IT WAS standing room only for the first meeting of 2016 and the ninth series of Hexham Debates.

Professor Chris Kilsby, of Newcastle University geosciences department, was the speaker on Climate Change – What’s the Hurry?

The recent Tynedale and Cumbria floods during the wettest December on record added weight to Chris’s view that climate change is a significant and immediate threat to all of us – a problem not to be left only to the politicians.

2015 was the warmest year on record and Chris expects the warming to continue – 20 per cent of the world’s population produces 80 per cent of the carbon emissions which are the main cause of warming.

Sea levels are rising because of melting at the poles.

Since around 1980 in particular, the industrialised countries have been pumping larger amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and these emissions need to be cut immediately.

Prof. Kilsby, a hydrologist, cited research showing that around 40 per cent of the recent abnormal weather is due to climate change.

The use of increasingly sophisticated technology has produced predictions of more droughts in Africa and floods in India/Bangladesh, which are already forcing more people to move into ‘mega cities’ in low-lying areas. The most vulnerable people are those most at risk, he said.

It was agreed at the recent Paris summit on climate change that global warming had to be reduced, but no plan to that end was put forward.

Prof. Kilsby said time was running out, but quoted Nelson Mandela about the likelihood of finding a solution: “It always seems impossible till it’s done.”

Everyone could help reduce harmful emissions by eschewing aeroplanes and cars in favour of trains, bikes and walking, and supporting the emergence of renewable energy.

The Government had retreated from its green agenda, he said, cutting wind power and energy conservation schemes at a time when investment in renewable and exportable energy technology was so obviously needed.

A member of the audience said that instead of relying on politicians, whose priority was simply to win the next election rather than address problems such as climate change, people in Hexham should play their part and begin speaking out about the need to reduce CO2 emissions. This comment gained the loudest applause of the meeting.

Ken Veitch

Hexham Debates Committee