Weird Fish Lady’s Environmental Blog
I’ve used a particular quote for ages in my talks around the world about my subjects – Oceans and Climate Change –
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world
(indeed it is the only thing that ever has)’
‘Planetary Citizen of the Year’ 1978
When you delve deeper into this quote, you realise that it means that Politics are irrelevant. These last few days have proved once again to me that politicians, governments and political parties are all just getting in the way of the thoughtful, committed citizens who make up the majority of our country and who are trying hard to find ways to improve the way we live, to understand climate change and to work towards protecting life on planet Earth.
I’ve recently been researching the amount of volunteering work done by people around the world – work which goes a long way to slowing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – just a couple of examples such as the planting of trees on the land and regenerating seagrass meadows in the oceans show thousands, upon thousands of people around the world working to offset the damage which the use of fossil fuels is still creating in our atmosphere. These people are thoughtful, committed citizens working to the benefit of our planet.
There is absolutely no doubt about the scientific information about the damage that the use of fossil fuels is doing to our planet, yet arenas such as the COP series of meetings – where politicians and leaders from around the world meet show little progress every year. The most recent COP28 meeting in the middle-east however, did show a small amount of hope that Governments would agree to slow (if not stop altogether) the use of fossil fuels.
There was a signed international agreement last month that the time had come for “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner” meant that it was no longer intellectually defensible for nations to allow expansion of the oil and gas industry.
Wow, can we all work together around the planet now? – Can we get on with protecting life on Earth from the dangers of climate change?
Well, no! It seems that politicians are going to once again ignore the pledges made at the COP28 meeting. Within weeks of the agreement to stop the expansion of fossil fuels, the UK Conservative Government are found to be charging headlong into more expansion of oil and gas drilling in the North Sea.
I’m getting fed up with complaining about the politics which surround fighting climate change – and it seems I’m not the only one.
This week a UK Minister resigned from the Conservative government. He wasn’t just an ordinary politician, he was a former Secretary of State for Energy in the Conservative Government – Chris Skidmore, MP – a man who knew what he was talking about. This was his statement:
Decisions taken at COP28 last month set in motion the global transition away from fossil fuels. As the exponential growth of renewable and clean power continues, as we seek to reduce our energy demand for fossil fuels through the adoption of better energy efficiency in buildings and industry, as the adoption of electricity replaces fossil fuels, there is no case to be made for increasing fossil fuel production at a time when investment should be made elsewhere, in the industries and businesses of the future, and not of the past.
As fossil fuels become more obsolete, expanding new oil and gas licences or opening new oil fields will only create stranded assets of the future, harming local and regional communities that should instead be supported to transition their skills and expertise to renewable and clean energy.
The bill that will be debated next week achieves nothing apart from to send a global signal that the UK is rowing ever further back from its climate commitments. We cannot expect other countries to phase out their fossil fuels when at the same time we continue to issue new licences or to open new oil fields. It is a tragedy that the UK has been allowed to lose its climate leadership, at a time when our businesses, industries, universities and civil society organisations are providing first-class leadership and expertise to so many across the world, inspiring change for the better.
Skidmore is straightforwardly setting out the reality the planet faces: there is no way to deal with the climate crisis if we go on expanding fossil fuel production.
Well done, Mr. Skidmore – you’ve taken a step forward for sanity in this world. I support you and hope you can be a leader – not through politics but by being a thoughtful, committed citizen who can change the world.
‘Til next time,
(Remember – a blog is just the opinion of one person. All views expressed in this blog are those of the author)
Weird Fish Lady’s Environmental Blog
All life on Earth exists because we live on a planet which sits in an advantageous area of our Solar System. Our Earth gets warmth from our Sun at exactly the right temperature for life on Earth to exist. Any closer and the heat would be unbearable, any further away and it would be too cold. Some scientists have called it the ‘Goldilocks Zone’- close enough for the light and warmth to be ‘just right’.
The biggest news this summer was the intense increase in temperatures around the world. The global temperatures for June, July and August were the highest ever recorded. September temperatures were so high they should have been the headline news on TV News, and newspapers but only the weather forecasters were mentioning the trends. In the chart below –the blue section shows September. The red line shows the 2016 temperature and the black line shows this year. September 2023 more than half a degree Celsius higher than any previously recorded temperature.
(Data from the Japanese Meterological Agency)
Do you remember the Paris ‘warming the planet’ target set eight years ago – loads of countries agreed not to go beyond just 1.5 degrees. We have all been working to staying within a 1.5 degree increase, to avoid catastrophic world climate events, but the really bad news is that this September we seem to be getting so much closer to a tipping point we really don’t want to cross.
If only we could push our planet just a little further away from the Sun!
But it isn’t the Sun’s fault for the increase in the temperatures. The Sun is still sending us heat at the same regular temperature across space. It’s the fact that in our atmosphere we are trapping the heat from the Sun – and by holding it around the Earth – like a nice warm blanket – our planet is getting warmer and warmer. How is the heat trapped? … by gases in the atmosphere that scientists call Greenhouse Gases (GHG).
A perfect explanation of both GHG, and ‘carbon’ comes from scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
‘Greenhouse gases are gases—like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide—that keep the Earth warmer than it would be without them. The reason they warm the Earth has to do with the way energy enters and leaves our atmosphere. When energy from the sun first reaches us, it does so mainly as light. But when that same energy leaves the Earth, it does so as infrared radiation, which we experience as heat. Greenhouse gases reflect infrared radiation, so some of the heat leaving the Earth bounces off the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and comes back to the Earth’s surface. This is called the “greenhouse effect,” in a comparison to the heat-trapping glass on a greenhouse.
The greenhouse effect is not a bad thing. Without it, our planet would be too cold for life as we know it. But if the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere changes, the strength of the greenhouse effect changes too. This is the cause of human-made climate change: by adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, we are trapping more heat, and the entire planet gets warmer.
The focus on “carbon”
For climate change, the most important greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, which is why you hear so many references to “carbon” when people talk about climate change. There are three main reasons CO2 is so central to the global warming happening today. First, there is just so much of it: we now add over 35 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere every year, mostly by burning carbon-rich fuel like coal and oil that had previously been trapped in the ground. Second, it lasts a long time in the atmosphere. The CO2 we emit today will stay above us reflecting heat for hundreds of years. This means that, even if we stop all new CO2 emissions tomorrow, it will take many lifetimes before the warming effect of our past emissions fades away.
So … the Sun is a good thing for our Planet – supplying our light and warmth for use by the life on Earth, but the Earth has to stay in balance … in its natural state. Humans, however, have been messing up the balance of the Earth by emitting excess CO2, methane and nitrous oxides into our atmosphere by:
- burning fossil fuels for electricity and heat and to power our vehicles
- manufacturing concreteand steel
- the refining process for raw oil and gas
- fermentation (e.g. alcohol or pharmaceuticals) and
- the decay of plant matter (such as after trees are cut down)
In Paris, eight years ago – we all learnt about helping the environment by reducing CO2 emissions. But where are we now – how far have we got with our efforts to reduce the GHG in our atmosphere?
Firstly, let’s go back to thoughts of our Sun – and how much energy we can obtain by using solar power instead of fossil fuels – well, it’s massive!
How well is the UK doing with solar power?
Around the globe, the solar power industry is growing every day and it’s been reported there’s an increase in production of one gigawatt of solar power being added every day to the planet. Compared to building nuclear power plants at enormous costs, and great lengths of time before they are ready (and of course, having a problem with pollution when the nuclear power stations are decommissioned) every day there is another gigawatt of energy coming from another new solar power plant! More amazingly, 50% of this global increase in solar power is being produced in China. The USA is second place with Brazil and India following on.
Leading countries in installed solar energy capacity worldwide in 2022 (gigawatts)
Yes – are you asking the question I have in mind? Where is the UK in this surge of solar power?
How well is the UK doing with solar power? I can’t see the UK in the above graph – can you?
Is the UK doing any better with wind power capacity. Well, yes – the UK is number 6th in the world for producing wind energy. But just look at the difference between China – 395,630 megawatts, compared to the UK’s 28,087 megawatts. The UK is just 7% of the amount produced in China.
Cumulative installed capacity of wind power worldwide in 2022, by country in megawatts.