Eco News Q3 2021

In this issue:

  • Editorial:
    • Event of the Quarter – IPCC Report 
    • Temperature & Its Effect on Life 
    • So What Can We Do?
    • Real Community Spirit 
  • Forthcoming Events:
    • “Seaspiracy” – Film & Debate – Oct 22
    • What is Your Carbon Footprint? – Workshop – Nov 26
  • Round Up:
    • Worsening Vital Signs
    • Household Hydrogen by 2030 

Editorial:

Event of the Quarter:  There is little doubt that the event of the quarter is the IPCC report. Its message, “code red for humanity”, is a stark warning.  It states clearly that:

  • Climate Change is unequivocally human-induced;
  • The planet is likely to reach 1.5ºC of warming within 20 years;
  • At that point major, irreversible climate changes will occur with serious consequences.
  • Urgent and decisive action is needed to minimise the impact of unavoidable change.

Temperature & Its Effect on Life:  We can only hope that at COP26 the 196 participating countries heed that “code red” warning and commit to take urgent action. 

The IPCC’s report paints a bleak picture when referring to the effects of increased temperatures on all habitats.  It warns that they will impact all forms of life and have serious cascading effects on lives, livelihoods, and economies.  It might therefore be worth reflecting on how increased temperatures will affect our daily lives.

The Lancet corroborates that statement and warns that increases in exposure to, and frequency, and duration of high temperatures will increase physiological stress and cause bodily damage not only to humans, but also to livestock, poultry, fish, and crops. 

It says that the preferred range of temperatures for all groups is 17º to 24ºC.  Above that extended exposure can cause heat stress, and short exposures to temperatures above 35°C with high humidity and above 40°C with low humidity, can even be lethal.    

We all know that the body’s internal thermostat balances the rate of heat loss to heat burden – more blood to the skin/increased sweat production; but when external temperatures are excessive the body’s heat exchange system may be unable to cope. 

When that happens, the scientists say, one or more of a range of conditions may arise – “increased dehydration and renal function loss, dermatological malignancies, tropical infections, adverse mental health outcomes, pregnancy complications, allergies, and cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality”

The most vulnerable (children and the elderly) are usually disproportionately affected.  In the past 20 years, heat-related mortality among people older than 65 years has increased by more than 50%. 

Animals are much the same as us – they too will struggle to lose excess body heat through evaporation, and suffer heat stress – evidenced by panting, rapid breathing, increased drinking, loss of appetite, or lethargy

Add to this the effect of drought, flooding, erosion, and dying oceans on our food supply chains, and the IPCC’s dire warnings take on an alarming perspective.  Not only will our own heat resilience be affected, but also that of our sources of food, be they on land or in the sea.

Impacts of Climate Change

Source: US Environmental Protection Agency

There is little doubt that, as the creators of Climate Change, we cannot sit on our hands any longer.  Otherwise we will put our own food security in jeopardy and on a path to irrevocable collapse.  The juggernaut has to be stopped.

So What Can We Do?  Despite this frightening scenario, the pundits maintain that there is still a small window of hope “if humans submit to urgent, unprecedented transformational change and a rapid and immediate reduction of GHG emissions”

Only then will life on the Planet self-stabilise.  Half-hearted gestures will lead to temperatures exceeding 4°C by the end of the century, which means that vast areas of the Planet will be uninhabitable. 

The responsibility for action is placed squarely on “humans”.  It is up us to make “unprecedented transformational change” and action “a rapid and immediate reduction of GHG emissions”.  A great deal can be done at grassroots level (see Forthcoming Events below – our Carbon Footprint Workshop); but it is governments who have to lead the way and ensure that it is well paved with legislation. 

We now know that there is no technological reason for delay.  Sufficient technologies already exist for us to make transformational change.  But the degree to which we will have success in doing so is a function not only of government legislation, but also of how fast the electrification of Planet can be made by sustainable means. 

In 2020 fossil fuels alone accounted for two thirds of all CO2 emitted and 84% of materials used for energy generation. 

Energy generation using fossil fuels must perforce be in the sites of every government as primary target. 

Fossil Fuels – CO 2 Emitted and as a Source of Energy Generation

Source:  US Environmental Protection Agency
Source: BP Statistical Review 2020

There is little doubt that we can act with speed providing governments legislate to ensure:

  1. That the infrastructure to facilitate the transmission of sustainable energy is in place; and
  2. That the correct pricing structure enables us to buy both the energy transmitted and the sustainable technology to use it. 

To accomplish that, accelerate unprecedented transformational change and reduce GHG emissions, governments will have to face the challenge head on and take radical steps to remove subsidies which benefit the fossil fuel industry and products derived from it. 

The OECD/IEA’s 2020 estimate shows that 90% of the total global energy supply from fossil fuels received government subsidies of USD 345 billion.  As of June 2021 the OECD tracker reported that the G20 alone had committed USD 295 billion in support of fossil fuels, of which USD 246 billion was unconditional.

This needs to be stopped.  Experts have warned that subsidies and preferential tax treatment encourage inefficiencies in production and skew long-term investment in favour of fossil fuel production.  The G20 alone account for 90% of subsidies and are accused of “bankrolling the climate crisis”.  It is clear, the G20 has to lead reform or there will zero chance of meeting Net Zero by 2050. 

G20 Fossil Fuel Subsidies by Product and Sector

Source:  OECD – [data excludes Saudi Arabia]

But …, and herein lies the rub – any attempt to remove subsidies will impact how we run our factories, our transport, heat our homes, etc. etc., with higher prices.  For example, which brave politician will remove the “invisible” subsidy represented by the fact that VAT is charged at 5% on domestic oil, gas and electricity, instead of being charged at the standard rate of 20%?

Any removal has therefore to be preceded by incentives generous enough to create a reliable infrastructure and incentivise the purchase of sustainable technology.  This initial cash outflow should then be offset through a gradual/fast increase in taxation on fossil fuel from mining through to derived products and corporations. 

We know that the EU has committed to 40% renewable energy by 2030, that the US to making electricity carbon free by 2035, and that China, Japan and Korea are expected to voice their commitments shortly.  All very encouraging, but politicians will require exceptional skill to find a socially balanced way in which fossil fuels are uncoupled from our lives, livelihoods and economies. 

Real Community Spirit:  This article has been written for us by Terence Sackett, of the Stowey Green Spaces Group.  SGSG is an independently constituted community organisation, and was founded in 2016 as a sub-committee of the Nether Stowey Recreation Ground.  It now covers several green spaces in the surrounding area.  Its purpose is to maximise community interest in them.  It has now developed into a wonderful expression of how a community can pull together for its own and the Planet’s good, while having fun. 

With its pub, shops, visitor accommodation, Norman castle, library and information centre, Nether Stowey may be justified in claiming to be the ‘Gateway to the Quantocks’.  The village is also the starting point for the popular Coleridge Way, generating an increasing number of walkers.

Stowey Green Spaces Group, a group of local volunteers, was established to identify, assess, and help protect and enhance the natural and developed landscape and landscape features in and around Nether Stowey and Over Stowey.  We take on community projects with the aim of encouraging residents, visitors, and local schoolchildren to visit and enjoy the countryside around. We take on projects including clearing brush on the Norman Castle Mount and are also licensed to manage the Millennium/Jubilee Wood and Stowey Wood, both owned by Somerset County Council.

Millennium Wood:  Once an open field, this wood, 0.49 hectares in size, was planted by the community in 2000 as a Millennium project.  Around 800 trees were planted by local residents, grown from seed by local schoolchildren.  Our aim is to maintain biodiversity and enhance wildlife habitats. 
The Diamond Jubilee Extension (0.31 hectares) was added in 2012 (with a strong Quantock Eco presence), when land to the north and west of the original wood was planted with 300 more trees, many donated by the Woodland Trust. They include English Oak, Wild Cherry, Ash, Field Maple, Sycamore, and Silver Birch.

The main public footpath running through the wood leads to a picnic table, which is popular with local people. In the far corner a public footpath continues across two fields through Stowey Wood, offering a half-hour circular walk back to the village.

Stowey Wood:  Records show that Stowey Wood (3.2 hectares) dates from around 1700, and possibly before.  Indeed, some of the plants that grow here – Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Wood Anemone, and the rare Wild Service Tree, for instance – are indicators of Ancient Woodland.  Volunteers keep the paths open, and manage the bramble to encourage wildflowers to flourish.  Two ‘leaky’ dams were installed in 2019 to restrict the flow of water in the stream.  Stowey Wood is rich in wildlife throughout the year, and in early spring there are carpets of Celandines, Bluebells, and patches of beautiful Wood Anemones alongside the upper path.  Our aim is to restore the wood as far as possible to native English woodland.  In the autumn 50 of the Sitka spruce trees planted in the 1970s by the Forestry Commission will be felled, the timber removed by specialist horses.  We are grateful to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund (GRCF) for financing this project.

Castle Mount:  This Norman motte and bailey castle is highly popular with both residents and visitors.  Green Spaces Group volunteers, together with Herdwick sheep, help keep the bracken and scrub under control.  The castle provides important grassland habitat, with significant populations of Primroses and Bluebells along with more common plants such as Pignut and Early Forget-me-not.  To help enhance the experience of visiting our green spaces, we have recently created a number of interpretation panels, generously funded by the Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme.  Several conservation organisations attended the unveiling, including Friends of Quantock and Quantock Eco.

Litter Picking:  On our regular monthly litter picking days we keep public areas and roadsides in and around our two villages clear of litter.

To find out more, please visit www.stowey.org.uk/stowey-green-spaces/

Forthcoming Events

“Seaspiracy” – Film & Debate – Friday, 22 Oct:  We look forward to welcoming you not only to see this eye-opening film, but also to participate in the debate on its content afterwards. 

This introduction to it has been written by one of QE’s long-standing supporters, Sir Angus Stirling, member of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers. 

This film sets out to reveal the devastating harm being done to the world’s oceans and the wildlife that depend on them.  It is not without fault.  Some inaccuracy and “broad brush” approach has led to vested interests trying to demolish it.  

Please do not be put off.  The imminent risks to the food chain, the wholesale slaughter of fish by factory ships employing slave labour, and the appalling consequences of waste cast into our oceans is graphically shown.  It is of deep concern to humankind.”

Please join us for good entertainment and good debate.

What is Your Carbon Footprint? – Workshop – Friday, 26th Nov:  Are you a carbon polluter?  Of course you are – we all are!  But, do you know where and by how much you pollute?  On Friday 26 November QE will repeat its highly successful workshop of October 2019, delayed two years by Covid.  As before, it is designed to help you answer those questions, and it starts now!

  • We invite you to calculate your Carbon Footprint using the WWF calculator – WWF Footprint Calculator.  It is user-friendly and takes no time to give a result.
  • The result will show how you compare with the Government’s target, and what factors contribute to your score.
  • Please send your result by email to quantockeco@btinternet.com so that we can do a simple statistical analysis for our community ahead of the workshop.
  • Total confidentiality will be respected.  Only two people on QE’s Executive Committee will know participants’ names.

Measuring your Carbon Footprint not only shows how much CO 2 you are generating, it also helps identify areas for improvement and can be used to track your progress as you bring it down.  At our last workshop with the knowledge of how much they were polluting and why, several participants made pledges to improve their footprint over the next 12 months.

We hope you will take part.  Our communities are one of the strongest forces for change.  We are the “grassroots” that elect governments.  Knowing your Carbon Footprint will help ensure that the right action is taken to beat back global warming.

Round Up

Worsening Vital Signs:  Scientists warn that the Planet’s vital signs are currently deteriorating at an alarming rate.  See https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/7/28/thousands-of-scientists-declare-worldwide-climate-emergency.

Household Hydrogen by 2030:  The UK government has published plans for a hydrogen economy by 2030.  See https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/17/uk-homes-low-carbon-hydrogen-economy-jobs.

We welcome discussion, so please let us have your views via email at our address quantockeco@btinternet.com.

For more on Quantock Eco please go to our website www.quantockeco.org.uk and join our Facebook group on https://www.facebook.com/groups/331095730922655.

Stay safe.

To contact QE or unsubscribe please email us at quantockeco@btinternet.com

Editorial Note:  Many of the images in this newsletter are copyright protected.  Reuse may be subject to “legal remedies”.

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