Blog & Podcast

Dealing 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.

Some of the 10 million bottles sold in the UK each day

Today we have a follow-up on last week’s methane story, a reminder of World Refill Day and I reveal why we’re burning more coal this week. In other news I ask who’s in the driving seat, or is the seat driving? If you think that's got anything to do with Holly or Phil or even Boris or Nadine you've very definitely come to the wrong place. All will be revealed in due course. And finally, a podcast about the end of the world.

Warm Water

But first, let's talk about the warming oceans, the biggest heat sink on the planet. There are reports which suggest that very soon the Arctic will be ice free in the summer. There are concerns that this will affect the Atlantic conveyor, the system of currents which brings warm water as the Gulf Stream across towards the UK and keeps it much warmer in winter then other areas at the same latitude. The Atlantic conveyor is part of a global system of interlinked currents, the thermohaline circulation, flowing across the sea surface and plunging to the depths where it returns. A new report from CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation based in Canberra, Australia, warns  that changes are being seen in the Antarctic as well as the Arctic. They say: 

Overturning Circulation

“Off the coast of Antarctica, trillions of tonnes of cold salty water sink to great depths. As the water sinks, it drives the deepest flows of the “overturning” circulation – a network of strong currents spanning the world’s oceans. The overturning circulation carries heat, carbon, oxygen and nutrients around the globe, and fundamentally influences climate, sea level and the productivity of marine ecosystems.

“But there are worrying signs these currents are slowing down. They may even collapse. If this happens, it would deprive the deep ocean of oxygen, limit the return of nutrients back to the sea surface, and potentially cause further melt back of ice as water near the ice shelves warms in response. There would be major global ramifications for ocean ecosystems, climate, and sea-level rise.

“Our new research, published today in the journal Nature, uses new ocean model projections to look at changes in the deep ocean out to the year 2050. Our projections show a slowing of the Antarctic overturning circulation and deep ocean warming over the next few decades. Physical measurements confirm these changes are already well underway.

“Climate change is to blame. As Antarctica melts, more freshwater flows into the oceans. This disrupts the sinking of cold, salty, oxygen-rich water to the bottom of the ocean. From there this water normally spreads northwards to ventilate the far reaches of the deep Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. But that could all come to an end soon. In our lifetimes.”

Sea Surface Temperature

An article in Geophysical Research Letters entitled Critical Role of Tropical North Atlantic SSTA in Boreal Summer in Affecting Subsequent ENSO Evolution talks about sea surface temperatures at the other end of the earth. The article abstract is followed by a “Plain Language Summary”, but it’s not very clear to me so I have paraphrased their paraphrase. 

Sea surface temperatures over the tropical north Atlantic in spring can influence the development of El Niño in the subsequent winter. Although the sea surface temperature in summer is normally weaker than in spring, it can induce a stronger rainfall response locally, which can also influence the development of El Niño. Therefore special attention should be paid to the amplitude of the summertime sea surface temperature anomaly in the North Atlantic to improve the accuracy of forecasting El Niño.

Read the full article if you're still in any doubt. There is a link on the SFR website. 

The Office of Satellite And Product Operations, part of the NOAA, publishes a global picture of sea surface temperatures from satellite imagery. Find the link to that on the SFR website as well.

Record Sea Surface Temperatures

New Scientist reports that the North Atlantic Ocean has reached record sea surface temperatures this year, clearly demonstrated by a chart from the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine. A chart from the NOAA shows how temperature has spiked to record levels in just the last few days. Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of physics of the oceans at Potsdam University, has suggested that a weakened subtropical gyre may be a factor. That’s another ocean current; this one driven by winds which have been weaker than expected. Professor Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State, believes that it’s caused by an absence of Sahara dust, which is normally blown on to the ocean and has a cooling effect. 


Dr Thomas Smith Associate Professor in Environmental Geography at the LSE, said, “This is so unusual. That's a *huge* amount of energy being transferred to the atmosphere. Expect extreme temperature and storm records. Just the top few metres of our oceans store as much energy as the entirety of our atmosphere. I'm very concerned for later this year into 2024.” 

Tom’s expertise lies in wildland fires, air pollution, tropical environmental change, peatlands. With the wildfires in Canada, Scotland and even in Yorkshire over the past days I’m sure he’s keeping busy. And the hot weather is only just starting. 

So, outlook stormy. Can we hope to slow down these changes in the climate? Even without  the fossil fuel industry’s insistence on business as usual? (Yes I know they all have green initiatives, but aren’t they just bolt-ons to the original core business?) 

Turning to plastics…

Bottled Water

According to the Guardian, the UK uses 10 million plastic bottles of water every day. The manufacturers report growing demand and expect to reach 2.8 billion bottles a year by 2026. 

A report by Retail Economics, commissioned by a collective of plastic bottled water campaigners, including BRITA, Refill and Whale and Dolphin Conservation, highlights that tactical advertising and marketing strategies employed by bottled water companies have, and continue to, play a critical role contributing to sales through driving desirability, by emphasising the purity, quality, and refreshing attributes of bottled water.

Despite the UK having some of the best quality drinking water in the world the report says that, thanks to effective marketing strategies, bottled water is the only product people buy that is almost identical to the cheaper (both financially and as cost to the environment) plumbed-in service.  As a result, 3.5 billion PET bottles of bottled water are sold annually in the UK, which, laid end to end, would stretch around the world at the equator ten times.

Ecological Footprint

With the sector set to continue growing, the report outlines that its ecological footprint will face a simultaneous increase. In line with the forecast, the branded bottled water industry carbon emissions are set to increase by an additional 34 billion*** grams of carbon by 2026 – the equivalent of an extra 20,000 cars on the road.

In addition to the widely documented damage caused by plastic bottles to the environment, the report also identifies transportation and multipack plastic packaging as two of the main factors contributing to unnecessary carbon emissions.

Non-recyclable plastic

The report found that 90% of bottled water sold in supermarkets, excluding convenience stores, are sold as multi packs, which currently are wrapped in non-recyclable plastic, a type of packaging that produces significant amounts of plastic pollution.

There's lots more, and there is a link to the full report on the SFR website..

Refill app

If you download the app from you can find the shops and businesses near you which have agreed to refill your water bottle free of charge. It also shows where you can refill your coffee cup and shops which sell groceries which you can put in your own container. On Friday 16th June, it's World Refill Day, so go to and find out about the global reuse summit as well. 


Even if you do buy a plastic bottle of water, you can refill that bottle a few times and reuse it. If you buy a more robust bottle, you can get one which will keep your water cold, or your soup hot for up to 24 hours. And remember there's virtually no difference, at least in the UK, between what you buy in a plastic bottle and what you get out of the tap. So let's save money as well as saving the planet from pollution and unnecessary carbon emissions. 


More Methane

Following last week’s episode on methane, patron Manda Scott got in touch. Yes, that Manda Scott, the one who writes award-winning books. She sent me a link to an article which shows that the effect of methane is two-edged. In fact, while it blocks longwave radiation leaving the Earth, just as CO2 does, only more so, it also blocks shortwave radiation falling on the Earth from the Sun. The overall effect is still a net increase in the insulation of the planet and therefore an increase in global warming, but it's interesting to understand the mechanism in more detail. I've tracked down the article and there's a link on the website.

In last week’s episode, I included a reference to an extensive study by the BBC on methane emissions across the world, although I didn't actually mention it in the body of the podcast. Again, the link is on the sustainable futures report website and it shows how satellite tracking can reveal where methane is escaping. As one of the correspondents said, if you don't measure it, you can't control it, but this satellite imagery enables operators to see where they are losing methane and to take appropriate actions. The problem that the authors see is that it is attractive for the operators to shut down leaks when the price of methane is high, but not so attractive when the price is low. There is need for regulation and regulation varies from stringent to almost nothing even across the United States and of course across the world. 

In other news…

Electricity from Coal

It may seem counterintuitive, but apparently during this heatwave, which we are enjoying in the UK at the moment, we are generating part of our electricity from coal. The reason for this appears to be that solar panels are less efficient in hot weather and the hot weather has led to an increased demand for electricity for air-conditioning. I thought I would monitor the situation as I write this episode. I use gridwatch, which monitors UK electricity demand and various sources of supply in real time. Unfortunately it does not seem to hold historic data. Anyway, I looked at the situation at 9:30 this morning, Tuesday, 13th June, and solar was providing 4.12GW of power while coal was producing 0.37. By 10 o'clock coal was still at 0.37 but solar had increased to 4.97 GW. At that stage, it was producing 15% of the nation’s electricity, second only to combined cycle gas turbines and exceeding both nuclear and wind. 


Solar output increased steadily throughout the morning and coal was switched off at midday. By 14.00 the output from solar was equivalent to the output from combined cycle gas turbines. Today four of the UK’s nuclear reactors are shut down either for planned maintenance or in response to “grid issues”. After CCGT and solar, wind is the next most important source of electricity today but of course cannot be controlled to match demand. The CCGT units are not running at full capacity and are renowned for their flexibility and rapid response to demand. Why can’t they be run faster to avoid having to use coal? Maybe some of the CCGT stations are on planned summer maintenance. The UK’s coal stations have limited capacity and in any case are scheduled to be closed for good in 2024.

By 17.00 solar output has declined to 6.32 GW and covers 20% of demand. Still, no coal, although you can't tell whether there is a coal fire station running in the background just in case it's needed later on in the evening peak. 
















































































Who’s that in the driving seat?

Well you're supposed to think there's nobody in the driving seat. David Large of the University of Nottingham wanted to test the reactions of pedestrians to a car which appeared to have no driver, so he dressed himself up in a special suit to make him look like a car seat and drove around the town. There were pictures in some of the papers. Apparently people seem to react as though it was a car with a driver because some of them smiled and others waved. Maybe it was the glasses that gave him away. 

You've got to admire the self sacrifice of some people in the name of research. 

And finally,

Manda Scott recommended that I should listen to the Bankless podcast about AI. It's 1h 38 minutes, so I have not yet had a chance to listen to all of it, but it starts off with a warning that guest speaker Eliezer Yudkowsky sees a dystopian future arising from AI and sees it in the very near future as well. As always, there is a link on the sustainable futures report website. I shall be listening to it between now and next week and I'll let you know what I think. Maybe you could let me know what you think as well.


And that’s it…

Thank you as usual for listening. There are still more episodes to come in June so do tell your friends to search out the Sustainable Futures Report on their favourite podcast platform. 

And thank you of course to my loyal patrons. I am more than grateful for the contribution I receive each month towards keeping the Sustainable Futures Report independent and ad free via your support at .

And that's it for now, so 

That was the Sustainable Futures Report .

I am Anthony Day.

Until, next time.




Southern ocean overturning circulation


Ocean Temperatures 

Refill and Plastics


Postscript to Methane

Who’s Driving? 

Burning more coal


AI - an existential threat?


Image Credits


Image by <a href="">Loke</a> from <a href=“">Pixabay</a> 



Image by <a href="">Martin Str</a> from <a href=“">Pixabay</a>


Image by <a href="">Martina Bulková</a> from <a href=“">Pixabay</a>

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About Anthony Day

A weekly podcast and blog brought to you by Anthony Day. A selection of stories and interviews aiming to be sustainable, topical and interesting.
And also, I do address conferences.

Anthony Day

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York, UK
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