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Climate Day at Sidmouth Science Festival

Tuesday 2nd November 2021

Sidmouth Climate Day at Sidmouth Parish Church

After 6 months of planning Sidmouth Climate Day finally happened on Saturday 16th October. Planned as part of the Sidmouth Science Festival, it was also the latest in the series of events run on behalf of Sidmouth Churches under the “Our Fragile Earth” banner. This year the focus shifted further towards local issues and local involvement.

The day started early with a complete transformation of the church interior to accommodate eleven displays relating to making life in the Sid Valley more sustainable. The Sid Vale Association brought a big display from their recent 175th anniversary celebrations. Fairtrade reminded us of the importance of fair trading conditions and wages for producers - and offered free samples! The Arboretum brought trees and information on how to choose appropriate planting for local conditions - bearing in mind how climate change will alter those conditions. Sid Valley Biodiversity showed a fascinating display relating to the health of the River Sid and the soils in the valley. The Plastic Warriors reminded us of the dangers from plastic waste and next to them was a display advocating veganism to reduce the impact of food production. The Food Bank advertised their work with those who cannot afford the choices of food that most of us take for granted. Christian Aid brought some great activities for children as well as some very striking and informative displays. The Mustard Seed offered a range of relevant books for inspection and purchase. Finally, Liz Bramley and friends helped all ages to make, decorate and add messages to plastic butterflies, cut from old milk bottles, for sending to COP26, where they will form part of a massive installation. Not so local, but spectacular in its design and impact was a series of four panels on loan from the Melanesian Mission: on climate change, what we can do individually, the biblical basis for action, and the impact on those who live on the islands of Melanesia. A steady if small stream of visitors enjoyed these displays throughout the day.

Towards 3:30pm, numbers increased as people arrived for the second event of the day: a talk by Prof. Peter Stott, based around his book, “Hot Air: The Inside Story of the Battle Against Climate Change Denial”. Sadly, due to illness, Alice Bell was unable to join us

to also talk about her book. Peter gave an audience of 50 a fascinating insight into the development of the science, the challenges of getting it heard by those in power, and the activities of those intent on discrediting and distorting the science. His description of the hijacking of a scientific meeting in Russia for political ends was particularly illuminating. An extended question and answer session followed, with many challenging questions, all of which Peter responded to with helpful information.

The finale of the day started at 7pm. With an audience of just over 60, this evening meeting was focused very much on local response. It was opened by our own Dame Julia Slingo who, in a very brief presentation, firmly established where climate change has got to, and how much we understand. A new aspect of our

page1image4942816 “Moths to a flame” ready for installing at COP26page1image4945728 The Melanesian Mission display alongside Fairtrade and the Sid Vale Association at the Sustainability marketplace

understanding is the mutual dependency between the health of the biosphere and the climate, so that declining biodiversity and climate change are now being seen by scientists as two aspects of the same problem. The meat of the evening was a superb exposition by Doug Eltham, Environment and

Sustainability Policy Officer for Devon Council Council, of progress with the Devon Carbon Plan as our local response to the Climate Emergency. He described how the less controversial aspects had been through public consultation last winter and were about to be published in an interim plan. Three of the more controversial aspects had been debated by a citizen’s assembly in July and results were now being formulated ready for a second consultation ahead of finalisation of the plan next year. While still being strategic - district and local councils will play an important role in deciding the

detail of local implementation - there was an impressive amount of detail across a wide range of issues, including transport, housing and land use. He made it very clear that every aspect of our lives will need to change, and that many of those changes will come rather soon. Doug’s presentation was followed by a lively question and answer session.

The evening was rounded off with four short presentations by local people describing their experience of adopting low carbon technologies. David Wade described his experience with an electric car. Ken Mylne gave a very convincing case for electric bikes, which effectively take away the hard work of cycling up Devon hills. Jon Ball recounted the story of his use of solar power. Finally, Brian Golding described his experience with installation of an Air Source Heat Pump.

We now wait expectantly for the decisions that will be taken at COP26 in Glasgow in a fortnight’s time. As Prof. Stott showed very clearly, the emissions of the next decade will be critical in determining whether the long term warming can be constrained to 1.5oC or even 2oC above pre-industrial temperatures, as the warming effect continues long after the carbon dioxide is emitted. We are already at about 1.2oC above pre-industrial, so action needs to be substantial and immediate.

page2image4768368 Doug Eltham from Devon CC describing how the Devon Carbon Plan was formulated