It is now officially recognised throughout the developed world that we must do something about climate change.

Farmers in the Netherlands have been protesting because, as I understand it, they are blamed for most of the Dutch nitrous oxide emissions and they believe there is a threat to their livelihoods fearing there are plans to cut pig, beef and chicken production by half for environmental reasons. These threats are not made by the Dutch Government but by opposition parties anxious to be seem to do something about climate change; such is the sensitivity of people in the climate change debate that traffic was badly disrupted by the tractors (which in turn must have created excess emissions) that the farmers took to the street protesting about the possibility of their incomes being slashed in the name of climate change. Climate change is serious, as all farmers know and have experienced, but when it comes to doing something about it “not me” is the cry.

It is a feature of modern life that almost everyone agrees that climate change is a threat and should be mitigated in some way, but almost everyone thinks that the mitigation should be at the cost of somebody else. “Not me!” Blame China for climate change, blame India, blame the USA, blame Brazil, blame the government, blame industry, blame capitalism, blame socialism, blame the wealthy, blame the poor, blame whoever, but don’t blame me.

Wealthy people who fly around in private jets and lead lifestyles that create far more emissions than the average person in their community feel qualified to lecture us on the dangers of climate change. “Someone should do something about it, but not me” is the message, “not me”.

“Not me” has become the real response to climate change by humanity, and such a response is inadequate, as humanity will learn to its cost.

The Effect on Climate of coal, diesel and wood burning

I have written a great deal about my views that particulates are a significant contribution to the changes that our climate are experiencing than we understand, and my instincts seem to be borne out by research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.  If the research has drawn the correct conclusions, then particulates from wood burning, diesel engines and coal burning (which create pure carbon in the form of soot) have twice more impact on our climate than previously estimated. Continue reading

Fracking earthquakes and fracking underground water supplies

In terms of emissions and particulates produced by actual burning natural gas is the least polluting of all fossil fuels by a good distance. However, when it comes to environmental protection we must consider the effects of everything that is done to extract the fossil fuel and use it, not just the last step in the energy chain. If we use oil taken from Canadian oil tar sands then the overall effect of its pollution is very high – probably higher than coal mined from open cast pits. When we look at using natural gas extracted from shale rock we must, before we decide on its environmental effect, look at the first steps in the production of the gas, not just the last step, when it burns in our condensing boiler. Continue reading

Muddled Thinking: preventing wasting energy is just as important as clean renewable energy

I have devoted several essays on this web log to my views on what is a clean renewable source of energy and what is a dirty renewable energy source. A clean source is one that creates very few emissions and pollutants in its life cycle and a dirty source is one that creates many pollutants in its lifecycle and use. Continue reading

Have you seen the Butterflies of Snowdon?

It must have been in 1965 that my geography teacher and another school teacher took about thirty of us children to Barmouth in what was then called Merionethshire in North Wales. We went to study geography, with clip boards and strong shoes, out of Poplar into the Welsh countryside. As part of the fun we climbed up (or rather I should say strolled up) Wales’ second largest mountain, Cader Idris, and from there and from other parts of our journey around the county we saw Wales’ highest peak, Snowdon which in Welsh is called Yr Wyddfa and which means “tumulus”. Continue reading

Road Works in London – a new Olympic Event?

If you live in London and have to travel around the city to get to and from work or on business or to see friends you will have noticed that travel is becoming longer slower and less pleasant, whether you go by bus, car, underground or taxi, particularly if you live north of the river. The reason is that there has been a plethora of road and tube works which has seen many roads being closed, many tube lines being disrupted by engineering works and many roads having temporary traffic lights to divert traffic around road works. It is not very pleasant. Continue reading

The Aviation Stand-off

China has announced that its airlines will not be allowed to pay the EU tax on airline carbon emissions that applies to aircraft flying to or from the European Union without the specific approval of relevant government departments. The airlines of China will not be allowed to participate in the Emissions Savings Scheme without similar clearance. Continue reading

Achieving Zero

Brenda Boardman is at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. I have always found that she has interesting things to say about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in buildings. She has now written a report “Achieving Zero” which you can read in full at http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/research/energy/achievingzero/achieving-zero-text.pdf or in summary at http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/research/energy/achievingzero/achievingzero-execsum.pdf which sets out some findings and ideas about reducing greenhouse egas emissions from buildings. This is a difficult problem in the United Kingdom where there are more than 26 million buildings the vast majority of which were built to designs and specifications when green house gas emissions and fuel costs were not a concern. Continue reading

Air Quality Worsens in Northern India, Southern Nepal, and Bangladesh

The old London pea-souper fogs of the past may have been replaced by equally virulent invisible fogs of particulates which are just as damaging to our health, but the pea-souper has reappeared a long way from London Town – in the lands of Northern India, Southern Nepal, and Bangladesh.

These are populous areas which have been inhabited for millennia. Today they comprise a world quite like that of Southern England except for the weather. There is commerce, industry, many flights and plenty of trains as well as cars and buses and trucks to enable communications of the modern world to take place as the regions grow in prosperity. However economic progress is now being hampered by an increasingly poor environment especially when it comes to air quality. The number of smog affected days is growing year by year and the smog is becoming increasingly dense. Trains have been slowed due to lack of visibility and flights delayed and diverted.

The smog problem has been around for just over twenty years and there has been an increase (with yearly variations) in the past ten years so it is too soon to draw and scientific conclusion.

The area has increased its population rapidly and with the increasing in population comes more fossil fuel burning, more wood burning and more animal dung burning, all of which create ideal ingredients for smog. More and more people (in per capita terms) are suffering from chronic breathing diseases in Northern India, Bangladesh and South Nepal.

There is an element of the vicious circle in this air pollution. During winter the wind blows from the south west to the north east and this pushes the pollutants to the layer of the atmosphere that forms a boundary with the earth. These, in still conditions form smog, which cuts of sunlight and makes people colder than they normally are even in winter. So the people start burning fuel which increases the atmospheric pollution and in turn increases the density of the smog.

In India there is a National Air Quality Monitoring Programme and the Central Pollution Board analyses the data from the Programme. The Board considers that air is clean is the pollutants are half the maximum prescribed standards. 80% of Indian cities exceed the average ambient air quality standards. PM10 (Particulate Matter) levels are particularly dangerous and there seems to be an increasing trend for nitrous oxide to be found in the air at higher and higher levels due to the expansion of industrialisation. The trends in India are being repeated all over the world; the European Union is trying to clean up its air but failing to make any real progress in doing so in large cities like London; the problem is not limited to India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Those who deny the existence of human activity induced rapid climate change may be right; there is a very small possibility that they are right, the vast body of scientific thinking holds. But if they are right and we stop all climate change reduction measures and burn fossil fuel and wood and other fuels to provide for our every increasing energy needs we will be breathing dirtier and dirtier air to which our bodies will not quickly adapt. Climate change deniers never address the issue of air quality; perhaps they don’t breathe.

Those that trouble their own house shall inherit the wind; those that pollute the air which we breathe will have no inheritance nor leave one, not even the wind.

From London to Manchester by way of New York

When you flick through a flight magazine from any airline after you have squashed yourself into a seat you will see that airlines, almost with exception, represent themselves as great environmentalists. They are acutely aware of that the high level emissions they create are very damaging to the environment and want to improve their image and provide their passengers (who are the real culprits in the creation of airline emissions) with some comfort that they might be creating less environmental damage than is claimed. Continue reading