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Nature Notes - December 2015

Nature Notes

Two striking facts were on the news this evening. One was that we experienced the hottest July day ever in 2015, and the other that we are likely to experience the mildest November weather ever during this month. I write my Nature Notes about a month before it comes out, so you are likely to know if they were right by the time you read this. The fact remains that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at its highest level since records began. This is likely to have profound consequences for nature. I was reading my earlier Nature Notes yesterday so that I could avoid repeating myself too much, and even in 2002 and 2004 I was writing about how extraordinarily mild it was in November and December.

What seems to be happening is that the trapped heat from the greenhouse effect caused by carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere is warming the oceans and large land masses causing more moisture in the atmosphere in some places leading to heavy rain and flooding in some places and drought and forest fires in others. Ice is melting in the Arctic and mountain glaciers, and all this is leading to changes in the ranges of plants and animals. For us humans the consequences are often disastrous with flooded or burnt homes, crop failures, hunger, thirst and heat stroke. In short – it is rather depressing.

So, what can we do? First, we should try to refrain from doing anything that will make things worse. Second, we could watch nature and read the signs and report them where we can. Then for ourselves, we should think positively and live well with nature in the knowledge that all things are interdependent. We depend on nature for all our oxygen, water, food, warmth and shelter. Even our transport systems derive originally from natural things. Nature tells us one thing more than anything else, that is - adapt and survive. This is not as selfish as it sounds. It actually means that organisms that fit in with the rest of nature fill a niche that keeps them healthy by keeping others around them healthy. Animals that eat other animals mostly take those that would not survive in any case. Plants that produce fruit do so to get animals to eat the fruit and the animals disperse the seeds contained therein to places where the seeds can grow. Honeybees collect nectar for their colony and carry pollen between flowers that leads to good fruit and so on. Only by caring for nature will it return the favour.

Dr. Martyn Stenning