FeaturesClimate change: how will it affect Jersey?

Climate change: how will it affect Jersey?

With the exception of people who think Princess Diana was abducted by Bigfoot, it is generally accepted that the actions of humanity are causing dramatic and probably irreversible changes to our natural environment. Some of this is down to heavy industry, Lynx Africa and the failure to recycle enough Evian bottles, but the other 90% is because British families take the selfish decision to fly abroad for holidays rather than getting on a boat to a closer, more traditional destination. Save the planet: visit Trinity. I think it has a ring to it.

What keeps me awake at night is that although we know that the average global temperature and sea levels will inevitably rise, the complicated flows of cold air and warm water around the globe mean that it is much harder to predict the effects on individual bits of the planet. Headline catastrophes like hurricanes, flash flooding and Donald Trump’s hair are already well-known, but what is less understood is the long-term effect of climate change on the most important environments of all: small islands.  To ensure that nothing comes as a surprise, it is essential that we in Jersey consider all possible scenarios – apart from the one where climate change isn’t real and coral bleaching is a conspiracy made up by Greenpeace.

Scenario 1: Jersey gets a lot warmer

At first, this sounds like a great idea. The Island will be guaranteed a summer every year, Jersey Royals can be supplemented by watermelon and mangoes and every home in the island will have its own Fantastic Tropical Garden. The Caymans will no longer hold the crown as “biggest sandpit full of accountants.” This rose-tinted view of Jersey crossed with a Malibu advert is very attractive, which may explain the swivel-eyed hostility towards environmentalism on the part of retired Islanders who read the Daily Mail. Unfortunately, like almost anything contained in the Mail, it is also the least likely scenario. This is partly for solid sciency reasons (our relatively temperate climate is caused by the movements of the Gulf Stream, which climate change may disrupt or end completely) but also because it ignores the social effects of a tropical Europe on our surrounding neighbours. Yes, a few more degrees on the thermostat could mean bikinis in March, but your bikini body will be much less sexy if all the green places that used to grow your food are now impassable deserts roamed by AK47-toting climate refugees. Knowing the French it is likely they would protect us to some degree by eating any hostile zebras that spread upwards from the southern hemisphere, but garlic butter is next to useless on malaria-carrying mosquitoes or cannibal bikers from Mad Max Fury Road.

Odds of a tropical island paradise: 20 to 1

Your odds in the Thunderdome against a mutant biker baboon with Zika: 40 to 1

Scenario 2: Jersey gets much colder

As outlined in scenario #1, Jersey benefits from the warmth generated by global weather patterns. If those fail, then we are more likely to be living in somewhere that resembles Iceland. I don’t mean that we will be surrounded by bottles of Tango and doner kebab pizzas, but that we’ll be eking out a grim existence on a giant freezing rock – with fewer volcanoes than real Iceland but less chance of encountering Björk. We won’t have to worry about mutant antelope, but there is a very real possibility that an ice-bridge from St Malo will expose the Eastern parishes to attacks from wolves, polar bears and frost giants. I will concede that we could probably live without Grouville, but there is no chance that our ice-depressed economy would muster enough cash to build a giant wall and prevent the White Walkers from surging into St Saviours. 

Odds that winter is coming: 3 to 1

Your odds that an estate agent will try and charge you 200 frozen seagulls for an igloo without canoe parking: 1 to 3.

Scenario 3: Jersey is flooded and is lost forever beneath the waves

It is thought that the ancient philosopher Plato invented the myth of Atlantis as an allegory for the hubris of successful, independent city-states that were nonetheless highly vulnerable to global forces outside their control. I’m sure that has no relevance to Jersey whatsoever, but it is inarguable that our most valuable land is only a metre or so above sea level. Although St Helier could certainly do with a wash, it is unlikely that what passes for civilisation in Jersey could survive if town were dragged back into the salty depths. It would be literally impossible to get a hot meal after 8.30pm. Considering how angry Jersey people get when one lane of the avenue is closed, it is easy to imagine the descent into savagery and barbarism that would occur if our entire population had to share the Route du Nord. All that would be left of us for future historians would be a pile of skulls at Fremont Point and some ancient carvings depicting John Nettles fighting an octopus. 

Odds that somebody will release the Kraken: 14 to 1

Odds that your children will evolve gills as a result of agro-chemicals in the water supply: 3 to 2

Scenario 4: Jersey defies the ocean and becomes an island fortress

Even today, the greatest hostility to the science that explains climate change (or indeed any science whatsoever) can be found in those parts of the Island that are closest to sea level. Residents who endure flooding every other year will steadfastly insist that science is wrong, and that it’s merely coincidence that their garden is full of sea lettuce and lobsters are laying their eggs in the downstairs bathroom. On one level this is terrifying, but I always say that if life gives you lemons then you should hoard them to prevent the worst effects of scurvy. No, what I really mean is that we might have to work on turning this dogged refusal to accept the logic of rising water into something of a strength. If the Dutch can survive for centuries by stubbornly insulating themselves against the reality of water and its relationship to gravity, then there’s nothing to stop Jersey just extending its sea walls upwards until we are living at the bottom of a giant chimney. If we build outwards as well as upwards then the sea walls can double as a place to build new flats, and perhaps a very, very steep airport runway. It would be like the city in Bioshock, or the undersea paradise in The Little Mermaid, and you don’t need a singing crab to tell you how great that could be. 

Odds that it’s better down where it’s wetter: 100 to 1

Odds that the Condor Ferry would need to be replaced by the Red October: 7 to 2

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