July 2019 will go down as the hottest month in history. This is predictable evidence of the world’s love of fossil fuels and the apparent deafness when it comes to listening to green protesters. The problem is that we have all got so used to our creature comforts. These use energy.
The extended power cut following the massive storm in July reinforced just how much I rely on electricity. I can cope with no mains drainage and no piped gas, but when the electricity goes down it just makes me just a little bit miserable. No TV, no internet, no landline and we already have no mobile signal. Being late in, that night, I had to eat my supper by candlelight. Not at all romantic. My bedtime hot drink was heated on a camping stove.
The world’s reliance on electricity and the apparent uncaring attitude to how it gets generated is one of the key factors in the speed that we are heading towards the meltdown of global warming. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has published an article on the increase in global temperatures. These are likely to increase by 1.5 C above the pre-industrial levels. I will paraphrase a couple of points from the report.
Human activity is responsible for a rise of 1 degree Centigrade of global warming above pre-industrial levels. A level of 1.5 C will be reached by 2050 if we continue to warm the earth at the same rate. The IPCC predicts that this increase in temperature will have beneficial effects in some areas but detrimental effects on others. The effect of human-induced warming on a naturally varying climate will cause a non-uniform rise in temperature by area and by time.
Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming. This will have long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system. The likelihood will have severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks.
I have yet to find any believable articles on the likely impact on the ‘innocents’ of this impending disaster. The beautiful creatures that cannot survive such a change in climate in their home areas.
Recently a lot has been published about how farming at local, national and global levels is affecting the level of carbon in the air. We also cannot forget the process that allows plants to suck in carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the environment. There was a guy on the news, the other day, pointing to a patio and went on to say that the paving of plant areas into patios etc, will no longer allow the plant free areas to clean the air of carbon dioxide.
A lot is made of the need to plant trees. That is a very good initiative to replace those that have been felled in the past and to improve the volume of carbon fixation. Carbon fixation is the process whereby a plant will convert carbon dioxide into sugars. Is there more that we as individuals can do? Well, we can turn that unused piece of paved area into a plant area. We have an area which we rarely use. It is paved and the paving is unnecessary. It could be turned over to planting for food or just a wildflower area.
How about other areas in the village. A lot was said about the pub field and the acrimony that caused the split over the proposal to build houses on the plot. So what would have been the impact from a carbon viewpoint?
- An area of half a hectare (about an acre) would have been lost forever in its ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. How did someone put it ‘a useless piece of land’. How useless is half of a hectare of planting and its ability to remove carbon from the air? It is very carbon negative.
- It takes 50 tonnes of carbon production to build a normal house. That would have been 500 tonnes of carbon created by the building of the 10 houses unless the houses used a method of building with a reduced carbon footprint. There was never any mention of that.
Is there any area of the village that is ‘useless’ and not planted. It is good to see an area of the churchyard left over to wildflowers. The pub field, the last time I looked, was thigh-high in wild plants. OK so some of these were nettles, but they have their place. Is there any more areas. How about some of the land next to the playing field. It needs to have paths through but there is a lot of land there, some of which could be turned over to wild planting. Wild planting improves the carbon fixation of the land and improves the land for insects which pollinate. We are sadly losing habitat for pollinators and losing the number of pollinators themselves.
What can be done at a local level outside the village? A lot has been said about the need to build more houses, but it should not be houses for houses sake. For every new house built on virgin ‘green’ land questions must be asked. Is the house necessary or are there alternatives. For example is their other land that can be utilised, commonly called brownfield land. Land that has been built on in the past and is available for housing. How about more use of our high streets. As a shopping experience there are many high streets that are suffering from the impact out of town shopping centres and online shopping. Many units not longer have a shopping use except for short term lets to charity shops. Even in a very high street centric town like Woodbridge we still have a fair selection of charity shops and units that fail as shops. Why not convert them to residential use. Yes, house fronts in the place of shop fronts!
Also what about empty properties. We need to bring these into use without delay. In 2016 Ipswich had 1200 empty homes. These remain on the Borough Council’s database for six months before they contact the owners and attempt to bring the property back into the housing stock. If you look at a wider area, Suffolk and North Essex, the figure was 21,0000 in 2015. Each property, empty house or shop, brought into current residential use will save the carbon cost of building a new house. We will still need to build houses but what can be done to produce the carbon impact? Carbon Offsetting? Maybe a blog in the offing on that.