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ANOTHER PLANET?

We featured Professor Stephen  Emmott’s new smash hit theatre presentation ‘Ten Billion’ in our last ‘Another Planet?’ post, and with news that double Olympic champion Mo Farah is highlighting famine in the Horn of Africa (Mo is Somali born but raised in Great Britain where he now lives) against a backdrop of serious droughts in the USA and Russia forcing up the price of corn and other food stuffs, one of Emmott’s most disturbing revelations is that senior army officers are now attending conferences on climate change and food security. Oxbridge professor Emmott blames the recent droughts and floods on man made climate change and global warming, and says that humanity will see “increasingly frequent food shortages, especially in Africa” adding  “crops will be lost due t short term climate variation and extreme weather events associated with climate change and there will be food shortages …. as a result of rising prices caused by the loss of crops in some parts of the World”.

The UK has the potential to be a global front-runner in the shift to low carbon but only if the Government adopts a smarter approach to energy and climate change policy, says the CBI.  According to research by the CBI, the UK has the ability to become a global leader in low-carbon products and services, which could add £20bn extra in annual GDP by 2015. And more than 200 organisations have signed an open letter to 10 Downing Street calling for the Government to demonstrate clear and consistent leadership on the future of renewable energy.  The letter, from the Renewable Energy Association (REA) to David Cameron and Nick Clegg, sets out the benefits of a low carbon economy to national prosperity and condemns the Government’s Renewable Obligations banding decision which it claims leaves the future of key renewable technologies uncertain.

Higher collection targets for e-waste have been introduced across Europe as part of a forthcoming review of the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) Directive.  New laws will require member states to collect 45% of EEE sold from 2016, rising to 65% in 2019 or 85% of e-waste generated – depending on how individual countries wish to measure their target. In the UK WRAP is to convene an industry working group to encourage designers and manufacturers to improve the resource efficiency of electrical appliances.

The UK’s unusual summer climate, with hot spells punctuated by frequent cooler wet spells, has meant that the pollen count is at its highest for decades – meaning misery for hay fever sufferers – so lets all sneeze in sympathy for another unwanted side effect of climate change.

A new single body will be set up to manage Wales’ natural resources following an eight week consultation. The body, which will become fully operational on April 1st 2013, will replace the Environment Agency Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales and the Forestry Commission for Wales.

A devastating fire at RWE’s wood powered plant in Essex has severely damaged the new biomass plant and contributed to a 9% drop in RWE npower’s profits for the first half of 2012. The plant, converted from a coal fired station, remains out of action.  RWE’s profits have also suffered from the enforced closure of nuclear plants in Germany after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and the group is shedding 2,400 jobs, mostly in Germany. There was also a massive fire at the Hunt’s Waste Recycling Centre on Chequer’s lane, Dagenham near London on the night of the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games some six miles away. Over 200 firefighters attended and an investigation into the cause of the biggest blaze in London ‘ for years’ has begun. A plume of smoke from the fire could be seen at the Olympic Park.

Venture capitalist Albion Ventures has invested £1.3m in a 300kW hydropower scheme in rural Wales that has won support from local farmers.  The scheme, which is being developed by engineering firm Dragon Hydro Limited, is expected to start generating electricity in the third quarter of 2013. It is estimated that the project, which will be built on the Afon Cadair River in Gwnedd, will generate 1,300MWh of electricity per year, enough to power up to 300 households.

Unilever is exploring the potential of energy recovery to add value to its single use sachet packaging waste stream.  The consumer goods manufacturer is examining ways to incentivise the collection and reuse of used sachets which contain anything from shampoo to ketchup on a large scale, and is looking to implement a specific sustainable business model solely for this material by 2015. On the other hand – they could just use bottles and reusable containers rather than sachets which are an appalling waste that goes straight to landfill – although It is argued that in some developing economies people simply cannot afford bottles and other multi portion containers. Unilever sells millions of products in single-use sachets and claims they are an efficient use of packaging as they create less waste by weight per millilitre of product sold than bottles.  They plan to turn discarded sachets, pouches and other flexible plastic waste into fuel oil at a viable cost.  See more on Edie.net here http://www.edie.net/news/news_story.asp?src=nl&id=23013

The global market for biodegradable plastics is expected to soar over the next six years, driven by a growing demand for eco-friendly packaging. A study released today by Transparency Market Research predicts that the market for these materials will be worth nearly $7.8bn by 2018, almost quadrupling from its current value of $2.3bn.

Edie.net reports that the cruise ship industry has “created waves” with a new sustainability drive opting for refurbishment over landfill.  UK-based repair specialist Plastic Surgeon whose ethos is “repairing rather than replacing” has secured several maintenance contracts for major cruise lines.

The Environment Agency has carried out a biological survey after almost 3000 fish were found dead in Scarborough. Environment officers called to the scene found the dead fish along an extensive stretch of the beck between Burniston and Scalby.

According to Weather Underground, the city of Needles, California, recently experienced what is believed to be the hottest rainfall on record. Not long after hitting a daytime high of 118°F (the hottest it’s ever been there, by the way), a thunderstorm rolled through, dropping precipitation over the Mojave Desert town that reached a scorching 115°F.

Another Planet? Tim de Chant has created a great infographic that shows the ecological footprint that would be used if the whole world’s population (estimated at 7 billion) lived like the inhabitants of various countries. Obviously, Bangladesh and the U.S. have very different ecological footprint – something that we can very easily guess – but seeing the difference visually does give a more intuitive grasp of how big that difference is. Of course, you rapidly run out of space once you get to the richest countries and start needing more than 1 Earth, which is something we don’t have. More on Treehugger here http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/if-7-billion-people-lived.html

Photo: UN – Children of the Ambororo nomadic tribe seek water in South Darfur