Tag Archives: carbon

Unclaimed Carbon

I already knew that national carbon accounting does not include the emissions embedded in imported goods. Those emissions are attributed to the country that produces the goods. Which is why many post-industrial countries can claim to have reduced emissions, while pointing accusing fingers at China and other emerging economies that now make all our stuff. What I didn’t know until Naomi Klein’s fantastic new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate enlightened me, is that the emissions from international shipping are not attributed to any country.

Massive container ship. Creative Commons copyright.

Massive container ship. Creative Commons copyright.

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Artists rendition of what the solar roadways would look like with their programmable LED lights. Art by Sam Cornett.

SOLAR ROADWAYS

This is just about the best idea I’ve heard of in a very long time.

Solar Roadways are pretty much what they say on the tin: solar panels that cover the roads, generating clean electricity. They can also cover car parks, pavements, cycle lanes and any other impenetrable surface. The solar panels are encased in modular, hexagon-shaped tiles that can be replaced individually and are topped with a special kind of glass which can withstand even the heaviest trucks driving over it. The tiles are partly made with recycled materials, and they heat up slightly so as to melt snow and ice – meaning less snow-clearing costs, safer winter roads and of course year round functionality of the solar panels.

And the best bit?
How much energy these things could actually generate. The calculations, which use conservative estimates based on one of the least sunny states, show that if all roads in the USA were solar roads,each year they would generate three times the power the whole country  used in 2009.

Let that sink in for a minute. Three times the amount.  Continue reading

wind turbine

EU Announces Climate Targets for 2030

Great news, everyone.

The Guardian’s live stream tells us the EU Commission has agreed on the climate targets for 2030:

  • 40% cut of GHG emissions, from 1990 levels
  • At least 27% of energy coming from renewables – binding
  • At least 25% improved energy efficiency – non binding
  • The EU carbon trading scheme will be reformed  Continue reading

Europe will declare climate goal tomorrow

Tomorrow, Wednesday 22nd January 2014, the EU will be announcing the carbon cutting target for 2030 and the renewables target for the same period.

Europe seems fairly united in the need to tackle climate change, and they’ve already decided a fifth of the budget will be allocated to climate related policies. But dangerously, corporate lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry are using this final window before the announcement to clamour for attention and weaken the deal. If you want the EU to seal an ambitious deal and seriously tackle climate change, please take a moment to send a message to EU Commision President Jose Barroso, through Avaaz.

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/save_eu_climate_legacy_d/?aUKFedb  Continue reading

Not my image.

Soaring Energy Prices

Have you noticed the rise in energy prices?

I topped up my electricity key just a few days ago, but I’m already in the emergency.

Not my image.

Not my image.

If it hasn’t hit you on a practical level yet, you’ve probably at least heard about it on the news. Four of the Big Six energy companies have already raised their prices, by an average of 9.1%, and the other two are going to do it soon as well. Continue reading

On trees, excitement, books and writing

Hello lovely readers! I’m sorry to admit I’ve been neglecting my blog slightly these last few weeks, and I’ve only just noticed why. It’s my summer holiday from university and I’m back in my hometown for a couple of months, visiting my family and my old friends. I realised today that the reason I haven’t been writing is because I see it as something I do when I’m at home. That is to say, in the city where I study and have my own flat with my boyfriend, it’s very much part of my daily routine to read up about environmental news and theories and write blog entries about my little discoveries. Here in my small and eccentric hometown I’m accustomed to doing nothing more than taking my little brother to the park and drinking cider with my friends.
But seeing as I’m here for quite a while this time, rather than the fleeting visit that’s been the norm since I moved away, I really need to get into the habit of writing here as well.
So that’s quite enough of my rambling, now I’ll get on and tell you a couple of things that are more relevant.

  • Firstly, I’m very excited because I got a message from my dad today (who lives in Portugal and is a computer enthusiast) saying that he’s going to set up a new internet business for carbon-offsetting by tree-planting. I know there are several of these kinds of businesses already, but as he says, many of them charge quite a substantial amount of money, and some simply give money to people who were going to plant trees anyway. That’s great because such projects deserve the financial support, but it doesn’t mean any extra trees are going to get planted, if you see what I mean. Anyway lots of his friends in rural Portugal own land, plus the cost of basic things like seeds is very low there so he won’t need to charge much. The best bit is, he wants me to do the writing for the website, explaining the project to potential customers. This would mean I can a) help my dad b) support an ethical green enterprise and c) build my writing portfolio. Win win win!
  • It’s my 20th birthday this coming Tuesday (the 16th July) and I’ve asked my mother for one or two books on post-growth economics. As you may of read, I was bowled over by Enough is Enough and I’m desperate to learn more about the concept. It makes so much sense to me, and yet seems too good to be true. To think that there might actually be a way to attain the kind of sustainable, equitable and compassionate society that seems so out of reach on a bad day – it’s incredibly exciting. When I’ve researched more about post growth economics I’ll write properly about it, but for now please check out my review of Enough is Enough, or this FAQ by Make Wealth History (which, incidentally, is one of my favourite blogs at the moment).

I hope you’re all having a wonderful summer and I promise I’ll be more on it with the writing from now on!

10:10’s where it’s at

I’ve come onto my new-post screen today to wax lyrical about something cool.

It’s not a new thing (I believe it was born in 2010) but the other day I was wondering how they were getting on, and it turns out they’re doing swimmingly. They’re now global and have success stories from all over the world. This cool thing, lovely reader, is 10:10.

Have you heard of it? I hope you have. It’s an organisation encouraging people to cut their carbon emissions by 10% at a time. I think it’s name relates to ‘cutting your carbon emissions by 10% in 2010′ – but that year has obviously passed now and, understandably, they  wanted to carry on their work.

It was founded by Franny Armstrong, director of The Age of Stupid, and is based on the ethos that climate change is a big scary problem and what we need are bite-size, tangible and achievable targets to tackle it. The concept is definitely popular – it’s had loads of press coverage and buckets of high profile celebrity support. The website proudly proclaims that at this moment, 77,556 individuals, 3,121 businesses, 1,710 educational institutions and 1,514 other organisations are signed up. Pretty impressive! The website lets you sign the 10:10 pledge and then offers helpful advice on ways to cut your carbon. They also run political campaigns such as Lighter Later, and support schools buying solar panels with their Solar Schools project. They even have these cool little necklaces made of a crashed aeroplane (really!) that you can wear to advocate your pledge. I have one and it’s actually one of my favourite pieces of jewellery.

By the way their website is http://www.1010global.org/uk – you should really take a look.

Something I think is noteworthy about 10:10 is their fantastic graphic design and PR. Their website is easy on the eyes, is clean, cool and easy to use. I can tell you their email newsletter is the same. Their textual style is chatty and casual. All their promotional materials rise to the occasion of you know, promoting them. They have a cohesive house style.

Now of course the fact that it’s a great and timely idea, the team are obviously passionate and the whole thing is full of heart, can account for a lot of their success. But I think it actually takes more than that. The attention to detail with the aesthetics is more important than one might think, and I feel this is where many projects with a great ethos fall on their faces. In today’s hectic world, most people only have time for stuff that is pretty and convenient, and this is probably why 10:10 seems to have reached out to not just the hard-core greenie but the Jo Bloggs as well. The importance of that achievement can hardly be stressed enough.

Congratulations 10:10!

Images from the 10:10 website. (Linked above) 

Carbon Calculators – An Evaluation

Carbon calculators are one of the strategies that have popped up over the last few years to engage people in reducing their carbon emissions. The idea is that if you know how much you’re producing, and how, then that’s the first step to making changes. It’s a good idea but I’m doing a (very) quick evaluation on the most popular calculators to see how accurate and effective they are.

1. http://carboncalculator.direct.gov.uk/index.html

This is the first one I looked at. As it’s “.gov” I would presume it’s government endorsed. I’m straight away impressed by the swanky graphics, and it’s very user friendly. There’s handy “I don’t know” options for most questions which I made pretty good use of. I also guessed the age of my house. It includes heating and lighting your home, running appliances, and personal travel. It was all going so well until the last section… Travel really threw all notions of accuracy out the window.  You see, I said that I don’t own a car and don’t fly, both true enough, but then there was this section where you were meant to put in your frequent public transport journeys. I don’t have any regular journeys as such, so I didn’t fill it out. It reassured me that an estimation would be made for me based on national averages. Sadly I don’t think they did a very good job of this as my travel was then estimated at “0 tonnes per year”. I know this isn’t true because I do travel by bus and train on occasion and also get lifts in other people’s cars.

This error resulted in my allegedly getting 0.7 tonnes per year as my carbon footprint. I wish that were true… By the way it also tells me the national average for the UK is 4.46 tonnes.

After the result was shown there was a “next steps” section for reducing your footprint, which I think is a helpful addition.

So… Pretty, easy and eager to help, but completely inaccurate and therefore slightly useless…

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2. http://www.carbontrust.co.uk/cut-carbon-reduce-costs/calculate/carbon-footprinting/Pages/carbon-footprinting.aspx

This was my second port of call. However, I didn’t get to calculate my footprint because it seemed to just be for organisations, not individuals.

I will also say that it was very awkward and not at all easy to use. You had to register before you could do anything, and the questions were difficult.

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3. http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

I liked this calculator because it was the only one that clearly told you it’s sources of estimation. On the front page there’s a little list of organisations  (e.g. DEFRA) that they’ve got data from. It also confessed that the Secondary Emissions section will be less accurate than the Primary. I appreciate this kind of transparency.

It seems fairly transport orientated, with sections for house, flights, car, motorbike, bus & rail and secondary emissions. I actually only filled out the Secondary part as the others were quite hard. I don’t think many people know how many kWh their fridge uses per year, or how many miles they travel by bus per year… If I wanted to use this calculator properly I would need to spend a lot longer gathering information. I guess that is fair enough and if I did actually take the trouble to find out all the data needed then perhaps I would be awarded with an estimation that has some bearing on my actual carbon usage.

Any way, my result for the Secondary Emissions section  was 1.68 tonnes per year. Note: this is more than the whole supposed figure from the first calculator.

I would say this is a good calculator to use if you’re happy to put in the work for a serious calculation exercise, but for the layman it is a bit unworkable.

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4. http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/

This last calculator has very nice graphics and is very user friendly. It has sections for food, travel, home and stuff. This makes it more well-rounded than the others. My only real criticism is that in the stuff section the ranges are very wide. For example, the multiple choice options for money spent on jewellery in the last year start at £0-100.  I think there’s a huge difference between spending £5 or £100 on necklaces, but to be fair this method does make for a cleaner and easier filling-out process.

My total result from this one was 5.46 tonnes per year. It then tells me “You’re living as if we had 1.65 planets, but we only have 1“. Considering the well-known statistic is that most Europeans live as if we had 3 planets, this isn’t too bad.

I think this was my favourite calculator over all.

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From this brief look at carbon calculators, I will conclude that they’re a good way to raise awareness of the issue of carbon emissions, but they should only be used as a rough gauge.  I’m very dubious about the actual accuracy of the estimations given as most of them don’t even list sources. The first one as I’ve said was wildly out, and as a Government endorsed site this was a bit shocking. (But only a bit…). I think calculators would be a good tool for making our society more sustainable if they had a little bit of improvement. The concept is a good one but there’s definitely work to be done.