South Lakeland District Council Leader Giles Archibald and Environment Portfolio holder Dyan Jones urge people to help the council tackle climate change

THE sun may have been shining for the last few weeks but here in South Lakeland we know all too well what it’s like to have our fair share of extreme weather.

That’s why the recent news about the melting of the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica is particularly significant.

The glacier is the size of Florida and if it all melted, which scientists fear is increasingly likely, it would raise sea levels by between two and a half and three feet. This would almost certainly result in more extreme storm surges, flooding, and irreversible damage and changes to our British coastline in the not too distant future.

Not to mention the potentially catastrophic consequences for people living in Bangladesh, the Netherlands and the Pacific Islands. Indeed places like the Maldives, with a population of more than 400,000, will almost certainly be underwater within the next century.

So what’s happening? In a nutshell, human behaviour has released substantial greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, leading to a significant global warming of the climate. The greenhouse gases are mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and by certain agricultural practices and include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, to name but a few.

This may sound like a lot of hot air and scaremongering to some people but the reality is, if we carry on the way we are, there will be serious consequences – perhaps not in our lifetime but certainly during our children’s and grandchildren’s.

Millions of people’s freshwater supplies around the world will be contaminated from rising sea levels, disease will spread, as many as 20 to 30 per cent of known species will become extinct, and weather systems will become more violent. That inevitably means more storms, more droughts and, as many of us sadly know all too well, more flooding.

While governments around the world have agreed that we have a serious problem and have started to take steps to address the issue, the current measures are generally agreed to be insufficient. So what can we do?

As a local authority, we need to step up to the challenge and lead from the front. By working with communities, businesses and local groups, we are committed to finding ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

We have been actively investigating making our buildings more sustainable and procuring more fuel-efficient vehicles, as well as encouraging the installation of hydro-electric turbines in rivers, and planting more trees.

But, of course, this is just the start. By working with partners such as the Environment Agency, national park authorities, and Cumbria County Council, we can help people adapt to those inevitable changes in weather patterns. This includes making individual properties more resilient, but also ensuring our towns and villages are protected.

So, for example, following Storm Desmond we administered grants worth £3.45 million to more than 1,300 applicants so residents can safeguard their homes from future flood damage.

In both Kendal and Ulverston, there are major works to improve flood defences, and there is an expectation by our council’s planning department that any new developments now need to factor in the impact of higher levels of rainfall.

But we know we can do more and that’s where we need your help. We are proposing to hold a series of round table meetings across the district next month to get your views on how we can all work together in the ongoing fight against climate change.

The first meeting will be at the Marchesi centre, Windermere, at 2.30pm on July 6. Meetings are also being scheduled for Ulverston, Grange and Kendal, at different times of the day.

If you cannot attend a meeting, send us your thoughts. We want to hear your views.