Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Is This It?

Every day for the last seven I have heard news reports about unusual weather patterns across the globe - dust storms in Australia, droughts in Africa and Iraq, floods in the Philippines. It is tempting to see these as evidence of anthropogenic climate change.

I did a web search on "east Africa drought climate change" and every item on the first page of the search linked climate change to the drought. So the link has been made at a populist level. Will this affect behaviour in the UK and the rest of the world? Probably not. Maybe a drought and apocalyptic dust storms turning day into night in Kansas City, Toronto, London and Paris would make a difference but so often history shows that only when the stormtroopers of crisis are hammering on the door do people wake up and realise "So this affects me too?!" Damn right.

At our conference this weekend we heard expert evidence on what is likely to change behaviour. We considered social norms and peer groups, resonant narratives and market psychology. All good stuff but when you read about the catastrophic change now taking place around the globe it does make you think that really there is only one issue here - survival. Surely that's something anyone can understand and respond to? Well yes, but not while the threat is perceived as "far away and someone else's problem". Its getting nearer everyday my friends. Just how near does it have to get?

For the thoughtful, here is an extract from The Guardian: Many people, in Kenya and elsewhere, cannot understand the scale and speed of what is happening. The east African country is on the equator, and has always experienced severe droughts and scorching temperatures. Nearly 80% of the land is officially classed as arid, and people have adapted over centuries to living with little water.

There are those who think this drought will finish in October with the coming of the long rains and everything will go back to normal.

Well, it may not. What has happened this year, says Leina Mpoke, a Maasai vet who now works as a climate change adviser with Ireland-based charity Concern Worldwide, is the latest of many interwoven ecological disasters which have resulted from deforestation, over-grazing, the extraction of far too much water, and massive population growth.

"In the past we used to have regular 10-year climatic cycles which were always followed by a major drought. In the 1970s we started having droughts every seven years; in the 1980s they came about every five years and in the 1990s we were getting droughts and dry spells almost every two or three years. Since 2000 we have had three major droughts and several dry spells. Now they are coming almost every year, right across the country," said Mpoke.

He reeled off the signs of climate change he and others have observed, all of which are confirmed by the Kenyan meteorological office and local governments. "The frequency of heatwaves is increasing. Temperatures are generally more extreme, water is evaporating faster, and the wells are drying. Larger areas are being affected by droughts, and flooding is now more serious.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Where's the climate changing?

Australia it seems it experiencing the affects of climate change more acutely than the UK.
Take a look at this report on the continent's record warm winter.

And footage of the dust storms is apocalyptic.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Local carbon footprints released

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 17 September 2009
Regional CO2 Emissions Results Released Today

New climate change stats revealing the carbon footprint of every single part of the UK are published today.

The statistics calculate the climate impact of the energy used by homes, businesses and road transport in each local authority area throughout England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

- The UK has already reduced its emissions by 21% on 1990 levels and is committed to a reduction of at least 34% by 2020

- In today’s results the UK’s overall CO2 emissions dropped by2% between 2005 and 2007

- Emissions have fallen in 335 out of the 434 local authorities in the UK

You can find a breakdown of the results for your own area at; http://decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/climate_change/climate_chang e.aspx

Monday, 7 September 2009

Who Are The Green Heroes?

Only One Week Left to Nominate Green Heroes
There is only one week left to nominate green heroes for the Wales Green List. The Wales-wide search to identify 52 champions, deserving of recognition for tacking sustainability and climate change, ends on 14 September.

Despite the word ‘green,’ the search is not limited to environmental champions. Rather, the list seeks to identify people who are simply making a difference by working towards building a better, more sustainable Wales.

Nominees could be tackling environmental and social issues in their own village or town, at a regional, national or international level. And candidates can range from artists to politicians, from campaigners to company directors, from business leaders to community groups, staff members or project promoters.

The Green List will feature 52 green champions – one for every week of the year – selected by a panel of people from business, media, the voluntary sector, social enterprise and sustainable development fields.

Helen Nelson, Executive Director of Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales, said:

“There are so many amazing people doing great work to ensure a sustainable future for Wales and it’s time to recognise their efforts. We are searching for people who are making a positive impact on their communities, the environment and, ultimately, other people’s lives.”
Visit www.sustainwales.com to find out more and nominate. The closing date for nominations is 14 September 2009.

For more information, case studies, images and interviews, please contact Roz Robinson or Gwenllian Evans on 029 2019 2025 or email roz@sustainwales.com / gwenllian@sustainwales.com.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Arctic 'warmest in 2,000 years'

Sometimes a piece of scientific evidence emerges that is a gift to headline writers (and bloggers).

A study of ice cores, tree rings and sediments in the arctic has produced a climate reconstruction that indicates that the arctic has warmed dramatically in recent decades against a background of global cooling, the BBC reports.

What is striking about this new evidence is the appearance of the contentious 'hockey stick' shape made famous by Al Gore. Bar room sceptics like to tell you all about the medieval warm period and how "all this global warming is due to natural variation" but according to this reconstruction, the earth has been steadily cooling since the medieval period due to natural variation and this sudden rise is despite the natural processes that cause cooling. There must be some other variable forcing the warming. What else has changed as dramatically in the last 100 years? Mmmm....

Its not scientifically proven but its very tempting to link this summer's bad weather to climate change. Models of global warming predict higher rainfall in the northern hemisphere with storms of increased ferocity and intense rainfall pulses. So news that Wales was drenched by a 44% increase in rainfall this summer, tempts one to claim this as evidence of a longer term trend in motion. The latest projections from UKCIP however suggest drier summers in future.

Its always worth remembering that natural systems share a common trait - tipping points. Things can seem stable and unvarying for a long time as the system absorbs change and then suddenly the capacity to absorb change is exhausted and BAM! the system tips into a new energetic state via a period of chaos. If you have time you should watch this lecture on line by Martin Scheffer

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Real people feel the same way as us!

When you work for an organisation like Cynnal Cymru-Sustain Wales you tend to meet other environmental scientists, politicians, green activists and academics who broadly share your view.

It is therefore very encouraging and refreshing to meet people who are not 'green' professionals but citizens who have through their own experience and observation reached the same conclusion as the scientists.

One such person is Linda Ware who lived without a bin for three months and has embraced the challenge of living without plastic and is determined to escape the snares of the consumerist economic culture which is addicted to energy consumption and perpetuates the fantasy that continual infinite growth is possible in a finite universe.

Have a look at her blog Auntie Plastic and be inspired!!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Rules to make micro-generation easier in Wales come into force

Installing micro-generation equipment such as solar panels in Welsh homes becomes easier from today (1 September) as new planning rules come into force.
Environment Minister Jane Davidson hopes the changes will give households the opportunity to minimise their carbon footprint and to reduce fuel bills.

The aim of the changes is to remove certain types of micro-generation equipment from requiring planning permission, making it easier for individuals and local communities install equipment that will contribute to tackling climate change and lower energy bills.

There will be no requirement to pay planning fees, also reducing the financial burden.

Equipment that comes under the new rules includes:
- small scale solar panels
- ground source heat pumps, and
- biomass flues.

Ms Davidson said:
“A key part to tackling climate change will be lessening our reliance on carbon based energy. This is where micro-generation has a major role to play. It gives households the opportunity to produce their own clean, green energy.

“Here in Wales we have a large share of off gas-grid homes where micro-generation could provide an alternative. We want these new rules to encourage people to consider micro-generation and make it easier for them begin producing their own energy.”

Walking Away From Nature?

The UK Royal Society - the scientific body founded at a previous time of profound change - has reviewed the technological solutions to climate change that are currently being proposed and has concluded that many are technically possible. See here.
These include: a giant mirror on the Moon; a space parasol made of superfine aluminium mesh; and a swarm of 10 trillion small mirrors launched into space one million at a time every minute for the next 30 years.

The numbers of suggested technological fixes for the earth system crisis are steadily increasing. Although many of them remain only ideas and the time and investment to realise them is just not being made available, they are significant in what they represent. Human beings are ingenious and creative. A crisis always brings out this trait. Many environmentalists advocate a down-sizing return to nature, a turning away from technology which has been the cause of pollution, species loss, climate change and an over-reliance on finite resources. What may happen however is the exact opposite.

The future, on the other side of the inevitable crisis, may well be more technological not less. The technology may be more subtle and more in tune with natural processes - see biomimicry for example - but it will nevertheless be one more step away from our origins, enabling us to maintain our unique position on the planet.

If human bio-engineering, mirrors in space, carbon capture, GM farming and robotics increase our chances of survival then is that what people will go for even if it increases our disconnect with nature or even changes the understanding of what it is to be human?