Action Stations; Man-Made Climate Change Began Here and, Argues Will Tucker, We Must Have the Courage to End It

Article excerpt

Byline: Will Tucker

It started here with the industrial revolution, with Boulton and Watt and a steam engine at the Soho Works in Birmingham. The Bloomfield Iron Works was founded in Tipton in 1831. Staffordshire was rich in ironstone and coal and the Black Country was named for its mineshafts and pollution.

Of course, back then, the thought that humankind could one day become a force of nature, capable of changing the climate, occurred to no-one. Today, scientists agree man-made climate change is a fact. Last month the World's business leaders met in Copenhagen to discuss their role in combating global warming. This meeting was the precursor to the main UN Climate Change Conference in December. Sadly, the World's business leaders showed much less vision than their 18th century forebears.

Climate Change costs lives. Oxfam's recent report Right to Survive revealed 250 million people are affected by climate change related disasters each year.

Oxfam is not a Green group - for us climate change is a human rights issue. So let's be clear, in failing to tackle climate change rich countries are effectively violating the human rights of the world's poorest people.

In April I visited Zambia. The country has many problems - HIV, Malaria and terrible poverty. But climate change is adding to Zambian woes.

I saw terrible flooding that had ruined the lives of more than 80,000 men, women and children - devastating crops, polluting drinking water and destroying homes. These are some of the World's poorest people.

Western Zambia has flooded before; but the floods are coming more frequently, they are deeper and wider, and take many more months to drain away.

People have no chance to recover and rebuild their lives between disasters.

I met Biniso Serumbo a 28-year-old father of three who had fled his flooded home for the higher ground of an embanked road. His family lives in a makeshift tent on a strip of dirt road three metres wide and about 4 inches above the flood waters. He said: "We are just surviving; we can get some fish to eat and to sell for porridge but it's too hard." His children received no schooling, they were malnourished and were drinking fetid water.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Severn bursts its banks and our cities flood.

That's why Oxfam's climate change campaign is called Here and Now.

The Midlands remain an industrial and financial heartland. Coventry-based company Eon, intends to build the first coal-fired power station in 20 years at Kingsnorth in Kent. This could have devastating consequences. …