Warming world evident in our own backyards

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Those who seek evidence of global warming need look no further than their backyards. The great British winter is melting away. Fourteen of the last 16 winters have been abnormally mild. Only 1995-96 was really cold, and the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit says the chances of another great freeze, as in 1963, are "vanishingly small".

No longer can one write of the English winter, as Byron did, "ending in July to recommence in August". Autumn is ending later, spring starting earlier. British birds breed an average of nine days sooner than in the 1950s; frogs mate up to seven weeks earlier. The growing season has increased by 24 days since 1970. Two-thirds of Europe's butterfly species have moved northwards, some by up to 150 miles.

As reported in The Independent on Sunday two weeks ago, the Inuit and other Arctic peoples have been literally lost for words at the arrival of robins, barn owls and other species for which they have no names. Flowers are blooming on the Antarctic peninsula, where average temperatures have risen by 9C in the past 50 years. The Arctic icecap has thinned by 40 per cent in 30 years. The 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1990.

As facts pile up, it is scepticism to global warming, rather than scenarios of a hotter world, that is becoming science fiction. Michael Crichton - who gave us Jurassic Park - is about to publish a new novel, State of Fear, attacking the "creepy" scientific consensus on climate change. As he arrived in Britain last week to promote the book, he needed only to look out of his hotel window to see the effects of global warming for himself.

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