By Clare Boston
Our recent spell of cold weather has once again invoked questions about whether global warming really is happening. Alongside a recent admission from the IPCC that an erroneous estimated date regarding the melting of Himalayan glaciers was published in their 2007 report and last month’s ‘ClimateGate’, climate-sceptics are armed with ‘evidence’. Yet, whilst this December was the coldest in the last 14 years in the UK, the Arctic Oscillation actually caused higher than average December temperatures in the Arctic. However, as Richard Betts from the Met Office discusses in the BBC Online Green Room, there is a difference between weather and climate. It is not these isolated weather events that scientists are worried about, but mean annual global temperatures, which have shown a significant trend upwards over the last few decades, with five of the warmest years on record since 1998.
Andrew Sayer, in a recent commentary in Area, asserts that geography has yet to fully address the big questions of climate change, such as “can it be prevented?” and “is capitalism capable of forestalling it?” He provides an insightful discussion on whether global warming can be slowed under capitalism and the chances for a greener future. In light of the failure of politicians to deliver a binding agreement on emissions reductions during December’s summit in Copenhagen, his pessimistic conclusion is even more poignant.