Posts Tagged 'Environment'

SERIOUS MONDAY: AMERICA’S FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT PROMISES A GREEN FUTURE

 

barack-obama-5-14-08

There’s probably little left to be said about the historic American presidential election – after all, it has dominated the news over the past few days.

However, environmentalists all over the world are waiting with bated breath to see if Barack Obama comes through on his green promises.

Obama claims to be committed to fighting climate change – and if this turns out to be the case then the USA could make a MASSIVE difference to the planetary effort.

There’s certainly reason for excitement – if he stands by his word, Obama could make the UK’s contribution to the fight against global warming look like peanuts.

At the moment, our annual emissions stand at an estimated 500 million tonnes of CO2 – while the USA is currently held responsible for over 5,000 million – almost a quarter of all global emissions!

(Taken as a whole,  the countries of the EU account for 3171 million metric tons of C02 per year –  still almost 2000 million less than America.)

And it is looking hopeful at this stage.  An organisation called Environmentalists for Obama claims that his dedication to the environment has already been well-established during his time as a senator. 

And while the Republicans were talking of offshore drilling and nuclear power as the answer to energy independence, Obama was instead talking of plans to encourage energy efficiency and support for renewal energy.

Experts say that climate change did not play a big part in voting – except amongst the youngest voters – but the Worldwatch Institute says Americans did broadly support candidates who were advocating greater action on climate change.

And US environmental group, LCV, says with Obama at the helm, it is hoping for “significant global warming and clean energy legislation in the next year.” 

Meanwhile, the Worldwatch Institute believes that with a Democrat in the White House, a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, energy-efficient building codes and an extension of renewable energy tax credits are all on the cards. 

Already, the election result has affected the alternative energy market with stock market increases in share prices for a number of “green” corporations such as the Renewable Energy Corporation.   

And on his campaign website, Obama has already promised to:

Create five million new jobs by investing $15 billion per year over the next decade “to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future”

To save more oil in the next 10 years than the USA currently imports from the Middle East and Venezuela 

Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars on the road by 2015

Ensure that 10 percent of America’s  electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012 (only four years away!) 

And, wait for it – reduce the USA’s greenhouse gas emissions by an incredible 80 per cent by 2050 – although of course he won’t be in office to take responsibility if that doesn’t happen 

In fact, he has promised to  “make the US a leader on climate change” … so, watch this space as they say.

You can listen to his Blueprint for Energy Change here:

Susan

SERIOUS MONDAY: AN ALTERNATIVE TO NUCLEAR PLANTS


Environmental organisation, Greenpeace, believes it has come up with an excellent solution that could help to meet Britain’s energy needs and reduce C02 emissions.

It has commissioned research into CHP (combined heat and power) which it says shows that industrial sites around the country offer a great opportunity for bulk electricity generation.

According to Greenpeace, power stations in the UK currently waste almost two thirds of the energy they generate – and a massive 20 per cent of our total CO2 emissions come from the fuel which is burned to create this “wasted” heat.

Greenpeace says  the government has so far focused mainly on electricity generation but this accounts for only 17 per cent of our total energy demands whereas almost half of our energy needs are in the form of heat.

It says the government has no heat strategy for the UK and is concentrating on nuclear power which can provide only electricity whereas CHP has the  potential to generate enough power for the annual needs of two thirds of UK households.

The research carried out for Greenpeace by leading energy experts Poyry, claims that this potential could be harnessed by siting combined heat and power plants at existing industrial sites.

And it has identified nine sites around the country where CHP plants could be installed to meet the heat and power needs of local industry and supply electricity back to the national grid.

The proposal also offers substantial cost benefits since an industrial CHP plant is much quicker and cheaper to build than a nuclear power station. (Greenpeace cites the example of a CHP development at Immingham which supplies two refineries in Humberside with heat, steam and power. It is being expanded at the moment and is eventually expected to have the same generating capacity of  Sizewell B power station!)

You can read a summary of the report here

If the statistics stand up, it sounds like the obvious way forward but if it really is that simple then it begs the question – why hasn’t anyone thought about this before now ????

Susan

SERIOUS MONDAY: WHAT’S IN A NUMBER ? MORE THAN YOU’D EXPECT…

Almost every day we hear about a new project or initiative that has been set up to fight climate change or protect the environment.

Mostly, they are great campaigns or programmes that have our planet’s best interests at heart –  but with so many of them springing up, it’s getting harder and harder to become excited about another new kid on the block.

But today, I’m EXCITED !

And hopefully, you will be too – once you find out more about 350.  Yes, it’s a short title – and some critics complain that its name is meaningless and doesn’t tell us anything about its aims.

Okay, I’ll concede that at the moment, the name probably doesn’t mean a lot to most people. But it’s short and simple and as its founders point out, numbers are one of the few things that are universal to many countries of the world.

The name, 350, represents the number that top scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere –measured in parts per million (ppm)

And that’s what the new organisation is all about.  It is looking to build worldwide support for its campaign to get us back to 350ppm. (At the moment, we’re standing at around 387 ppm)

And if its launch video is anything to go by, it stands an excellent chance of reaching the masses – in many different countries.  This video is definitely one to watch.

It sums up the climate change challenge in just 90 seconds (without even using any words until the closing screen) so it will mean something to most people, whatever language they happen to speak.

I reckon the video is a definite award-winner – but see it for yourself and make up your own mind

So, what’s so exciting about 350.org ?  Lots of things actually, but for me, the main two are:

•     it boils down the technical mumbo-jumbo surrounding climate change to a level that an eight-year-old can understand (my daughter is proof of that) and it uses some great analogies to explain the challenges we face and what actions we can take

•    It hasn’t been set up by any government or official agency. It uses mainly volunteers – and its mission is to build “a global grassroots” climate movement

Those involved  – including environmentalist Bill McKibben who wrote one of the first books on global warming for the general public – recognise that many people in many places are already doing their bit to save our planet.

They say their hope is “we can shine a spotlight on the work of existing organisations, highlighting everyone’s incredible work and knitting these many efforts together for a powerful and unified call to action–a call that is global, scientific, and specific.

“By providing a common platform with the 350 target, we can help to stitch together a whole that is truly greater than the sum of its parts, a diverse movement that speaks with one collective voice.”

And so say all of us !!

The 350  launch website is excellent – certainly the best climate site I’ve seen in a LONG while and for those who want a simple history of the subject, there’s an excellent article about it.

Sign up to 350 now….. and take every chance you can to spread the word 

You can find out all you need to know about 350 and how you can get involved here

Susan

SERIOUS MONDAY: BRING BACK FREE RANGE KIDS!

People all over Britain are being invited to take part in Change Your World week which happens at the end of this month.

And the organisers, Sustrans, are stressing that if we all take just one small step, we can play a part in making a BIG difference.

They reckon that if all of us cut out just one car journey per week, we could reduce overall traffic by an amazing 10 per cent.

And they are asking people to commit to doing just that during Change Your World week which takes place from June 30 until July 5. So, all you have to do is cancel ONE car journey that week and either car share, use public transport, walk or cycle to your destination instead!

Change Your World is asking adults if they remember being free-range when they were kids. Back then, children regularly played outside and got around under their own steam rather than being chauffered everywhere by parents. The organisers says kids today are missing out on all that fun – and fresh air – and they believe the high levels of traffic on our streets is partly to blame.

Sustrans are asking people to sign up to the campaign online and the website has posters and wallpapers that you can download to support the campaign. You can also send e-cards to friends and family asking them to support the event.

You can find out more here

Susan

SERIOUS MONDAY: LITTLE EUROPE HAS A BIG APPETITE!

Europe is home to less than 10% of the world’s total population – but apparently we use more than our fair share of resources.

According to the European Environment Agency, we consume around 15% of the world’s energy – and almost a quarter of all paper produced on the planet!

Speaking at the opening of Green Week in Brussels last week, EEA executive director, Jacqueline McGlade, said: “Europeans have become a society of consumers. Consumption fuels our economy. Shopping for some has become a favourite pastime, even a hobby.”

Professor McGlade said our high – and ever-rising – consumption has a real effect on the environment and ambitious policies are needed to steer Europe in a more sustainable direction. At the moment, any efficiency improvements we do make are often outweighed by rising consumption.

For example, although average fuel consumption per car has dropped by 10 % due to technical improvements since 1990, the overall fuel consumption actually increased by 20 % – mainly because car ownership has increased and people now travel further.

And Prof. McGlade says it is a sad fact of life that many drivers still prefer larger and less fuel-efficient cars.

She added:“Our current consumption and production patterns may well lie behind our material wealth – but they are also responsible for many negative impacts on the environment.

“These impacts are rising and could lead to significant consequences for our planet and humankind if action is not taken to put our consumption and production on a sustainable path

Susan

SERIOUS MONDAY: ARE COUNCILS DOING THEIR BIT IN THE CLIMATE CHANGE FIGHT?

More than half of all voters think their local council should be forcing people to take action on climate change, according to a new survey.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, says its research found that 56% of people believe this would help in the fight against climate change.

More than 60% of people who took part in the survey also felt that local councils should offer financial incentives to encourage people to be “greener” – while 53% felt  councils should have penalty schemes for residents who do not do their bit for the environment.

An overwhelming number of people also felt that climate change should be    one of the top five priorities for their local council.

A spokesman for LGA said: “Families understandably wonder why they should stop flying abroad for their summer holiday when they see other people driving everywhere in a gas guzzler. People would doubtless be inclined to recycle more if they were confident all their neighbours were making the same effort.”

Last month, the LGA launched a climate change campaign – Small Change, Big Difference – which encourages the local government sector to do more and calls for greater powers for councils.

Sadly, at the same time as the LGA released its findings, a survey by car hire firm, Enterprise, apparently found that more than half of all public bodies in the UK  – which includes local councils  – don’t yet have an employee whose primary role is to address sustainability issues.

And an astonishing 87% of public sector purchase managers admitted that cost is still the most important consideration when deciding their transport policy.

Convenience was also seen as very important, pushing the environmental impact of travel into third place.

An Enterprise spokesman said: “It’s not surprising that cost ranks high on the list of factors when choosing methods of transport – after all, it’s important to get the best value from money that comes out of the public purse.  The worry is that environmental concerns came in such a distant third place.

“Environmental managers need to be given a louder voice within the public sector – and they need to be given the authority to make a real difference and ensure that cost concerns don’t completely overshadow environmental considerations.”

Not surprisingly, the Enterprise findings have led many people to suggest that local councils should practice what they preach – before they talk about bringing in rules or penalties for individuals who are not helping in the fight against global warming.

Susan

SERIOUS MONDAY: KEEP OUR TREES NATURAL!

A worldwide campaign has been launched to prevent genetically engineered trees from damaging the environment.

The Stop GE Trees Campaign has been set up by a global project which says it aims to end false solutions to climate change such as the large-scale production of biofuels, carbon trading and carbon offset forestry.

It is concerned that genetically engineered eucalyptus, currently being grown in field trials, will contaminate traditional forest eco-systems –  leading to the loss of biological diversity and ultimately speeding up global warming.

And it is calling for a worldwide ban on the GE eucalyptus and other rapidly growing GE trees which it claims are a major threat to the environment.

Currently, billions of dollars are being invested in GE tree research and development in the USA and hundreds of field trials have already taken place.

Campaigners are concerned that if the GE trees are allowed to seed, the seeds will be carried long distances by the wind and the strong and invasive GE varieties will thrive at the expense of native, more vulnerable species.

They say the development of GE trees is being driven by the paper and biofuels industries and is worsening the problem of illegal logging as traditional forests are felled to make way for the new SuperTrees.

As they spread across the world, the effects will pass from trees to wildlife and forest-dependent and indigenous communities.

The campaign has found widespread support in many developed countries and many eminent scientists are backing its calls.

You can find out more – and order a DVD about GE trees here

Susan