Archive for the ‘Climate’ Category

King Coal, The Good The Bad And The Deadly

coalCoal fired power stations are a major cause of CO2 pollution in the UK and have become the focus of demonstrations against its use. Unfortunately the country has no alternative at present but to keep burning the black stuff as it forms an important part of our power generation capacity. In fact coal played an important role in the industrial revolution that brought prosperity to the developed world and drove the shift in the population from the countryside to the cities.

Although carbon capture technology may reduce the pollution caused by burning coal its use in the future will probably decline in the developed world as we need to significantly reduce our carbon output. It’s a strange coincidence that the substance that fuelled the industrial revolution and, if left unchecked could doom humans to a hot watery grave, may have been responsible for an environmental disaster in the past.

Its now thought that around 250 million years ago, when some 70% of known species were wiped out, the mass burning of coal deposits due to volcanic activity made the planet’s environment hostile with a sudden increase in CO2 and the acidifying the oceans. Its thought this all happened in a very short time scale, in geological terms, something which could to be happening at an equally fast pace today.


Natural Disasters Show Just How Fragile Life Is

philippines floodsThe Philippines is hit by a tropical storm and the capital, Manila, is left under water; an earthquake in the Pacific sends a deadly tsunami over Samoa and other nearby islands; foods hit part of India. It seems the power of nature is making itself felt in a most destructive way across many parts of the world.

These are not the first and will not be the last natural events to cause such destruction and loss of life, there will be more and some will be even more deadly. They are a reminder of just how fragile our lives are on this world. All our technology and endeavour is useless in the face of such power.

I give thanks that I live in a place where such events are unlikely, however, if some of the predictions on climate change are right even the quiet countryside of England may be subjected to weather events even we cannot imagine. Its a sobering thought that we could be the poor lost individuals featured in the news reports.

Do As I Say Not As I Fly

air_travelThe airline industry benefits from a whole host of concessions and practices that would not be tolerated in any other commercial sector. Aviation fuel is not taxed, airlines have no contractual commitment to provide the service you have bought, they can sell the same seat over and over again and keep all the income and if they loose your luggage the compensation is derisory.

Now the industry wants the target for the reduction in CO2 reduced or removed altogether. If we want to keep flying its the only option, we are told. How long this charmed life can continue is debatable. What was once a luxury has become almost as routine as taking a bus, we fly everywhere with great frequency without any consideration of the impact on the environment. Even the carbon offset levy, or tax as many call it, has not reduced our travelling habit.

The thought that the airline industry should be protected from the carbon targets is madness, no section of the commerce world should be exempt. Everyone, including us in our private homes must do their bit to help prevent any further deterioration in the environment. If that means air travel becomes so expensive it returns to its luxury status then it will be a small concession if it means we get to survive into the future without any man made disasters.

Lets Party For 21 Years

Hmmm. We have until 2030 until the world decides we have been partying too long and too hard, and shuts down our life support. If I’m still around then I will have exceeded the average lifespan for men in the UK. Living beyond one’s allotted three score and sixteen years (as it is now) is an enticing thought, but being left to clean up after the party is less enticing. We prefer to eat our cake but leave the washing up to someone else. We have been doing it for years even though there are now few scientists who deny climate change is a problem.

Our Government also seem to be denying the problem exists. Approval for a third Heathrow runway, new coal fired coal stations and a lack of investment in carbon saving technology will mean we do not achieve the necessary reductions to prevent the forth coming disaster. They have banned tungsten lamps and provided minimal grants for home insulation but this is as effective and trying to put out a forest fire with a water pistol. Expecting individuals to make changes without taking a firm lead and major action themselves is typical of the way modern government’s work.

They do not have the courage to act because they are more concerned at winning elections, its all self interest not public interest. Scientists are now saying we are very close or may have passed the tipping point at which any action we take will not stop a disaster that could effect the whole of mankind. Nice one Gov, you keep an eye on your expenses and pensions, they may keep you warm in the future, after all there will be noting to spend it on.

Coming To A Place Near You, The Seaside

The news that sea levels may rise by over meter in the next 90 years seems to have washed over most people like a neap tide. It seems the idea that countries such as the Maldeves, Holland, Suriname, Vietnam and many Pacific islands will all but disappear is an impossibility. Even the rapid loss of coastline in parts of Suffolk which have left home owners watching their houses fall into the sea does not seem to raise concerns.

As a kid I would often walk along the cliff top path from Hastings to Fairlight before taking the bus back to Hastings. Over a matter of a few years a whole estate of several dozen houses was lost as the cliff edge slowly moved northwards. The empty houses teetering on the edge of the cliff were a place to play and explore. Ignoring the warning signs and wire fencing we would enter the houses to find the whole of outside wall on the cliff side had collapsed leaving the rooms open to the wind and rain. 50 years later the loss is continuing as Fairlight Cove slowly succumbs to the power of the sea. lets you see how differing levels of sea rise effect the coastline of the UK. Even with a rise of just one metre would result in the coast moving 30 miles inland towards our home. It’s a stark reminder of how fragile our tenure of this planet is, and how we can so easily find our own little world washed away.

Carbon Hypocrisy

Solar water heating panels have been appearing on roofs all around the area. Having done all the simple energy saving tasks (cavity wall and loft insulation, double glazing, new doors, low energy light bulbs, new boiler…) I decided to take a look at this, apparently popular option. For an average home they cost around £3,000 to install and have a life of some ten years.

So how much do you save during that ten year period? The average annual cost of hot water is just £80 and the annual saving these systems provide is about 60%. Allowing 5% inflation the total cost over ten years is £604. Take off the operating cost of the solar heating system and the savings over ten years are reduced to £377. The maintenance cost during the ten year period will probably exceed the net savings.

Investing in solar water has no financial benefit for the average household. Even the carbon reduction is relatively small at 500 kg a year. At most it’s an outward sign that the household is trying to make a difference. However, they probably still fly away on holiday, drive large vehicles, ignore food miles and indulge in other carbon heavy activities. Carbon hypocrisy is alive and well in our suburbs.