YOU have to act and you have to act now.

That was the stark message from and environmental expert who spoke to Swindon Borough councillors about what they should be doing to combat climate change.

Members were given a private briefing by Dave Knight, a sustainable business expert who runs One Planet in Royal Wootton Bassett.

The idea was to give councillors the information and to let them ask any questions they might have.

“The science is unequivocal on the matter – human activity is heating the planet through the greenhouse effect and our emissions of greenhouse gases that make that worse. It’s clear on the effects of that,” said Mr Knight.

“But it’s been presented for years as a debate.

“Councillors and politicians have had the same information presented like that as the rest of us, so they might not understand how critical it is.

“They were able to ask whether we really are in a climate and environmental crisis, and a lot of emotive language is used like ‘crisis’ and I told them that the science is perhaps under-estimating the effects.

“It’s not about saving the planet. The planet will carry on and be fine – but it is about saving us and our place on that planet.”

In his briefing Mr Knight told 20 councillors that 2014 saw the worst rainfall for 248 years, last summer was the hottest on record in England and that vegetable yields were down by as much as 50 per cent in some parts of the UK.

He showed them a striking slide outlining the dramatic acceleration and growth in the world population, energy use, water use, urban population, fertilizer consumption and international tourism since 1950.

That was compared with similar exponential increases in carbon dioxide and methane emissions, in acidification of the oceans and the temperature of the Earth’s surface, in the loss of tropical forests and ozone in the stratosphere.

Mr Knight told councillors the two most important things the authority could do would be to cut Swindon’s emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases as soon as possible, and to plant woods and meadows as extensively as possible to capture and store emissions and to support biodiversity.

He added: “We have to get to zero carbon by 2025, ideally. We should have started cutting emissions 20 years ago, but they’re still going up by two per cent every year.

“The government has set a target of zero carbon by 2050, and Swindon council has an aspiration to be there by 2030.

“There’s a lot local authorities can do – building regulations and planning, economic development, education up to a point, transport and roads, of course waste and trading standards.”

“It needs to collaborate very strongly with everyone else – businesses, community groups – to really make this happen.”

Council leader David Renard was impressed by the briefing.

He said: “There wasn’t anything that wasn’t expected, but it was very factual and based on solid research.

“It allowed members to ask a lot of questions about the challenges we face.

“It’s clear that we have to act urgently.

“The costs of not acting will greatly outweigh the costs of acting.

“The council can do some things, but it’s clear we are all going to have to change our behaviours.

“This is something that everybody has to do.

“We can lead and we need to be able to help people to make changes to their behaviours. It’s something we all have to do.”

Coun Renard said the Local Government Association is working on the issue and he sits on its task and finish group on climate change which will put proposals to government to give councils more powers to try and minimise the change and impacts caused by