RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Climate change is not ‘fake news’

President Trump is a behemoth from a bygone age. We can only enjoy such dinosaurs in a distant time, when they can do us no harm. Dinosaurs were curious animals, even fascinating, and deserve to be studied.

Their look-alike lizards have returned as miniatures to the planet after the originals were wiped out 60 million years ago but we would not want the originals back amongst our civilisation.

I speak of course of the President’s decision earlier this month to go back to a distant time when the creeping paralysis of the fossil-fuel age was unheard of.

Coal-mining gave employment for two centuries; but to attempt to bring back the Pittsburg Pals (‘real men in real hats’) is as dangerous as it would be to open up the pits of Wales, all of which became too deep and out-of-reach anyway thanks to the Victorians. Welsh employment has suffered but that’s the way it goes.

The Chinese have cottoned on to the fact that coal-mining has to stop, having polluted their own atmosphere almost to the point of no return. Their solution is nasty too but has to be done.

They are covering the Tibetan plateau, which they annexed, with mass solar panels. Another pristine wilderness gone; another bit of sticking plaster over the problem of global warming.

Oops; sorry Mr President, I mentioned those dirty words again: yes, they sure are dirty. But who am I to comment on world affairs. Well, two insignificant happenings last month in Sussex seem to indicate the macrocosm in microcosm. It is certain, Mr. President, that you have never heard of a thing called Maniola jurtina. This is a medium sized butterfly commonly found in grasslands across England and which I have studied at Kingley Vale near Chichester.

Together with all the other butterflies on that reserve, I have kept a weekly count of them all for half a century. Meadows browns back in the ‘70s used to start emerging in the last week of June. By the ‘90s the date was 10 June. Gradually that has crept down to 3 June. This year the first one emerged on 31 May.

Most of the other 35 species of butterfly there have been emerging earlier than they used to as well. The second event among the many other examples is the cuckoo.

The artist John Hitchens who lives near Petworth has a twenty year record of first date arrivals of this bird from Africa. Although these dates do not show a straight graph like that of the meadow brown due to wet early seasons holding the bird up in southern Europe, 2017 did produce the earliest of all dates around his home: 7 April. ‘Folks!’ I hear the President declaim, ‘this is a hoax. It’s fake news.’ Well, I still maintain that there must be something in it.