'Irreversible' global warming claims its first victims of the New Year

A A A

A birdseed factory in Shropshire, a holy lake in China, Baltic Sea fish and new-born hedgehogs have emerged as the first tangible victims of climate change in the year which forecasters predicted this week would be the warmest on record.

The CJ Wild Bird Foods company near Shrewsbury has announced that the demand for its products has all but disappeared, because the mild winter had maintained an alternative supply of berries for finches, tits and other species. Some species, such as the dunlin and purple sandpiper, are disappearing from Britain as they can find enough warmth in Scandinavia. The company, which said fears of bird flu has also discouraged the public from setting up bird feeders, has laid off 22 workers.

The warmer environment is also contributing to the gradual disappearance of the vast Lake Qinghai, a holy site for Tibetans in the remote western province of Qinghai. Despite a Chinese government pledge of £442m to stop the lake shrinking, it will have vanished in two centuries, according to a report by the China Geological Survey Bureau (CGSB). Glaciers on the nearby Qinghai-Tibet plateau have also shrunk by 131.4 sq km annually in the past 30 years. "What that means is that an area of glacier equivalent to twice the size of the Beijing downtown area disappears every year," said the CGSB. A further 13,000 sq km of glacier - nearly 28 per cent of the total glacier area - will disappear by 2050 if no protective measures are taken.

These disparate indicators of the effects of a changing climate surfaced at the end of a week in which Sir John Houghton, director general of the UK's Met Office, told a farming conference in Oxford that climate change was now irreversible. The Secretary of State for the Environment, David Miliband, said yesterday that Britons would have to change every aspect of their lives if they are to tackle climate change. In an interview with the children's newspaper First News, Mr Miliband admitted that people had been "short-sighted" in tackling environmental problems.

More evidence of the consequences of failure arrived yesterday from conservation groups who reported that climate change was causing the deaths of hundreds of baby hedgehogs, born out of season. Confused by the milder autumn months, the creatures are continuing to breed rather than hibernate. This is causing the death of the young who need to grow before they hibernate. Those born in late autumn are finding less food and, rather than hibernate, find themselves at the mercy of cold weather. More than 70 ailing young have been handed in to a centre at Fife, in eastern Scotland, and the Withington Hedgehog Care Trust in Manchester has had a similar experience.

An indication of the effects of climate change on fish has also arrived this week, from a team of German scientists who warned that rising sea temperatures were killing off the eelpout. The fish, which lives in the North and Baltic seas, has been hit by warmer summers, which have increased its need for oxygen at the same time as the water's oxygen levels have dropped. The researchers' studies of the fish's biology showed the first thing to suffer as temperatures rise beyond 17°C was its oxygen supply.

Australia is engaged in its own climate war, with the pace of global warming faster across the country than in other parts of the world, the country's Bureau of Meteorology said. Half of the country was desperate for water and the other half was awash with a year's rainfall for the entire continent. "Most scientists agree this is part of an enhanced greenhouse effect," said the bureau's senior climatologist, Neil Plummer.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015