from: Keith Briffa <k.briffaatXYZxyz.ac.uk>
subject: Re: FW: request from the Evening News
to: "Mantell, Rowan" <Rowan.MantellatXYZxyzhant.co.uk>
At 12:18 16/08/2006, you wrote:
I am a feature writer with the Norwich Evening News working on a piece on the science
I am writing about some of the climate change events happening during the festival and
would like to include info from the local experts taking part.
I am asking some of the climate change scientists the same three questions and wondered
whether you would be kind enough to answer them. I realise you must be very busy right
now and brief, single sentence, answers would be absolutely fine.
hope the following suffice - best wishes
My questions are:
What is the future for Norwich and Norfolk? (in terms of our climate, our coastline,
what we might be growing in our gardens, the pests and diseases we might have to contend
I am confident that we will continue to experience a steady increase in the warmth of
winters and summers over the decades to come. There will be the odd hiccup now and then ,
as the year to year variability of our climate can mask the underlying trend, or some
explosive volcanic eruption in the tropics causes a cold wet summer. As the years pass
though, the warmth of this summer will become the expectation rather than being seen as
the unusual event that it was. It is hard to say what will happen to our rainfall, but I
expect dry summers , and protracted dry spells to increase in frequency and our
appreciation of the true value of water , ecologically and economically, will change the
way we use it.
The rise in sea level that we have seen over the last decade and more will continue
relentlessly and the erosion of our coasts may even accelerate. There are all sorts of
unknowns associated with future warming - for example, a major enhancement in the appeal of
this region for tourists is likely, but it might be tempered by an increase in the
incidence of malaria! The biggest unknown to my mind, however, is the way people will
react to the ups and downs of temperature in the coming years. Norfolk folk are generally
very independent and somewhat cynical . This might slow the adoption of the sort of
lifestyle changes we could all reasonably make in response to the threat of the unknown.
What three things should we be doing to avert climate disaster? (anything from low
energy light bulbs or not flying to not having children or panicking and moving
We should be truly conscientious about not wasting energy. This might seem patently obvious
but I suspect that there is virtually no one who does not leave the television or stereo on
standby for hours, or leaves lights blazing in corridors or rooms when they are empty. Even
replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs really adds up in energy (and cost )
savings over the year. In other words, actually trying to do the obvious things can make a
difference . Just like preserving water and recycling rubbish, this is just good common
sense regardless of the threat of climate change. Making your opinions known to decision
makers and service providers is really worth while - supermarkets use the excuse that
"people demand choice all year round" for sourcing goods from around the world. Telling
them clearly that we prefer local produce helps local farmers and reduces the emission of
greenhouse gases at the same time.
What, if anything are you doing? (both in terms of researching and publicising the
problem and making your own lifestyle choices.)
In terms of research, I am focusing on trying to understand the causes of climate
variability - both natural and man-made. We need to understand how much and why our climate
can change naturally , before we can improve our predictions of how it might change in the
future. I work at reconstructing the past, and studying those things that can make it
change, and using this information to test climate models that provide our view of the
future.I try not to get involved publicly in the debate about what we should do and how we
should adapt to the possibility of future changes. These are complex issues for
sociologists and politicians. I prefer to work on reducing the uncertainty in the knowledge
they need to debate and react to the threat of change. As far as lifestyle goes, I try to
be sparing with my use of resources - but I live with the frustration of having to drive 30
miles and more a day because of the lack of any practical public transport from my home in
Deopham, and I spend far too much of my life flying around the world to discuss and
research the problem of climate change.
I would be really grateful if you are able to find time to reply - either by email, or
by phone on Norwich 772421. I will be in work until around 6pm today (Wednesday August
16) and then next week Monday to Wednesday 7.30am to around 3pm.
Thank you so much for your time,
Norwich Evening News feature writer.
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Professor Keith Briffa,
Climatic Research Unit
University of East Anglia
Norwich, NR4 7TJ, U.K.