Media ignored alarming increase in methane levels

Chris Broome’s analysis is spot on. Sheffield Climate Alliance, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Green Party and many other green groups have been campaigning for  40 years, but petitions, marches, letters to MP’s have largely been ignored by those in power, and greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise. It has taken the radical action of Extinction Rebellion to get the nation talking about the issue of climate catastrophe and both Parliament and Sheffield City Council have been forced to admit that there is now a Climate Emergency.

Extinction Rebellion’s first demand is that the Government must tell the truth about the impending climate and ecological catastrophe. This is still not happening, and the media are continuing to ignore the matter. This is far more important than Brexit or Boris Johnson!

On May 27th it was announced that scientists have discovered alarming increases in the concentration of methane in the atmosphere. Methane is a gas far more potent in its ability to heat our planet than carbon dioxide. Scientists report that this increase in methane threatens to eliminate all the anticipated gains of the Paris Climate Agreement, so we are back to square one. Yet the media chose to ignore this story.

Since declaring the emergency Sheffield Council have promised to move electricity supplier to a green provider and have appointed a cabinet member for Climate Change. I hope this will now lead to big changes in approach and that Sheffield will be known for planting trees rather than chopping them down, reducing traffic rather than widening roads for it, cleaning up our air rather than letting its citizens suffer from illegal levels of pollution, and increasing our biodiversity rather than spraying our streets and parks with toxic chemicals.

The Government have not yet managed to announce a single policy that will improve the situation.Indeed by pressing ahead with airport expansions, HS2 and increasing VAT on solar they are pushing fast in the wrong direction. The solutions are all available, we just need politicians who are willing to act and not be influenced by the oil lobby. The mega-rich shareholders of oil companies have far too much influence on our decision makers.

When this country goes to war the Government has no problem in finding the money for missiles and bombs. We must now move to a war footing to safeguard our children’s future, by halting biodiversity loss and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.


Graham Wroe


1.       Unexpected surge in global methane levels.


Humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals

6th May 2019

Neville Martin’s Star letter of May 6th should be taken as seriously as a Boris Johnson promise on the side of a bus. A quick Google of the Deep Water Horizon disaster shows it has caused long-lasting problems.

Oil residues have altered the basic building blocks of life in the ocean by reducing biodiversity in sites close to the spill, which occurred when a BP drilling rig exploded in 2010, killing 11 workers and spewing about 4m barrels of oil into the Gulf.1

Researchers took sediment samples in 2014 from shipwrecks scattered up to 93 miles from the spill site to study how microbial communities on the wrecks have changed. Scientists found biodiversity has flattened throughout the area.

The oil spill is just one example of how people are destroying our planet and the amazing abundance of creatures we have on it. In a report released todaythe United Nations have found that over 1 million species are in grave danger of extinction.

450 of the world’s leading scientists have warned our society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems. This is the most thorough planetary health check ever undertaken.

Corporations are destroying our forests, overfishing and polluting our seas, poisoning our land, ruining our soils and using our atmosphere as a giant chemical waste disposal unit.  

Nature is being destroyed at a rate ten to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10m years, according to the UN global assessment report.

The world’s 7.6 billion people3 represent just 0.01% of all living things. Yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of the plants, while livestock kept by humans abounds.

Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion are quite right to tell us to panic as if our house is on fire. Governments and our own Council need to start taking emergency action now.

Graham Wroe






There is no time to play party politics in an emergency

I am very pleased that Labour Candidate Ruth Milsom understands the urgency of climate change and wants the Council to commit to becoming zero carbon by 2030. (letters 9.3.19) I  hope she can persuade her colleagues in the Cabinet to make this a reality.  I am also pleased that she wants to work with others to make this a success. I am sure Sheffield Council will have the full cooperation of all the various green groups to help them meet their targets if the Council choose to cooperate with them.

It will be very difficult to become carbon neutral by 2030 but 25 Councils around the country have already pledged to do this. It is the United Nations that have declared we must halve our emissions by then or risk the future of a totally uninhabitable planet. If Council officers say it is not possible then for the sake of life on this planet Councillors must tell them to think again.

My letter was not about party politics, but Ruth has chosen to turn it into an attack on the Green Party. I will judge the Council on its deeds not its words. Since the declaration of a climate emergency, the Council has continued with its plans to expand the ring road which will lead to more traffic and more emissions. The Labour Party continue to campaign for more economic growth which will exacerbate the problem.

Meanwhile, there have been more scientific reports published making it clear that the situation is even worse than we thought. The recent discovery1 that the concentration of methane in the atmosphere is rising sharply, when the Paris climate accord had assumed that it would by now be falling, puts in question our ability to keep global warming below 2 degrees C- a target that many scientists think is too high to avoid a “hothouse earth” scenario where the planet becomes uninhabitable.

We are living through the 6th mass extinction.  You were probably taught that previous extinctions were the result of asteroids. In fact, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs were caused by climate change produced by greenhouse gases2. 252 million years ago carbon warmed the planet by five degrees. This was accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane in the Arctic and ended with 97 per cent of all life on Earth dead. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a faster rate; probably at least ten times faster. The rate is accelerating.

This is an Emergency and there is no time to play party politics.  We need urgent action to be taken by all levels of Government, businesses and individuals now.

Graham Wroe



2. Extinction


Sheffield should go Carbon Neutral by 2030

Sheffield Star 13th Feb 2019

Dear Editor

At the Full Council meeting I presented a petition of over 400 names, collected in less than a week, calling on Sheffield to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Climate change is now an emergency. The 2018 State of the Climate report says that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the 2015-2018 making up the top four.

The UN told us last year that we only have 12 years to reduce our carbon emissions or the planet will heat beyond 1.5 degrees C. By that time my 3-year-old granddaughter will still not be able to vote, but the future of the planet may have been determined as uninhabitable.

As the world gets hotter feedback loops kick in, which are predicted to lead to ever increasing temperatures, the “hothouse earth” scenario.

Massive forest fires have been spreading in Tasmania and in California. Drought has increased, making fires more likely. The burning forests releases a massive store of carbon into the atmosphere, further adding to the greenhouse effect. The destroyed forest no longer soaks up the CO2, so even more CO2 warms the atmosphere.

In the arctic the ice reflects the sun’s rays. But warming has been melting the ice revealing the dark water. This absorbs the energy from the sunlight, warming the water and speeding ice melt.

Around the arctic the permafrost is melting releasing large amounts of methane, which is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. Phil Camill described this as “unplugging the refrigerator in the far north. Everything that is preserved there is going to start to rot”.

These feedback loops mean that once climate change really gets going there will be no stopping it.

We can expect food shortages, starvation, far more extreme weather, wars over resources and massive movements of migrants around the world fleeing uninhabitable countries.

This is an emergency. We need rapid action to reduce our emissions. This won’t come from individual changes in lifestyle, we need systemic changes from Government, including local Government, to help us all do the right thing for the planet. At the heart of this must be the end of the worship of economic growth.

The Labour motion failed to set targets for urgent action. It is no use saying, “Our house is on fire, this is an emergency” but then saying, “Let’s ask a committee to report back in 6 months to see if we should call the fire brigade”. It is an emergency, so the Council should have acted like it is an emergency and called the fire brigade!Yours sincerely

Graham Wroe


Video of the petition hand in is here.
The petition is here

About the Author

Graham Wroe has been a member of Sheffield Green Party since the early 1980’s. He has stood in many elections and been involved in many campaigns, such as the campaign to shut down Sheffield’s highly polluting incinerator, the campaign to keep the bridge over Sheffield Station open to the public, the campaign to rescue one of his students from deportation and Save Norfolk Park Trees. He is now active in Extinction Rebellion Sheffield where he has campaigned to get the local press to tell the truth about climate change. Following this campaign he was offered a regular column in the Sheffield Telegraph. Views expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent any of the organisations I support.

Fitzalan Square trees destroyed

On Sunday 20th May, at 6am in the morning, Amey workmen cut down the four beautiful healthy plane trees in Fitzalan Square. They came like thieves in the night, as they were aware that they were doing this without the consent of the people of Sheffield. Yes, they had gone through the process of pretending to consult, ignoring the petition of 3189 people, ignoring the advice of the Council tree manager and attaining planning permission to “redevelop” the square. So now the city centre is totally bereft of mature trees that soak up particulates, improving our air quality, give us shade in hot weather and soak up  water to help prevent flooding when it pours. They will be replaced with new trees but I can’t find any mention in the Council documents of the species. I fear they will be smaller trees not capable of the eco services the plane trees offered, especially hosting many birds that used to cheer up our city centre.

Photo by Cuthbert Baines
Fitzalan Square in 2017

It is so sad that our Council do not value trees. It is ironic that one thing they are making room for in the Square is air quality monitoring equipment. Without the trees the air quality will be far worse.

As we await news of what happens next with the Streets Ahead contract, here is another clear example of why the Labour Council should not be trusted with looking after our environment.

Yours sincerely

Graham Wroe

Save Norfolk Park Trees


1.       The Council tree officer wrote

 “Removal of these four trees will have a significant impact on the immediate area. The city centre has the lowest percentage tree cover in Sheffield and there are relatively few large trees within the area. Visually, the trees provide a natural living feature that helps to soften the harsh lines of the existing built environment. The trees play an important role in trapping and removing pollutants from the surrounding air as well as providing dappled shade for users of the square. The canopies also help to break up wind movement that may otherwise funnel between the buildings. All four trees are well established with a significant 
potential longevity. All are considered to be in their prime. “

2.       The petition can be found here.

3.       Attached is a photo of the Square after the trees were destroyed, taken on Sunday morning by Cuthbert Baines