Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Shit Happens

Animal faeces comprise nearly 4 percent of San Francisco's residential waste, almost as much as disposable nappies. Local authorities are keen to develop new approaches to disposing of animal waste and so reduce the 40 million tons of waste going to landfill each year
San Francisco has become the first city in the United States to consider converting pet faeces into methane that can be used for fuel, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
"American dogs and cats produce 10 million tons of waste a year, and no one knows where it's going," said Will Brinton, a scientist in Mount Vernon, Maine, and one of the world's leading authorities on waste reduction and composting. Pet faeces that avoids landfill is left on the ground, where it dissolves and flows untreated into the water table. Some is inadvertently collected along with garden waste and tossed into compost bins, a dangerous practice because animal waste is full of pathogens.
Sunset Scavenger, a subsidiary of Norcal Waste, has plans to collect and process the waste in a methane digester—a low-tech machine that uses bacteria to convert organic matter to methane in about two weeks.
"Poop power? Yes, it's possible to produce electricity, natural gas and even fuel from Rover's poop and other waste material," said Robert Reed, a spokesman for Norcal Waste. "There are a lot of bugs to work out, steps to figure out, costs to be considered, but we are beginning to talk to the city about it and look into this area more actively."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A world of contrasts, but do we care?

Above is a recent picture from the Angolan Times, archive.wn.com/2005/ 09/19/1400/angolatimes/ . Below is a photo from a university picnic somewhere in the developed world. He is obviously enjoying his food.

No doubt he would share some of his food with the person dieing in Angola if he had the chance. Why is it that international food politics, in the shape of subsidies and comparative costs in trade, allow food mountains in the west while the best land in poorer countries is used to produce export crops. The food mountains in western countries come from crop production within. The best land in poorer countries used for export crops to western supermarkets should be feeding the local population.

These anomolies produce these contrasting photos above, but do we care?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Global dimming.

Congratulations to the BBC for putting together a 'Climate Change' series on BBC4. As part of this the BBC are helping to recruit your PCs for a climate change data analysis exercise; http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/hottopics/climatechange/ . A recent programme from the Horizon team called 'Global Dimming' (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/dimming_prog_summary.shtml ) makes the lay persons discussion about global warming even more confusing. We are now being told that the warming effects of CO2 emissions are being cancelled out to a certain extent by the cooling affects of particulates. Basically, particulate pollution encourages more cloud cover and less sunshine. In London this winter we have seen very little sunshine.

Interestingly, they are blaming the 1985 famine of Ethiopia on the effects of global dimming. It has had the affect of moving the seasonal rains away from central Africa and down to the south. This has been blamed on particlate pollution from Europe and Northern America. There is more on the above link.

The main point from this programme for the general public is that climate change prediction is highly complex and the 'experts' themselves are working hard to get a clearer picture. The solutions to the negative affects of climate change will certainly dominate our actions and thoughts for generations to come.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Our decisions to buy or not to buy give us enormous potential power. It is not simply a question of cutting the environmental impact of the products we purchase, but also of creating, though the choices we make, a commercial climate in which manufacturers and retailers see new market opportunities in ‘green’ goods and are encouraged to invest in new products and services.

(Elkinton, J. and Hailes, J. (1989) The Green Consumers Supermarket Shopping Guide.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Taking to the air - the subsidizing of air travel.

There is talk again within the EU of looking into the tax exemption on airplane fuel as concerns over climate change hot up. While other forms of transport pay tax on fuel, airlines are exempt and are of course resisting any change in any way. See the following by the European Low Fares Airline Association; http://www.elfaa.com/documents/press%20release%20re%20aviation%20and%20ETS%20280905.pdf .

Airlines have always quoted job creation as a prime reason to keep their tax exemption status. Increasingly they are also asking whether the travelling public would be happy to forego cheap airfares that they currently enjoy. An effective defence! Environmental campaigners are however locking their sites on airlines as they see them as an increasing contributor to carbon emissions. Are they killjoys? After all, forcing higher airfares through tax changes will mean only the rich can afford the luxury to fly.

For a detailed study on the effect of subsidies on fuel emissions go to;

Friday, February 17, 2006

Goodbye to the Carterets!

In November last year an article from the Reuters News Service marked the beginning of what might be considered as a significant milestone in our transition to a warmer world. A community of around 2000 islanders from Papua New Guinea's Carteret Islands have become the first to begin a permanent evacuation as a result of rising sea levels and storm surges. They had spent the past 20 years trying to preserve their traditional way of life by building sea walls and planting mangroves to protect their homes and crops from the seas.
The islanders are to be relocated ten families at a time to the larger nearby Bougainville Island, four hours' boat ride to the southwest. "It's a pretty hard life out there on the islands. Some of the homes have been washed away," Joe Kaipu, the senior district co-ordinator of Bougainville, told Reuters. "The only action now is to resettle them," he said.
The Reuters article warns that this could be first of many such evacuations and quotes a recent UN study forecast that some 50 million people could become environmental refugees by 2010, driven from their homes by desertification, rising sea levels, flooding and storms linked to climate change.
Last month NEW SCIENTIST did an article on the discovery of the islands by British navigator Philip Carteret in 1767 to coincide with the commencement of the evacuation http://www.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg18925381.800. It’s ironic that we should be rediscovering one of our adventurer ancestors as a result of the loss of the islands (baring his name) due to climate change, an event possibly brought about in part by the trade links forged during that great age of discovery.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Capitalism loves global warming.

The article linked below tells us how Norway's push towards the Arctic circle is just the beginning for new oil and gas exploration opportunities brought on by global warming. Here we are seeing how runaway global warming will happen in practice. Capitalism, as a system loves global warming because it presents new money making opportunities. If one party steps back from oil and gas exploration within the Arctic circle for moral reasons, another will simply walk on through and take the booty.


The only way to stop such a free-for-all is to set up a treaty such as the Antarctic Treaty. This has been extremely important in negotiating terms of protection for all aspects of the territory. See http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/About_Antarctica/Treaty/ . But it is probably too late.

There appears to have been little discussion by international NGOs about Norway's new oil and gas exploration moves. Yet they have been happy to sound the alarm about US intentions within Northern Alaska. Does this show an anti-American bias or is the (Nobel) Norway simply good at staying out of the limelight?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Climate 'warmest for millennium'

Yet another article out regarding warming climates and climate change today. See, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4698652.stm .

We as individuals can of course do our bit to answer this threat. See, http://www.cat.org.uk/information/catinfo.tmpl?command=search&db=catinfo.db&eqSKUdatarq=InfoSheet_EnergyEfficiency . While this site is mainly aimed at UK readers, it is still of use to those of you overesas.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

FoE In Image Shake-up Shock

Tired of their musty, middle-aged image, Friends Of The Earth have given the green light to issuing their 'activists' with high-powered sports cars with personalised number plates.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Another Paradise To Trash

A international team of scientists has discovered a isolated region of extraordinary biodiversity that has remained untouched by the presence of man.


In less than a month the team identified new species of frogs, plants, birds and butterflies, and discovered the breeding grounds of the 'lost' Six-wired Bird of Paradise (see photo).

The area lies within a 'protected zone' in North-Western New Guinea, and its short term future is considered to be secure. However, now that the secret is out, and with further expeditions planned, how long will this new Eden survive?

'Eco' tourism, global biodiversity prospecting and local subsistence farming will be slugging it out. Those old-fashioned souls who still believe that the environment has a value beyond money, and should be preserved for its own sake rather than for the uses we can put it to, should look away now. It won't be pretty.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The future is now?

There is much talk this week of the runaway effects of climate change or global warming. James Lovelock has been warning of this for some time and speaks about this in his interview with Hardtalk (BBC News24, July, 2004) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/hardtalk/3937609.stm . The Geological Society has also got its forecast out for the human race, (if you've got children, look away now.....); http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/template.cfm?name=Global_Warming_Essay .

None of the above makes for easy reading (or listening). In fact, it all seems extremely surreal. These people are however eminent scientists in their field, not nutters! ....Or are they?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Faking it.

The Kyoto Protocol, signed about a year ago, (with Russia finally on board) is a fake. It misleads the citizens of the world into believing that some sort of progress is being made towards curbing CO2 emissions. It misleads people into believing that the causes of climate change are being taken seriously. They are not. The governments of the United States, India and China are not on board. They probably never will be. They are pitched instead in a race for economic supremacy that will continue throughout the 21st century. The US doesn't want to lose its top slot; China wants to win it and India does not want to miss out. To enter into this race they are going to need energy resources and plenty of them. As a result they (and many other countries) are becoming increasingly ambitious and some might say, increasingly reckless, in their pursuit of energy resources such as oil and gas.

Lets look at China who thinks nothing of dealing with countries such as Sudan in the pursuit of oil deposits. Their latest drive is out west, not just within China but, also beyond its borders. They are doing deals with a number of Central Asian countries. They are building pipelines that will carry much needed gas back into Chinese cities, factories and power stations. Within China, whole towns are turning into cities almost overnight on the back on oil exploration. China is now the second largest user of oil after the United States. For further background on China's energy sector see http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/china.html .

The race for oil is getting so intense that even oil shale is being talked about in the United States again; see http://www.energybulletin.net/11779.html . In another development India and China have recently become oil bidding partners. In December they acquired PetroCanada's Syrian oil and natural gas assets.

The point here is that government officials and business people are tied up with their strategic energy resource maneuverings. For their countries to stay ahead economically they need to secure their energy needs. Is the Kyoto Protocol on their radar? I doubt it. It should be, even if it is for nothing less than the incentives it gives to become more energy efficient. However, as history has shown, the rush west 200 years ago within the USA was unstoppable. Business, migration and population drove it. Now China has its Wild, Wild West. It too is unstoppable and for the very same reasons. Kyoto, noble as it is, is dead in the water.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

World Bank breaks wind

The World Bank has had a certain amount flack from anti-globalisation protestors over recent years. Some of this has been from protestors concerned about the environment and particularly the banks involvement with large scale hydro dams. Probably very few of these protesters realise that the bank is now the largest funder of environmental projects within the developing world. It does this through the Global Environment Facility (G.E.F.). See http://www.gefweb.org/ .

The GEF has recently announced more funding for enabling the development of renewables technologies. See their press release at http://www.gefweb.org/Documents/mexico_re_release_020106.pdf . Surely such developments by the World Bank need to be encouraged and just possibly the protesters need to move on or find another cause.

Sugar rush

George Bush spoke in his State of the Union address last night of dealing with America's 'addiction to oil'. One idea mooted was for an increased use of ethanol as an energy source. Brazil is one country increasingly using ethanol to power its vehicles. All this interest in ethanol is not new but it is gathering pace with the commodity market prices for sugar at a 25 year high according to an article in the Gulf Daily News http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Story.asp?Article=134033&Sn=BUSI&IssueID=28317 .

For more information on ethanol use in the United States go to http://www.michigan.gov/mda/0,1607,7-125-1566_1733_23370-38575--,00.html . For more information on ethanol use in Brazil try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol_fuel_in_Brazil .