Earth Overshoot Day

Image from Global Footprint Network
In 2011, Earth Overshoot Day, the approximate date our demands on nature for a given year exceeds the planet’s ability to replenish, fell on September 27. In 2010 it was 21 August so surely this is this good news? Unfortunately not. The information to calculate such a date is complex and factors are given weights according to how important they are conceived to be making the date an estimate. Yet this estimate is increasingly accurate as more evidence goes into calculating it. Research suggests that since 2001 the date has moved forwards three days each year.

Posted in Sustainablity

James Hansen

James Hansen
Photograph from
James Hansen was in the UK this week to receive the prestigious Edinburgh Medal for his contribution to science. In his lecture he argued that taking action on climate change is on a par with ending slavery. Hansen was one of the first scientists to study the effects of climate change and in 1981 he wrote a paper in Science which has recently been evaluated in RealClimate and found he underestimated global warming by 30%. In a soon to be published paper he argues for a global levy on fossil fuels to save the planet from extreme weather events.

Posted in Climate change

Denmark To Run Country Entirely on Renewables by 2050

The Avedore Power Plant -
Denmark has announced that by 2020 a third of its energy will come from renewable energy and by 2050 it will be 100%. Remarkably this has support across the country’s political spectrum.

Posted in Denmark, Renewables | 2 Comments

Paradox of green.

Article: New York Times

Rare earth elements such as dysprosium are increasingly relied upon in the production of so-called ‘green’ components and products.  Much of the supply of these rare earth elements comes from China. The image above of dysprosium comes from this Chinese trader.

There is increasing demand for such rare earth elements for all type of ‘green’ products or their components, from the magnets within wind turbines to the manufacture of low energy light bulbs.  These elements come almost entirely from China, from some of the most environmentally damaging mines in the country, in an industry dominated by criminal gangs. It is difficult to trace whether a traded element comes from a legal or an illegal source.

A close-knit group of mainland Chinese gangs with a capacity for murder dominates much of the mining and has ties to local officials, said Stephen G. Vickers, the former head of criminal intelligence for the Hong Kong police who is now the chief executive of International Risk, a global security company. 

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued a draft plan last April to halt all exports of heavy rare earths, partly on environmental grounds and partly to force other countries to buy manufactured products from China. In Washington, Congress is fretting about the United States military’s dependence on Chinese rare earths, and has just ordered a study of potential alternatives.

Licensed and illegal mines alike sell to itinerant traders. They buy the valuable material with sacks of cash, then sell it to processing centers in and around Guangzhou that separate the rare earths from each other.  Companies that buy these rare earths, including a few in Japan and the West, turn them into refined metal powders.

Vestas, a Danish company that has become the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturer, said that prototypes for its next generation used dysprosium, and that the company was studying the sustainability of the supply. Goldwind, the biggest Chinese turbine maker, has switched from conventional magnets to rare-earth magnets.

Developers hope to open mines in Canada, South Africa and Australia, but all are years from large-scale production and will produce sizable quantities of light rare earths. 

“This industry wants to save the world,” said Nicholas Curtis, the executive chairman of the Lynas Corporation of Australia, in a speech to an industry gathering in Hong Kong in late November. “We can’t do it and leave a product that is glowing in the dark somewhere else, killing people.”

Posted in 'Green' investments, Business, Buying Green, China, Energy, Mining, Pollution, Technology, Wind power | Tagged ,

Guyana’s plan to preserve its rain forest.

From the New York Times ;

In Guyana, where pristine rain forest still covers 75 percent of the land, and barely 750,000 people live in a country roughly the size of Britain, a young economist-turned-president is pushing a development model based on conservation that has earned his government international recognition in the United Nations talks on a climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Faced with the possibility of climate change, the international community is starting to talk about paying for the carbon storage that living forests provide.

Guyana’s minister of foreign affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, said 

“The fastest way of reducing carbon emissions is keeping the forest standing. All of the other measures we could take would take technology, time. But this we can do immediately. We just stop. We just stop cutting.”

That recognition, and advances in satellite imaging and carbon measurements over the past decade, have made a proposal for forest preservation, known as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD, an important part of the climate treaty talks.

Low-carbon development strategy

To show that he is not looking for a handout, President Bharrat Jagdeo has formulated a low-carbon development strategy that outlines how income from REDD would help his country develop sustainably.

The plan calls for investment in clean industries, like organic agriculture, aquaculture, sustainable forestry, business outsourcing and ecotourism. It proposes the development of hydropower to cut fossil fuel use, and because most of the population lives along the coast, below sea level, it would direct some funds toward adaptation, strengthening sea defenses or moving people inland. Those efforts would help to counteract flooding, which has taken a 10 percent bite out of gross domestic product in recent years.

To help convince developed countries, Guyana has undertaken a pilot project, largely funded through a partnership deal signed last month with Norway. The agreement will provide Guyana $30 million in 2010 for forest conservation and up to $250 million by 2015, based upon its success in limiting emissions. Guyana will use the money to begin protecting its rain forests and implementing its low-carbon development strategy.

Elements of the partnership that might offer lessons for others include the setting up of a transparent financial transfer mechanism that allows Guyana to maintain sovereignty over its resources; the creation of a system to measure, monitor and report changes in forest cover; and the organization of consultations with all Guyanese, including indigenous people, to generate nationwide support. Guyana’s pilot project is unique because it is countrywide.

Posted in 'Green' investments, Biodiversity, Business, Climate change, Economics, Forests, Nature & Conservation, Politics & Policy initiatives, Rural communities, Thinking outside the box, UN | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Tell Shell

Delusional Shell oil company prides itself on its progressive Green initiatives and like other big energy companies, Shell likes to put on an ethical mask and pretend to do good in the world.  But the world isn’t stupid and the company has been slated more than once by environmentalists for its blatant greenwash.

Anyway, for years now Shell has been making monster profits in the Niger Delta and as the Niger Delta is characterised by vital wetlands, freshwater swamps and much much more, it’s not hard to imagine the implications of intense activity by oil companies.  And it’s not just the environment that is suffering.  People are being affected too.  In typical corporate mentality, it’s simply a matter of profit before people and Shell, one of the biggest companies there, is not averse to exploiting people and dodging accountability.

Basically, the Delta is being polluted and the people who have lived there for years are bearing the burden of decades of oil leakage, pollution, water contamination and utter devastation.  Livelihoods are being ruined, rare species are under dire threat, crops are being damaged and all in all, tensions are high resulting in conflict and instability within the region.  Don’t take my word for it.  According to this article, WWF conducted a report three years ago which concluded that “the impact of oil and gas drilling was a “significant contributor to the current violence, sabotage of pipelines/installations and instability in the region.”

It won’t be a surprise to know that the oil guys haven’t done much to improve things since the report was released.  Amnesty is specifically targeting Shell  claiming that they are continuing with the illegal activity of gas flaring and, rightly crying human rights abuses, they are asking us to make Shell clean up its act.

So, if you don’t like what Shell is doing (and you shouldn’t) you can tell Shell you don’t like what it’s doing.  Just click the link.

Posted in Africa, Biodiversity, Campaigns, Forests, Oil, People, Pollution, Waste, Water, Wildlife | 3 Comments

100 Days to Copenhagen … counting down to the climate summit in December 2009.


The official launch of the TckTckTck campaign and global partner campaigns was launched 28th August. With 100 days until the most important meeting of our times, TckTckTck is here to show that the world is ready for bold climate action towards a fair, ambitious, and binding climate deal in Copenhagen.’

If you like you can add your name here in support of this campaign. See top of web page. Stay informed via any number of organisations supporting this campaign. WWF is just one.

As Katharine Ainger points out in her article in the Guardian the corporate lobbyists are working hard to water down the climate agreement being trashed out for December in Copenhagen. The very least we can do is add our support to the Tcktcktck campaign.

Corporate Europe Observatory is monitoring the cynical campaign of big business called ‘The Copenhagen Call’. This was put together by business members meeting at the World Business Summit on Climate Change. The main push business is making is for (quote) ‘The first steps to establishing a global market will be to enable linkage between national and regional carbon markets. An international agreement will help secure investor confidence in the carbon market, and national actions will help generate new financial flows for climate investment.’ They also ask for public monies to boost investment in low carbon technologies.

What the NGOs are concerned about is the carbon market initiative (started here in London) becoming a major loophole for big business to do really very little to change their ways. Effectively business can negate their responsibilities to reduce their operating emissions by buying carbon credits from elsewhere, normally the developing world. Business see the global carbon market as the solution, in which they buy and trade permits to pollute.

In other areas NGOs see PR ‘green’ campaigns masking business as usual, such as BP, who are extracting oil from Canadian tar sands, a process that produces four times as much CO2 as conventional drilling, and the World Coal Institute which promotes coal – with the highest carbon emissions of all – as a “progressive fuel”. One significant lobby group in the Climate Camp’s sights is Edelman PR, acting on behalf of the German energy firm E.ON, which is lobbying to build the UK’s first coal-fired power station in decades at Kingsnorth.

Well done if you got this far reading through this blog! Sign up and add your voice to the Tcktcktck campaign here. We must have a better Climate deal.

Posted in Business, Campaigns, Carbon trading, Charities, Climate change, Energy, EU, Funding, Media, Politics, Sustainablity, Thinking outside the box, UN, US | Tagged | 3 Comments

Are gadgets getting more energy efficient?

Not according to the Observer. Instead it predicts a rise in electricity bills by £100 per year for every household to pay for plasma TVs, high-end PCs and mobile phones and a rise in energy use from 1,000 kWh per year at present to 1,700 kWh in 2020. This is likely to wipe out any advantages from improvements in the improved efficiencies of fridges, dishwashers and washing machines.

Posted in Energy | 4 Comments

Woking Albion Square Canopy

The Albion Square Canopy has been a controversial project since it was first approved in 2004. It was conceived as a gateway to the town and as a solar power project generating an estimated 51,000 to 58,000 kWh a year. The project was overspent by £1,165,000. In 2008 it generated 45,123 kWh. The local Friends of the Earth came out against the project while the Local Agenda 21 group supported it. A report in Woking news and Mail estimated that “the figure equates to powering a 100-watt light bulb for 59 days” – clearly a huge underestimate. My maths calculates it as 18,801 days or 51 and a half years for 24 hours a day. Opinion in the town is divided as to its worth.

Posted in solar | 1 Comment

This week’s environment news.

News for this week from Low

Scottish Power turns on largest onshore wind farm in Europe
Europe’s largest onshore wind power project has commenced operation in Scotland.
Bacteria used to create ethanol for biofuels   Bacteria used to create ethanol for biofuels
US research suggests that the answer to the world’s fuel problems could lie in bacteria.
Funding awarded under Scottish Biomass Heat Scheme   Funding awarded under Scottish Biomass Heat Scheme
Scottish businesses have been given funding to install biomass heating systems.
Rannoch River hydro project approved in Scotland   Rannoch River hydro project approved in Scotland
Scottish ministers have given the green light to a hydro-based renewable energy scheme in the Highlands.
US couple offer advice on giving up CO2   US couple offer advice on giving up CO2
The Hrens have written a book about their efforts to adopt a fully carbon-neutral lifestyle.
UK DECC is least green of all government buildings   UK DECC is least green of all government buildings
Headquarters belonging to the UK government’s climate change department are among the least energy efficient in the public sector.
EC inviting bids for energy stimulus funding   EC inviting bids for energy stimulus funding
The EC has launched a call for funding proposals from energy projects across Europe.
Obama fuel efficiency targets welcomed by environmentalists   Obama fuel efficiency targets welcomed by environmentalists
Fuel efficiency targets for US cars could have a significant impact on reducing the nation’s carbon footprint.
UK car scrappage scheme dealt severe blow   UK car scrappage scheme dealt severe blow
Two leading car-makers have pulled out of the scrappage scheme but the industry remains confident of its impact.
Electronic gadgets contributing to rising emissions   Electronic gadgets contributing to rising emissions
Increasing usage of electronic devices needs to be addressed if global carbon emissions are to be tackled.
UK government accused of underestimating smart meter costs   UK government accused of underestimating smart meter costs
Ernst & Young has suggested the UK’s smart meter scheme will cost much more than the government expects.
Conservative Party backs geothermal technology in the UK   Conservative Party backs geothermal technology in the UK
The leader of the Tories has pledged his party’s support to developing deep geothermal power in the UK.
Posted in 'Green' investments, Biomass, Business, Politics & Policy initiatives, Sustainablity, Technology, Wind power | 10 Comments