watervole: (Default)
 British Columbia is a rare example of a region with a carbon tax.

They make it popular by sharing out the revenue from the tax as a  reduction in other taxes.

It appears to be working.  CO2 emissions have fallen, both directly and relative to the rest of Canada.

Their economy is also doing fine relative to the rest of Canada, in fact, slightly ahead.

The only fact I can't find data on is whether they are shifting pollution elsewhere (by importing stuff that involves producing a lot of CO2 rather than making it at home).  

Sadly, it excludes aviation.

BAsically, I think it's an idea definitely worth trying elsewhere.  A group of Republican senators tried, but I don't think they've had any success.  However, I do find it reassuring that there are Republicans who are concerned about climate change.

Climate change should not be a party issue - it affects everyone.

watervole: (Default)
 Forget Brexit and the current economy.  Look further ahead.  

The planet is currently projected to be 3-4 degrees warmer by the end of the century.  Some recently estimates put it as high as 7C over pre-industrial levels by then (new positive feedback loops)

I've just been comparing manifestos.

(Don't take my word for it, look here - https://www.carbonbrief.org/election-2017-what-minfestos-say-energy-climate-change )

In essence, the Conservatives want to get every last bit of oil out of the North sea, frack for shale gas, expand airports (while claiming to lead the world in fighting climate change...)  Note that our emissions have only fallen in recent years because we effectively export our carbon emissions by importing carbon-intensive products. When imports are added in, our emissions are still rising.  They won't allow any onshore wind power, apart from on Scottish islands.  No mention of carbon capture and storage.

Labour - ban fracking, want to have a lot more renewables, mention CCS, want to work onzsero-carbon heating for houses, but they still want to use North Sea oil and expand airports.

Lib Dems - want Cabinet position for Sustainability and have specific legislation intentions for green stuff.  Would reduce energy bills by improving insulation rather than capping prices. No fracking, restore subsidies for renewables.  Support CCS and want zero-carbon new homes.  Help establish new industries in areas where oil is a major employer.  Will not increase net number of runways in UK (I sense some weasel wording there)

Greens - what you'd expect.   But most of us won't have a Green candidate with a decent chance.

Basically, if you want your children and grandchildren to have a world that is not  headed like an express train for environmental collapse, your best bet is to vote Lib Dem.  If you don't have a decent Lib Dem candidate, vote Labour.

We live in one of the richest countries in the world.  If we don't make serious attempts to slash carbon emissions, then how can we ask anyone else to?

There are some Conservative policies I support, but I have a granddaughter.  She will live in the world that we are a creating.  It's going to be hot - our only hope is to try and keep it to just 2C rise -1.5C is already a lost cause.

watervole: (Default)
Thanks to Ranunculus for telling me about this.

(apologies for the random font and size changes.  It happens when I cut and paste bits and I can't work out how to make it all the same)

Carbon farming looks like a really interesting set of techniques.

in a nutshell - Carbon Farming involves implementing practices that are known to improve the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted to plant material and/or soil organic matter.

One of the basic techniques is to spread compost on low-fertility rangeland. the compost encourages grass growth, the grass increases the amount of organic matter in the soil, which takes carbon from the atmosphere and adds it to the soil.
With more organic matter, the moisture holding capacity of the soil increases, and this encourages more plants to grows, etc.

There are lots more techniques - 'no dig' is very important as ploughing causes a lot of carbon to be lost from the soil. Seed drills are part of the solution.  Other things include techniques to reduce erosion, so planting wind breaks, encouraging vegetation on river banks, wetland restoration, etc.  

If you live in the USA
 and want to donate to the Carbon Project (which is actively researching these techniques), then donations are (currently) exempt from Federal tax.  (In other word, if you want to help some genuine science which has the potential to lock up carbon and improve soil quality at the same time, do it quickly before the president decides to try and stop it)

I just tried to send them some money, but I'm having problems with Avast Passwords and I'm not recovered well enough from the asthama to have the mental energy to struggle finding my Paypal password.  (I can remember my Avast master password, but  Avast is causing other screw ups...)

There's also a partner project called Fibreshed that aims to produce carbon neutral yarn.

Fascinating stuff all round and a rare glimmer of hope on the environmental front.
watervole: (Default)
News has many impacts, but very few things cause us to take action, and when we do act it is usually in very easy ways.

We're all familiar with the responses that can be heaped upon people in arenas like Facebook when a racist or homophobic remark can result in a comment going viral and hundreds or thousands of people sending hate-filled responses to the original poster.

It's easy.  It allows the commenter to feel they've done something, but it costs them nothing beyond a few seconds of typing.

(I often wonder if this is why some right-wing religious groups target gay men.  It requires no sacrifice on their part, but makes them feel they are exerting effort to fulfill god's wishes.  Other Biblical requirements are much harder to meet.  Not killing, not stealing, giving lots of money to the poor, get progressively harder.)

It's like that with environmental issues.  The Daily Mail can heap praise upon itself for the success of a campaign to put a charge on one-use carrier bags.  It's easy.  The worst thing it can do to us is to make us pay 5p for a carrier bag, or to bring our own bag to the shop.  It's an easy feel good factor to own a re-usable shopping bag.  

Most people will move up to sorting and putting out their recyclable rubbish. It's easy, and there's an awareness that it helps keep council tax down (because of landfill charges).

After that, sadly, we're mostly driven by the desire to look good.  It's no coincidence that most people installed double glazing long before they added decent loft insulation (even though loft insulation is far, far, more cost-effective).  Loft insulation is invisible and double glazing makes our houses look good.  We tell ourselves we're installing it for environmental reasons, but if it didn't come with good looking PVC frames, it wouldn't have caught on nearly as well.

Climate change is something we want the government to act upon.  They should definitely do something.  Though we're not always too sure about what.  We want green electricity, and it sounds great, but we also don't want anything that will lower our standard of living.

and thereby lies the crunch.  We ignore (not even deliberately, but by glossing over or turning the page) things that are stressful or that demand big changes from us.

If everyone on the planet lived as we do in the UK, we would need three planets to support everyone.  In other words, we're using resources three times faster than is sustainable.

And here's the even harder part.  Although we have known this for decades, and awareness of environmental issues is rising, our environmental footprint over that period has risen rather than fallen.

In short, we're destroying the natural environment (and the life support system for our children and grandchildren) because we're unwilling to sacrifice lifestyle elements that are often luxuries rather than essentials.

It's a New Year.  

What are you prepared to give up that will actually make a difference?


watervole: (Default)
 Arctic sea is melting at a rate never seen before.  That's  having all kinds of knock-on effects, including the release of methane from the sea floor (a worse gas than CO2 for climate change)

It's a vicious circle.   The methane released by the warmer temperatures helps warm the atmosphere further.  And that isn't the only knock on effect...

And at the same time, the UK government are trying to make us believe that adding a third runway at Heathrow will not prevent us from meeting our promises on Climate Change - a claim that is pretty impossible to believe.

Air travel is one of the largest sources of CO2 emissions that we have any personal control over.  We have to eat. We have to get to work.  We really don't want to freeze in the winter. But we don't have to go on foreign holidays.  

Try any carbon footprint calculator of your choice - they will all tell you the same thing.  Giving up air travel will make a big difference, bigger than any other lifestyle change you can make.

If you have a beloved child, nephew, neice or grandchild, this may be the single best gift you can ever give them.  Try and give them a world that still resembles the one you love now, before we pass the point of no return.

For the sake of my children and everyone's children, I gave up air travel in 2002.

For my granddaughter, and everyone else's grandchildren, I intend to keep that pledge for the rest of my life.
watervole: (Default)
 There were some really interesting answers to my previous post on Climate Change. Thanks everyone.

The carbon footprint calculator I linked to turns out not to have been a very good one.  I'm going to see if I can find something more useful.

Problems included:

Being very UK-centric. eg. Questions on heating, but not air-conditioning.

No credit for using electricity generated from solar or hydroelectric sources.

Broad-brush assumptions on the way heating is used. eg. No questions on how many rooms you heat.

Advice that ignored your answers to questions.  eg.  Cycle more when you already said that you cycle most places.

Not giving any credit to people without children (you may have a high carbon footprint yourself, but you're still making a difference by not creating new people with carbon footprints of their own)

Given that consumption and population are the two big drivers of climate change, reducing both is clearly important.

As soon as I've sorted out some stuff for the allotment society, I'll see if I can come up with some more meaningful questions.

(There's always a trade off between ease of use and how useful the results are - the best data on home energy use clearly comes from kilowatt hours, but this means taking the effort to look at your bills.  Still, I may see who is willing to give it a go.  One can give far more sensible advice if the data is more meaningful.)
watervole: (Default)
 I've been sort of promising myself that I'd do a series of posts on saving energy and the like.  It's difficult, because when I'm stressed I find it very hard to deal with comments from climate change deniers.

I'm not sure if there are any reading my journal these days, but if you are, just consider this a series of posts on how to save money.  Almost anything that helps reduce carbon emissions has good chances of saving money as well.

It's the Paris conference now. Whatever governments decide is unlikely to be enough to save us from a 2C rise in temperature by the end of the century. It may/may not be enough to save us from a 4C rise.

I have a granddaughter.  This is the world she will inherit. 

Governments alone cannot do it, but if we  all act as individuals, then it becomes possible.

When did you last look at your carbon footprint?

There's a calculator here.

According to the calculator, I need 1.72 planets to maintain my lifestyle.  However, there are some  assumptions in the model that probably mean I'm a bit lower than that.  In particular, our household uses very little hot water (there was no question of how often you bath/shower/etc).  We also have solar panels (which don't generate masses but help a bit) and get all our electricity from renewable sources.  (About 5% of our gas is renewable and Ecotricity hope to increase that over time)
I've just realised that I didn't factor in food grown on the allotment, so that will be a small gain as well.

I doubt I can ever  get down to one planet, but I'm ahead of most of my friends.

The main reason is very simple, I haven't been on a plane since 2002.

I looked at the environmental cost and I quit. (I used to go to SF conventions in America, and I still miss the friends I made there)

Just one flight across the Atlantic emits as much CO2 per person as a typical year's driving.

I know many people (especially those with family overseas, for whom it's a particularly hard choice) who live very green lifestyles, but who continue flying.  It's the environmental cost people try to overlook, and there's enormous social pressure to overlook it.

I have one friend who did attempt to give it up, and was pushed back into it by social pressure from friends.  

Because the hard fact is that your friends will feel you're trying to guilt-trip them and they only way they can prevent that is by telling you that you're silly, that the plane will fly anyway, that you can offset the emissions, etc.

The truth is that the plane will use less fuel if you aren't on it (or won't fly at all if enough people decide not to go) and that carbon offsetting is often deeply flawed (I'll explain why if you want me to) and in any case does not remove the CO2 that you have emitted for that flight.

This is why I hate to post on environmental issues.  My friends get unhappy.  If I post about how to save energy with a new boiler, then no problem, but when it comes to flying, the vast majority of my friends fly, and those who have also chosen not to tend to keep quiet for exactly the same reasons that I do.

But, I have Oswin to think of.  And millions of other little Oswins with friends and family who love them.  I want them to have a future.  I don't want them to inherit a world with droughts, erratic water supplies, ruined soils, pollution, extreme weather, vanished wildlife.

I'm not an environmentalist because I hate people.

I'm an environmentalist because I love people.
watervole: (Default)
 It's kind of scary to realise just how much fossil fuels are subsidised.

It was the UK budget that really shocked me, with £1.3 billion subsidy for North Sea oil.  I can't for the life of me see how the government can reduce subsidies for green energy while spending this much on subsidising more fossil fuels.

But it's not just our government.  Everyone is doing it.  If you factor in the cost of health problems caused by air pollution and the costs of global warming then the international subsidies both direct and indirect are absolutely staggering.  (If fossil fuel companies don't pay for the costs of people with asthma, etc. caused by air pollution, then that is an indirect subsidy as someone else is paying the cost.)

The total international subsidy internationally has been calculated by the IMF at trillions of dollars.  Around 6% of Global GDP.  You could probably argue about some of the things included in the calculation (I have doubts about some of the figures related to vehicles), but the total figure is still  terrifying.

I have no idea what can be done - I don't have the money and resources that the oil, gas and coal industries have - but I feel the need to try.

I'm one of those people who take the time to write individual letters to my local MP, so I guess another letter is due. (Our previous MP was great, she had a track record on green issues - our new guy is someone I don't yet know much about.)
watervole: (Default)
 If Google are supporting climate change deniers, I may have to think seriously about doing anything that will help them make money...

Here's the petition to ask Google to cease donating money to any politician or organisation that campaigns against the reality of climate change.

Until now,  I thought Google were realistic on this front.  Apparently I was wrong.
watervole: (Default)
 I forget how I came across this report, but it's an interesting read and not too lengthy.  I always thought carbon taxes made sense as the best way to tackle climate change, but the really interesting thing is that British Columbia have done it without damaging their economy.

Here's the summary
Almost all economists, and most Canadian business and environmental leaders, believe 
that a carbon price is the most cost-effective tool for reducing GHG emissions. BC’s 
carbon tax shift, though just four years old, is providing increasing evidence that they 
are right. 
Since 2008, when the tax came in, fuel use and GHG emissions in BC have dropped 
substantially – much more than in the rest of Canada. At the same time, BC’s GDP 
growth has outpaced the rest of Canada’s by a small amount, suggesting that the tax 
shift has not harmed the province’s economy. The BC government has also kept its 
promise to make the tax revenue neutral; in fact it has returned more in tax cuts (by 
over $300 million) than it has received in carbon tax revenue. 
BC took a risk in introducing the carbon tax, which was initially quite controversial. BC 
is one of the few North America states or provinces with a price on carbon – a price that 
is among the highest in the world. That risk seems to have been rewarded. BC 
households and businesses now pay the lowest income taxes in Canada, due to the tax 
shift, and use the least amount of petroleum fuels per capita of any province. BC is also 
decoupling its economic growth from fuel consumption (and GHG emissions) faster than 
the rest of Canada. In other words, it is building a greener economy – which should 
position it well for future success in global markets. It will also help to shelter the BC 
economy from future petroleum price increases and volatility. 
watervole: (Save the Earth)
 Kerravonsen recently stuck her head above the parapet and invited people to ask her questions about her faith.

It's always hard to talk about topics that polarise opinion and hard to talk about them when you can get strong negative reactions.

Yet some things are always present in our lives.

With Kerravonsen, it's religion, with me, it's climate change.

I often don't talk about it, because I can't always cope with the stress of dealing with people who refuse to accept that we're changing our planet.  (sometimes, it can be equally stressful talking to people who accept it is happening, but don't want to change their lifestyle)

Yet, it's central to much of what I do.

I turn out lights by reflex.  Yes, it saves money, but I do it primarily because wasting energy is a sin. (And I'm not using the word 'sin' casually)

I haven't travelled overseas in a decade and will probably never do so again - the CO2 emissions from air travel dwarf any saving you can make elsewhere in your life.

We live in an exceptionally well insulated house and don't heat above 18C (though it can get warmer than that from passive solar heating).

We grow quite a lot of our own veg.

I try not to buy food from overseas - if I do, I try and ensure it has not travelled by air (Riverford are very good in this regard - they never ship by air)

We're not perfect.  It's actually quite hard to maintain a low carbon footprint in a country where few of us can afford to buy the land to produce our own food - unless you have that safety net to fall back on, then you have to have a paying job and that means a car and heating and lighting and all the rest of it.  There are also some things that I'm not yet willing to do without, my computer for one. 

Yet, if everyone did no more than I do, we could probably slash this country's carbon emissions.

It's a new year, why not see what you can trim from your carbon emissions?
watervole: (Default)
 The Earth's surface really is getting warmer, a new analysis by a US scientific group set up in the wake of the "Climategate" affair has concluded.

The Berkeley Earth Project has used new methods and some new data, but finds the same warming trend seen by groups such as the UK Met Office and Nasa.

The project received funds from sources that back organisations lobbying against action on climate change.

See BBC news for the rest of the article.

watervole: (Default)
I've been a fan of Artisan for many years - I'm a sucker for any good harmony singing and Artisan are really good.  They've a good sense of humour as well.  Even serious subjects can be given a lighter touch.

Here's the end of the world.

And for the serious side of the same subject, see here   - The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1996.  -  and for the likely impact on the world's poor, see here.
watervole: (Save the Earth)
According to this study, the payback time in energy costs for solar panels on roof tops is around 4 years.  However, I'm not sure what latitudes they're considering. (and I'm not sure of the date either)

This summary of research from the Centre for Alternative Technology estimates that even in Europe, the carbon footprint of photovoltaic panels is about a tenth of producing electricity by other means.  (assuming a 25-30 year lifespan of the panels)

Factors influencing the results include the carbon cost of mountings for panels (which used to be higher when aluminium was the main metal used), the energy mix in the country you live in - the carbon saving is greater if your country burns a lot of coal, carbon cost of labour and maintenance, energy losses in distribution, the carbon cost of making the glass panels, etc. 

(There's also interesting details of reductions in heavy metal pollution if you follow this link here.)

In short, I'm feeling a lot more positive about solar panels than I used to.  (But I still think roof-mounted wind turbines are useless)

There are still issues of whether the electricity is produced at times of day when it is useful, but I think they may well be useful overall - especially if battery technology continues to improve.

watervole: (Default)
I used to love my tumble dryer, used nothing else for a couple of decades.  I acutally owned a dryer before I owned my own washing machine.

When Richard was made redundant, one of the many ways in which we started to save money was to go back to using a washing line.  Then I also became aware of the CO2 savings that a washing line was good for.

After cutting my usage down to about one load a year for the last two years, I made the decision to give away my tumble dryer.  It went to an old lady via Freegle. Her arthritis was so bad that she could no longer manage to use clothes pegs.  (I met her when her husband brought her to collect it.  A lovely women, trapped inside a body that no longer allowed her to do the things that made her feel worthwhile. She made me aware just how lucky I am.)

I see from the news that I'm not alone in abandoning my dryer.  There's a movement in the States to try and lift neighbourhood restrictions that prevent people from using washing lines even if they wish to.  (I was amazed when I first heard of these restrictions - they sound really strange to British ears.  It does seem odd that America allows restrictions of such  a simple individual liberty as hanging out your laundry, but I guess you never really know a country unless you live there.)

watervole: (Save the Earth)
I said I'd go through some of this report in more depth, so let's start at the beginning.  (If I'm unclear, feel free to ask me to try and explain better.  Better explanations are also welcome in the comments)

Their text is in red, mine is not.

The greenhouse effect

4 The Sun is the primary source of energy for the Earth’s climate. Satellite observations
show that about 30% of the Sun’s energy that reaches the Earth is reflected back to
space by clouds, gases and small particles in the atmosphere, and by the Earth’s
surface. The remainder, about 240 Watts per square metre (Wm-2) when averaged over
the planet, is absorbed by the atmosphere and the surface.

What this basically boils down to is that clouds are reflective.  They're white, so this is hardly surprising.  If they were black, then they'd absorb far more heat instead.  Gases also reflect radiation, as do particles.  Anything that interacts with light is going to do its own particular mixture of absorption, reflection and refraction.

Clouds have a big impact on how much radiation reaches the surface.  This is a pain for climate modellers as clouds are hard to predict.  (ask any weather forecaster)

Radiation that is not reflected by clouds, gasses and particles eventually reaches the surface of the Earth and is an average of 240 Watts/m2   (Yes, some radiation will get absorbed in the atmosphere and re-radiated, we'll come to that later)

How much energy is that?  Visualise an old style 250W light bulb every metre of your ceiling.  (Daylight is far brighter than indoor light, but we tend not to notice because our eyes adapt so well.

5 To balance the absorption of 240 Wm-2 from the Sun, the Earth’s surface and
atmosphere must emit the same amount of energy into space; they do so as infrared
radiation. On average the surface emits significantly more than 240 Wm-2, but the net
effect of absorption and emission of infrared radiation by atmospheric gases and clouds
is to reduce the amount reaching space until it approximately balances the incoming
energy from the Sun. The surface is thus kept warmer than it otherwise would be
because, in addition to the energy it receives from the Sun, it also receives infrared
energy emitted by the atmosphere. The warming that results from this infrared energy is
known as the greenhouse effect.

Second law of thermodynamics coming into play.  Heat moves from hotter bodies to colder bodies.

If the Earth gets hotter, it radiates more heat back into space.  Thus, the Earth radiates 240W/m2  (allowing for stuff bouncing back and forth from those dratted clouds and gasses).

Clouds (and atmospheric gasses) are a bit like leaky mirrors over the Earth.  They reflect both ways and only reflect about a third of the stuff coming from any given direction. 

Radiation coming in from the sun is one mixture of wavelengths and radiation emitted by the Earth is a different mixture of wavelengths.

The easiest way to see this happening is to leave a sheet of black paper in the sun.  If you hold your hand over the paper, it will be radiating heat at you. It's absorbed radiation in the visible light spectrum and some of that energy has been re-emitted as infra-red (heat).

Clouds also reflect infra red - that's why cloudy nights aren't as cold as clear nights.  The clouds act as a 'blanket'. (Or 'duvet' these days)

6 Measurements from the surface, research aircraft and satellites, together with
laboratory observations and calculations, show that, in addition to clouds, the two
gases making the largest contribution to the greenhouse effect are water vapour
followed by carbon dioxide (CO2). There are smaller contributions from many other
gases including ozone, methane, nitrous oxide and human-made gases such as CFCs

Clouds are easy to see and account for a large chunk of atmospheric reflection.  The next biggest reflectors are water vapour and CO2, followed by a host of less common gasses.

How do we know this?  Partly by lab observations (send radiation into something and see what comes back again) and partly field work (measure atmospheric concentrations and see how much radiation is reaching your instruments compared with what you get under different atmospheric conditions.  Field data obviously needs to be collected over long periods of time to get meaningful results)

watervole: (Save the Earth)

"Climate change continues to be a subject of intense public and political debate. Because of the level of interest in the topic the Royal Society has produced a new guide to the science of climate change. The guide summarises the current scientific evidence on climate change and its drivers, highlighting the areas where the science is well established, where there is still some debate, and where substantial uncertainties remain.

The document was prepared by a working group chaired by Professor John Pethica, Vice President of the Royal Society and was approved by the Royal Society Council."

Download the guide here (PDF).

I've only skimmed it so far (need to get some stuff ready for this evening) but it looks like a summary that should take no more than 20 mins to read and be accessible to anyone with a general science background..  It does indeed seem to do what it says on the tin, say what degree of certainty we have for different factors relating to climate change.  I'll probably comment further tomorrow when I've read it in detail.
watervole: (money)
Martin Lewis (Money Saving Expert) blogs about his energy monitor and mentions savings that he hadn't initially expected.
watervole: (Save the Earth)
Here's a fascinating web site that allows you to play around with the effect of different potential government policies and see what change each would have on energy use and CO2 emissions.

Try it for yourself - see what changes you would make and how effective they would be.

What's the best results you can achieve for the least changes?

Which ones would you implement if you were in charge?

watervole: (Save the Earth)
According to my gas supplier, we use less than a fifth of the gas of the average person living in a three bed terrace (which is what we live in).

I'm impressed.  I knew we had a lower than average gas consumption, but I'd no idea it was that low!

I'd love to show you the graph for the last six months, but I can't figure out how to copy it from their web site.

I think it's probably due to a combination of excellent insulation and low hot-water usage.
watervole: (Default)
Cooking with towels is a trick I've tried a couple of times now.

I recommend it to all Hitchhikers fans, cooks, people with busy lives and those who want to save money or reduce CO2 emissions.

It's very handy if you need to cook a casserole or similar and aren't sure exactly when you'll want it and also want to make sure you don't burn it if you go out and abandon it to its own devices for an hour or so.

It's also very cheap, because you don't use any gas or electricity after you've heated it up.

I'd read about hayboxes, which struck me as a good idea, but far too demanding on space and involving bits of hay in your kitchen, so I adapted the concept in the spirit of Douglas Adams

Cook your casserole (or pressure cooker) on the hob until it's boiling and then simmer for a couple of minutes to make sure the heat has penetrated all the ingredients.  Then, turn off the heat, leave your casserole right where it is (you can move it if you want to, but if it's an electric cooker, you might as well use the residual heat in the hob), wrap the top and sides of the casserole in a couple of thick, fluffy towels.  (If you take it off the hob, then you'll want towel underneath as well)

Leave for several hours and eat whenever you want to.  The one we cooked yesterday was still hot four hours later.  The long, slow cook had allowed all the flavours to seep into the liquid and it tasted fabulous (guests asking for spoons to make sure they didn't miss any of the liquid on their plates).  Slow cooking can also give beautifully tender meat.

The bigger the meal, the better it's going to retain the heat.  It can't burn, because you've turned off the external heat.  I went out for  a walk after setting up yesterday's towels.

You can cook pretty much any kind of stew this way.  Yesterday's one was sausages, parsnips and carrots for five people.  

It's cheap, it's great for lazy people who can't plan meals to exact deadlines, and it makes great-tasting food!
watervole: (Default)
This is what ten inches of loft insulation does (photo taken this morning):

The neighbours, as you will observe, have somewhat less.

We've got insulation in the loft floor, and also between the rafters in the roof.  We've got floor boards over the floor insulation, so we also have full use of the loft as storage space - and the ceiling insulation means that although the loft is cold, you don't freeze when you go up there in winter.

Interestingly, my mother-in-law (the incomparable Molly) has a similar roof effect, although she has no insulation at all.

She lives in a very old, half-timbered house.  It can't have things like cavity wall insulation. She turned down an offer of loft insulation from the council as she didn't feel it would benefit her, and there is no double-glazing.  She's 80, lives on her own (with her dog) on her pension, and you're probably now imagining a wretched old lady shivering in the cold.

Not Molly.  We phoned her last night just to be sure she was okay, though we knew it was almost certainly unnecessary.  She replied cheerfully that she was fine.  It was so cold last night that she actually turned the convection heater on in her bedroom for the first time in ages.  She's spending the day in the lounge and only bothering to heat the one room (coal fire), thus saving costs on heating the rest of the house.

She laughingly pointed out that she still has snow on her roof whereas her neighbours with insulation had none left on theirs.  She says they waste heat, heating every room and having the thermostat set far too high.

Molly just adds a thick wool jumper, wears warm socks, and only heats the room she actually needs.  (and with a coal fire, that room is very comfortable).  She'll keep warm by walking the dog, eat well by digging up a few veg from the garden, and hopefully be fit and well for many years yet to come.  (though we're all grateful to the friend who drove her to the shops to stock up on essentials just before the snow hit - Molly has a lot of friends, she's lived a long time in her village and has helped many local causes over the years).

Therefore the Proctor family tips on saving heating bills (and CO2 emissions) appear to be: insulate as well as you possibly can, only heat the rooms you really need to, and wear warm clothing.
watervole: (Save the Earth)
There' s a very sensible article here looking at what is likely to make a different in carbon terms and what is pure greenwash just designed to make you feel good. 

His approach is very simple. He looks at everything in terms of kilowatt hours.  All forms of energy consumption are measured by the same yardstick.

My favourite quote: Turning phone chargers off when they are not in use is a feeble gesture, like bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon.

But the writer has very positive things to say about electric cars and solar hot water systems. (and pours scorn on roof-mounted windmills)

watervole: (Save the Earth)
If the world warms by 4 degrees Celsuis in the next hundred years, what does that mean in practical terms?

If you look at this map, then you'll see that about the only habitable (ie. capable of growing crops) places are Antartica, Patagonia, Northern Europe, New Zealand, a small part of central Africa, and a bit of Western and northern Australia.  If you live in China, India, USA or most of South America, then you're pretty well stuffed.  If you live in Polynesia, you're under water, so at least you don't need to worry about being a desert.

The areas that have habitable climates, however, will not necessarily have decent soil. Soil develops in conjunction with climate and vegetation and takes hundreds/thousands of years to develop to any decent depth.

A 4 degree rise is looking a lot more likely than it was even a couple of years ago. CO2 emissions are continuing to rise in spite of all warnings about the consequences.

The only good news that I can currently see (and it's only a small gain) is that there does seem to be one method of sequestering CO2 that could actually work.  Biochar (essentialy buring at a low temperature with as little oxygen as possible) can use organic waste and convert it (sometimes even producing energy in the process) into charcoal which can then be added to soil to improve its fertility.

I have some confidence in this as a method without nasty potential side-effects, because soils produced by this method are already with us. When I was younger, one of the minor puzzles of the Amazon was the presence of pockets of terra preta (very deep, dark,  fertile soil).  Now, it's been shown to be anthropogenic and created by the original forest Indians. Whether this kind of charcoal production can be scaled up, and whether it will be equally beneficial to all soil types isn't yet certain, but it seems hopeful.

However, and it's a big however, common sense tells us that we need to sequester an amount of CO2 that approaches the amount of coal and oil that have been burnt in the last century.  That's an awful lot of charcoal...

watervole: (Default)
Gave away half a dozen glass jars to a jam maker two streets away.  Collected Harry Potter CCG cards for Henry (well, he walked round and got them as they were very local).  Tomorrow we're going to pick up some manure from horses kept on grass all year.

A good day for Freecycle and all within the village.

If you want to find your local Freecycle group, just put your town name and 'Freecycle' into Google.
watervole: (Save the Earth)
Picture from the BBC web site.

and the text that was with it:

Open borders
Some groups go further. They want industrialised nations to open up borders to allow environmental refugees to move from their lands and find safer locations.

Bangladesh is one of the most crowded nations, with more than 158m crammed into about 144,000 sq km. Scientists predict Bangladesh could lose up to 20% of its land by 2050 because of rising sea levels.


If you have the choice, which would you rather do - reduce your energy consumption by around 60% (or  80% if you're American) (I don't know the figure for Australia, but that's probably bad as it's a very coal dependent country) or allow refugees from countries like Bangladesh to enter your country in large numbers (for the sake of argument, let's assign environmental refugees to industrialised countries in proportion to their CO2 emissions per head of their own population).  Discuss.

In the meantime, here's one more way to reduce your carbon footprint. 
Curtains -- It's amazing how many people overlook a simple and cheap method of insulation.  If you have double-glazing, still use your curtains.  They'll have a big impact on heat loss.  Many people tend to stop using their curtains at night once they have double-glazing (or else have filmy ones with no insulation value).  By doing that, you've lost a lot of the gain from installing the double-glazing.

If it's dark enough to have your lights on, then it's probably time to close your curtains.

If you have a cold hallway (and that's an awful lot of us), get a floor-length curtain from Oxfam, put a cheap rail over the door, and use it whenever the weather is cold, especially at night.  I was surprised how much difference ours made.

Also, consider a curtain at the foot of your stairs.  In the old days, people had a stairCASE.  The stairs were encased - it kept the heat in.  A curtain will help reproduce the effect of a door at the foot of your stairs and stop heat doing what it normally does - rise upstairs.  (You could always open it an hour before you go to bed, if you want the last of the heat to flow up and warm your bedroom.)

We turned off radiators in all our bedrooms the year our baby got croup (which we learned was caused by hot, dry air) and haven't turned them on again in decades.  A hot water bottle or electric blanket is far more cost-effective if you need to warm the bed before you get into it.  And I for one actually sleep better if my head is cool.

watervole: (Save the Earth)
It's a happy coincidence that many things that are good for the environment are also good ways of saving money.

This works for me - I'm an environmentalist and a skinflint...

Today's handy tip for reducing your heating bills.

Go down to your local charity shop, find a suitable length curtain, and hang it behind your front door.  (You'll have to pay for a curtain rail/pole unless you already have one or are very creative, but it's only a short one)

I did this last winter, and if I drew it every night, the hall was definitely warmer in the morning.

Actually, the cheapest energy-saving tip of all is simply to draw your curtains when it gets dark.  I'm continually amazed by how many people fail to do this when the weather gets cold.
watervole: (Save the Earth)
Monbiot can be annoying on occasion, but this time, he confirms what I'd suspected for a while.

Recent cuts in UK CO2 emissions have been achieved by exporting pollution.  If we include the CO2 emissions of goods we import rather than make ourselves, our emissions have risen.

Not only that, but they're allowing as much as they want to be offset by carbon trading schemes - many of which are deeply flawed and hardly any actually result in the actual removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.

In other words, we can increase our carbon footprint, while still claiming as a country that we are reducing our CO2 emissions.

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.
watervole: (allotment)
I was browsing a copy of the Times on the way back from Conrunner on Monday, and found this article on the rising demand for the world's limited supply of phosphorus.

In essence, it's essential for agriculture, and wasteful usage and limited supplies are pushing prices up dramatically.  In a few decades, we may be looking at 'peak phosphorus'.

One of the possible solutions involves recycling the phosphorus that we throw away every day - urine.

I recently read Liquid Gold, an entertaining (It's full of anecdotes on how urine has been used throughout history) and informative book on how to use urine in your garden.  Urine is sterile (as long as it isn't contaminated by faeces) and contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in almost the exact ratio needed by plants.  Dilute between three and eight times with water (the more woody material/mulch/compost you have in the soil, the stronger you can make the mixture) and you can feed your plants up to three times a week.

I tried this a couple of weeks ago on my courgette plants - the leaves were turning yellow and the plants were putting on very little growth.

Result?  Green leaves within a week and healthy new growth. 

Tried again with the sorry-looking French beans - they're now, finally, making decent growth up their poles.

I'm now encouraging the family to fill empty plastic milk bottles as fast as they can - there's a load more plants that I want to try this on!


watervole: (Default)
Judith Proctor


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