As the national press still feels it’s their role to anoint the party of their proprietor’s choice, Blue & Green will play along. We care about democracy and the environment. Vote for Policies has gathered 718,000 votes as of midday today so we are ready to make our call – your call.
Vote for Policies has just under 352,000 votes on the environment policies. Labour (28.7%), Lib Dem (26.8%) and Greens (24.4%) have the most popular policies. They have also gathered over 284,000 votes on democracy policies. Lib Dem (27.1%), Labour (20%) and Greens (17.6%).
So here’s the Blue & Green ENVIRONMENT policy assembled from those three parties.
– The new Infrastructure Commission will prioritise investment in flood prevention. We will deal with the problems of air pollution by giving local authorities the powers they need, backed up by a national framework.
– Keep our forests in public ownership, and promote access to green spaces in local planning.
– Support the work of the Natural Capital Committee to protect and improve wildlife habitats and green spaces, and make them an important part of our thriving tourism industry.
– Expand the role of the Department of International Development to mitigate the risks of a changing climate, and support sustainable livelihoods for the world’s poorest people.
– Make the case [at the UNFCCC conference in Paris, in December 2015] for ambitious emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of the progress towards the below two degree goal.
– Push for a goal of net zero global emissions in the second half of this century, for transparent and universal rules for measuring, verifying and reporting emissions, and for an equitable deal in which richer countries provide support to poorer nations in combatting climate change.
– Protect animal welfare – ending the inhumane and ineffective badger cull, maintaining the ban on hunting with dogs, and introducing a ban on wild animals in circuses.
– In the next Parliament bring forward five green laws that will guarantee a permanently greener Britain.
– A Nature Act to introduce legal targets for biodiversity, clean air, clean water and access to green space, establish the Natural Capital Committee in law, extend the ‘Right to Roam’ and establish new marine and coastal reserves.
– Green Buildings Act to boost renewable and district heating programmes, bring in tough new energy efficiency standards for homes, and step up action on fuel poverty to cut energy bills. Including a national programme to insulate homes with a Council Tax cut if you take part.
– A Resource Efficiency and Zero Waste Britain Act to set Britain on a path to a ‘circular economy’, establishing a ‘Stern Report’ on resource use, with binding targets and a clear action plan to reduce waste and end landfill.
– A Zero Carbon Britain Act To Strengthen the Climate Change Act targets, introduce a decarbonisation target for the electricity sector and end the use of dirty coal power stations.
– A Green Transport Act To help establish a full network of charging points for electric cars, incentivise greener travel choices and update planning law and ensure new developments are designed around walking, cycling and public transport.
– Take urgent action on climate change to cut UK emissions of greenhouse gases by 90% on 1990 level by 2030, and work with other countries to hold the increase in global temperatures to below 2 degrees.
– Ban fracking, phase out coal power by 2023 and nuclear power within 10 years.
– Invest more than £80 billion over the Parliament in a major public programme of renewable generation, flood defences and building insulation.
– Promote a new Nature and Wellbeing Act to provide a new, stronger legal framework for the protection of landscapes and wildlife.
– Protect, expand, properly fund and improve noncar access to National Parks, and expand the UK’s network of Marine Conservation Zones.
– Help bees by reducing dramatically the use of pesticides, banning neonicotinoids, ‘greening’ farming, improving planning guidelines and making bees a priority species in biodiversity strategies.
– Foster and support sustainable farming methods, and enforce strict animal welfare standards.
– End the inhumane and unscientific badger cull.
So here’s the Blue & Green DEMOCRACY policy assembled from those three parties.
– Reform the House of Lords with a proper democratic mandate starting from the 2012 Bill.
– Get big money out of politics with a £10,000 cap on donations and reform of party political funding.
– Reform our voting systems for elections to local government and Westminster. We will introduce the Single Transferable Vote for local government elections in England and for electing MPs across the UK, while transferring responsibility for the local government election system in Wales to the Welsh Assembly.
– Better democracy with votes at 16.
– Delivering on promises made to Scotland and the rest of the UK and transfer more powers from Westminster and Whitehall to the nations and communities of the UK.
– “Devolution on demand” to transfer more power and control to areas within England.
– Pass a new Freedoms Act, to protect citizens from excessive state powers and improve rights of access to information.
– Protect your privacy by updating data laws for the internet age with a Digital Bill of Rights.
– Set up a people led Constitutional Convention to determine the future of UK’s governance.
– Replace the House of Lords with a Senate of the Nations and Regions.
– Pass an English Devolution Act, handing £30 billion of resources and powers to our great English city and county regions.
– Give new powers for communities to shape their high streets, including power over payday lenders and the number of fixed odds betting terminals.
– Meet our promises to devolve further powers to Scotland and Wales.
– Give 16 and 17yearolds the vote.
– Create a statutory register of lobbyists.
– Ban MPs from holding paid directorships and consultancies.
– Support the establishment of a People’s Constitutional Convention to agree radical changes to the governance of the UK. We will push the Convention for a new settlement that includes:
– Proportional representation for parliamentary elections.
– A written constitution and a Bill of Rights.
– The extension of the right to vote to 16 and 17 year olds.
– A reformed House of Lords a fully elected body chosen by proportional representation.
– A fair system of state funding for political parties, so there’s no longer a need for reliance on private and trade union donations, which can have a corrupting effect, and ensure that all lobbying is registered and fully disclosed.
– Aspire to a 50:50 Parliament by 2025 with equal numbers of women and men.
– Restore Legal Aid so that everyone can afford to use the law.
You can still see which party’s policies most matches your own views by using the Vote for Policies survey here, or see your local Vote for Policies results here. To see the how parties are doing by policy across the country take a look here. To see the newly released Guide to Sustainable Democracy, click here.
Photo: yarranz via Freeimages
2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage
Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.
Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.
Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each
The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.
Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.
Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.
Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.
That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.
Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.
Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.
Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.
The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.
Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity
Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.
Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.
It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.
Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight
The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.
The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.
2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded
People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.
Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.
Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.
Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.
Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.
How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018
Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.
Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:
1. Energy – produce it, save it
If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.
It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.
While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.
Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!
2. Don’t be just another tourist
Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.
3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly
We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.
To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.
It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.
4. Know thy recycling
People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.
People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.
5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool
Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.
All in all
The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.