Scotland climate change warning

Scotland is at increasing risk from climate change,
a new report published today claims.

The report, entitled, ‘How well is Scotland preparing for climate change’, argues that there will be both benefits to Scotland, and risks. It urges the Scottish government to take action to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Some of the benefits of a warmer climate detailed in the report include: fewer winter deaths, lower demand for heating, new opportunities for tourism, and increased agricultural capacity.

At the same time, the report details a range of risks. Flooding is a risk for densely populated urban regions, while Scotland’s disparate rural community is more likely to struggle with extreme weather, if transport links and essential services are disrupted. Scotland’s population profile is increasingly ageing, and the elderly, together with groups already vulnerable to health problems in deprived communities, are both identified as less adaptable to extreme weather.

Stan Blackley, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said, “With the UN climate talks starting in Durban next week, this is a timely report. At those talks, we need all of the countries in attendance to commit to serious action to reduce carbon emissions and support those who are being worst affected by the impacts of climate change.

“While we already know the devastating effects climate change is having and will increasingly have on developing countries, this report shows that climate change will also impact negatively on Scotland, and that we need to both prepare for it and mitigate against it.”

Potential economic and ecological impacts are also identified by the report. One aspect singled out for particular attention is the potential loss of peat from Scotland’s sensitive peatlands. As well as providing an important ecological environment, peatlands form a significant carbon store, the report contends.

The Adaptation Sub-Committee of the UK Committee on Climate Change, who produced the report, make a number of recommendations to the Scottish government. These include setting specific ‘adaptation outcomes’ which seek to address potential consequences from climate change. They urge greater uptake of ‘low-regret adaptation actions’, the integration of adaptation thinking into policy and decision-making, and effective collaboration with the UK national adaptation programme.

Climate change back on the table

by Sunnah Khan

Friends of the Earth Campaigner, Natascha Deigner, rallying support in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town to put pressure on the EU to transition to a low carbon economy

In less than a month confederates from around the world will gather in Durban for the 17th annual UN climate change conference. Over the last twenty years there has been a significant increase in global carbon dioxide emissions. Currently the EU is responsible for 13% of global emissions with the US emitting nearly twice as much.

The Keyoto protocol is set to expire in 2012 and this years conference will see a renegotiation of the process as to what the new protocol will look like and which countries will participate. Set out in 1997 as an  international agreement to act on climate change, the Koyoto protocol set binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Paradoxically since its insemination global emissions have increased by 45per cent according to the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. An all-time high of 33 billion tonnes of CO2 was pumped into the atmosphere last year alone.

Natascha Deigner an activist for Friends of the earth emphasized that now more than ever there was a need to act on the issue of climate change; ‘We’re going to get runaway climate change. We’re going to have catastrophic climate change and certain things are going to be irreversible…rising sea levels, rising temperatures, will have devastating effect.’

The 2011 climate change conference is set to take place in Durban next month.

Turn off your lights with WWF for ‘Earth Hour’

Source: Maverick Photo Agency

By Georgi Bomb

This Saturday, 26 March, remember to switch off your lights at 8.30-9.30pm as people around the world sit in the dark to join in the world’s biggest environmental campaign, set up by WWF.

WWF are doing their bit for climate change week with ‘Earth Hour.’ It started in Australia during 2007 and has now stretched across 35 countries.

On 26 March at 8.30pm, not only will people in their homes switch off their lights but offices, government buildings and iconic landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle will be taking part in the campaign.

Tune into Edinburgh Napier News radio for the 12:30pm and 1:30pm bulletins where they will be talking to the director of WWF Scotland, Dr. Richard Dixon.

Environment – Preparing for change

Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) Belly Camera

Image by NASA Goddard Photo and Video via Flickr

A report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) seems to suggest that recent engagement with eco-friendly activities may be too little too late.

The report, published last month, focusses on the urgent need for the UK to prepare for the effects that climate change will have.

Describing the report as “a wake-up call” Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman explains: “There is no part of our society which is immune from the effects of climate change.”

The report is the first of its kind to look not at how we should be looking to prevent global warming, but how businesses and homes should be adapting for the future.

Floods, heatwaves and droughts have all been forecast using computer models of climate change.

“The UK must start acting now,” said chairman of the CCC’s adaptation sub-committee, Lord Krebs.

It has been highlighted that preparing for the future may in fact help to reduce the overall effects of global warming.

“Super-insulating our homes and buildings will keep them warmer in winter and cooler in summer, and will also cut fuel bills,” said policy and campaigns director for Friends of the Earth UK, Craig Bennett.

But does this mean that recent activity has been in vein, or should institutions still do everything they can do reduce emissions and help those dependant on them to be more environmentally aware?

Many universities have recently invested large sums of money in being more eco-conscious.

The National Union of Students (NUS) is very much behind this campaign.

On the NUS website students are reminded of the “Three Rs”: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

An interesting sub-topic on the page is the reference to the Freecycle network: an online community divided into cities where people can offer and receive goods for free.

Freecycle goods range from compact televisions to sofas and even to large quantities of garden soil – for people who may be interested in helping the environment by growing their own food – another suggestion on the website.

It seems that awareness itself may not be the issue.

Joe Boyd studies Chemical Engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and said, “I think that students and young professionals do know enough about environmental issues, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean they make any more effort.

“Awareness isn’t the problem: people know it’s bad but if it takes effort they often forget or can’t be bothered.”

Alasdair Murison, also a Heriot-Watt student, confirmed Boyd’s opinion: “there should be more incentive to act environmentally, as many are aware, but see practicality and comfort as more important.”

The CCC report was not completely negative, however, highlighting the possibilities that a warmer climate may bring.

Wine production could become more common and the South East of the UK may be able to grow fruits like apricots and lemons.

Church goes green

By Andy Mackie

Homemade irrigation in Bangladesh

Over 250 church congregations throughout Scotland have accepted the challenge to become more eco-friendly and combat climate change.

The church launched its Response to Climate Change in 2007 after a speech at the 2006 general assembly by Bishop Michael Baroi from the Church of Bangladesh. Adrian Shaw, climate officer for the Church of Scotland recalls the speech as: “A defining moment where we realised how our actions in the developed world were causing problems that developing countries were bearing the brunt of.”

As part of this response the church challenged communities to sign up and become ‘Eco-congregations’ in order to combat the problem. Shaw describes what being an ‘Eco-congregation’ entails: “We set a target that each congregation should attempt to cut greenhouse emissions, both in the church and at home, by 5% a year. This is in line with the Scottish Governments policy to reduce Scotland’s greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050.”

While the current figure of 250 is according to Shaw “A drop in the ocean,” when compared to the 4000 plus congregations of all denominations in Scotland the figure is rising on a monthly basis.

In addition to the attempts to cut greenhouse emissions in Scotland, the church has part funded the work of James Pender in Bangladesh for the past three years. Pender has recently published a report on climate change and its impacts on Bangladesh. The report highlights innovations such as a makeshift crop irrigation system made from a plastic bottle, pictured, as a reminder of how rudimentary much of technology still is in the country.

Shaw commented: “James has carried out some fantastic work in Bangladesh and is due back in Scotland to report back to the church in November. We look forward to hearing of the challenges facing Bangladesh and what assistance can be provided.”

Greenpeace members jailed in Denmark for twenty-two days for bursting official dinner

By Irene Gimeno 

Four Greenpeace members, including the president of the organization in Spain, were arrested in Copenhagen on the 17th of December 2009 to remain in prison until the 7th of January because the Danish Superior Court decided so after they faked their identities in an official dinner organized by Margarita II of Denmark for the Heads of State of those countries attending the Climate Conference. 

Juan Lopez de Uralde, president of Greenpeace in Spain and Nora Christiansen, from Norway, were walking through the red carpet when the extended a banner which said “politicians talk, leaders act”. They had claimed to be the “Head of State” of Greenpeace and his wife, followed by Christian Schmutz, allegedly their bodyguard. The three of them were arrested ipsofacto whilst a fourth member of the most popular ecologist organization in the world. Joris Thijssen was arrested the next on the grounds of the mind of the action since he was the International Responsible for the Climate Change Campaign. 

The usual procedure of next-day-release arrest in this kind of situations surprised everyone in the organization when Denmark’s Superior Court announced that the activists must stay in prison until the seventh of January of the following year –  a total of twenty-two days of imprisonment – which resulted excessive by both the affected and their families and colleagues, considering that the arrested were deprived of spending Christmas with their loved ones, accused of offences such as “identity supplanting”. 

Greenpeace claimed that during the last twenty years, world leaders have ignored the climate change problem, risking the planet’s welfare; therefore, they decided to intervene in the social act to remark that the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 was the first real opportunity to take a step, says Mario Rodriguez, Greenpeace Spain. He asserts at the Spanish website of the organization that once again politicians failed to their duty of creating “a legally binding treaty to ensure the proper reductions of greenhouse-effect-gases emission to prevent the increase of the Earth temperature by two degrees celsius”, signing instead “The Copenhagen Treaty” which constitutes, according to the ecologist member “a void shell: a hand grenade against the multilateral efforts to stop the climate change“. 

Not only do the activists recently released assure that the incident will not stop them, but that it will in fact increase their fight. Their members back at home, the organization wants to make sure the average citizen know the challenge the planet is facing and that society should respond to that in a practical way. A vital call for the action is been made after the severe punishment the four ecologist received in Denmark.

Scotland Wracked by Floods

By Simon Brown.

_46654786_flooding1Scots are used to complaining about the weather and this weekend was no exception as floods surged through most of the country, interrupting public transport and generally causing disruption.  At the peak of activity on Sunday evening the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) had 21 flood watches, 17 flood warnings and 4 severe flood warnings in place.

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said:

“Once again we have seen the misery and destruction flooding can cause. Our thoughts are with those whose lives and livelihoods have been affected by the overnight floods… I’d like to thank all those who have again responded so quickly and effectively to minimise the impact of the floods.”  She also added that climate change was mostly to blame, saying that “flooding events such as these are likely to occur with increasing frequency.”

“We also need to take radical steps to tackle our carbon emission levels and to ensure communities get the protection they need, which is why we have recently pushed far-reaching climate change and flooding legislation through Parliament.”

Fife Council in particular was criticised for its handling of the floods, with Councillor Tom Adams dubbing their response, “horrendous and shocking”.  Another Councillor,  Andrew Roger, said, “I was on the phone to Fife Council’s emergency number for 18 minutes without a reply, it was very frustrating.

“A resident warned council officials on Friday about the blockage in the river and went back to check later that day to see if they had removed it but they hadn’t.”

The Government continue to operate their 24-hour Floodline on 0845 988 1188.

Horror as Insects Infest Homes

By: Liam McGowan

Date: 22/10/09

Spiders and insects have been reported in their multitudes in homes and gardens all over the UK this Autumn.

As forecast by entomologists earlier in the year, wildlife enthusiasts and arachnophobes alike have remarked on the notable increase of home-invading arachnids and arthropods. One arachnophobe  who has observed the creepy-crawly phenomenon commented, ” it has been absolutely horrific. Every day there are about half-a-dozen spiders on the walls and ceilings.I have also seen abnormally high numbers of other insects in my home- I can’t relax because of it”.

Spider experts are however urging the public not to kill these eight-legged home invaders: despite their ghastly reputation, it has been stressed that spiders are a friend as opposed to a foe. Of Britain’s many species, none are harmful and virtually all of them are helpful in preventing insect numbers from spiralling out of control.

Experts have confirmed conjectures by the public that these events can be largely attributed to the UK’s ever-changing climate- we have experienced unusually temperate conditions since winter ended, with temperatures fluctuating very little and rainfall uncharacteristically scarce.

Wildlife conservationists are expected to respond positively to this dramatic surge in certain species’ populations, as insect numbers are integral to Britain’s biodiversity.

There is, unfortunately, a negative flipside for the species that do not fare well in warm, dry conditions- climate change has proved devastating to some species which were once considered common in the UK. The ladybird and the bumble bee, which were once considered as symbols of the British outdoors, have now all but disappeared across many parts of the country, much to the dismay of nostalgic ramblers and enthusiasts- some claim that the character of the British countryside is dying- literally- along with these amicable insects.

Depleted bumble bee numbers is also a cause of concern for botanists, who are alarmed that its diminishing presence is likely to be exceedingly detrimental to the plants that it has pollinated for thousands of years. The survival of plants and insects, they claim, is inextricably linked.

Wildlife experts in Scotland have in recent years have reported changes in Highland Scotland’s holarctic winter climate, with warmer temperatures threatening to jeopardise the future of many of the country’s arctic species. The mountain hare, which dons a white coat in winter in order to take refuge from predators in the snow, is an easy target if the snow melts or fails to come. Alpine moths and butterflies are also diminishing as mountain temperatures rise and snowcaps melt.

In addition to the damage being done by climate change within our shores, migrating wildlife from overseas threatens to tamper further with the balance of plants and animals in the British ecosystem. Hornets from the far-east threaten to cause havoc in the UK as they have in europe, wiping out and destroying many species.

In addition to the detriment of climate change to our wildlife, arachnophobes, and entomophobes also have cause for concern. And before long we might be seeing a mosquito invasion… and we had the cheek to complain about our weather!

Eastern Europe turns a green leaf

By Heather Donald

Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic have surged ahead with renewable energy development despite claims that they are falling behind the rest of Europe.

According to Rod Christie, the General Electric president for central and eastern Europe, Romania has a very good wind resource and has just started to build the biggest wind farm outside of the US. The 600 Megawatt plant is due to be completed by 2011. Romania has also implemented legislation to safeguard renewable energy development and they are already leaving Poland behind in the race to be green.

Hungary and the Czech Republic have also followed Romania’s lead and created policies to help smaller biogas generators get on to the national grid. The EU’s structural

Image courtesey of google images

Image courtesy of google images

funds have supported some of these policies. They will also support Poland’s capture and store clean coal initiative.

Chris Coakley, a spokesman for the greens in the European parliament, commented: “The EU’s binding 20% renewables target for 2020 is good for the climate and good for the economy too, because it is expected to create over two million jobs in Europe. This has helped to give a great push for renewables, including in the EU’s newer Member States.” It would appear that some political parties see Eastern Europe’s bid for renewable energy as a positive yet necessary development, especially under EU legislation.

This is echoed by Linda McAvan a Labour spokesman on climate change as she describes the EU’s stringent policy plans. “Last year MEPs and Ministers agreed a package of laws to help the EU tackle climate change. This is part of our preparations for the UN Copenhagen climate change talks at the end of this year where Europe is pledging ambitious emission reductions. As part of the package, each country in Europe has signed up to a target for increasing its share of renewable energy by 2020. The UK is doing its bit – we will see a big expansion of wind, solar, biomass and other technologies. And we will see similar moves in other EU countries, including in Central and Eastern Europe. I very much welcome this.”

Eastern Europe is steadily moving towards green energy in a race for 2020.

Bail out tussles in Brussels

At a time of bleak economic news where the Sterling is nearly matching the value of the Euro, the pound reaching an extraordinary low today – European heads of state gather in Brussels. The atmosphere is tense.

At PMQs Gordon Brown had a Freudian slip, saying that the government “saved the world” instead of “saved the banks”. At least he is supposed to be the ‘saviour of Europe’. His suggested bail out plan was officially taken up as an economic recovery plan by the European Commission. It is supposed to be decided on for all the other European member states in the current European Council meeting in Brussels.

“It’s the best way to restore citizens’ confidence and counter fears of a long and deep recession”, Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso told the BBC in November this year.

However, some member states like Germany which alreadyhave implement national measures to save their economies oppose a joint approach.

The United Kingdom  implemented a £ 12.5 bn VAT cut last month which was harshly criticised by Germany’s finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck in a Newsweek interview yesterday. Steinbrueck said that the UK measures were “crass” and “breathtaking” and also said that a great rescue plan “doesn’t exist!” He said the cut would only pull the UK into greater debt instead of helping consumers.

Germany has already spent around £ 370.4 bn on a bail out of its banks, far more than the EU bail out plan is expected to raise. It is therefore now cautious about spending even more.

Other issues expected to be discussed at the summit are the Irish “No-Vote” on the Lisbon Treaty and climate change policies.

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