Leading article: A dangerous seasonal disorder

Share

The countryside is looking rather peculiar this winter. It seems we have a number of unexpected guests for Christmas. Dragonflies, bumblebees and red admiral butterflies, which would normally be killed off by the frost, can still be seen in some parts of the country. Bigger beasts are here too. Swallows and house martins, which normally fly south to Africa at this time of year, are still lingering.

There are other signs that something strange is afoot. Many trees that are normally stripped to their bark at this time of year still retain their leaves. And wild plants such as oxeye daisies, usually a summer spectacle, are in flower.

Some might be tempted to welcome this late blossoming of the natural world as a delightful diversion from the bleakness of this time of year. But these fluctuations should be cause for concern because it is overwhelmingly likely that they are a consequence of global warming. This winter has so far been the warmest in central England since 1659. And the Met Office predicts a 40 per cent chance that temperatures will continue to be above average into next year.

It is impossible to predict the consequences. If there were to be a cold snap early next year, zoologists are unsure of whether the navigation systems of the birds that have lingered would be able to get them to Africa. The question of competition for food is another concern. The early flowering of berries in spring was an unexpected boost for many species of bird. But the same birds could suffer if they are not produced at normal times. In short, we simply do not know how warmer seasons will effect the ecosystem of these islands.

This is a cause for concern in itself. But all this is also evidence that global warming is occurring at a faster rate than many imagined. And it will not only be the natural world adversely effected by climate change. By the middle of this century, millions of people in the most inhospitable regions of the planet could be forced to flee their homes due to flooding and drought. And as the Stern report made clear this year, none of us will be spared the dire economic consequences of a greatly warmer world.

The naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, who was voted Britain's "greatest living icon" in a BBC poll over the weekend, took a long time to be persuaded of the threat posed by climate change. Now he is convinced. And he has issued an apocalyptic warning of what will happen unless we take radical action to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. These strange winter guests could presage something far more sinister and unwelcome for our planet.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Sales, Birmingham

£70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Head of Sales, Manchester

£70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT)

£100 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Randstad Education are active...

Calling All NQT's

£100 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Randstad Education are active...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prostitutes face a high risk of contracting HIV, yet they are offered little help from the Government  

Want to rid the world of HIV? Then you can start by decriminalising prostitution

Pamela Das
 

Are we politely looking the other way when it comes to Kate, the ever-shrinking Duchess?

Grace Dent
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game