Among the many crises besieging us right now, climate change is probably the hardest to ignore. Daily, it seems, come reports of thousands – many thousands of people – dying in floods, earthquakes and wildfires, along with deaths from persistent famine in many parts of Africa.
Faced with these facts, it is extraordinary that there are people here who downplay Britain’s role in the emission of greenhouse gases, the fundamental cause of the disasters.
A favourite comparison is with China, where China’s emissions from fossil fuels are 28 per cent of the world’s total while the UK’s are only 1.1 per cent.
But this does not compare like with like. China’s population is 22 times greater than Britain’s and its land area 39 times larger. Thus comparing like for like on population, the UK and China are not very far apart, and on land area, our emissions are significantly greater.
Nothing is more important than the loss of lives, but these can seem like distant tragedies for some in the cooler, developed countries. It is when their own comforts and pleasures are disrupted that they might take notice.
One area where such folks may sit up and listen is international sport, with doubts arising over the football World Cup finals due to be played in the summer of 2026 across Canada, the United States and Mexico.
Heat and humidity
Just two weeks ago, the Russian tennis star Daniil Medvedev warned that “One day a player is going to die.”
He was referring to the heat and humidity he had encountered at the US Open in New York. Many of the proposed World Cup football venues could be hotter than New York.
Across the summer months of 2023, some 96 per cent of the US population experienced an “extreme heat” alert, with 175 cities enduring at least a week of such conditions.
Phoenix, Arizona hit an all-time high of 48C on July 15, with 19 consecutive days at 43C.
All this suggests Fifa could face serious questions about how, or indeed whether, the World Cup finals should take place there and then.
Scientists have been warning of the need for decarbonisation for 30 years but their warnings have been mostly ignored, meaning the world has to act far faster than originally necessary to avoid catastrophe.
Four simple steps are widely urged for this nation:
1. Insulate your house.
2. Cut down travel by car.
3. Reduce consumption of beef.
4. Make these changes permanent.
But what will it take before such measures are adopted?
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One of this country’s most cherished institutions is the local pub, where regular customers gather to drink beer, play darts or dominoes and chat with friends. Could the future of this centre of social life be in jeopardy?
Two pubs a day closed in England and Wales in the first half of this year, 383 in total – almost as many as the 386 which put up the shutters in the whole of 2022. They were mostly demolished or converted to other use. Changes in leisure habits and rising costs are among the reasons cited for closures.
The long shutdown of the pandemic persuaded many pub-goers to buy beer at the supermarkets and drink at home in front of the television set, a habit that has become regular for some.
Add to this energy costs going up 80 per cent year on year, high business rates and increased alcohol prices and the pressures on both landlord and customer become apparent.
Wales lost the greatest number of pubs in the first half of the year, with 52 disappearing, while London and North West England lost 46 each.
A pressure group, the Campaign for Pubs, warned that even profitable pubs were being lost due to landlords wanting to demolish or convert their hostelries for housing.
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A wife wanted to know how much her husband loved her. “If I died tomorrow and you married again, would you give your new wife my jewellery?” she asked. “Of course not,” he said. “Or any of my clothes?” “No, honey, certainly not.” “What about my golf clubs?” “Definitely not,” replied the husband emphatically, “she’s left-handed.”
A man was sitting in a bar downing shots of whisky when one of his friends came in. “Joe,” said the friend, “I’ve known you for years and I never saw you drink. What’s up?” Said Joe, “My wife just ran off with my best friend.” “But Joe,” protested the other man, “I’m your best friend.” Said Joe: “Not any more. He is.”
During a heated argument, a husband said to his wife, “Admit it, the only reason you married me was because my aunt left me two million pounds.” “Don’t be ridiculous,” the wife replied. “I didn’t care who left it to you.”