds of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. (Photo courtesy FreeFoto)
The rising temperature will also impact plankton, the major food source of many fish and the foundation of the entire marine environment, the WWF report shows.

The report predicts that major storm surges will become more frequent. These temporary increases in sea level caused by atmospheric pressures and strong winds will have destructive impacts on coastal areas, causing flooding in the east of England and in the London area, WWF warns.

"Our seas are already under severe pressure from a number of activities such as fishing, oil and gas exploration, and coastal development," said Andrew Lee, director of campaigns at WWF-UK.

"This report shows that climate change has the power to deepen this crisis and to completely turn our marine world upside down, disrupting and changing the entire ecosystem," Lee said.

The North Sea, where plankton is reported to have already changed, is likely to be hit the hardest by climate change. This will have direct impacts on cod populations, already under pressure from fishing vessels, the report warns.

This heightens the urgency for government action to both significantly reduce the UKs CO2 emissions and to bring forward a new Marine Bill, which will protect our marine wildlife and reform the way our seas are planned and managed to ensure they are economically productive and sustainable for future generations," Lee said.


The North Sea as seen from Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear (Photo courtesy FreeFoto)
WWF has been campaigning for five years for this legislation, and the British government has committed itself to introduce a Draft Marine Bill in this current session of Parliament.

The bill should deliver more integrated planning and management for maritime industries and put the marine ecosystem at the heart of all future development decisions, the WWF believes.

WWF is also asking that the bill provide a representative network of Nationally Important Marine Sites which must include a series of Highly Protected Marine Reserves.

"Climate change will cause dramatic disruption to our seas over the coming years," said Emily Lewis-Brown, WWF-UK's marine research officer. "Future planning of our marine environment must take into account the effects of climate change to help our seas adapt to the challenges that will come.

The most striking indication that the planet's climate is changing is that the average surface temperature has increased by about 0.6 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years. The warmest decade of last century was the 1990s, with 1998 being the warmest year on record.

Satellite data indicates that snow and ice cover is decreasing over the surface of the planet. The biggest reductions are occurring in the northern hemisphere, and it is likely that there has been a 40 percent decrease in the thickness of Arctic sea ice since the 1950s.


An oil refinery, Teesport, England. Oil emits greenhouse gases when it is refined and again when it is burned. (Photo courtesy FreeFoto)
Concentrations of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20), have all increased during the past 200 years as a result of human activities. Ice core samples show that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased by 31 percent since 1750.

Three-quarters of this increase in the past 20 years has been a result of burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. It is the greatest observed increase in CO2 for at least 420,000 years.

Compared to the 0.6 degree Celsius increase during the 20th century, temperatures are predicted to increase 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius by 2100. Sea levels are also predicted to continue their rise - somewhere between nine and 88 centimeters.

The results vary because there is a range of possibilities for future greenhouse gas concentrations, environmental responses, population, trade, technology and energy use.

The scientists who contributed to the WWF report also pointed to ocean acidification as a major concern. The acidity of the sea has already reduced from 8.3 to 8.2 and is predicted to decline to 7.6 by the end of the century.

This would be beyond any level of acidity experienced by current marine wildlife and is likely to impact corals, sea urchins and shell fish as well as breeding success of fish, such as cod.

Harbor porpoises and fin whales are most likely to be affected by climate change through the combined impacts of pollution and reduced food supply. This will threaten their breeding success, and in the case of harbor porpoises, WWF says, this is likely to accelerate their decline.

To address global warming, WWFs Climate Change campaign is urging the power sector, the biggest single source of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK and globally, to reduce its emissions by 60 percent by 2020.

It is also calling on the government to take action to meet its target to cut the UKs emissions by 20 percent by 2010.


Last week Greenpeacers blockaded Australia's Newcastle coal power and encircled the huge coal pile, shutting operations for five hours. They were later arrested. August 28, 2005. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)
Stop Climate Chaos says it believes politicians in Britain and throughout the world have so far failed to take anything like sufficient action to tackle the threat. The choices made in the next five or 10 years will determine the extent of the devastation faced by future generations.

With coordinated action and the mobilization of the millions of people that make up its supporter base, Stop Climate Chaos aims to become a potent political force for action.

Greenpeace Executive Director Stephen Tindale was part of the human banner this morning. "With a threat this serious we had to join forces and start speaking with one single powerful voice. When the government does something good we'll be there to back it up, but when it fails we'll be making noise with millions of supporters behind us".

"Climate change should be an electoral issue like schools, hospitals and terrorism," said Tindale, "and that's what we aim to make it."

Sinha said,"We've rightly seen huge movements assembled to fight world poverty, now we're ready to take on what the Prime Minister has called the greatest long term threat the world faces.