Blog & PodcastDealing with the Climate Crisis

Anthony Day helps you plan a sustainable future with expert guests and reports on green technologies from across a warming world.

elderly

I need to start with thanks to listener Sofia Sosa Del Valle for promptly letting me know that there was a problem with last Wednesday's interview. I've been able to correct it, so now you can hear the full interview with Wake Smith, author of Pandora's Toolbox:The Hopes and Hazards of Climate Intervention. Thanks for that, and my apologies for getting it wrong. It wasn't intended to be an early April fool.

This week 

This week the UK government’s promised energy security strategy has been deferred yet again so I can't talk about that. Maybe next week, when the sixth assessment report (AR6) from the IPCC is also scheduled to be published.

That leaves me struggling for a theme for this week so I'm going to talk about a range of issues including how older people are damaging the climate, why we’re growing food in the wrong place, global action on biodiversity, news from the Antarctic, a call to more action following COP26, action on emissions and the rumoured reasons for the delay on that energy strategy.

Elderly Impact

A report in Nature Climate Change which looked at carbon emissions in 2005, 2010 and 2015 finds that the proportion of emissions created by people over 60 grew significantly over the period. This was partly due to the fact that the proportion of people aged over 60 grew within the population, but it also reflects the fact that the type of purchases which this demographic makes is more carbon intensive. This does not imply a luxury lifestyle but is more due to the fact that older people spend more time at home, they spend more on fuel to keep their houses warmer, and they may live in older properties which are more difficult to heat. Their cars can be older and less efficient and these people may rely more on cars than younger people who might walk or cycle, particularly for short journeys. They are more likely to enjoy eating meat and dairy products than to be vegetarian.

The researchers say that the purpose is not to point the finger of blame, but it instead to highlight policies needed to offset these effects.

For example subsidising retrofits of older houses with better insulation, improving public transport, and investing in senior housing (so that the elderly are not living alone in large houses) could all help keep carbon footprints in check as societies age.

“It is particularly crucial to address low-income elderly households that are trapped in carbon-intensive consumption patterns and pay higher energy bills due to low energy efficiency,” the researchers say.

Re-locating Agriculture

Are we growing our food in the wrong place? Elsewhere in Nature, an article suggests that relocating croplands could drastically reduce the environmental impacts of global food production. The authors find that agricultural production has replaced natural ecosystems across the planet, becoming a major driver of carbon emissions, biodiversity loss, and freshwater consumption. They claim that by relocating crop lands across the world they could reduce these impacts by between 70% and 100%. According to to Anthropocene magazine, in a full-blown reconfiguration of global croplands, we would relocate soybean, maize, and rice crops to the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa; barley and wheat to the corn belt of the Midwestern United States; and rapeseed and soybeans to northern China, for instance. The temperatures, soil conditions and natural rainfall in these zones would encourage higher yields from these crops than they were producing in other less productive areas. These less productive areas would be allowed to re-wild and go back to nature, with benefits for biodiversity.

With this ambitious global redesign, we’d be able to grow the same amount of food—but using almost half the land we currently do because of the higher yields. 

Of course there would be major political and commercial challenges to this sort of re-arrangement, but the authors report that even partial reallocation within national boundaries would still have a significant benefit. As the global population grows and expectations rise we may well have to tackle these political challenges in the future.

Biodiversity

Probably the only thing that we truly understand about biodiversity is that humanity is steadily damaging it. Even then, we probably do not fully understand the extent of the damage that we are causing. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the international legal instrument for "the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources" that has been ratified by 196 nations.

Its overall objective is to encourage actions, which will lead to a sustainable future.

They say:

Biological diversity - or biodiversity - is the term given to the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms. The biodiversity we see today is the fruit of billions of years of evolution, shaped by natural processes and, increasingly, by the influence of humans. It forms the web of life of which we are an integral part and upon which we so fully depend. 

This diversity is often understood in terms of the wide variety of plants, animals and microorganisms. So far, about 1.75 million species have been identified, mostly small creatures such as insects. Scientists reckon that there are actually about 13 million species, though estimates range from three to 100 million.

Biodiversity also includes genetic differences within each species - for example, between varieties of crops and breeds of livestock. Chromosomes, genes, and DNA-the building blocks of life-determine the uniqueness of each individual and each species. 

Yet another aspect of biodiversity is the variety of ecosystems such as those that occur in deserts, forests, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers, and agricultural landscapes. In each ecosystem, living creatures, including humans, form a community, interacting with one another and with the air, water, and soil around them.

It is the combination of life forms and their interactions with each other and with the rest of the environment that has made Earth a uniquely habitable place for humans. Biodiversity provides a large number of goods and services that sustain our lives.

 At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, world leaders agreed on a comprehensive strategy for "sustainable development" -- meeting our needs while ensuring that we leave a healthy and viable world for future generations. One of the key agreements adopted at Rio was the Convention on Biological Diversity. This pact among the vast majority of the world's governments sets out commitments for maintaining the world's ecological underpinnings as we go about the business of economic development. The Convention establishes three main goals: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force on 29 December 1993. This week the Convention issued a press release:

Following 15 days of negotiation in Geneva, world governments have produced a strong basis for a post 2020 global biodiversity framework to safeguard the health of the planet, scheduled for final agreement at UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China this year.

The overarching goals of the draft framework — to protect the elements of biodiversity at all levels (genetic, species and ecosystem), sustainability and human well-being in the use of biodiversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of biodiversity — were reaffirmed during the Geneva sessions.  Many suggestions added to the text, as well as milestones to assess progress, require additional consideration, with governments differing on the need and pacing.

The Kunming conference will take place at the end of June. Meanwhile, The International Day for Biological Diversity is marked on 22nd May.

Antarctic

You may have seen on the news that part of the Conger Ice Shelf has collapsed. Temperatures in the area have recently been around -12℃, some 40℃ higher than normal. The fact that the sheet has collapsed will have little effect on sea levels as it was already largely water-borne. However, much of the Antarctic ice is land-based, and as this slides off into the sea this will have an effect on sea levels.

There is concern that a separate ice shelf which is holding back the Thwaites Glacier could collapse within the next 5 years. The glacier, which equals the size of Florida or Great Britain, already accounts for about 4% of annual global sea level rise, loses roughly 50 billion tons of ice each year, and is becoming highly vulnerable to the climate crisis.

If the Thwaites collapsed, the event could raise sea levels by several feet, researchers say, putting coastal communities as well as low-lying island nations further at risk.

But Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, and a leader of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, said it will still be decades before the world will see real acceleration and an additional uptick in sea level rise.

COP26

Until COP27, the next IPCC climate conference in November, Britain, as host of the 2021 event retains responsibility for the agreements achieved last time. COP26 President Alok Sharma has called on all countries to “honour their commitments and take rapid action” to tackle the climate crisis and achieve net zero.

In the IPPR Progressive Review journal, Sharma writes that his main ambition for the COP26 conference was keeping the 1.5-degree target alive, which he describes as a “fragile win” that will only endure if countries take rapid climate action in this “critical decade”. He goes on to warn that “inaction also poses significant risks to security and long-term prosperity”.

I’m sure we’re all with him on that.

Emissions

Climate Action draws my attention to research from the Natwest Group. They found that 87% of UK SMEs are unaware of their business’s total carbon emissions, although almost half (45%) of them recognised that it would be important to lower their emissions in the near future. Somehow there seems to be a lack of urgency. Will the bank’s Springboard to Sustainability and its carbon tracking app raise the profile?

Ryanair

On the other hand, Ryanair, whose chief executive has in the past not been wholly convinced that there’s a climate crisis, announces that it will be carbon-neutral by 2050.

  • 34% decarbonisation through the increased use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF)
  • 32% decarbonisation through technological & operational improvements
  • 24% decarbonisation through offsetting & other economic measures
  • 10% decarbonisation through the introduction of better Air Traffic Management

They have established the Ryanair Sustainable Aviation Research Centre in partnership with Trinity College Dublin.

 

The numbers add up. Let’s hope the plans work out.

And Finally…

Delayed Energy Strategy

Why is the UK’s energy security strategy delayed? The rumours are that PM Johnson wants at least six new nuclear stations while Chancellor Sunak doesn’t want to pay for them. Given the enormous cost over-runs at Hinkley C and the constantly receding delivery date his caution is understandable. It is believed that there are splits in the Cabinet too over the issue of on-shore wind turbines. These have been effectively banned for some years by the present government. Planning laws made it possible for schemes to be refused on the basis of a single objection, but Michael Gove and others have suggested that that should change. Other MPs, including those representing leafy shires, know that their constituents don’t like the idea of wind turbines in the countryside, even though they are clean, renewable and far cheaper than offshore turbines.

Who will prevail? Maybe we’ll find out next week. Or maybe not.

 

And that is the Sustainable Futures Report for another week.

Thank you for listening.

I’m confident you got it all this time.

Don’t forget patreon.com/sfr  - I certainly don’t forget the good folk who subscribe monthly to help keep this show on the road, and to keep it independent and ad-free. Thank you all.

Next Wednesday’s Interview is about refurbishment and recycling, and how it can save you money.

I’m Anthony Day.

That was the Sustainable Futures Report.

Until next week.

Sources

Greying Population

https://www.anthropocenemagazine.org/2022/03/how-the-graying-of-society-threatens-climate-action/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-the-graying-of-society-threatens-climate-action

Agriculture

https://www.nature.com/articles/s43247-022-00360-6 

https://www.anthropocenemagazine.org/2022/03/a-global-reconfiguration-of-croplands-could-produce-the-same-food-on-half-the-land-with-70-smaller-carbon-footprint/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-global-reconfiguration-of-croplands-could-produce-the-same-food-on-half-the-land-with-70-smaller-carbon-footprint

Biodiversity

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-60737448

https://www.cbd.int 

Climate

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/03/25/world/antarctic-conger-ice-shelf-collapse-climate/index.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/25/climate/east-antarctica-ice-shelf-collapse.html

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/12/14/world/antarctic-thwaites-glacier-climate-warming/index.html 

COP26

https://www.climateaction.org/news/alok-sharma-calls-for-net-zero-commitments-to-be-honoured-to-secure-fragile?utm_source=ActiveCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Alok+Sharma+calls+for+net+zero+commitments+to+be+honoured+to+secure++fragile+win++at+COP26+-+Climate+Action+News&utm_campaign=CA+%7C+2022+%7C+29+March+%7C+Newsletter&vgo_ee=CEbFTfNVV8IAeRyLvc9Lr3wFoqDlMHNmyq65fGLdufk%3D

Ryanair

https://www.climateaction.org/news/ryanair-announces-plan-to-become-carbon-neutral-by-2050?utm_source=ActiveCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Alok+Sharma+calls+for+net+zero+commitments+to+be+honoured+to+secure++fragile+win++at+COP26+-+Climate+Action+News&utm_campaign=CA+%7C+2022+%7C+29+March+%7C+Newsletter&vgo_ee=CEbFTfNVV8IAeRyLvc9Lr3wFoqDlMHNmyq65fGLdufk%3D

Unknown emissions

https://www.climateaction.org/news/research-finds-9-out-of-10-smes-dont-know-business-carbon-emissions?utm_source=ActiveCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Alok+Sharma+calls+for+net+zero+commitments+to+be+honoured+to+secure++fragile+win++at+COP26+-+Climate+Action+News&utm_campaign=CA+%7C+2022+%7C+29+March+%7C+Newsletter&vgo_ee=CEbFTfNVV8IAeRyLvc9Lr3wFoqDlMHNmyq65fGLdufk%3D

https://natwestbusinesshub.com/articles/springboard-to-sustainability-160bn-opportunity-for-smes-tackling-climate-change 

Energy Controversies

Nuclear

https://www.onr.org.uk/sellafield-dfw.htm

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/committee-on-radioactive-waste-management 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/21/johnson-announces-aim-for-uk-to-get-25-of-energy-from-nuclear-power?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10658945/Boris-delays-energy-strategy-amid-standoff-Rishi.html

https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/boris-johnson-rishi-sunak-nuclear-stand-off-delays-uk-energy-security-strategy-1544443

Sizewell

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-60889001

Wind turbines

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-60864097

https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2022/03/25/lower-energy-bills-for-people-near-wind-turbines-considered/

 

No thoughts on “Agriculture - New Horizons”

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A weekly podcast and blog brought to you by Anthony Day. A selection of stories and interviews aiming to be sustainable, topical and interesting.
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Anthony Day

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