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Academics respond to UKIP MEP’s call for global warming evidence

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The UKIP MEP who called for the teaching of climate change to be banned in schools has asked to be shown evidence that “proves beyond doubt” that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions cause global warming. Here, two climate academics duly oblige.

Earlier this month, UKIP’s education spokesman Derek Clark MEP said he would want to ban teaching climate change in schools if his party won the general election in May 2015.

He added there would not be “much opposition” within the party, saying Al Gore’s critically acclaimed documentary film An Inconvenient Truth in particular would be prevented from being shown.

Clark’s comments were roundly criticised (Nick Eyre of the UK Energy Research Centre described them as “anti-scientific nonsense to the Ecologist) but they appeared under the radar in many respects. Just two days after the MEP had spoken to Index on Censorship to air his views, another UKIP member – the now-suspended Henley-on-Thames councillor David Silvester – made headlines when he linked the legalisation of gay marriage with the recent spate of flooding in the UK.

In addition, UKIP’s climate sceptic stance is well-known. The party’s 2014 energy policy document says climate change “is so last century”, claiming that there are increasing doubts about the theory of manmade climate change. This is despite the world’s leading climate scientists saying they are 95% sure this is the case in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest review of the physical science. Just one scientific paper out of the 2,258 published on the subject in 2013 disagreed with this consensus.

If the party were to win the general election, UKIP also pledges to “scrap all green taxes and wind turbine subsidies”, develop nuclear power stations and encourage the shale gas industry.

After we reported on his comments on banning climate change from schools, Clark wrote a follow-up letter, sent to Blue & Green Tomorrow and others, that he requested be published.

The full letter reads as follows:

My comments about not teaching the theory that global warming is caused by carbon dioxide emissions has received adverse comment. Some people have said that since I’m a science teacher I should know better. 

That is the whole point. I spent my life guiding youngsters in performing laboratory experiments and sometimes demonstrating an experiment myself so that the results gave a proven explanation of the topic in question. There is no other way to turn a theory into fact.

So can somebody please send me the results of actual experiments conducted under controlled conditions which prove beyond doubt that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes global warming. I repeat, experimental results, not computer predictions or circumstantial evidence, but hard solid results of actual objective research.

Until we have that to teach an unproven theory will be detrimental to pupils of all ages. It is indeed the truth which I seek.

We put Clark’s request to some climate change academics, who named numerous studies that they say meet the UKIP MEP’s requirements.

Prof Myles Allen, leader of ECI Climate Research Programme at the University of Oxford and an author with the IPCC

Thanks to a remarkable observation made by NASA flying the infrared interferometric spectrometer (IRIS) instrument on the Nimbus 4 spacecraft in the early 1970s, we do have direct observations of the impact of rising CO2 levels on the planetary energy budget over recent decades.

This is documented in a very nice paper by John Harries and co-workers. What Harries et al show is that, by comparing spectra of outgoing infrared energy as measured by the IRIS instrument with those of a similar instrument flown by the Japanese in 1997, you can literally see the impact of rising CO2, methane and [chlorofluorocarbon] levels on the global energy budget.

In the language of a science teacher, if you switch on the bunsen burner, the first thing that happens is the beaker warms up. More complicated things can happen next, like melting ice, boiling the water, cracking the glass and so on, so predicting exactly how much warming increasing carbon dioxide will cause is more difficult. But the IRIS data provide direct evidence that carbon dioxide is causing global warming.

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics

I’m afraid that Mr Clark gets an F as his knowledge of atmospheric physics appears to be a few hundred years out of date.

It is nearly 200 years since Joseph Fourier first pointed out that the Earth is warmer than it otherwise should be based on its distance from the sun, and speculated that the atmosphere may be responsible. It is more than 150 years since John Tyndall showed in laboratory experiments that carbon dioxide and water vapour are greenhouse gases. It is over 100 years since Svante Arrhenius published a paper containing the first estimates of how much the Earth’s climate might warm by burning all of the Earth’s known reserves of coal and releasing the carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

I suggest that Mr Clark takes a remedial course in atmospheric physics before he makes any further pronouncements on this subject. Or he could read this history of climate change science on the website of the American Institute of Physics.

Further reading:

Ban climate change teachings in schools, says UKIP MEP

Just one of 2,258 scientific papers rejected manmade global warming in 2013

Munk Debates: is climate change mankind’s defining crisis?

97% of scientists agree that climate change is human-caused

The Guide to Climate Change 2013

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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