Thursday, 31 December 2009

Renewable energy opportunity

A great article from Friends of the Earth on renewable energy (read more)

The UK is currently facing an enormous energy opportunity. Over the next 10–20 years around 30% of our conventional, climate damaging electricity generation capacity is scheduled to close. Whilst energy efficiency measures can reduce our overall energy demand, a significant proportion of production capacity will need to be replaced. If we seize this opportunity, this windswept country – already the site of the world’s largest offshore wind farm in development, the London Array – could reap huge benefits from the fastest growing renewable technology, particularly in offshore wind.

The Green Providers Directory

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Family planning is the most effective way of preventing climate change

Research from the Optimum Population Trust estimates that every £4 spent on providing unmet demand for family planning saves one tonne of CO2. A similar reduction would require an £8 investment in tree planting, £15 in wind power, £31 in solar energy and £56 in hybrid vehicle technology.

Thought provoking and often overlooked. We recently watched a BBC Horizon programme which very succinctly outlined the ecological problems associated with population growth.

Why is it that governments and even many environmental groups refuse to tackle this pressing issue? Its not about compulsion either - research shows education and empowerment of women is the most effective route to limiting population growth.

Dr. Gary Robertshaw

Saturday, 5 December 2009

UN hits back at climate sceptics amid e-mails row

The UN's official panel on climate change has hit back at sceptics' claims that the case for human influence on global warming has been exaggerated.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said it was "firmly" standing by findings that a rise in the use of greenhouse gases was a factor.

It was responding to a row over the reliability of data from East Anglia University's Climatic Research Unit

Leaked e-mail exchanges prompted claims that data had been manipulated.

Last month, hundreds of messages between scientists at the unit and their peers around the world were put on the internet along with other documents.

Some observers alleged one of the e-mails suggested head of the unit Professor Phil Jones wanted certain papers excluded from the UN's next major assessment of climate science.

The body of evidence is the result of the careful and painstaking work of hundreds of scientists worldwide

Professor Thomas Stocker and Professor Qin Dahe, IPCC
Professor Jones, who denies this was his intention, has stood down from his post while an independent inquiry takes place.

In a statement, Professor Thomas Stocker and Professor Qin Dahe, co-chairmen of the IPCC's working group 1, condemned the act of posting the private e-mails on the internet, but avoided commenting on their content.

They went on to point to a key finding that states: "The warming in the climate system is unequivocal.

"[It] is based on measurements made by many independent institutions worldwide that demonstrate significant changes on land, in the atmosphere, the ocean and in the ice-covered areas of the Earth.

"Through further independent scientific work involving statistical methods and a range of different climate models, these changes have been detected as significant deviations from natural climate variability and have been attributed to the increase of greenhouse gases."

They added: "The body of evidence is the result of the careful and painstaking work of hundreds of scientists worldwide.

There is an anti-science group, there is a flat Earth group, if I may say so, over the scientific evidence for climate change

Gordon Brown, Prime Minister
"The internal consistency from multiple lines of evidence strongly supports the work of the scientific community, including those individuals singled out in these e-mail exchanges."

The row comes ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit which starts on Monday.

Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice-chairman of the IPCC, said it was no coincidence the information was released in the run-up to the summit.

He claimed unnamed conspirators could have paid for Russian hackers to break into the university computers to steal the e-mails.

He said the theft was a scandal and was "probably ordered" to disrupt the confidence negotiators have in the science.

Earlier, Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband told the BBC he would be "very surprised" if there had been any wrongdoing on the part of the East Anglia University scientists.

"We're in a moment when the world is about to make some big political decisions," he said.

"And there will be people who don't want the world to make those big decisions and they are trying to use this in part to say somehow this is all in doubt and perhaps we should put the whole thing off.

"Well, I just think they're wrong about that."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the scientific evidence was "very clear" and called doubters a "flat Earth group".

He said: "There is an anti-change group. There is an anti-reform group. There is an anti-science group, there is a flat Earth group, if I may say so, over the scientific evidence for climate change."

'Open and transparent'

Meanwhile, the Met Office said it would publish all the data from weather stations worldwide, which it said proved climate change was caused by humans.

Its database is a main source of analysis for the IPCC.

It has written to 188 countries for permission to publish the material, dating back 160 years from more than 1,000 weather stations.

John Mitchell, head of climate science at the Met Office, said the evidence for man-made global warming was overwhelming - and the data would show that.

"So this is not an issue of whether we are confident or not in the figures for the trend in global warming, it's more about being open and transparent," he told the BBC.

The Met Office said it had already planned to publish the material long before the row and denied reports that government ministers had tried to block the publication.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8397265.stm

The Green Providers Directory

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

UK energy smart meter to be in stalled in all households in UK

Its welcome news that energy suppliers are to be responsible for installing smart meters in all households in the UK by 2020.

Plans for smart meters for millions of homes have been outlined with trials suggesting that the £8bn scheme will help household save over £28 a year. The Department for Energy and Climate Change wants to see 47 million meters in 26 million properties by 2020.

The idea is that smart meters will encourage households to trim their energy bills by paying more attention to usage. In fact, trials of smart meters have shown that people do indeed moderate their energy use when they are fitted.

Smart meters have a visual display allowing customers to see exactly how much electricity and gas they are using and relay the data to energy firms automatically.

Definitely a step in the right direction to greater energy efficiency.

Dr. Gary Robertshaw
The Green Providers Directory

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Oil dependent economies are more volatile

In a recent article, we claimed that oil dependent economies were more subject to volatility and instability in the longer term than those based on renewable energy sources. As oil stocks dwindled coupled with growing consumption by emerging economies, demand would increase and supply decrease thereby heightening the potential for conflict, further fuelling instability in global markets.

We also claimed that mere comments by political leaders were enough to affect oil prices, with knock-on effects for the stability of global markets.

A recent news flash in the Financial Times (1st December 2009) nicely illustrates this point:

“Oil rose 1.3% to $78.31, adding to gains of the previous session following news that a UK yacht had been detained by the Iranian authorities.”

Dr. Gary Robertshaw
The Green Providers Directory

Friday, 27 November 2009

Ethical banking

Banks are in business to make profits. One way they do this is by lending your money to someone else at a higher rate of interest, but they rarely disclose who they lend it to. Worse still, the credit crunch exposed the shocking truth that many banks were themselves unsure of who they had lent money to leading to an almost total collapse of the banking system!

If you are concerned about your money being invested in unethical businesses and corrupt regimes then why not switch to an ethical bank? Ethical banking helps to create a society that promotes people’s quality of life and that has human dignity at its core enabling individuals to use money more consciously in ways that benefit people and the environment, and promote sustainable development.

"I am still looking for the modern equivalent of those Quakers who ran successful businesses and made money because they offered honest products and treated their people decently . . . This business creed, sadly, seems long forgotten." — Anita Roddick

Ethical banking

Green insurance - how ethical is your insurance company?

When insurance companies claim to be carbon neutral, they usually mean balancing a measured amount of carbon emissions with an equivalent amount that is captured through some mechanism or other. With net emissions being zero it becomes ‘carbon neutral’.

The most environmentally aware insurance companies will always seek to firstly reduce their own emissions and those of their customers. This will include making their buildings more eco-friendly, cutting energy use and encouraging customers to drive more fuel efficient cars - giving advice and incentives to reduce their carbon footprint. Only after this will unavoidable emissions be offset.

Carbon emissions can be offset in a number of ways. For example, carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels can be balanced against renewable energy that creates a similar amount of useful energy, so that the carbon emissions are compensated. More dubiously, insurance companies can pay others to remove carbon emissions by planting trees or by funding 'carbon projects' that lead to the prevention of future greenhouse gas emissions, or by buying carbon credits to remove them through carbon trading.

Always be wary of companies who claim to be carbon neutral by simply paying for their emissions to be offset!

Avoid ‘green-wash’

Avoid insurance companies who cynically allude to being environmentally friendly by introducing token gesture benefits. For example, always inquire about what they are doing to cut their own emissions, how they are contributing to combating climate change, and find out if they give discounts for low emission vehicles and eco-friendly initiatives. More tellingly, ask them what car their CEO drives!


FSA Fines
The FSA has the power to fine insurance companies who treat customers unfairly. Here are some examples - has your insurance company mistreated its customers?

Egg fined £721,000 and will compensate PPI customers
"Egg used inappropriate sales techniques to try to persuade customers to buy payment protection insurance on their credit card even when they asserted they did not want the cover." 10th December 2008

FSA fines Hastings £735,000 for not treating customers fairly

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined Hastings Insurance Services Ltd (Hastings) £735,000 for failing to treat its customers fairly in relation to cancelling around 4,550 incorrectly priced car insurance policies. "It is clear from our investigation that Hastings put its own interests ahead of those of its customers." 28th July 2008

Liverpool Victoria Banking Services to pay £840,000 fine plus compensation to PPI customers following FSA investigation The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined Liverpool Victoria Banking Services Limited (LVBS) £840,000 for serious failings in the sale of single premium Payment Protection Insurance (PPI). 30th July 2008

The Green Insurance Directory

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Simple solution to a complicated problem?

Reading through the various reports on climate change and environmental damage it can sometimes seem as though the problems we face are insurmountable. That, despite the hard work of environmental campaigners and those concerned with fair trade and green issues, we are merely forestalling inevitable environmental collapse.

As the overdue realisation dawns on governments around the world, particularly those with most to lose because of dense populations perilously exposed to sea level rises, there is a clamour for ‘quick fix’ solutions. Everything from geo-engineering to devices in space designed to block out sunlight.

Whilst well-intentioned, these efforts overlook a far more fundamental problem. This problem can be expressed in a simple, single statement: There are too many people on the Earth, consuming too many resources.

In other words, our impact on the environment can be broadly expressed as follows:

Number of people x Per capita resource consumption

Stabilisation of the global population and a reduction in per capita resource consumption will, in combination, do more to mitigate environmental damage than anything else. The Pareto principle of directing most effort into that which produces the greatest result has never been more important, whilst political prevaricating and drawn-out discussions on relatively minor issues serve only as a distraction.

An effective solution must address both population growth and resource consumption together. There is little point in trying to reduce per capita resource consumption with a surging population as the total impact on the environment will continue to rise.

Politically, however, that is what is happening. Governments regard the subject of population stabilisation as almost taboo. A no-go area not up for debate. Almost immediately, there are accusations of totalitarianism and coercion in reducing family sizes.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be like that. Empowerment and better education of women in developing countries is known to have a downward impact on birth rates. The Obama administration’s progress in encouraging family planning in the US and more broadly within the UN will have a positive longer-term impact. There is so much that can be done and without recourse to totalitarian policies.

However, the size of the problem should not be underestimated. For example, China’s population is still growing now despite the policy of one child per couple having been in place for many years. There is an inherent time lag involved. On top of that there are likely to be greater food shortages and displacement of large populations as climate change impacts upon agriculture in low lying areas, coupled with desertification of areas where deforestation has taken place. This will inevitably compound the problems of migration.

Environmental organisations need to avoid focusing almost explicitly on reducing per capita resource consumption whilst neglecting the other side of the equation; population growth. Global environmental strategies can only be truly effective when addressing both sides of the coin.

Dr Gary Robertshaw
The Green Providers Directory