Posts Tagged atmosphere

Oh Canada. What Are You Doing?

You may have read recently that Canada has officially pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. Although the move has long been expected, it still comes as a disappointment to many. This action, however, is not a protest on Canada’s part because it feels the accord isn’t working – it is working. Nor is it because Canada feels that the weak agreement just isn’t strong enough to really effect a positive change on the planet. Oh no, quite the opposite. It’s pulling out because it can and it will and nobody has the power to stop it, so there.

The Canadian government has stated that meeting its targets for reducing greenhouse gases is too expensive. Apparently, the country hadn’t realised that there would be some form of cost attached to saving the planet and everything on it.

What gets me about this whole fiasco is the way countries can convene at a summit like Kyoto, fail to agree on anything put forward, argue over the exact text in a document, insert a comma here, remove a legally binding cause there, while all the time watching these proceedings trudge on for days and days upsetting no end of politicians, diplomats and official representatives of various organisations. And all of this for what? So that we end up with an agreement where any country may pull out simply if it doesn’t work for them. Nobody said this was going to be cheap or easy, but I guess Canada didn’t notice that part of the final draft.

I remember when Canada used to the country everybody loved: America’s more intelligent, less offensive next-door neighbour. Home of the Mountie, maple syrup and Bryan Adams. Now it seems to be taking on a new persona; that of a corrupted, greedy, former environmental advocate.

We’ve always frowned at Canada’s financial and logistical assistance for those partaking in the Arctic seal hunt, and they’ve played no small part in the collapse of North Atlantic cod stocks. However, in more recent years Canada appears to be also cementing itself a new image as an American-idolising devotee to environmental destruction. With its push to extract oil from tar sands, a product often referred to as the world’s dirtiest oil, and now the shunning of Kyoto, it seems that this once highly-regarded country is turning its back on protecting the planet in order to turn a profit.

Withdrawing from Kyoto is effectively a message to the rest of the world that Canada doesn’t care about the future of this planet (as long as it will cost, that is). Naturally the politicians are saying that they will adhere to their own targets and lower carbon emissions their own way, but it’s perfectly clear to the rest of us that whatever measures are adopted won’t come close to the measly 6% cut in emissions they were committed to under Kyoto – in reality they have actually increased carbon emissions by about 16%.

Another aspect of Canada’s withdrawal is that they would face stiff penalties under the agreement for falling short of the agreed targets. I can’t belive that to get away from paying the penalties that they agreed to in 1997, a nation can simply just pull out. Surely that makes a complete mockery of the penalty system in the first place. I mean let’s imagine this: it’s the 2014 World Cup final: England are playing Spain and are winning 4-3. There are two minutes left to play. Wayne Rooney brings a Spanish player down in the penalty area as he’s about to score a goal. Consequently, the referee awards the Spanish player a penalty kick. Now, if this game were being played in ‘Canada’s world’ Wayne Rooney would just sulkily turn to the referee, tell him that a penalty kick is far too stiff a punishment for this offence, announce he’s not playing anymore, leave the field and thus the Spanish would no longer have their penalty kick. They loose, England win. It’s bizarre (although the addition of the ‘Canada Rule’ may add another dimension to football).

Let’s face it though; no one can really blame Canada for this. The true fault lies with the politicians who cannot look further than their own term of office or their own GDP. The original Kyoto Protocol was put through the grinder and watered down so many times that it became the wishy-washy, toothless, non-binding agreement that allows countries to do these type of things. Because countries (and their governments) are inherently selfish, we will never see a truly monumental climate agreement and countries like the US and China will be free to avoid any commitment while countries that do commit will also be free to… erm … uncommit.

What Canada has done just reinforces my view that politicians will only attempt to save humanity as long as it’s feasible for them to do so and if it will earn them either a few extra votes of a little cash on the side. Meanwhile, it makes a mockery of any future global agreements on pollution, climate change, deforestation, biodiversity, etc, etc…

The thing that worries me now is that any such accord in the future will be looked upon as just a piece of paper that you sign at the bottom, but don’t actually have to take action on if you don’t want to or you can’t afford it. It sets a really scary precedent for other nations to look to.

Anyway, to finish off, let’s move on to other un-related matters: Does anyone fancy defaulting on a trillion Euro debt? Anyone? Anyone? Yes, Greece; I’m looking at you…

GR

If you have anything to say on this article, or indeed anything raised in The Green Review, then do join the discussion on the facebook page. The more contentious the better please…

Photos courtesy of  Christina Deridder Vasyl Helevachuk and Alexey Gostev

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Good News! But It Was Well Hidden Amongst The Bad News

You may have read an article in the Guardian this week (or elsewhere) telling us that greenhouse gas emissions are up to the levels predicted in only the IPCC’s worst-case scenarios. So despite the decades of warnings, it appears that we’re still ploughing headlong into self-destruction. Oh well, no surprise there.

Normally, I would relish writing a post on this and why it’s going to be the death of us all, and how the planet’s doomed, etc, etc. However, I am not feeling too good this week, and being in such a fragile state, I don’t actually want to linger on the bad news. Instead I want you to read a more uplifting paragraph from the same article. (Plus, I am using this as an excuse to be lazy and just settling for a little re-blogging).

First of all, just to keep you up to speed, here is the crux of the original story: The latest figures that show the levels of greenhouse gases humanity is chucking into the atmosphere are way up there with the worst case scenarios forecast in all the climate models and predictions. In other words… we’re buggered. But like I said; I can’t be bothered with that right about now.

The good news I wanted to share with you is this:

“The developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas limiting treaty have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about 8% below 1990 levels”. (I personally think this should be front-page news, but the media doesn’t do happy stories, does it?)

So you see? We can do it. There is a ray of hope. Enough said. That’s it for this post… I’m off now to suffer in the throws of my man-flu. Peace.

GR

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Photo courtesy of Max Blain


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The Autumnal Sun is Finally Here: You Didn’t Think Climate Change Would Deny us That Too Did You?

Why do people seem so surprised at this wonderful period of autumnal weather we’re currently experiencing? I personally have been waiting for this spell of sunshine to arrive… well… all summer. Then last week, bang on cue, just like the predicted shifting weather patterns of climate change, here it is.  Erm… hooray?

You would have to be a in a pretty extreme state of denial to have missed the fact that the UK’s weather pattern has changed over the last few years. I’m not talking about the occasional hot or cold week here or there, but a tangible change in the British climate – especially in summer.

The last five summers in the UK have actually arrived in springtime, teasing us with a few glorious weeks in April or May. We are then subject to a ‘summer’ of grey cloud, rain, the occasional sunny day and plenty of good old fashioned British weather-bashing. Then, once the school holidays are over, we get a couple of weeks of marvellous sunshine and generally clement weather (just like I’ve been waiting for) followed by the descent into winter and Christmas.

UK Weather on the 1st & 2nd October 2011

Whatever you may think is the cause of this, something has definitely happened to our weather. For the past several summers we’ve been told it’s because of an El Niño year; then a La Niña year is responsible and then last year it was all the banks’ fault. What’s the reason this year? I don’t pretend to be a climatologist or a meteorologist, but I’m thinking it could be something to do with the Atlantic Ocean heating up, thus allowing more water to evaporate and collect as clouds, which then blanket out our sun from June through to August. Or maybe it’s the enhanced greenhouse effect messing around with the conventional summer air pressures. I just don’t know; but something has definitely changed for the worse.

This is more than just a mere blip like the snow of last December; this is becoming a pattern. Will the snow do the same? In fact, can I be brave enough to stick my neck out and make a prediction of the UK’s average weather for the next, say, 20 years? Of course I can. Ok then, here’s my UK average weather prediction for 2012-2032:

January: Rubbish. February: Crisp and dry, with a little rubbishness thrown in. March: Rainy (what was previously April showers). April: Beautiful, but too dry for farmers. May: Promise of a good summer. June, July, August: Good summer never arrives – wet, wet, wet. September, October: Lovely, warm, sunny. November: Coldish. December: Snow and travel chaos. All UK airports shut.

Note to self: Check this post again in 20 years and see if you were right…

Another note to self: If you were right, adopt an attitude of supreme smugness for at least a week.

Final note to self: Don’t put notes to self on a public blog…

Ok…

I don’t know who this person is, but I liked the picture…

The ‘Indian Summer’ is now nothing new

While this has been the hottest September since 1895, I’m not one who will hoist this aloft as irrefutable proof of climate change. I don’t need to; that proof will come when the next September like this repeats itself after just 50 years, then just 25 years, after that just 10, just 5, and so on, and so on…

Much as it’s great to see everyone making the most of the heat, for me there’s a certain melancholy to this wonderful weather we’re having at the moment: I just keep wondering where this sun was when I went camping, or had my family over from France, or tried on numerous occasions to plan a trip to the beach. Why do we get holiday temperatures when my daughter goes back at school and my wife (now a teacher) goes back to work? This sun is as frustrating as it is welcome – I don’t like that feeling. Does anyone feel the same?

I want my summers back

I’m sure that over the next ten years we will have a couple of glorious summers, but I think they’ll be the exceptions. The general weather pattern has changed – and I don’t like it! Global warming indeed… pah! Feels more like global raining.

Much as I like to be right about absolutely everything (and I think I am right about this change becoming the norm) I really, really don’t want to be right about this. I hate the weather pattern we’ve had over the last few years and want my summers back. If the next few years witness a return to a ‘proper’ summer and we can all enjoy our time in June, July and August, then I will most happily eat any of the above words.

Just quickly to finish off: If we in Britain say autumnal (meaning of the autumn) what do the Americans say? Fallumnal? Fallesque? Fallout? Fallover? Answers on a postcard please…

GR

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Photos courtesy of Fedor PatrakovDmitry Ersler and the BBC Weather Department

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Sitting on the Nuclear Fence

As an environmentalist, concerned parent and lover of all things non-radioactive, I feel that I should be fundamentally opposed to nuclear power. Unfortunately though, this issue has me in a bit of a quandary:

We are currently careering headlong towards hugely destructive climate change and a potential energy crisis. However, no matter what we may think of nuclear power, it could help to alleviate some of the pressure on society.

In light of these uncomfortable facts – much like a Greenpeace banner – I find myself perched on the proverbial fence.

A traditional fossil fuel-fired power station

The Fukushima disaster in Japan has really split the world’s nuclear power producers on where to go next: Japan’s Prime minister is calling for a nuclear-free future; Germany has said it is to phase out nuclear power by 2022; Switzerland will halt expansion of its nuclear programme; and the Italians have also voted no to nuclear. On the other hand, France is to spend a further 1 billion Euros on nuclear energy production; the USA is hinting at building 4-6 new units by 2020; and although the UK’s coalition government can’t make up its Tory/Liberal mind, it does seem that a future with nuclear energy is on the cards.

So where do I stand on this issue? (Bloody good question!)

Yes, nuclear power scares me:  My concerns are over the hugely polluting process of uranium mining, what to do with the wastenuclear proliferation and potential accidents (Fukushima showed that nothing can be ruled out and France has just had an accident). I’m not going to go into detail as we all know why we fear nuclear. However, while all of these are issues of great magnitude, so is climate change and our dwindling reservses of fossil fuels.

Where I feel pulled over to the other side of the fence is in relation to CO2 emissions. As we all know, man-made CO2 emissions from electricity creation (among other things) are causing our climate to change in a way too fast for us and the natural world to keep up with. This has potentially devastating results for all inhabitants of planet Earth. Nuclear power provides an answer to this in that its CO2 emissions are practically zero.

The future?

The future of nuclear power may be glowing bright due to some new inventions: a hybrid fission/fusion reactor that takes nuclear waste sludge and turns it into electricity, and nuclear batteries.

Now don’t worry folks, we aren’t going to see our little ones placing highly radioactive batteries into their new toys come Christmas morning, and then watching them cook the turkey just by standing next to it. No; nuclear batteries are refrigerator size mini reactors that could be placed at the centre of military bases, mining installations and other such large remote complexes. One company (among others) pioneering this technology is Hyperion, who have named this device The Hyperion Power Module. One of these babies will chuck out 25 megawatts and be capable of powering about 25,000 homes.

My first reaction to this technology is this: What’s to stop some crazy terrorist putting one in the back of a lorry, parking it outside the Houses of Parliament and blowing it up? Well, apparently they’ll be encased in so much concrete and security that it would be impossible to steal one. Hmmmm: Titanic? Unsinkable? I wonder… Talking of which; they are considering using them to power cruise ships as well. Ok then, I’ll rephrase the question: What’s to stop some crazy terrorist sailing a nuclear cruise ship up the River Thames, parking it outside the Houses of Parliament and blowing it up?

Jokes aside though, I do think that this technology could have a place in the future, especially in the developing world.

One of my biggest concerns over nuclear power is the waste that is creates. The amount of nuclear waste we produce  steadily mounting and it can remain dangerous for thousands of years. This necessitates the need for it to be buried deep underground – but even then it still poses a risk.

An answer here could possibly be evident in the shape of the compact fusion neutron source (CFNS). This contraption will ingest nuclear sludge in one end and generate power at the other. According to an article in Fast Company, the CFNS will eat up so-called nuclear “sludge,” which is a dangerous, highly toxic, long-lived radioactive by-product of existing nuclear power stations. The sludge is formed into a jacket around the core fusion reactor. The CFNS spits out neutrons and heat which “burn” the sludge, releasing more energy as heat – which is used to generate more electricity -and reducing the sludge into less dangerous material.

Pure fusion reactors have long been the ultimate goal, since they release vast amounts of energy from small amounts of “fuel” and have very few dangerous by-products. But the Super X Divertor could act as a solution until the difficult problems of building a fusion reactor are solved.

Before you go panicking about nuclear fridges being driven into the centre of the world’s major cities or do a little celebratory dance because the answer to nuclear waste has been solved; slow down just a tad. Neither of the above technologies have been proved beyond reasonable doubt and we are still a long way from clean nuclear utopia.

For me, the issue of nuclear power tugs at my principles much like the issue of testing medicine on animals: I hate the thought of animals subjected to pain and death just so we can live longer; but would I sacrifice a member of my family to cancer just so these creatures don’t have to suffer? No, I wouldn’t. I also wouldn’t like to see the world plunged into catastrophic climate change and power outages just because nuclear power doesn’t sit well with our conscience.

The fact of the matter is renewable energy cannot fill the energy gap quickly enough – much as I wish it could. Additionally, fossil fuels cause climate change and are steadily running out, simultaneously becoming more and more expensive to extract – a price that we the consumer are paying.

Nuclear power may not be perfect, but it does have the potential to give us that emissions-free, back up supply we so desperately need.

In the meantime, however, hopefully we can sort out once and for all how best to use the sun, wind, water and waste as a means of supplying energy to the ever-increasing and ever-industrialising population of Planet Earth.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m desperate to live in world of completely clean energy and would love to see nuclear phased out altogether. But my fear of the effects of climate change lead me to ask if perhaps there may be a place for this technology.

So then, what should we do in regards to the future of nuclear power? Well, if I knew the answer to that, I would be writing my acceptance speech for the Noble Peace Prize; not this blog.

GR

If you have anything to say on this article, or indeed anything raised in The Green Review, please join the discussion on our facebook page. The more contentious the better…

Photos courtesy of Ian BracegirdleMamay and Alban Egger

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Yet More Anti-Green Clatter Spills Forth From The Daily Mail

The Daily Mail - that most beloved of English institutions –  has released yet another anti-green article. This one seems designed to get Middle England all fired-up at the indignation of having to adjust the UK’s highly-polluting energy supply so as to protect our children from a future of devastating climate change. How awful!

This article – which, incidentally, was front-page news – is getting all flustered because it claims that families will have to fork out an extra £1000 a year as part of their energy bills in order to fund a switch to green energy and nuclear power.

What a load of rubbish. Nowhere will you find anyone in-the-know who agrees with this figure. It is plucked out of thin air simply to allow the Mail readers their daily 5 minutes of irritation at this cruel, cruel world. Even the Daily Telegraph – another paper that dislikes anything remotely green – only claims an increase in bills of £160 over the next 20 years. (Although, the way things are going, I’m expecting that type of increase on my bill next month).

The Mail’s reporter says that the move is intended to cut emissions to meet UK and EU targets. No. The move is intended to shift the UK toward a future where we can enjoy a clean, secure energy supply without polluting the atmosphere or worrying about Russia turning off the gas. Oh, and apparently it’s also intended “to appease the climate lobby”.

So what is this climate lobby then? Are they the ones who agree that climate change is a threat, or are they the energy companies who stand to make large profits from the upshot of this? Are they wind power advocates or supporters of nuclear power? Hmmm: A nice, clear-cut definition; thanks for that.

I’ll admit, I still don’t know where I stand with regards to nuclear power, but I have to say, it’s nice to see nuclear being mentioned in this article alongside the usual culprit, wind power.

So then, the Mail is getting on its high horse because we’ll all have to pay higher bills as we move away from a fossil fuel-based energy supply. I presume they are referring to these same fossil fuels that are responsible for the numerous, unrelenting price hikes we’ve suffered over last few years? Ok; great idea. Let’s just forget about green energy and stick with what we know shall we? That’ll really keep the costs down.

So where did the Daily Mail get this figure of £1000 per year from? Was it Ofgem? The Carbon Trust? The Department of Energy and Climate Change perhaps? No. It was a bank called UniCredit; well there’s some objective journalism for you.

Another of the sources in this article, Dr Benny Peiser, says, “Britain itself could be sitting on a gas gold mine, which would power homes for decades”. The only ‘gold mine’ I imagine he can be talking about is shale gas, and that’s a very bad idea.

Now, I’m not so naïve as to think we can have a lovely new clean energy system and not have to pay for it. But it really gets-my-goat (in case you hadn’t noticed) when papers like the Mail pull figures from sources that are employed simply to make good headlines.

Finally (and strangely) I would like to finish by saying a big thank you to the Daily Mail. Much as you annoy me with your journalistic tripe; without you I think I may struggle for material to use in my blog. Keep up the bad work and long may our relationship continue. Cheers.

GR

If you have anything to say on this article, or indeed anything raised in The Green Review, please join the discussion on our facebook page. The more contentious the better…

Photos courtesy of Daniel Gilby and npower Renewables (from Renewable UK)


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Eco-Lie #1: Renewable Jet Fuel?

Humanity is currently at the mercy of a new and fearful outbreak of Eco-Lie.

No, I am not referring to the nasty, disease-inducing  bacteria, but to companies that put a very dubious green spin on their products and processes by adding the word ‘eco’.

For me ‘eco’ means that something is ecological, that it is in tune with the sensitive ecosystem we call Earth. Altering a product to make it a little bit greener is commendable, but that does not make it ‘ecological’. I also want to expose other wrongful uses of the words: environmentally-friendly, green, renewable, etc. So, below are the main perpetrators of this latest Eco-Lie outbreak.

I will add to this category as I come across fresh offenders, but please, feel free to drop any Eco-Lies you come across in the comments box or via the facebook page. I will be more than happy to expose them for the scams that they are.

So then, Eco-Lie #1:

Boing says this about its new jumbo jet, “ The new 747-8 Freightliner flies to its international air show debut in historic fashion, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to the Paris Air Show using a renewable aviation jet fuel. This is the world’s first transatlantic crossing of a commercial jetliner using biologically derived fuel. Each of the airplane’s four-GE GEnx-2B engines is powered by a blend of 15 percent camelina-based biofuel mixed with 85 percent traditional kerosene fuel (Jet-A).

Ok Boing, you’re obviously trying to put a green spin on things, but don’t take us for fools: Renewable jet fuel? A biologically derived fuel? Erm, didn’t you say something about this being 85 percent kerosene? Please. Most of us are aware that biofuels are not really green. We also fear that should the aviation industry turn to this ‘clean’ form of energy, the problem will get a lot worse.

So Boing, you have made the Eco-Lie wall. Well done. An aeroplane fuel made of 85 percent kerosene is anything but ‘renewable’. When you manage to fly a plane on nothing but the massive amount of waste created by the airlines; then we’ll talk.

GR

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Photo courtesy of iknowmeinuk

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Energy Related Carbon Emissions Are Up: Or Is That Made Up?

So, the International Energy Agency has told us that energy related carbon emissions reached an all time high last year. Not really surprising, but is this going to make a jot of difference to some of the nonsense being emitted by climate change denialists? I doubt it.

After the recession afforded the Earth a little breathing space in 2008 and 2009, we are now back to our old ways and pumping huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Energy sector emissions in 2010 reached a staggering 30.6 gigatonnes, or, put another way: 30,600,000,000  kilograms.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against climate change denialists per se; and I honestly think that there needs to be a counter balance within this debate. What does frustrate me, however, is the notion that climate change has been conjured up by those in power to hike up taxes and inflict any number of horrible schemes upon us – the innocent public. Let’s be realistic here people; they’ll raise taxes anyway.

I can fully appreciate the uncertainty inherent in climate science: unforeseen feedback loops, oceanic thermal currents and the unpredictability of global weather patterns. I mean the BBC weather people almost always get it wrong over the 5 day forecast; let alone the next century. (And if you can’t trust the BBC, then who can you trust?)

Because of this uncertainty and the gradual, almost imperceptible nature of climate change, it is very easy for us humans to wonder if this is for real and if we should really believe the hype.

Well, lets ask ourselves: what’s actually at stake? Anything that’s really important to us?

Off the top of my head I would say:

  • Global food and pharmaceutical production (we kind of need food, and drugs are pretty handy too)
  • Potential mass migration (the UK seems to struggle with just a few plumbers from Poland)
  • Life in the oceans (no more fish fingers, dagnammit)
  • Many of the Earth’s plant and animal species (us included)
  • The whole space and time continuum (well, maybe I made that one up).

So that’s just a tiny part of the list, but I think some of the stuff above is pretty important. Don’t you?

When it comes to denial, it’s like I said: many, many, many of the climate scientists’ predictions are not set in stone and may never happen (hopefully). However, there are some things that science seems pretty certain about:

  • CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Fact.
  • Greenhouse gases are partially responsible for maintaining Earth at a nice cosy (average) temperature. Fact.
  • We have just pumped record levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Fact.

To me this looks like the climate scientists may be onto something when they tell us that putting extra CO2 into the system may have some dodgy results for all of us.

Now, if we take these scientific certainties versus the high stakes, we come up with the chance – I repeat; the chance – that our climate will be adversely effected. In light of this, would it not be wise to be a little bit cautious? Just a tad? You know: curb the emissions, find alternatives to power our lives, change some of our destructive behaviour: that kind of thing.

I admit that there are people out there who would have us all living back in the Measly Middle Ages, but I’m not one of them and I certainly don’t want that. However, when people are shouting, and posting and blogging and digging and tweeting about how climate change is a hoax, perhaps they wouldn’t mind easing off a touch and looking at the certainties; there are a scary amount of them.

So there it is; another blog having a pop at the denialists (I still don’t know if that’s a real word). But, in my defence, these guys are always doing a little “I told you so” dance when a piece of hard scientific evidence backs up their argument. I am now doing the same; so there.

Energy related emissions are at a record high. Isn’t it time even the sceptics try to do something about this?

GR

If you have anything to say on this article, or indeed anything raised in The Green Review, please join the discussion on our facebook page. The more contentious the better…

Photos courtesy of Julia Pivovarova and Lostbear

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