Is Climate Change the single biggest threat the UK faces?

Climate Change and the UK
Climate Change and the UK

David Cameron has declared that he believes that climate change is the greatest threat facing the UK and the rest of the world. At PMQs he said “I believe man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces”. He then went on to criticise the opposition for their own failure in taking action on climate change. The prime minister had seemed reluctant to acknowledge there was a link between industrial fossil fuel emissions but after suggestions from the opposition that he was unwilling to take robust action he has toughened his position on the issue.

The prime minister set out several key examples that the UK is setting to the rest of the world in the fight against climate change. He pointed to the fact that Britain has founded the world’s first green investment bank to boost development and commercialisation of renewable technology. Other examples of Britain’s continued commitment to renewable energy were the setting of yearly carbon budgets in order to meet carbon output reductions set out in the climate change act. It was also pointed out that a new nuclear power station has been agreed with the last UK nuclear power station being constructed over thirty years ago.

The prime minister’s comments were welcomed by green MPs who feared the prime ministers previously indifferent attitude might jeopardise attempts to build a greener economy. When he first became leader David Cameron declared he wanted to lead the greenest government ever. However he recently said that the government wanted to remove the “green crap” from consumer’s energy bills.

The chancellor George Osborne has also had his fair share of criticism on environmental issues in the past. He was criticised by some conservative MPs when he said that Britain should not be expected to cut its carbon emissions at a faster rate than its European Union Partners. He also recently echoed the prime minister during a visit to Hong Kong when he accepted that climate change presents a significant problem to the UK but that it needs to be combated in as cheap a possible way.

The opposition have since praised the prime misters and the chancellors remarks but have turned there attention on the environment secretary Owen Patterson. The environment secretary is known to be on the sceptical side of the debate and his position as environment secretary has been questioned in light of the recent devastation caused by severe flooding in southern England. The prime minister got the last word in on the issue during the debate in the commons and stated that the only way to deal with climate change is through long term planning in infrastructure.

Are the recent floods linked to Climate Change?

more-storms-are-coming

According to the author of a report first published in 2006 the extreme weather sweeping across Britain is clear evidence of climate change. The author of the report Lord Stern is unequivocal in his view that the current extreme weather patterns are part of an international trend in extreme weather events.

The peer states that it is imperative for Britain and the rest of the world to pursue a reduction in carbon emissions to avoid a continuous pattern of extreme weather that has brought misery to thousands this winter. According to Lord Stern the scientific evidence backs up the belief that the storms being experienced across the UK are caused by climate change. The last five years have been the wettest on record and when taken in conjunction with rising sea levels the risk of flooding will increase.

The peer has suggested that if carbon emissions cannot be brought under control there could be even more devastating consequences. There are weather related crises erupting across the world with Brazil experiencing record rainfalls and flooding. On the other side of the equation Australia and Argentina are experiencing heat waves and droughts during some of the hottest summers on record.

The peer urges the government to keep implementing the climate change act and that the problems are simply too great to ignore the issue.

Meanwhile a recent poll has found that over half of people believe that climate change is to blame for the recent devastating storms and flooding across Britain. Only around a quarter of people surveyed thought the floods and climate change were not linked in any way. A third of people also said that Politian’s responses to climate change would affect how they voted in future with only twenty per cent of people believing that the government is taking strong enough action to deal with the current crisis.

Some individuals in parliament have come in for specific criticism. Among those receiving flak are David Cameron with fifty one per cent of people believing his response to the flooding crisis has been unsatisfactory. Some ministers within the cabinet have had their personal views on climate change called into question. The environment secretary Owen Paterson has been a vocal sceptic within the climate change debate along with Michael Fallon who is against “climate change worship”. Campaigners have responded by stating the only way to deal with the consequences of climate change is to cut the global output of carbon emissions by half.

The weather in the UK has become a centre point of international debate on climate change and has jump started a debate about what should be done to tackle the issues that extreme weather events can cause.

Roof Greening: A Proven Ecological Flood Defence System

333333_10151897144915015_39315496_oAs we all know Britain has recently been hit by some of the worst storms in living memory. January was England’s wettest winter month in almost 250 years. Three times the average rainfall fell leaving many homes and lives devastated by flood waters, and unfortunately, more rain is on the way. It seems that tensions are running high and the people of Britain are getting angry with the government claiming a lack of planning and a seemingly slow response to the floods has worsened the effects of the recent storm season. Well perhaps one proven, Green initiative we could employ to combat future floods in cities and large towns would be green roofing.

Green Roof
Green Roof

Green roofing is the process of adding living matter to rooftops, usually in the form of Sedum which is a large genus of succulent flowering plants that can be used with very little substrate / soil to cover roof tops for a range of benefits (Learn more about Green roofing).

The process has been proven to slow water run-off into drainage systems by retaining the water within its biological and soil medium and slowly releasing it into its own gravel drainage system. Eventually releasing what isn’t consumed or evaporated sometime after the rains normal and immediate run-off time, and at a more regulated rate. Studies have also shown that a green roof will actually entirely soak up the first 5mm of rain that falls on a daily basis. According to research, green roofs are able to retain on average 82% of rainfall compared to 27% on a pure gravel roof and 0% of a standard tar or tiled roof.

Eco Green Roofs co-founder, James Edwards claims: “Green roofs enhance the drainage of any flat roof or pitch roof because the water has to pass through the soil in the system. Then it’s slowly released back into the drainage system as opposed to the sudden shock of normal rain flooding.” This allows our drainage systems to cope more efficiently with excess water.

The city of Toronto in the USA was the first city in North America to pass a bylaw to require and govern the construction of green roofs on nearly all new development. It was passed in May 2009 and is said to have completely put a stop to the flooding of storm drains during heavy rain in the high tourist season.

So it would seem that Green roofs could certainly help protect our urban areas from flooding but this isn’t the only reason why they are becoming more and more popular.

The UK Government’s target for all homes to be carbon-neutral by 2016 combined with the evidence that suggests a large enough green roof can significantly reduce a properties carbon emissions, might lead to further government incentives for those with applicable roofing space, in the near future.

It’s now accepted that a 1000m2 roof space will offset nearly 5 tonnes of carbon emissions a year. They can also contribute to carbon emission reduction indirectly because they can insulate your property meaning that there may be less demand for heating in winter or for air conditioning / cooling in summer. The website www.environment-agency.gov.uk has stated this about an area called Islington in central London: ‘Due to the thermal mass of the green roof, no air conditioning has been installed. This has led to a reduction in 3,800kW/hrs and a saving of 1.6 CO2 tonnes.’ Studies have also suggested that the air above a green roof can have up to 37% less sulfur dioxide.

The more greenery we add to our cities, towns and densely concreted areas the more control we can have over the impact of heavy rainfall. Green roofs aren’t practical for all of us but with the public awareness of this practice rising we are seeing a steady increase in installed area. They bring great value to individual houses through insulation, sound proofing, roof life extension but also to whole areas through air purification, combating the urban heat island effect, increasing species habitat availability, plus they can be of great benefit to those affected by flooding in built up areas.

With a budget of over fifty billion dollars will the Sochi winter Olympics really be the greenest games ever?

Sochi.ru
Sochi.ru

In the run up to the winter Olympics the Russian government made some big claims about making the games carbon neutral and living up to the highest environmental standards. Huge sums of money have been committed to exploiting the host regions potential for sustainable energy generation as well as sustained efforts to offset the carbon emissions from air travel and ground transportation during the games.

For instance a large network of thermal power plants and pipes have been constructed to manage the temperatures around the Olympic village and to maintain the right conditions inside the arenas. Some of the games sponsors such as the American company General Electric are also contributing to the emissions saving infrastructure.

However with the a track record on the environment like Russia’s, there should be no surprise that cracks are beginning to show in the host nations claims of hosting the most sustainable games ever. Accusations of destructive construction practises are being levelled at the hosts by such organisations as the United Nations and the World Wildlife Fund. Activists have found evidence of illegal landfills filled with mountains of construction debris. Some activists who have tried to expose these scandals have also experienced intimidation from authorities. These allegations if proved to be true could mean bad news for a region known for its pristine ecosystems.

Although there is evidence that Russia is about to stray from its commitments, hope might be found among the sponsors of the Sochi games. Among the games sponsors are some of the world’s major corporations who have also made sturdy commitments to environmental sustainability who are unlikely to risk their brand being associated with environmental abuse. The international Olympic committee also places a large emphasis on the sustainable aspect and the previous games in London and Vancouver have set new benchmarks to aspire to.

One of the main hopes of environmentalists is that the games will help jump start a change in direction in Russian energy policy. The visibility and scrutiny that accompanies hosing an Olympic event should create more awareness specifically in countries such as Russia about the impact of some of their government’s policies. It is particularly ironic due to the fact that climate change is now affecting the viability of many winter sports across the world. During the Sochi games just like past winter games, the organiser are relying on stored snow and an army of heavy polluting equipment and volunteers to keep the games moving.

Heat Related Deaths will Rise By 2050

Despite the current torrential and seemingly abashing wave of destructive storms and the wettest beginning to a year for over 200 years, new research reveals that a steep rise in global temperatures is due to increase the number of heat related deaths by 2050.

Beach in Summer
Beach in Summer

As a result of climate change the UK is expected to see an increase of around 257 per cent with the elderly being the group most at risk. The bulk of the increase in deaths will come during the summer months as temperatures soar.

The study focused on temperature fluctuations between 1993 and 2006. Their aim was to determine whether changing weather patterns have any effect on mortality rates. Their research would suggest there would be a significant impact.

Using a projection of climate temperature and population increases they were able to generate an estimate for temperature related deaths.

The researchers say the number of days which the UK is expected to experience hot weather is expected to triple by 2080. They are predicting that we will experience an increase in heat related deaths of approximately two percent or every one Celsius rise in global temperatures. The number of cold days is also expected to fall.

The research also suggest that there would be a small drop off in deaths during the winter period as temperatures rise and we experience milder winter conditions.

The team of researchers predicted that as early as the 2020s we will see an increase of 66 percent in heat related deaths. The research stated that the negative effects of rising global temperatures will fall disproportionately on the elderly with those over 75 most at risk.

Britain currently sees regional variations in temperature related deaths and this trend is expected to continue. The south of England and the midlands will bear the brunt of temperature rises and as a result protection from hot weather is predicted to become a major health issue over the next century.

Rising fuel costs may exacerbate the problems as people struggle to keep their homes cool in the increasingly long summer months. The added stress that higher temperatures will put on the body will exacerbate existing health conditions such as reparatory problems says the co-author of the paper Dr Sotiris Vardoulakis.

The effects of an aging population in conjunction with climate change are becoming clear and countries that are set to experience an increase of their elderly populations over the next century will have the most public health problems.

The researchers state that future planning is vital to mitigate the effects of more extreme hot weather. They state that failure to plan now could see the country fail to cope with these extreme weather events.

Heat pumps are a fantastic renewable energy technology perfectly positioned to aid in home climate control. They have the facility to warm our home during winter months and can be reversed to provide cooling during the hotter summer periods. For more information on this fantastic technology click here.

Renewable Energy Row Holds Up EU Deal

Negotiations are continuing in Brussels to decide whether the EU will implement a 35 or 40 percent reduction in the continents carbon output by 2030.

EU_FlagThe European Union is also pushing for a target for renewable energy generation but is meeting stern opposition particularly from the UK. The British government is opposed to any target for renewable energy which threatens to derail any potential agreement despite negotiations having dragged on for over two years.

However the president of the European Commission Manuel Barroso is ready to intervene to strike a compromise deal between the parties. The deal may potentially involve abandoning a renewable energy target to save an agreement on greenhouse gas emissions.

Studies have proved that a cut in emissions of 40 percent is possible without harming economic activity although the commission is willing to accept a 35 percent reduction. Most of the major economies of the bloc including Germany, Britain and France have agreed to the 40 percent emissions target making the chances of a deal more likely.

The previous deal on targeting emissions reduction was agreed in 1990 and runs until 2020 and has very nearly been reached. In all likelihood the targets will be exceeded by 2020 giving Europe a significantly reduced carbon output.

The strong desire from the EU to have a deal in place is down to the fact that governments around the world must publish their pledges on gas emissions cuts within the next year. All current commitments expire after 2020. The European Union wants a deal in place before the 2015 Paris conference on climate change.

The expectation in Paris is to agree a new deal on climate change and to set new binding targets for a reduction in emissions. The deal would include both developed and developing countries agreeing emissions cuts to prevent a dangerous rise in global temperatures.

Britain’s resistance to any renewable energy target for 2030 is causing the delays to the deal at this late stage of negotiations. The current agreements require that a fifth of a nations energy requirements must be fulfilled by renewable energy generation by 2020. The British government believes there should be no renewable energy target at all for 2030.

The outcome of the negotiations will have implications for the renewable energy industry across the EU. The current EU deal has helped to create a world leading renewable energy industry across the EU bloc with high levels of growth and job creation.

The UK energy secretary Ed Davy has claimed that his opposition towards a renewable energy target has support among a growing number of EU members. He cited Spain as an example although the Spanish declined to comment on his statement.

The countries that have signed up to the full agreement include Austria, Germany and Denmark. It is believed that Britain is opposed to the deal because the UK treasury favours more nuclear power and wishes to push ahead with shale gas extraction. Nuclear Power is not included as part of the deal and they are worried the deal could cause a drop off in investment in shale gas.

Green MEPs and campaigners say the deal is not tough enough and want even larger targets for emissions reduction and sustainable energy generation.