Environmental photographer of the year shows climate change issues across the world – some marvellous photos can be found here http://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/culture/environmental-photographer-year/#slide-top. Photo credit Kevin McElvaney & Adam Latif, 2013
Sir David Attenborough, perhaps the most respected of all our wildlife broadcasters and a veteran campaigner, has warned that climate change is real and dangerous and that politicians, and others in authority and power, find it easier to deliberately ignore the compelling evidence of global warming. Sir David told Sky News “its a very major serious problem facing humanity” adding that the penalty for not taking notice is “huge”. That said, a group of leading economists have warned that the UN’s target to limit global temperature rises to 2C is too ‘costly’ and should be abandoned as the (economic) cost of limiting change was far outweighed by the economic damage, with economist Dr Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and director of the Copenhagen Consensis Centre saying that the UN target should be raised to 3C because the cost of limiting warming to 2C – estimated to be $100 trillion to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy – vastly outweighed the benefits – as adapting to climate change (droughts, storms, floods, environmental damage) would be much cheaper. World leaders meet in Paris next December to try and agree a deal to limit global temperature increases.
Vast underground reserves of oil, gas and coal should be classified as off limits if the world stands any chance of averting dangerous climate change, a major study of global fossil-fuel deposits has found. Scientists calculated that a third of global oil reserves, half of gas reserves and more than 80 per cent of coal reserves should remain in the ground as “unburnable” to avoid exceeding the 2C “safe” threshold for global warming. The Independent reports that the scale of the problem facing the climate negotiations in Paris later this year is writ large in the study by Christophe McGlade and Paul Ekins of University College London who have identified the critical fossils fuels and their locations that need to remain untouched and unexploited. China, Russia and the United States will have to leave their huge deposits of coal – the dirtiest of the three main fossil fuels – underground, while the Middle East will need to agree to keep much of its wealth-creating oil and gas reserves where they are. Similarly, Canada will have to relinquish its ambitions of producing oil from tar sands and the Arctic nations, mainly Russia, will have to agree that exploiting oil and gas in this environmentally sensitive region would be incompatible with a global climate agreement.
New data from the National Grid has revealed that UK wind power generation rose by 15% in 2014, while separate figures from WWF Scotland round-up a record-breaking year for renewables north of the border. National Grid statistics show a rise from 24.5TWh to 28.1TWh electricity generated from renewables in the UK in 2014 – enough to power approximately a quarter of UK homes all year round. Wind farms feeding into the grid and single turbines connected to local networks together provided 9.3% of the UK’s total electricity supply in 2014, up from 7.8% in 2013. The UK’s wind sector success is being echoed across Europe as recent figures show Denmark and Germany also broke wind power output records last year. Danish local media has stated figures from Energinet.dk which reveal that 39% of all electricity used in Denmark in 2014 was generated by wind power. Production varied between nearly 62% in January and 23% in June. Meanwhile, reports from Germany reveal the country saw a record amount of electricity produced from wind energy in December, with renewable energy research institute IWR citing a record 8.9TWh of electricity generated by wind during the month. IWR director Norbert Allnoch said: “The main reason for the record-breaking wind power production is the current cyclonic weather with lots of low pressure areas.” IWR believes the record will be overtaken in 2015 as more offshore wind projects come online.
Edie.net reports that nuclear energy is an essential resource for replacing fossil fuels and environmental activists must drop their opposition to it, leading scientists have warned. A group of 75 biologists, including professors from Oxford and Cambridge, co-signed an open letter arguing that nuclear power must be deployed to replace the burning of fossil fuels, “if we are to have any chance of mitigating severe climate change”. But the statement has reignited the debate over UK nuclear power, as Greenpeace hit back, reiterating that cheap, clean nuclear reactors are currently an unrealistic proposition.
The Ukip energy spokesman Roger Helmer has claimed that climate change is still ‘open to question’ and says that the party would repeal legally binding targets to reduce emissions, if elected. Speaking to The Independent, Helmer said: “The relationship between global temperature and atmospheric CO2 levels is hugely open to question, especially as there hasn’t been any global warming for the last 18 years according to satellite data.” As a result Helmer said a Ukip government would immediately repeal the Climate Change Act – which enforces an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, compared to 1990. Helmer went on to criticise the latest IPCC report, in which hundreds of scientist concluded that climate change is real and undeniably caused by human activity – MEP Helmer says the projections are ‘grossly exaggerated.’ Elsewhere in politics, the Green Party has proposed a 10% cut in rail and bus fares “to relieve the national reliance on carbon-intensive forms of transport”. The scheme, projected to cost around £9bn over the course of the next Parliament, will be paid for by scrapping the majority of the current Government’s £15bn road building programme. And the current UK coalition government has provided well over a billion pounds in loans to fossil fuel projects around the world despite a pledge to withdraw financial support from such schemes, an analysis of loans made by the UK’s export credit agency has revealed. Gazprom in Russia, Brazil’s state-owned oil company and petrochemical companies in Saudi Arabia are among the companies benefiting from around £1.7bn in government funding over the course of the parliament, Greenpeace found. The UK Export Finance (UKEF) deals appear to fly in the face of the 2010 coalition agreement, where the Conservatives and Lib Dems pledged to clamp down on funding for fossil fuel operations abroad.
New York City has banned single-use styrofoam packaging! This is great news for our planet. “By removing nearly 30,000 tons of expanded polystyrene waste from our landfills, streets and waterways, [this] is a major step towards our goal of a greener, greater New York City,” says Mayor Bill de Blasio.
New energy efficiency measures have been brought in by the European Union (EU) with the aim of helping reduce energy consumption in 2015 The rules, which were agreed by all EU Governments, aim to reduce member states’ household energy bills by more than £30 a year as well as greatly benefitting the environment. According to EU figures, by 2020 consumers using energy efficient products in their homes could save more than £300 a year.
Edie also reports that Asda is collaborating with TV chef Jamie Oliver to reduce food waste by selling a new range of misshapen fruit and vegetables at reduced prices. The initiative, called ‘Beautiful on the Inside’, will be trialled at five Asda stores, starting on 26 January. The idea was reportedly born when farmers told Oliver on his Friday Night Feast TV show that a significant amount of fruit and veg isn’t being sold as ‘fresh’ because it’s ‘wonky’ or ‘ugly’.
Some good news: Tropical rainforests may be absorbing far more carbon dioxide than many scientists thought, in response to rising atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas. That’s according to the ‘Effect of increasing CO2 on the terrestrial carbon cycle,’ a NASA-led study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, which estimates that tropical rainforests absorb 1.4 billion metric tonnes of CO2 out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion, more than boreal (coniferous) forests in the northern hemisphere.
Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) – the Americas Cup sailing team led by the four-time Olympic gold medallist – has announced that its groundbreaking new headquarters will be powered completely by renewable energy The team base, currently under construction on the Camber in Portsmouth, will be powered specifically by high efficiency solar PV technology. The initial target is to supply 90% of the team’s electricity power needs, with this improving to 100% once energy monitoring is implemented. The headquarters, scheduled for completion in May 2015, will also be accorded BREEAM ‘Excellent’ status.
Sainsbury’s has confirmed that it is now sourcing 95% of its palm oil from certified sustainable suppliers. In total more than 1,100 Sainsbury’s own-brand products now use certified sustainable palm oil.
The food and drink industry must curtail the amount of water used in production to avoid two thirds of the world’s population living in ‘water-scarce’ areas by 2050. That’s according to the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) which has produced a new policy report calling for co-ordinated action to reduce the amount of hidden water used in food and drink production – estimated to be 2,000-5,000 litres per person per day. In the report, IChemE proposes government-enforced targets of a 20% reduction in water use in global food production.