The World Service launched The Climate Question podcast and radio programme in November this year. The BBC’s first yearly podcast series looking at climate change on the ground, around the world. So far I’ve been covering pandemics and deforestation in Nigeria, female education, climate adaptation and farming in Kenya, sea level rise in Jakarta and heatwaves in Arizona. But the story that’s stayed with me is from county Antrim.
Climate change for me is no longer about fear; I see it as a time of huge change and opportunity. Growing up in the shadow of the cranes in Belfast, I cant help but think about the work that could happen on wind turbine construction, advanced manufacturing, tidal turbines and more in those often empty yards. Silicon valley obsesses over silicon panel efficiency for panels, battery storage and hydrogen yeilds. But maybe we’ve all got it wrong.
In Antrim, near the sea and where they film sexy medieval fantasy series, lies Garron, a blanket bog. A rare type of peatland covering nearly 4,000 hectares. Now to me a bog was never a very glamorous place – I was often accused of being boggin’, slurs about people’s Ma’s being from the bog abounded. When we visited my grandfather in Omagh, we’d be handed bags of turf for the fire. They were like the Tyrone version of Quality Street. But a bog in Garron has showed me something different.
Peatland globally stores twice as much carbon as forests do, it’s better at sucking up the nasty stuff we pump out and it holds it for longer. There are currently expensive high tech projects around the globe trying to sequester carbon whilst here beneath our feet is a more efficient answer. The UK has 12% of the worlds peatland in only 4% of the land mass which means we could have a global part to play in this nature based solution. Garron alone holds an estimated 5 million tonnes of carbon and as it gets wetter that grows. That is a huge amount. The RSPBNI have been working with farmers to teach them how to restore the bog on their land. If they can convince farmers across the country to restore this landscape then even more carbon is stored, not to mention bio diversity increased.
There’s a twist though. The bogs will hold our sins for only so long. If we continue to drain them and the temperature continues to rise, they will eventually pump out greenhouse gasses at a tremendous rate. Maybe it’s time we looked at the humble bog more fondly, less at technology and my family started buying Quality Street in Tyrone.