Thursday, January 18, 2007

Climate Change News: Roundup of Climate Blog Stories (#2)

Roundup of recent climate change stories bellow, many of these stories have been highlighted in the sidebar of Climate Change News/Action/Resources as 'Top Climate Blog Stories'.

This week the blogosphere has been dealing with questions of transport, future energy solutions, negawatts as a source of energy, carbon offsets, weird weather, china's development and environmental devastation, and continued business innovation.

In the case of transport, the main developments this week have been increasing concern over the rapid expansion of corn based ethanol in the US and more broadly about the global blueprint for biofuels. Advancements in ultra-capacitors have been seen, and these promise to increase the durability and performance of electric cars which both utilise energy more efficiently and promise a low emissions route to mobility if renewables can be used to source this power.

The electricity sector as always has shown some of the more positive trends. Solar power is expanding dramatically, Sharp's largest plant will soon have a production capacity of 800MW per year--a large fraction of global manufacturing capacity just a couple of years ago. The rapid rise of both solar and wind power is being supported by record, and rapidly increasing CleanTech investment. Wind power contracts have grown to 1400MW for Siemens in the US, a figure that would have seemed enormous just a couple of years ago; today several wind farms either already built or in the planning will individually approach this size. In a significant partnership, India and Europe are starting to undertake serious discussions of how to scale up wind power across the sub-continent. All of this development is starting to be integrated, visions of a 'Green Unifying Theory' are being developed. Many discussions are taking place about the contents of such a theory, one component that isn't to likely to be included is coal. That's a shame because in a reversal of the famous dash-to-gas, the UK seems to be undergoing a somewhat smaller but rather disconcerting career-to-coal.

Meanwhile, in efficiency, negawatts have been in the news again, a report just release in Texas has found that they don't actually need new coal, or wind, they need efficiency and this option is remarkably affordable. Technological developments that may help with such improvements in the future include frequency regulation using flywheels that produce a tiny fraction of the GHG emissions associated with typical regulation facilities.

After 'Carbon Neutral' made it as word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary it was perhaps predictable that there would be more scrutiny of this nascent market. This has proved to be the case. In the UK the Environmental Audit Comitte has started an investigation and the UK government is planning offset standards. I recently also made my views on the topic clear and supported my preferred company, MyClimate.

All of which has become even more relevant, and discussed due to the extremely weird 'winter' weather occurring throughout the northern hemisphere. Weather that is having many unforceen impacts.

In Asian news, ASEAN has come to an agreement on encouraging energy efficiency, cheap energy and biofules (ahem..). The tensions between economic development, energy security and climate change are really showing themselves. China's continuing rapid expansion to the detriment of its environment has been written about over at china dialogue in a two piece article. Meanwhile, more on Bejing's efforts to clean up prior to the 2012 Olympics can be found here.

Finishing off with some good news, Marks and Spencer's (M&S) has join the growing ranks of businesses prepared to take on (to some degree) the issues of climate change. This general willingness can also be seen the in the continued growth of the Climate Group which has just acquired three new members.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Climate Change News: Roundup of Climate Blog Stories (#1)

Roundup of recent climate change stories bellow, many of these stories have been highlighted in the sidebar of Climate Change News/Action/Resources as 'Top Climate Blog Stories'.

1. Biofuel concerns increase. Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute (and Plan B 2.0) has called for a halt to the construction of ethanol production facilities due to increasing competition between corn for fuel and cars.

2. Democrats may form global warming committe. This is quite speculative at the moment but could be a highly important development.

3. UK Electricity Sector shifts towards coal usage.

4. European Commission has carried out a study into the impacts of climate change on Europe. When considering the quote bellow, please remember that Europe is far more able to adapt to climate change then many contries of the south, and is also less vulnerable for geographic and business reasons.
“As many as 87,000 extra deaths a year would occur annually by 2071, assuming a three degree centigrade temperature rise. If efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions limit the rise to 2.2 degrees, additional mortalities would be 36,000 a year.”
5. Ayles Ice Shelf detaches from the Canadian coast, taking 3000 year old ice out into open water.

6. Jacques Chirac has announced plans for an international conference with the aim of agreeing to place taxes on good imported from countries which are not signed up to the successor to Kyoto. Interesting idea, removes the penalty for acting first that most countries are afraid of. The Uk Green party and several NGO's have been calling for something of this kind for some time. I don't know if there is the political support at the moment but i think that in the absence of sufficient progress at the UNFCCC level that this issue could have its time within the next 10 years. A very interesting story to watch.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Free Climate Change Public Lecture Series, Spring 2007: Birkbeck University of London

Free Public Lecture Series, Spring 2007 "Conservation and Sustainability"

It's Title? Living within our Environmental Limits Birkbeck.

Why Go? Join the debate. All welcome. Free admission.

Location? Room B04 in 43, Gordon Square, Birkbeck, University of London, WC1H 0PD

Contact? e-mail: wright[at] tel: 020 7485 7903,

When? All lectures are from 6.30 to 8.30 pm on successive Fridays. Doors open at 6.00pm.

9 February ‘Solving Global Warming?’
Professor Mark Maslin is the Director of the UCL Environment Institute.

He is a leading climatologist with particular expertise in past global and regional climatic change. His areas of scientific expertise include global warming, causes of past and future global climate change, ocean circulation, ice ages, gas hydrates, Amazonia, East Africa, Human evolution and climatic consequences of volcanic eruptions. He has written over 80 scientific articles, 6 popular books, over 20 popular articles, appeared on radio, television and been consulted regularly by the BBC. His latest popular book is the highly successful Oxford University Press “Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction”. This is a pocket sized book which provides a summary of the historical background, scientific debate, future impacts and the politics of global warming.

His lecture will cover the following themes:

Prof. Maslin’s lecture will be framed around the following set of questions. What is global warming? Who is producing the pollution? What are the future climate predictions? Why is it so difficult to model the future? What will the climate of Britain be like in 80 years time? What will be the global impacts of future climate change? Are there solutions to global warming? If so what are the local, national and international solutions to global warming? How can these solutions to global warming be balanced by the need for Developing nations to develop? Is the Kyoto Protocol working? Ultimately is there the political will to make the changes required to ensure solutions to both global warming and world poverty?

16 February ‘Secure energy and a stable climate – how possible is it?’
Professor Jim Skea OBE is Research Director of the UK Energy Research Centre, an interdisciplinary initiative supported by three UK Research Councils. Until 2004, he was Director of the Policy Studies Institute, London.

He was previously Director of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Global Environmental Change Programme. Jim’s first degree is in physics, but his research has been interdisciplinary in character. His main research interests are: energy and environment; climate change; and sustainable development issues more generally. In 2002-03, he acted as Launch Director, for the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (Low CVP), a new UK initiative bringing together government departments, automotive and fuel companies, NGOs and the research base.
His lecture will cover the following themes:

Securing radical reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases from the energy sector has emerged as one of the key policy challenges of modern times. This goal must be met while ensuring that people live in comfort and our economy flourishes. There is no single answer. It is obvious that there is huge scope for reductions in energy demand, both through improved efficiency of energy use and through evolving lifestyles and patterns of behaviour. But motivating and coordinating the actions of millions of citizens is a daunting task. On the supply side, renewable technologies offer much as, potentially, does nuclear power and the capture of carbon from power stations emissions. But, again, ensuring the environmental integrity of these options giving incentives for investment is critical. The ultimate challenge is to break the link between transport, oil and carbon. This lecture will explore these issues and point towards options for moving forwards.

23 February ‘Balancing Water Resources and the Principles of Sustainable Development’

Trevor Bishop is Head of Water Resource Management for the Environment Agency.

Trevor's national responsibilities include Strategic Water Resource Planning, Demand Management, Hydrology, Hydrogeology and Hydrometry. Trevor has also recently taken up the role within the Agency as Project Executive for River Basin District Plans under the Water Framework Directive. Prior to his current role Trevor was Head of Regulation and Asset Performance at Mid Kent Water having previously worked for Southern Water Services. Before joining the Water Industry Trevor worked as an environmental consultant and a geologist in the oil industry.

His lecture will cover the following themes:

A new National Water Resource Strategy is currently under development by the Environment Agency for publication in 2008. The strategy will set the agenda for water resources across England and Wales with a planning horizon out to 2050. This lecture will explore the state of our resources, the challenges anticipated over the planning period and the strategic principles which will need to underpin such a long term strategy.

Progress to date has started to polarise some of the key challenges faced by the proper use of water resources under an overarching agenda of sustainable development. The demand for water is set to grow, both as a function of demographics but more significantly due to rising per capita consumption. Not only is our use of water one of the highest in Europe but whilst per capita consumption across Europe is set to reduce still further, ours is forecast to continue its upwards rise. Other key challenges include defining future levels of abstraction, consistent with the principles of sustainable development against a backdrop of new environmental imperatives and climate change. Wider issues to also be covered will include the future role of the water sector within the carbon agenda and the mix of demand management and new resources to meet future challenges.

2 March Soils, Land Use and Development Policy
Professor Mark Kibblewhite is Head of the Department of Natural Resources at Cranfield University.

He is an environmental scientist with a leading role in European land-based natural resources policy. His particular interest is in soil systems and he is the current chairman of the European Soil Bureau Network, as well as coordinator of a pan-European project (ENVASSO) providing technical support to the European Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection and the planned Soil Framework Directive. He joined Cranfield in 2002 from the Environment Agency where he was Head of Land Quality and he previously worked for Hyder Consulting, DTI, ADAS and Severn-Trent. He has an academic background in business economics and marketing, as well as soil science and environmental chemistry.

His lecture will cover the following themes:

Soil is a form of natural capital. It is a living system of great complexity that delivers hugely valuable ecosystem services in both rural and urban environments. The management of soil has profound consequences for future economic and social outcomes. This lecture will describe the soil system and some new scientific insights in to the evolution and functionality of the soil habitat. It will summarise the main threats to soil and critique the strongly emergent soil protection policy agenda within the European Union and the UK. A framework for future soil protection strategy will be explored, focusing on soil within existing and new urban development. This will include options for improving awareness of soil among urban citizens and decision-makers, and the use of new technology for collecting data and reporting information on the spatial extent of soil-based natural capital and the impacts on this from different land allocation and management scenarios. Questions that the lecture aims to answer are “What controls should be placed on future development to protect soil-based natural capital? How can soil within the urban zone be managed best to protect and enhance natural capital? How can the slow pace of soil development be accommodated within a rapidly growing urban economy? How can soils help us to adapt to climate change?”

9 March London's Waste Strategy: problems and solutions
Peter Daw and Wayne Hubbard are Principal Policy Officers - Waste, Greater London Authority

Pete has eight years experience in the waste sector. He has been with the Greater London Authority for the six years.

In that time he has contributed to the development and implementation of the Mayor’s Municipal Waste Management Strategy. He is Principal Policy Officer within the Waste Strategy team and is currently working on the case for a single waste authority for London and local authority performance. Peter also helped develop London waste database website in partnership with London Remade. Before joining the GLA, Pete worked for Somerset County Council. He worked on the Somerset Waste Strategy and contract management.

Wayne has ten years experience in the waste industry at all levels of local government. He is the Principal Policy Officer at the Greater London Authority with responsibilities for implementing the Mayor’s Waste Municipal Waste Management Strategy. He is currently involved in preparations for the Examination in Public of the Mayor’s Draft Alterations to the London Plan’s waste policies, and is working with stakeholders to develop new waste infrastructure in London. He is the Secretary of the London Regional Technical Advisory Body (RTAB), and a member of Defra’s Technology Advisory Committee.

Their lecture will cover the following themes:

It will look at some of the challenges facing delivering sustainable waste management in a city-conurbation. London currently relies heavily on landfill in the surrounding Counties. The EU Landfill Directive and the need to manage waste sustainably mean that a step change is needed in how and where London deals with its waste. London's existing waste management arrangements are complex and fragmented adding to the delivery challenge. The speakers will address the policy response to these challenges which is set out in the Mayor's Municipal Waste Management Strategy and his spatial planning strategy the London Plan. The lecture will specifically address the Mayor's preference for increasing recycling and delivering new technologies to manage London's waste as well as the recent review of London's waste governance arrangements and the likely impacts of that review.

16 March: ‘The Marine Bill: Cornucopia or Pandora’s Box?’
Dr Peter Jones is a lecturer in the Department of Geography at University College London, where he runs the MSc in Conservation.

He specialises in interdisciplinary research on the governance of marine protected areas and related marine resource management issues, drawing on and contributing to common-pool resource and marine policy literatures. He is also a member of Natural England's Marine Science Technical Advisory Group.

His lecture will cover the following themes:

It will begin with an outline of the differences between terrestrial and marine ecosystems that influence the appropriateness of management approaches. Recent trends in marine exploitation and the background to the proposed Marine Bill will be discussed. Key issues that will need to be addressed by the Bill will be considered, focusing on the ecosystem approach, the role of the precautionary principle, the role of stakeholders, how marine spatial planning might work and the need for a network of highly protected marine reserves.

The prospects for the Bill will be discussed, recognising that the Bill will need to balance the need to restore marine ecosystems with the need to provide for marine development activities such as fishing, renewable energy generation, aggregate extraction, carbon-dioxide sequestration, and oil/gas extraction. It must also be remembered that increasing certainty for developers and streamlining the development consents process are key objectives of the Bill - it is not just about improving marine ecosystem conservation measures. Finally, the need to address some emerging threats will be outlined, focusing on global warming and the related threat of ocean acidification.

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