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The answer is blowing in the wind

Climate change is important and controversial. Some (fewer by the day) argue about how much of it is produced by burning fossil fuels: but there no dispute that climate change is happening.

However, exactly how the climate is changing is not so clear. We know about significant ozone layer losses and that each year tends to be warmer than the last. Yet we have just had a freezing winter – although the Artic had a warm one: we just had its cold air. We expect sea temperatures to rise, but this will break off ice which could help cool the sea down again, at least in the short term. There has been some respite in the record summer temperatures, probably because of an unusual two-year pause in sun spots: but sun spots have now returned to their 14-year cycle.

How might climate change affect the harbour? Melting icecaps mean that sea levels will rise, some say by a few metres, some say by as much as 30 metres or more over several decades. A rise of just one or two metres would bring the tide regularly over the streets of Salcombe, Kingsbridge, Frogmore and South Pool.

But the aspect of climate change which may affect us first is simply that the weather becomes more turbulent and less benign, because of stronger winds and thicker cloud. There may be fewer days of gentle breezes.

Winds are not trivial. Strong winds make agriculture more difficult, so can produce food shortages. For mariners, strong winds create rough seas, make boating less pleasant or safe, and make heavy weather for lifeboat crews. Warmer temperatures mean more thunderstorms. All of this keeps people at home or confines them to harbours. We are already seeing something of this.

The end result may possibly be that fewer people will consider venturing out to sea so will opt for day boats, with correspondingly fewer yachts; perhaps more people will sail within the harbour – in smaller boats, yawls and dinghies – possibly with smaller sails; perhaps permanently-moored houseboats will come into fashion. We may even see some return to windsurfing or the use of boats specifically designed for higher wind speeds. Who knows what the future will hold? But I think the answer is blowing in the wind.

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  1. […] first piece about climate change was ten years ago. May 2011’s article ventured that “the aspect of climate change which may affect us first is simply that the weather becomes more turbu…. The following year the finding came through that, if the Greenland icecap were to melt completely, […]

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