Following last year’s disastrous spring, our current warm weather has been marred by this week’s UN Intergovernmental Climate Change report warning of more extreme conditions and food insecurity unless we take action. Normally I rely on the disappearing mountain snows to herald the advent of spring, coupled with that other more unfortunate indication, the number of hedgehogs emerging from hibernation killed on the roads. Even the exciting glimpses of a lone wolf in the Jura have not mitigated the strident nature of this new IPCC alert.
The 772 scientists involved maintain that we have only a few years to reduce carbon emissions to avoid catastrophe. Sea-level rises and temperature shifts are already disrupting human life and ecosystems with wildfires in North America, the spread of disease in Africa and decreased food production in South America. In the Alps, climate change is altering the composition of permafrost that holds rocks together. Mountaineers say that it is no longer safe to do mixed summer climbing on snow and ice as glaciers retreat and snow-bridges disappear. All this affects tourism, economic infrastructure and agriculture.
Our response has to be immediate. Genevois are proposing that city transport be free to reduce car use. But there will have to be a far greater, more integrated approach, including cycle paths, accessible Park & Ride areas, and cheaper rail travel. Why should it cost less for two people to drive from Lausanne to Paris than take the train? This is where more effective outreach is crucial. So why not use the revenue from traffic fines to fund better public awareness?