RBWM Environment and Climate Emergency: What’s the issue?

An RBWM Environment and Climate Emergency was declared on 25 June 2019. But what does it mean? What can we do? How do you and I do it?

RBWM’s Climate Change Commitment

On 25 June 2019, spurred on and rightfully challenged by Sarah Bowden, her daughter, and a group of great people under the RBWM Climate Emergency Coalition, RBWM passed a motion to;
• Continue with the Royal Borough’s ambitious targets to reduce energy consumption at the council by a further 10% on top of the 21% reduction already achieved.
• Lobby government to provide the council with additional powers and resources so that the borough can meet the national commitment of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
• Establish a cross-party working group to undertake an in-depth review of the council’s current carbon footprint and agree on a strategy to enable the Royal Borough to become carbon neutral by 2050.

So, what’s Climate Change all about? What are the predicted effects of climate change? And what can we do about it? Is Climate Change the only thing we have to deal with?


Is Climate Change the only environmental crisis we face?

Before we get to the main blog, it is worth commenting on the complete environmental crisis issue which we are facing which, in total threaten life on earth on a scale unprecedented since the mass extinction of the dinosaurs;
Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, releasing Green House Gases which are causing the Earth to heat up and create dangerous conditions for humans and life on Earth. This is also referred to as Climate Change, or Global Warming.
• Destruction of habitat in which Biodiversity needs to exist, leading to a loss of Biodiversity with the consequential impact on our ability to produce food easily
• Use of plastics, plastics polluting habitats and our rain and water sources, killing millions of animals and causing plastics to enter our food chain to bioaccumulate in humans.
• Overconsumption of resources at a greater rate than the Earth can renew i.e. For most nations, our Environmental Footprint is greater than our Biocapacity to renew, without further depleting the Earth’s resources to danger levels.

There are some solutions that are common to each of these areas, and I will address these in later blogs.


Why are we so worried about Climate Change?

Before I talk about what Climate Change (Global Warming) is, I want to show you a video from the Financial Times, yes the Financial Times, which I hope will be of use.  This points out the consequences of you and I, us, not getting this right quickly enough, starting right NOW.

Climate change: a cry from the future (2050)


What is Climate Change?

  1. Our climate has been fairly stable for thousands of years at safe and predictable temperature levels and weather patterns.
  2. Temperatures started to rise from around 1890 because of the emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) such as Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Nitrous Oxide released from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas.
    NASA Yearly Temperature Anomalies From 1880 to 2019


What is causing Climate Change and Global Warming?

    1. The primary GHG, carbon dioxide, is absorbed by trees and plants as they photosynthesise and grow so,
      • Growing more trees and plants captures carbon dioxide
      • Biodiversity contains carbon in their bodies so, the more biodiversity that is alive, the more carbon you can store.
      • Fossil fuels contain the remnants of millions of years of carbon capture by plants, trees and the bodies of dead sea creatures; We have released these millions of years worth of carbon into the atmosphere in around 100 years!
    2. Greenhouse Gases rise into the upper atmosphere where they persist for decades if not hundreds of years before breaking down by solar and cosmic radiation. This means we have 100 years of GHGs to get rid of!
    3. GHGs act to trap energy from the sun’s rays converting them into heat, which causes global warming


How do you and I make Climate Change worse?

  1. Using fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas products to produce energy for heating, lighting, industrial processes, manufacturing, transport, and cooking generates GHSs
  2. Eating red meat from herbivores, which produce the most powerful GHG methane and, needs a lot of land space to produce the food for our beloved beef and lamb and pork, which reduces the amount of forest area to capture GHGs.
  3. Destroying forests to create farmland (for beef and lamb) also generates GHGs from burning the trees
  4. Expanding cities into green spaces including forests, green spaces, and farmland, both generates GHGs from the soil and, prevents the absorption and capture of GHGS by reducing the number of forests and plant space available to capture carbon dioxide.


How will Climate Change effect us and humans in the future?

  1. Tens of thousands of scientists including 72 Nobel prize winners have signed statements of concern about global warming and the need to act urgently.
  2. Scientists have modeled (predicted) with some accuracy the impact of our current levels of GHG emissions from the use of fossil fuels on the temperature of the Earth and can see scenarios where average temperatures could increase to disastrous levels of +2Cor more – See video above, “Climate change: a cry from the future (2050)”
  3. Scientists and world governments have agreed to reduce carbon emissions to try and achieve the lesser of the damaging levels of +1.5OC.
  4. Scientists have predicted the effects of global warming on the Earth and predict varying levels of catastrophe from;
    • Extremes of weather threatening life and destroying property and land
    • Destruction of habitat
    • Acidification of the oceans which, with the destruction of habitat leading to
    • The collapse of food chains, to feed humans, and biodiversity loss at mass extinction levels
    • Rise in sea levels to destroy certain cities and displace millions of people, resulting in waves of mass migration
      EPA Clues of Climate Change 2017


we only have a few years left to make the changes

How long do we have to take action on Climate Change?

  1. Because it takes hundreds of years for some GHGs to be destroyed by radiation from the sun, GHGs are accumulating in the atmosphere and so making the problem greater and greater, which is why we have a big task.
  2. Scientists predict that if we continue to emit GHGs at current levels, we have only 5 years left before temperature are extremely likely to rise irreversibly to dangerous levels, which is why we have to act now.
  3. Scientists have worked out how much more GHGs we can emit before we reach dangerous levels; World governments have taken these figures and allocated them amongst nations as a maximum amount they can emit before 2050.
  4. As temperature rise, we are seeing the breakdown of existing GHG storage mechanisms in nature, pushing the amount of GHGs up even further, reducing the amount of GHG. This will reduce the actual budget we have left so, as we only have a few years left to make the changes, we ALL have to act quickly and change our lives radically.


Graphic extract from Zero Carbon Britain © Centre For Alternative Technology

What can you and I do to limit Climate Change?

In my next blog, I will set out what needs to change to get to Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and what you and I can do to help reduce Global Warming.

In future blogs, I will talk about Biodiversity, Plastic Pollution, Land Use, and Biocapacity, AND what you and I can do to help preserve the planet.


Accountably yours,


Cllr Wisdom Da Costa, WWRA, Clewer & Dedworth West

Deputy Chair, RBWM Climate Change Cross Party Working Group


Notes, references, and credits



  • This post is part of the WWRA Councillors regular series of Blogs to inform and empower local residents; as promised in their election leaflet
  • It is also to comply with clause v of the Members Code of Conduct which states, “You must be as open as possible about your decisions and actions and the decisions and actions of your authority and should be prepared to give reasons for those decisions and actions.”
  • The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the West Windsor Residents Association (WWRA).
  • Any errors are unintentional so, I would value you bringing them to my intention so I can correct them. You can Email me cllr.dacosta@rbwm.gov.uk