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Costing the Earth: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) AR5 report, published two weeks ago, was scientists’ surest declaration yet of the certainty of human-caused climate change. It is much too early to guess at what impact the report might have, but in a special episode of BBC Radio 4’s Costing the Earth, Tom Heap was joined by a panel of leading scientists and thinkers to discuss what the report really means for all of us.

Heap introduces the show from the Met Office, discussing the process that leads to the (more-or-less) reliable forecasts we receive every day, when deciding between the umbrella and the Ray-Bans.

From a large basement filled with banks of supercomputers, where our climate is diagnosed, he reminds the listener (if the listener needs any reminding) that we must worry not just about how the weather affects us, but how we affect the weather.

Perhaps one of the most notable things about the IPCC’s latest review of the physical science of climate change is that, on the whole, it doesn’t contain much new information. Save for attempting to address a few issues that have been raised since the last report, such as the slowdown of warming, the report is mostly a statement of increasing confidence.

Sir Mark Walport, the British government’s chief scientific advisor, tells Heap that it is a case of “singing the same tune with greater clarity”.

Mark Lynas, a writer and environmental activist, argues that the report “has pretty much demolished most […] sceptic theories”, but as Mark Hulme, professor of climate and culture at King’s College London adds, “Moving from very likely to extremely likely is hardly going to change the game in relation to the geopolitics of climate change.”

Discussing the measurable impacts of global warming, Prof Julia Slingo, chief scientist at the Met Office, points to the Arctic as the place where the most empirical early impacts of climate change are hitting. This is despite misleading claims by elements of the press that increasing ice cover this year means that warming has stopped. As Walport adds, each of the last three decades have been warmer than the one before. 

Heap asks if the increasing frequency of extreme weather is a portent of climate change, or not connected? It is an question that Slingo and Tony Grayling, head of climate change and communication at the Environment Agency, cannot answer, with Grayling saying only that evidence suggests that extreme weather events will increase in future.

Slingo refers to a study that claims that half of all the extreme weather events of the last year were caused by climate change, but adds that some impacts of global warming are being left out of the debate. Rain patterns, for example, will change, meaning water scarcity for thousands.  

The inclusion of Bjorn Lomborg in Heap’s panel is in itself arguably contentious. Many of the arguments in his most famous book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, have been repeatedly questioned – with Lomborg accused of scientific dishonesty, although the accusations were later withdrawn for technical reasons.

Indeed, his place on the panel seems a fair example of the BBC giving undue prominence to counter-opinion in a desire for balanced argument; something Greg Barker, minister of state for climate change, has this week criticised. At least, it might have been hoped that his comments stirred some debate, which they certainly did.                                                                

Lomborg claims that the majority of economic models indicate that a ‘moderate global warming’, something he defines as around 1C or 2C, will overall be a net positive for the world, with the caveat that this net positive will not be evenly distributed.

This being radio, it is impossible to tell, but it may be fair to assume the idea of a global warming silver lining would have raised some eyebrows among the panel.

Slingo disregards this idea, pointing to the claims of the IPCC that warming is likely to be considerably more than Lomborg’s ‘moderate’ amount, adding, “If we get up somewhere near 4C then the implications around the world for food security, house security, energy security and political security are immense.”

The debate turns to the recent political arguments over energy, with Heap asking whether if we are more concerned about cheap energy than green energy, does humanity have the will to stop climate change?

Lynus says that engaging the public is a struggle: “The narrative of climate change has always been framed as in ‘you’ve got to give something up,’ ‘you’ve got to stop flying on holidays,’ ‘you’ve got to have a colder house’, and things people interpret as taking away from their levels of comfort and enjoyment of life.

Little things such as unplugging your phone charger just don’t stack up. We have to have very huge structural changes.”

Slingo argues that to act, politicians must feel public pressure. “I think we haven’t won that argument yet”, she says. “Until we do, politicians will continue to look at their own national interests and being elected again.”

Conversely, Walport argues that politicians are listening, but are faced with extreme challenges. The IPCC’s report, he says, is not a turning point but a waypoint. To progress further, we must discuss the policies that are now required, rather than the all but certain accuracy of the science. 

The show then closes with a talk by Dr Emily Shuckburgh from the British Antarctic Survey, who has recently become a mother. Talking about the world in which her daughter will grow old, Shuckburgh’s poignant words are ultimately the most appropriate reminder of what the IPCC’s report really does mean for us all.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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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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