ANOTHER PLANET?

floodA government study in 2012 showed that flooding in the UK is the greatest impact from climate change – the extensive floods in 2000 were made twice as likely because of global warming was warmer weather leads to more moisture in the air and more energy in weather systems – with more frequent downpours. Sea levels have risen by 6cm on the south coast of England. As it becomes clear that Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s policy of cutting spending on flood defences is a false economy – spending will fall by 15% under this government – it seems that at least £1 billion of damage caused by this winters flooding points to the fact that flood defence schemes save £8 for every £1 invested. The Committee on Climate Change says that the cuts to the £900 million budget will cause £3 billion in future damage. Owen Paterson avoided the wrath of locals on flooded the Somerset Levels by hiding away – now Lord (Chris) Smith, chair of the Environment Agency has provoked ire  by admitting he hasn’t been to the flooded areas in Somerset. A cabinet reshuffle for Paterson – and new (Tory appointed) chair appointed? We shall see. Photo: Bob Embleton (c) 2014

Prince Charles said he was shocked by ‘tragedy’ of flood failures on Somerset visit saying ‘There’s nothing like a jolly good disaster to get people to start doing something’.

The European Parliament has  voted  to require member states to meet binding national targets on renewable energy, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. In a decisive vote, 341 to 263 MEPs called for three binding targets for 2030: a 40% cut in greenhouse gases, compared with 1990 levels; at least 30% of energy to come from renewable sources; and a 40% improvement in energy efficiency. This was stronger than the proposal from the European commission last month, that called for 27% of energy to come from renewable sources by the same date. Under the commission’s plan, there was no target for energy efficiency, and – crucially – the UK was successful in ensuring that the renewables target would be binding only at the bloc level.

Deaths as a result of hot weather are to soar over the next four decades as a result of climate change, researchers have predicted. The researchers, from Public Health England (PHE) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the number of annual deaths in the UK that occur as a result of the heat will rise by 257% by 2050, they said. Elderly people are most at risk, according to the new study. While the number of excess deaths seen in the summer months will rise, those recorded in winter will actually decrease, they said. http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2014/01/08/jech-2013-202449.short?g=w_jech_ahead_tab

Shale gas exploration company Cuadrilla has said it will apply to drill and frack a total of eight wells at two new sites in Lancashire. The company already has three sites in the north-west – including the only site, near Blackpool, where modern hydraulic fracturing techniques have been used so far in the UK. Cuadrilla is not currently fracking at any of these sites owing to setbacks including small earth tremors caused by the drilling, and concerns over migrating birds.

Iceland has now said that it did not support the planned prosecution of the three’skippers’ who rescued tomatoes, cheese and cakes from bins outside one of Iceland’s stores in North London. The Crown Prosecution Service has now reversed a decision to prosecute Paul May, Jason Chan and William James, and the UK’s four biggest supermarkets – Tesco, Asda, William Morrisons and Sainsburys as well as M&S and the Co-op, have promised to disclose the volume of food discarded by their stores – not least against the fact that 500, 000 people in the UK are reliant on food aid.

Pro green modernisers in the UK’s Conservative Party have launched a fight back against the perceived Tory climate change scepticism – outlining p;ans for a £5 billion boost to the economy creating 300,000 jobs, by pursuing environmentally friendly policies. The publication of the manifesto by the 2020 Group of MPs came after former Environment secretary Lord Deben (John Gummer) said he hoped  sceptics would stop insulting pro-green campaigners and accept that they were denying science. saying “if we accept the advice of 95% of scientists and they’re wrong” it didn’t really matter as we’ve cleaned the atmosphere tweeting that if we deny the scientists – and they are correct – “we’ve buggered the planet”. Plans including pursuing Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology and tightening rules on waste disposal to make sure plastics, wood, textiles and food are recycled to boost manufacturing profits. The Group, whose research was headed by Thanet South MP Laura Sandys, said that their efforts might actually lead to a fall in GDP as energy bills fall with increased energy efficiency – BUT – this would improve economic margins as “if you spend a pound on energy (in the economy) it is a very dead pound”.

Businesses must recognise the severity of operating in a resource constrained environment and adapt their business models for future growth, according to a new report by the Carbon Trust, which urges businesses to “prioritise resource efficiency or risk getting left behind”.  It suggests that business resource challenges such as the increasing scarcity of land, energy, water and materials are quickly intensifying, highlighting that there could be a 40% gap between available water supplies and water needs by 2030. The World Bank has launched an initiative to help countries mitigate the impact of water scarcity on energy security, arguing that water shortages are now slowing down global energy production.

UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased 3.2% in 2012, from 2011, according to the latest official Government figures. UK GHG emissions covered by the Kyoto Protocol were estimated to be 581.2 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2012, up from 563.2 million tonnes in 2011.  Between 2011 and 2012, the largest increases were experienced in the residential sector, up 12.3% (8.5MtCO2e) due to increase in residential gas use, and the energy supply sector, up by 5.9% (11.2MtCO2e) due to greater use of coal in electricity generation.

It’s all very ski-fi (but hopefully not Solyent Green!): Edie.net report that the first underground farm in London has been launched with hopes to improve the long-term sustainability of the Capital’s food system. Thought up by two entrepreneurs, Steven Dring and Richard Ballard, who also teamed up with Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr, the working farm is located in an extensive tunnel network beneath London’s Northern Line.  The subterranean farm, which will start trading later this year, will produce a range of micro-herbs, shoots, miniature vegetables and other delicacies that will be sold to restaurants, supermarkets and wholesalers.

zerowastescotWRAP is set to overhaul its structure and apply for charitable status in a bid to diversify its funding base and secure its long-term future. WRAP and Zero Waste Scotland are to split and become independent of each other under plans revealed by the Scottish Government yesterday.

And more from Scotland: The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has announced that it has failed to meet some of its environmental revealling an increase in its greenhouse gas emissions in the past year.  The agency aims to reduce its emissions by 42% by 2020 based on a 2006-2007 baseline. SEPA’s emissions are 10.1% lower than the baseline year but its total emissions of carbon dioxide rose by 2.4% during 2012-2013.

Professor Neil Gershenfeld, who heads up the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Centre for Bits & Atoms, has said that waste is an “analogue concept” and as such is diametrically opposed to the notion of a circular economy where materials can be built, taken apart and rebuilt time and time again.

Lights made from recycled plastic bottles will soon go on the market following an international study led by Nottingham Trent University. In collaboration with Spanish SME, Ona Product SL, researchers have developed a new lighting system which is housed in a recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) casing, a material commonly used to contain soft drinks.

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon  (C) 2014

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon (C) 2014

A £12bn scheme to build a series of tidal energy plants in Britain will be kickstarted on Friday as a planning application is submitted for the world’s largest power-generating lagoon in South Wales. The promoters want to follow up an initial £850m project for Swansea Bay with four even larger lagoons with a capacity of 7,300MW – enough to meet 10% of the UK’s electricity needs. Tidal Lagoon Power has put in a development consent order under the Planning Act 2008, but must convince the government to provide subsidies of £156 per MWh – even more than that going to offshore wind farms. The project must also overcome scepticism about tidal power following the collapse of the much-larger Severn Barrage power generator in the same region.

Never before seen giant jellyfish being washed up in Tasmania appear to be further evidence of unexplained changes taking place in Australia’s Southern Ocean. Theories include ocean warming anda cha nge in the chemical balance in the oceans.

And finally ….. yes its been a long one ….. a supposedly greener petrol due to be introduced to meet EU Regulations is said to actually increase CO2 emissions. The fuel, which contains 10% bioethanol – has tested badly – producing more CO2 in tailpipe exhaust emission tests than normal petrol – and the E10 fuel is less efficient than current fuels – so cars and lorries use more.

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