Wednesday, August 29, 2007

While we revert to doing nothing ......

.... others at least try to address the problem properly.

We have commented on the recent downgrading of the UK parliamentary committee on climate change several times recently; see final paragraph in Met Office Prediction - Heatwaves and Here's the weather summary posts as examples.

So whilst our own parliamentary committee has been turned into a toothless and clawless tiger by Ol' Golden Brown, why is it that other countries are setting up special committees with power to start to address the climate change problem? In Ireland, for example, as reported in the Belfast Telegraph.

Does Gordon simply hate the topic of climate change? Is he hoping that the problem will just go away if he ignores it? Or has the prospect of spending £20 billion plus [as mentioned in the second of the two posts above] on protecting London (as the seat of power) from future flooding scared him into silence?

The two things he does seem to be good at are saying nothing and being invisible!

'America's going to have to change'

A very brave, or perhaps, prophetic, comment from Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards; as reported today in Guardian Unlimited.

Edwards, currently running third in the nomination polls behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, seems to be pinning his chances on pricking the consciences of the American masses; even to the extent of suggesting that they have to give up their SUV's!!

He also moots "a national cap on carbon dioxide emissions that is lowered each year".

He's either, a very brave man with clear and eco-friendly ideas and visions, or, desperately trying to get himself some improved poll ratings!

LA stories

I subscribe to a (by invitation to comment I think, but hopefully free to access) website called the 'eco-innovation network, which shares interesting e-snippets and of course subsequent forum feedback.

It just occurred to me that what I write I should share here.

One of the latest struck a chord, whereby a post about grants for alt- energy projects elicited an interesting response from an obviously cluey local Authority officer and prompted me to ask a few questions of my own. It is ongoing and will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Below is what I wrote by way of some questions, which I really hope to get answers to because if there is no such collation of resource there blooming well should be. To much in this country is about fractured empires, and not enough about coherent national policy. Especially when it comes to saving our kids' futures. These guys have a wealth of experience and it should be shared if it is not, and shared better than now if it is.

I was wondering:

a) Is there a single, trustworthy, accurate, easy-to-comprehend analysis anywhere of the relative merits of various alt. energy systems the UK consumer can consider (allowing that there will of course be variations based on local conditions (wind speed/duration, sun exposure, etc))?

b) Is there any listing comparison of the experiences and considerations behind, plus support for (in the form of grants as you have listed) initiatives by local authorities countrywide.

As a simple consumer making decisions based on the enviROI (cost to planet) as much as the ROI (to self) of all such options, I find what you have written of great interest and find it odd that I cannot find (at least easily) such invaluable collected wisdom on what works and may not be so great, with associated cost/benefit analyses.

I'd very much like to see this collated and indeed would consider offering to try and do so on behalf of consumers via my site (your council, as have others, is already always welcome to its own free page to share such information, and anything else of an enviro+ nature already, but this issue could benefit from being tabulated for easy access and comprehension). It's possible the information may exist, but either in fragmented form or in specialist areas. Or simply not in a public-friendly form. Or... I have missed it!

If not, it would seem a very worthy thing to do to try and pull it all together.

Frankly I see such initiatives, and the support behind them by authorities such as yours, as much more valuable to my kids' futures than the bazillions being blown on a few high-profile communications exercises floating about of late.

By my understanding, on a personal/domestic basis the reduction of waste and reduced dependence on energy from fossil fuels will offer the best and most immediate chances for carbon reduction, and I can't quite figure why more is not being done to coordinate and support this nationally.

ADDENDUM - he has kindly replied, if slightly in the way I'd expect from an LA officer:

Every District/Borough/Unitary Council in England has a statutory duty to promote, educate, inform and advise on energy conservation and many have taken this a step further to include renewable, sustainable energy, carbon reduction and climate change.

There are national agencies such as the Energy Saving Trust (EST) and the Carbon Trust that will offer the same advice to householders and businesses respectively.

The EST fund a nationwide chain of 52 energy efficiency advice centres that are designed to advise householders. These are situated in most Counties if not Regions.

If you are fortunate enough to live in the East of England there is a regional agency, Renewables East, set up to promote renewable energy in this region.

I belong to an organisation called the Association of Environmentally Conscious Builders, AECB, have a look at their website it will help plus they have a discussion board.

The British Wind Energy Association, BWEA, the National Energy Foundation, NEF, are both good sources.

If you do searches on any of these organisations you will find their websites, most have further links to others.

As have I in return:

That answers my questions, but also, I'd say, still suggests some opportunities if any agree with my notion that such localised expertise and data could be usefully pooled and shared nationally in a consumer-friendly, and persuasive manner.

All would benefit from knowing what works and would be best to improve one's domestic enviROI (with possible/probable healthy actual ROI, too), from the consumer to the LA to the planet, if we know what can be done, how easy it is to do it ... and what cost savings can be made.

I think this deserves a lot more effort than some others that are getting way too much attention, as reducing energy usage and insulating against waste has to be one of the more sensible areas to tackle first to see some big wins.

I'm sorry, but as a householder with a greater than average interest in, and engagement with such issues, those entities you point me at just don't seem to be reaching me. I wonder if they are others. But I will look at the sites you suggest, ta.

Edie - Councils leading the way with green technology - bearing in mind Dave's comment, that may be 'a' view, certainly.

Maybe the first, but it won't be the last!

Greenwashing and greencloaking seem to be all the rage at the moment, but businesses need to beware just what they claim; tell porkies and you WILL be outed.

This from PRWatch details one such case from the Australian Woolworths business, outed by an anonymous blogger, and creating a glorious own-goal. They even went so far as to invent an organisation! They have now had to withdraw the entire product range involved!

That's the first goal to the consumers that I've seen documented so far.

Greenwash Corporates 0 - Consumers United 1.

And we're only in the first minutes of the game yet!

And now this from today's Indy - not greenwashing, but a case of deliberate corporate obfuscation (charge-cloaking?) from the HSBC where charges are, according to them, well, not charges!

Telly addicts

We need a change of climate at the BBC - An interesting commentary from a writer at the Indy.

While the caveat in mitigation seems almost obligatory, but as a fellow 'unbeliever' in the value of 'these great on-air festivals of niceness', I'd prefer to think of reasoned lack of enthusiasm not as being 'grumpy', but rational.

Live Earth, the last great punt of its type, was pants.

This analysis is interesting: '...while they may be good for the Corporation's image and even for ratings, these orgies of public conscience are not raising awareness at all. They are raising emotion. Mass expressions of analysis-free caring, they are essentially mass expressions of faith.'

Especially as it leads to this: 'When faith replaces thought and T-shirt slogans take the place of discussion, then people quite soon are only prepared to hear the message in which they already believe. Any talk of the more difficult issues is regarded as a disguise for apathy, yet another game that cynical politicians like to play.'

At the end of the tunnel.... vision...

EU urged to scrap light bulb duties

Makes sense.

Though I personally think there is some merit in looking at the reliability aspects of some low cots, low energy options that claim multiple hours but don't actually deliver them.

I bemused my local supermarket by showing them the felt-tip date I'd scrawled on one such blown beauty and asking how it came anyway near its claimed lifespan.

Got a newbie out of it.

Creating an html link in comments

If you comment and want to post a link to something, use the following code:-

<@ href="">link-title-in-here<##>

then replace the '@' with the letter 'a' and the '##' with '/a' .

The looming food crisis?

Finally, one of the UK majors has picked up on what Peter was predicting in this very blog many, many months ago. The fact is that the switch of land use to grow crops for bio-fuels rather than for foodstuffs IS having an impact on food prices already.

This from the Guardian Environment highlights just what is already happening in parts of the world. The world price of maize has doubled, whilst UK wheat prices have also doubled over the last two years, from ~£100/tonne to ~£200/tonne (admittedly part of this increase is down to this years yield, which is down from the norm). A loaf of bread in the UK has increased in cost by 20% already this year.

In the US, "where nearly 40 million people are below the official poverty line, the Department of Agriculture recently predicted a 10% rise in the price of chicken. The prices of bread, beef, eggs and milk rose 7.5 % in July, the highest monthly rise in 25 years."

'A "perfect storm" of ecological and social factors appears to be gathering force, threatening vast numbers of people with food shortages and price rises. Even as the world's big farmers are pulling out of producing food for people and animals, the global population is rising by 87 million people a year; developing countries such as China and India are switching to meat-based diets that need more land; and climate change is starting to hit food producers hard. Recent reports in the journals Science and Nature suggest that one-third of ocean fisheries are in collapse, two-thirds will be in collapse by 2025, and all major ocean fisheries may be virtually gone by 2048. "Global grain supplies will drop to their lowest levels on record this year. Outside of wartime, they have not been this low in a century, perhaps longer," says the US Department of Agriculture.'

All in all, prospects don't look too good for the future. A substantial part of the food production in China and India is dependent on what are rapidly depleting (and non-replenishable) water sources. Experts believe that some two thirds of the planet's major fisheries are now at levels where serious and rapid decline in yields is starting to happen. When you then throw in climate change predictions from the IPCC, which suggested that some 20% of the planets crop production will be directly endangered by temperature and rainfall changes; plus the switch by major western farmers to agrofuels; the picture for the planet's poor and undernourished is beginning to look markedly bleak!

"Technologists pin their faith on GM crops, or drought- resistant crops, or trust that biofuel producers will develop technologies that require less raw material or use non-edible parts of food. The immediate best bet is that countries such as Argentina, Poland, Ukraine and Kazakhstan will grow more food for export as US output declines."

Me? I'm uncertain. I know mankind is incredibly adaptable and is capable of amazing things; but these just may be the early warning signals that our voracious appetite for food and resources is reaching the point where self-sustainability is going to become increasingly difficult.

Look what the fuel crisis (as a consequence of a handful of HGV drivers blockading refinery depots) a few years ago did to the UK economy in only a week and a half. Then imagine just what the impact would be if food was largely unavailable in the supermarkets for a similar time period.

Scary isn't it?


There was an interesting article on this morning's Indy on-line version about how both the Lib Dems and the Tories had developed plans for major CO2 emissions cuts for the whole of the UK.

But coming back to it to review it for comment, the article has now been removed from their site!

What gives? Has someone dropped a major clanger? Or was someone telling porkies and they withdrew it as soon as it was realised?
The article is now back in place, albeit looking slightly amended, though I cannot honestly state just what has actually changed. The original was timed at something like 07:09, this version is timed at 09:15.

Maybe a minor editorial change was all that happened?

ADDENDUM (by Junkk Male) - This from the Greens: Lucas questions grey parties' commitment to tackling climate change - 'Grey parties'. I like that... clever.

Do they know something we don't?

This little snippet from Product-Reviews suggests that Safeway Homes are now starting to build new UK properties that are capable of withstanding hurricane force winds without suffering major structural damage.

Now, I don't recollect the UK ever being hit by a genuine hurricane, so just who is predicting that we may be seeing one or two in the future?

And then I spotted this from Sustainable Development International, which, albeit US based, is predicting that Super Hurricanes are now to be expected, at least on their particular side of the big pond.

Maybe its time to reconsider building that same underground bunker that my parents always talked about doing during the cold war?