Eco News Q4 2022

In this issue

  • Event of the Quarter:
    • Time is Running Out & We Have Another COP Out
    • Earthshot 2022
  • Forthcoming Events:
    • 17th February – Community Green Spaces
    • 21st April – QE AGM & talk “Climate Crisis – Paradise Lost?
  • Editorial:
    • Water is Life – What is Your Water Footprint?

    • What is Your “Virtual” Water Footprint?
    • Precision Fermentation – Food for Thought
  • Recent Events:
    • Talk – “Water Rationing in West Somerset – How Soon?
  • In Case You Missed It:
    • King Charles on Nature & Climate Change

Events of the Quarter

Time is Running Out & We Have Another COP Out:  Ursula von der Leyen said at the end of the conference:  “COP27 has confirmed that the world will not backtrack on the Paris Agreement and is an important step towards climate justice.  However, the science is clear that much more is needed to keep the Planet liveable.”  Absolutely right – much, much more.

We had been warned beforehand by Secretary General Guterres that Climate Change was flashing “red code for humanity”.  His comment at the end COP 27 was “Our Planet is still in the emergency room!” 

Alok Sharma’s summary of the Conference underlines this view:  “I have to say this – this is not a moment of unqualified celebration.  To keep 1.5 degrees alive, and to respect what every single one of us agreed to in Glasgow, we have had to fight relentlessly to hold the line. 

Emissions peaking before 2025, as the science tells us is necessary.  Not in this text.  Clear follow-through on the phase down of coal.  Not in this text.  A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels.  Not in this text.  And the energy text, weakened, in the final minutes.  Friends,

I said in Glasgow that the pulse of 1.5 degrees was weak.  Unfortunately, it remains on life support.  And all of us need to look ourselves in the mirror and consider if we have fully risen to that challenge over the past two weeks.”

Those comments sum it up.  There is unanimity that COP 27 failed to deliver the most important – a firm agreement to cut emissions.

Not at all surprising really.  Some 630 lobbyists from fossil fuel companies attended.  Taken together, they were the second largest delegation.  There is little point warning that the window of opportunity” in which to hold global temperatures to 1.5C is closing, when the room is packed with rich fossil fuel delegates.

The much trumpeted “loss and damage” fund for vulnerable countries harmed by climate change has been described as a “break through”.  Some think it is another “empty climate promise”.  This because the answer to several questions remain unclear.  For example:

  • Who will pay into this new fund?  Developed countries made it clear that the fund will be voluntary and should not be restricted only to developed countries.
  • Will the fund be new, or additional?  It is not at all clear if money in the fund will be new money or simply aid already committed for other issues and shifted to the fund.
  • Who would receive support from the fund?  As climate disasters increase across the world which disaster gets priority?  It opens the possibility of competing disasters and in-fighting for funds – My drought is more important than your silly flood!

To think that COP 28 is to be held in the oil rich United Arab Emirates makes one wonder whether there will ever be a serious, united attempt to defeat Climate Change.  Let us hope we are pleasantly surprised.  Is there not a flavour of irony in the fact that both COP 27 and 28 are held in desert countries.  Is this a portent of things to come?

Earthshot 2022:  In 1962 the “moonshot” was the challenge set by President John F. Kennedy to reach the seemingly impossible task of landing a man on the moon within the decade.  Inspired by that achievement, Prince William established The Earthshot Prize to encourage innovation and scale-up solutions that tackle the seemingly impossible task we now face of stabilising and repairing the Planet.

One of the most interesting of this year’s prize winners presented a project which will help resolve the most important objective required to limit global warming – the removal of excess CO2 from the atmosphere.  The Omani company 44.01 (named after the molecular weight of carbon dioxide!) does just that.  It removes CO2 from the atmosphere permanently by mineralising it in the rock Peridotite. 

The mineralisation of peridotite is a natural process, but in nature it can take several decades.  44.01 accelerates the process by capturing CO2, mixing it with water and pumping carbonated water into the seams of peridotite deep underground.

Unlike carbon storage, which involves burying CO2 underground in disused mines and aquifers, mineralisation removes CO2 forever, and needs no permanent pressurisation or security.  The process is safe, cost effective and scalable.  As peridotite is the dominant rock of the upper part of Earth’s mantle, it is easily accessible to all countries.

Presumably the process is patentable and can be used by many enterprises across the globe, so speeding up the removal of excess CO2 from the atmosphere.  Go 44.01, go!  

Forthcoming Events

Community Green Spaces:  On Friday 17th February we shall have ex-diplomat Roy Osborne introduce us to the Stowey Green Spaces Group, a small community organization which leads the way in community response to Climate Change. 

SGSG looks after the green spaces in and around Nether and Over Stowey, including Nether Stowey Castle Mount (a scheduled monument).  It also manages, under license from Somerset County Council, the Stowey Millennium Wood, the Diamond Jubilee extension, the Platinum Jubilee Wood, Stowey Wood itself and the Stowey A39 Bypass Wood.  

Over the past few years SGSG volunteers have planted some 1500 new native trees. 

Our speaker, Roy Osborne spent his entire career working for the Foreign Office in countries as diverse as Norway, Pakistan, Cameroon, and Nicaragua (where he was ambassador).  On retirement in 2009 he moved to Over Stowey.

Having had a lifelong interest in birds, wildlife, and habitat creation, he became a volunteer warden for the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Steart Marshes, a volunteer for the National Trust and the Quantock Hills AONB, and for the past three years has chaired the Stowey Green Spaces Group.

Roy will explain how Stowey Green Spaces have made themselves a good force for nature. Quantock Eco hopes that SGSG’s example will help other communities to do the same. Roy has offered to give advice to any team that takes up the challenge.

QE’s AGM & Talk:  This year we plan to have a live AGM to which you are all invited, and at which there will be an interval for wine and nibbles after the administrative business of the evening has been concluded. 

This will be followed by a talk titled “Climate Crisis – Paradise Lost?” to be given by outgoing co-chairman Julian Anderson. 

It will be held in Crowcombe Village Hall on 21st April.  More information to follow.

Water Is Life – What is Your Water Footprint?:  QE has just had a reassuring talk from a water expert and consultant to Wessex Water in which we were told that there will be no water rationing in West Somerset for the foreseeable future.  (See Recent Events below for a review of the event).

Nevertheless, water security remains a top consideration for much of Southern England after last summer’s lengthy drought. At one point it drained Wimbleball reservoir to 17% of capacity. 

Globally the supply of freshwater is even more concerning.  It is not water as such that is the problem, it is freshwater, freshwater that is pure enough to drink. 

It is known that 97.5% of the water on Earth is salt water (the oceans).  Of the remaining 2.5%, about 1.5% is in deep underground aquifers (where most people can’t get at it) or in polar ice caps and glaciers, leaving only 1% accessible for use. 

It is also known that of the 8 billion people on Earth today approximately one person in four has no easy access to clean, drinkable water.  To add to this the World Bank predicts that water demand will exceed current supply by 40% by 2030 – only eight years hence!  

Aggravated by both Climate Change and resource mismanagement, competition between communities and countries for water has already raised its ugly head.  Not surprising as we need water not just water for drinking but also for food and the environment.

Yes, we are lucky, but those stark data make it important that we all reconsider how we use this precious resource, does it not?  One way of doing this is to know your Water Footprint.  As with your Carbon Footprint, your Water Footprint measures the environmental impact of the volume of freshwater used by you.  It measures your water lifestyle.

Have fun calculate yours here.  The national average is 140 litres per person per day.  Print out this page, fill in the data and see how you compare?

What is Your “Virtual” Water Footprint?:  Apart from your personal water footprint there is also what has been dubbed your “virtual” water footprint.  This is the water used to make the products we use every day.  A better name would be crypto water footprint – crypto being the Greek for hidden.

For example, the FAO says agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater use.  So where does all this water go?  The following table is a good guide.

What does this crypto usage mean for us?  Does it not mean that to play a serious part in freshwater conservation we should examine our diet?

Similarly, the fashion industry is said to be the second most water-intensive industry on the Planet.

Whether it is made of cotton or polyester and viscose, the fibres that make the materials in our clothes plus the spinning, dyeing, printing, and finishing, all contribute to the overall water profile of our clothes.  Does this not mean that to play a serious part in freshwater conservation we should also examine how frequently we renew our wardrobe? 

Difficult for sure, especially as we know we are lucky and have enough water “for the foreseeable future”.

Precision Fermentation – Food for Thought:  What is it that creates more GHGs than all cars, aeroplanes, and ships together?  What is it that kills more than 75 billion animals each year?  What is it that accounts for the loss of 70% of our forests this century?  What is it that is the single biggest cause of mass wildlife extinction? 

Here is a clue:  it also uses 70% of our freshwater supplies.  Absolutely right!  The production of the food we eat.

The IPCC has said that as much as 37% of total GHG emissions arise in the food supply chain from land use to consumption.  Now alternative methods of producing our food are entering the mainstream.  Such alternatives maintain the nutritional value of animal products, yet do not involve the high emission processes which is involved in producing them. 

As we know meat and dairy products are a source of healthy proteins and are an essential part of our diet.  “Protein is a molecule and can take as many, probably more forms than there are atoms in the known universe” say the biotechnologists who work on the exciting future which precision fermentation presents the food industry.

Precision fermentation is one of the Planet’s oldest technologies (it has been used to create beer, bread, and insulin for ages).  It now offers not only a way of maintaining proteins in our diet, but also huge reductions in emissions as well as the possibility of rewilding swathes of forest lost to ruminants and the production of their fodder. 

To explore that exciting future, it is recommended that you consider reading this link  It was presented at COP 27 but fell on stony ground.  Amazing to think that the oil lobby missed the chance of embracing it immediately.  It would have made the job of scuppering fossil fuel emissions easier, by simply diverting attention to resolving another of the Planet’s great emission aggravants.

As you will have seen from the link, this old technology can be used to produce meat, eggs, and dairy products, and brings with it a number of very much needed advantages.  As appetising as that all sounds several questions still have to be answered to make it a truly worthwhile alternative.  For example: 

  • What is the feedstock on which the fermentation bacteria do their work?  Is it corn or another crop?  How much arable land will be impacted? 
  • What flavours will it offer?  Will they be like the real McCoy they substitute?
  • At what price will the products be sold? 
  • Can existing supply chains be used to transport them to the point of sale, or will it have to adapt to a new era? 
  • What sort of waste will there be?  What will the waste material be?  Will that waste let loose bacteria that also like another type of feedstock?

It is without doubt an exciting development.  One which should be closely followed and should be considered at COP 28.  Nevertheless, if that is the way we decide to feed ourselves, many of us will miss the peaceful scene of sheep and cows roaming our beautiful green pastures, and the crowing of the cock at the crack of dawn.

Yet the real driver of the problems listed in the opening paragraph is surely that there are too many of us.  Too many exerting too great a demand, forcing extraction of more and more of the Planet’s finite resources.  Do biotechnologists have an answer to how best to limit that demand?

Recent Events

Water Rationing in West Somerset – How Soon?  “No Water Rationing for the Foreseeable Future.”  That was Julian Welbank’s answer to the question when he spoke to Quantock Eco on 25th November.  He described the problem Wessex Water faces as how to keep fresh water flowing for an ever-increasing population demanding more water while protecting and enhancing our water environment.

Julian Welbank, water consultant to the West Country Water Resources Group and Wessex Water, explored the delicate balance between our demand for water, the company’s responsibility to keep it clean and delivered to every home and protect it from the impact of climate change.

Wessex Water provides 275 million litres of water a day to 1.3 million customers across the South West of England, which is most of Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire.  In 1961 the average person used 85 litres a day.  Now thanks to many factors such as improved sanitation, most of us use around 140 litres a day to take a bath (80-110 litres) or shower (50 litres), drink water, tea or coffee, flush the toilet, wash our clothes, the dishes, the car and maybe the dog.

Source: Ofwat

For better viewing of these data please zoom in 200x

Our population is increasing rapidly.  There are 67 million people in the country, 30 million more than 100 years ago and 4 million more than in the last census.  We now use 14 billion litres of water a day on average.  To meet demand in England and Wales and reduce unsustainable abstractions we will need a staggering 17 -18 billion litres of water a day by 2050.  He stressed each of us needs to reduce our usage to 110 litres a day by then.

In Somerset the majority of our water comes from reservoirs like Clatworthy and Wimbleball.  In the Wessex Water region, the split is 25% surface water to 75% “groundwater” from aquifers, which provide a vast underground store of water.  Across the rest of England the opposite is true, with greater dependence on rivers and reservoirs.  Thames Water aware of possibly not being able to meet demand has built a desalination plant to service London when necessary.

Last year drought tested Wessex Water’s resilience as evaporation and high demand sucked the water out of our reservoirs.  Wimbleball was reduced to 23% capacity in October but is already back to 38% following recent rains.  Welbank predicted it will be back to normal by February 2023, even if it continues to be warmer and drier than usual.

He pointed to the excellent work water companies undertake in managing leaks from our pipes which are caused by a number of factors such as pressure surges, the effect of icy freezing weather, ground movement and water seeping away through joints.  Leakage currently ranges from about 75 to 150 l/property/day.  At the top end that is equivalent to having one extra person in every home in the UK.

Julian Welbank was asked whether it was possible for water to be on a national grid so that the South could benefit from excess water in the North.  He replied that this is just not feasible because it is too expensive to pump water up and over the multiple hills and ridges.  Each region is developing its own grid to make the best use of water locally. 

Ian Myers of the Environment Agency summarised Julian Welbank’s talk saying we cannot take water for granted anymore.  If climate change was a shark, its bite will be water – too much or too little. Wars are already being fought over water supply in other nations. 

Climate change has affected our use of water and our awareness of pollution from chemicals used by industry and farming.  If we want to continue to enjoy the benefits of fresh water we must safeguard it.  Most of the water we use is mixed with pollutants and turned into sewage. Each one of us needs to meet the challenge of finding ways to use water more sparingly.

In Case You Missed It:  King Charles on Nature & Climate Change –

From the QE Committee – have a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

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