I am having trouble deciding whether Bill McGuire should be regarded as a Cassandra or a Nostradamus (The terrifying truth: Britain’s a hothouse, but one day 40C will seem cool, 18 July). While I have no intention of trying to deny climate change, sea-level rise or the intensification of weather, I find his choice of words unhelpful: “flee”, failures”, “overwhelm”. I do not think that Britain will fall prey to malaria and dengue fever, or that people will flee cities for uplands.
In addition to these cavils about his diagnosis, I am disappointed at the sparseness of the remedies he proposes. Certainly, Britain needs more robust infrastructure. In central Italy, where temperatures reached 40C this week, trains and planes functioned normally. Rail tracks did not buckle and runways did not melt. Like Texas (but not like Sweden), Britain has failed to provide elementary weatherproofing to critical infrastructure. The solutions can be seen all over Europe, as well as further afield. The key word is investment, not expertise.
In recent days, the prime minister has failed to chair Cobra meetings and thus exert leadership. And I have heard that the government has dispersed much of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat as a cost-saving measure. If it has, then we can only conclude that it has given up on the disasters that constantly afflict Britain. The country deserves far better.
This is not, as McGuire describes it, “climate breakdown”. Indeed, the climate remains one of our best resources. “Climate wakeup” might be a more helpful slogan, but only if we can break down the inertia of our decision-makers.
Professor of emergency planning and management, University College London
Bill McGuire makes a valiant effort to warn us of the threat to our planet from human existence and behaviour. But it is decades too late for anything meaningful to be done. The vast majority of the human race are not prepared to pay money or change their lifestyles to save the planet. They weren’t even prepared to change their behaviour to save themselves from Covid, even when people were dying all around them. So to expect people to stop driving fossil-fuelled cars or flying to holiday destinations is wishful thinking.
Meanwhile, humans merrily continue to reproduce as though there was no tomorrow. The condition of the planet is already beyond repair with a population of 7.9 billion. Once it increases to 9.9 billion by 2050, there won’t be any tomorrow. The human race will reproduce itself into extinction. Not good news for human beings, but good news for the planet.
While I applaud your continuing coverage of the climate crisis, I’d like to make a suggestion for future articles that put the fear into people. Please, please, please provide some positive actions that people can take. At the end of his article, McGuire writes: “So be scared, but don’t let this feed inertia. Instead channel the emotion and use it to launch your contribution to tackling the climate emergency.” But what exactly would that be? I work full-time and have a young family, so I’m not time-rich. Having read this article in my lunchtime, inertia is exactly what this is going to feed into. If the aim is to motivate people to make a contribution, give us some hope and a starting point.