Lord Krebs, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, has told the UK government that it needs to act now to prevent future problems from climate change. Predicting wet winters and searingly hot summers, with temperatures expected to rise by 4.2C by 2080 and sea levels by 40cm (sixteen inches), the Commitee says the country will have to adapt to extreme weather in the future with more flooding, drought and heatwaves. The Committee has said that new housing should be fitted with shutters and exiting homes retro-fitted, and streets should be planted with millions of trees to provide shade in hot weather – a tactic adopted in Mediterannean countries such as France and Spain – and that homes vulnerable to flooding should have action plans. The Committee also suggest that homes should be fitted with mandatory water meters. Because of the density of the population, a creaking Victorian infrastructure and with increasing droughts (the first six months of 2010 were the driest January-June for 71 years) the UK has less available water per person than Israel. Only 30% of Londoners have water meters compared to 98% of people in new York. The Commitee also suggests re-using ‘grey’ water to flush toilets and to water gardens. As far as infrastructure is concerned, the Commitee urges the government to reconsider relocating some roads and railway lines which are vulnerable to rising sea levels, but also points to certain advantages from climate change – an extended growing season and opportunites for new crops such as apricots and grapes. Only 7% of local authorities have any plans to deal with chagnes brought about by climate change and Lord Krebs said “if the UK waits, it will be too late to effectively manage the risks of future climate change.
In other climate change news – it seems that working at home isn’t as green as it seems. Home workers don’t commute to work – BUT – they tend to live further away from work, so when they do commute have higher carbon footprints – and when at home they use more lighting and heating than they would in a shared offce. The report, from the Institute of Engineering andTechnology, says home workers also tend to do more short trips and errards in the car – rather than picking up goods from stores near to a workplace or on the way home.
Sainsbury’s is about to ditch cardboard boxes for breakfast cereal – radically reducing packaging. As most cereals are already in an internal bag, the supermarket chain plans to replace packaging with environmentally friendly bags on its own range of cereals, saving 165 tonnes of packaging, saving on fuel for deliveries, reducing storage space needed and the number of carrier bags customers use. Cereals that run the risk of being crushed in bags will remain in cardboard boxes. Kellogs says it has no plans to remove outer cardboard packaging, saying crushing would create more food waste and that the plastic bags would need to be much thicker. Sainsburys already sell chopped tomatoes in cardboard boxes having dispensed with tins. Asda is testing reusable pouches for fabric conditioner in five stores and several retailers have introduced refilable containers for liquid products.
And finally, Brazil and other countries in South America have joined the long list of countries experiencing extreme weather. Just three months after some of the most serious flooding in its history, Brazil now has its worst drought for 40 years and some tributaries of the Amazon has now been reduced to a trickle compared to their usual size this time of year. In Bolivia the drought has destroyed corn crops and has allowed forest fires to scorch vast tracts of the Eastern Andes.
Brushing your teeth and leaving the tap running costs 6 litres of water per minute – turn it off!
Flushing a loo costs 9 litres of water – put a brick or ‘hippo’ in the cistern
Washing a car with a hose uses 400 litres of water – use a bucket!
If you have a garden or yard, install a water butt to collect rainwater.