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ANOTHER PLANET?

drought2Millions of people will be unable to afford food in parts of Africa and Asia in the near future as climate change effects the way food is farmed. The prospect of millions of people starving to death is further fuelled by the expected global population explosion that is expected by 2050 – meaning 60% more food will be needed – as droughts, floods and extreme temperatures put the world’s food supplies at risk. In some areas such as West Africa, where rainfall will increase, and Northern Europe where temperatures will rise, food production may actually rise: But by 2050 Southern Europe will need better irrigation to farm crops,  Sub Saharan Africa will see crop yields reduce by up to 20%, The USA will have the manage droughts, floods and extreme heat, Russia will see wheat production decline and forest fires increase, China will have insufficient food supplies by 2030 as temperatures rise, and Australia will see ongoing droughts in key growing areas. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/13/climate-change-threat-food-supplies?INTCMP=SRCH .

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have said they are adequately prepared to deal with the effects of climate change and the potential increase in air turbulence over the next half century. According to a report published this week by University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences, climate change will increase the strength of turbulence on flights by 10-40%, while an increase in the frequency of turbulence is set to rise between 40–170% by 2050.

The cold British spring has had a dramatic effect on migrating birds, with many starving to death as they arrive on the island only to find that usual food sources are very limited or non-existent. Many birds such as swallows, willow warblers and house martins who have travelled thousands of miles are finding no insects to feed on – and 11 stone curlews have been  found dead on beaches in Norfolk, with many others presumed perished.

A new documentary film says that Orcas kept in captivity are deeply traumatised by the experience. The film, Blackfish, which focuses on a killer whale called Tilikum, says that the so called ‘humane’ regime  at SeaWorld –  capture, captivity and training turns the whales into killers. Tilikum has killed two trainers and one uninvited visitor since 1991. Film maker Gabriela Cowperthwaite gained access to many films shot by staff and trainers which has previously been kept secret  by SeaWorld.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/14/killer-whale-seaworld-orlando

At the end of March  the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline, which brings Canadian crude oil from Illinois to Texas, ruptured, leaking at least 80,000 gallons of oil into the Central Arkansas town of Mayflower. Now an update  from TreeHugger about the the oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas.  It is a shocking story with local people up in arms about the firm hired to under take the clean up – and for more  see   As Exxon censors local media, citizen journalists document Arkansas oil spill. Can the pros be doing more? and see http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/04/13/arkansas-private-contractor-mayflower-tar-sands-spill-keystone-xl

Inspired by natural processes, patterns and systems, the Looper is mobile, luxury “self-sufficient living pod” of tensile fabric stretched over a sustainably-sourced wooden frame. The designers come from a variety of disciplines ranging from architecture to permaculture to structural engineering and it is  fascinating to see completely new concepts like this caterpillar-shaped prefab tent from Nomadic Resorts. The pod measures 10 metres long by 4 metres wide and is designed to have as light of a footprint as possible, there are solar panels powering LED lighting, a fully functioning bathroom with wastewater treatment, a changing room, office with wi-fi and a sleeping area.

A coalition of 45 organisations has issued a report which argues that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) has systemic and unresolvable problems. The scheme, desgfned to promote EU carbon emission reduction targets,  allows EU companies economising on carbon to sell an allowance to those who are less efficient.  But the price has collapsed. Published by NGO, the Corporate Europe Observatory, the report came just hours before the European Parliament votes on the European Commission’s proposal to backload 900 million emissions permits within the EU ETS.  Edie.net reports that one signatory, the NGO FERN, which keeps track of the European Union’s involvement in forests and its carbon and ecosystems, said “We do not think it is going anywhere, it is fundamentally flawed and even if you backload 900 million permits we know it is not going to pick up the prices because it is not enough. Even with knowledge that the ;price of carbon had collapsed  and there was no economic incentive to economise on carbon emissions, the European Parliament voted against a ‘back-loading’ of carbon emissions allowances under the ETS) and the UK Government has expressed its disappointment in the vote rejecting the European Commissions backloading proposal under the controversial EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) but said it respects the views of MEPs.

But governments Worldwide DO have to act: But do you wonder why they don’t in the face of now almost universal scientific evidence on the real dangers of global warming? Well just think of the combine might of the fossil fuel industries – oil, petroleum, gas, goal – and their vast economic and lobbying power. There is a very good article in the Observer by Will Hutton today (21st April 2013) where Will makes the point “a new report, Unburnable Carbon 2013, showed that stock markets worldwide are cumulatively valuing coal, oil and energy companies’ huge reserves of fossil fuels as if they will all be burned, even though, at best, only 40% could ever be used if the world is to cap the increase in global temperatures by 2C this century. Further, in 2012, the top 200 energy companies spent $674bn on finding new reserves, reinforcing the collective absurdity. In other words, there is either a carbon bubble with investors and companies wildly over-speculating on the value of owning fuel reserves that can never be burned, or nobody believes there is the remotest chance that the world will stick to the limits on fossil fuel use congruent with containing global warming.” The worlds fossil fuel companies are valued at $4 trillion.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/21/carbon-problems-financial-crisis-hutton

Marketing for the UK’s Green Deal is under-funded compared with the proportions of budgets allocated to marketing by large retailers, according to Travis Perkins’ Matthew Wright. Talking at Sustainability Live in Birmingham today, Wright said his company “desperately” needed to see some more communication and publicity surrounding the Government’s flagship energy efficiency retrofit scheme.  “It is just completely inadequate. They have spent £10m and if you think how much Tesco and John Lewis spend on their advertising, it is insignificant, it is a drop in the ocean,” he said.  Green Deal assessments lodged in March reached 7,465, up from 1,729 in February, according to the Governments latest figures. A total of 9,268 Green Deal Assessments have been lodged since the scheme launched on 28 January 2013, up from 1,803 at end of February.

Markets for mixed polymer waste may be opening up as a pan-European consortium proposes to manufacture high value products such as flood defences from these materials. Material scientists from PRIME (Plastic Recyclate Impression Moulding Engineering) have combined their expertise to build a prototype rig that has produced the first test barrier panel from mixed plastics waste, which can be used in flood defences.  http://www.edie.net/news/5/Mixed-plastics-waste-reuse-flood-defence-/

Scottish Water has been fined £20,000 after a sewage spill from the Lochwinnoch Sewage Treatment Works located adjacent to Castle Semple Loch in Renfrewshire. After an investigation by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the company pleaded guilty to allowing partially treated sewage effluent and activated sludge to escape the works and make its way to wetlands directly dependent on the Loch.  http://www.edie.net/news/4/Scottish-Water-fined-over-pollution-incident-in-Renfrewshire-/

The Government has committed to support the winning projects of its £1bn carbon capture and storage (CCS) competition, if they choose to apply for European finding. The European’s NER 300 investment programme for low-carbon technologies is aimed at promoting the commercial demonstration of CCS and innovative renewable energy (RES) technologies

The excessive use of water in the process of hydraulic fracturing must not be underestimated given the unpredictable nature of water in the UK, according to one expert, Steve Thompsett , head of climate resilience and adaption at civil engineering firm Jacobs.