Tuesday, 24 July 2007

African organic farms under threat

Starting Monday 23rd July, the Soil Association (SA) is debating the merits of banning the certification of African organic produce due to the CO2 emissions created by the aircraft that fly the produce to our stores. The SA is hearing views on the issue until September, when it will act to impose either a limited or total ban. There is pressure from UK farmers to impose the ban. If the SA imposes a ban on the labelling of African organic produce as organic, it will effectively destroy the livelihood of millions of people across Africa. There are a number of reasons why such a move would be immoral, and would do little to protect the environment.

The farmers in Africa that have worked for years to get organic certification create on average 30 times less CO2 than UK citizens (World Bank figures). They see the West as the main contributors to climate change, yet they are the ones being punished for it. London's Cranfield University in a recent study calculated that roses grown in Kenya saved more CO2 than if the flowers were grown in Holland. This is because of the greater use of renewable energy sources in Kenya compared to the high energy consumption in Holland. Even factoring in the CO2 from the air transport, the African produce has still created less CO2 emissions than the European produce.

Airlines attacked by MP’s

British airlines have been criticised by MP’s for not doing enough about carbon offsetting. Whenever I see politicians accusing others of ‘not doing enough’ about climate change the phrase about ‘pot, kettle and black’ pops into my head for some reason. Aircraft produce greenhouse gases, and until the engines that power the aircraft are developed sufficiently to produce less greenhouse gas emissions, there is not much the airlines can do about it. Carbon offsetting is both unproven and unreliable in reducing CO2 emissions. The government pushing the airlines to promote carbon offsetting will not necessarily reduce climate change. This just looks like another token effort to give the appearance of effective action.

The aviation industry is a contributor to climate change because people want the convenience of flying to any destination whenever they want to. We as a society and as individuals have to decide if we value our planet more than our way of life. The two are simply incompatible at the moment. The way we are choosing to live is damaging the planet, and the more our population grows, the more damage we do. It all comes down to how much we are prepared to change to save our future.

[Via The Telegraph]

Europe’s greenest city is in Sweden

The Swedish city of Växjö has been awarded the European Union’s award for sustainable development. Växjö is very likely the greenest city in Europe, with a level of 3.5 tonnes of carbon emissions per person, it is the lowest of any urban area in Europe. The average in Sweden is around 5 tonnes, and in the USA it is 20 tonnes. This puts into perspective how environmentally friendly Sweden is generally. The city decided ten years ago to become a fossil fuel free city and set itself a target date of 2050 to achieve this. Their electricity power plant runs on biomass, using woodchip and other wood waste from the local sawmills. The plant not only provides electricity, but the hot waste gas is condensed and purified then pumped around the town to supply water boilers and room heaters.

This is an incredibly efficient use of the local resources and shows the kind of joined up thinking that is needed to get the most out of our limited resources. The next step for the council is to get the local people to change from petrol powered cars to more environmentally friendly cars. I have no doubt the good people of Växjö will go even further in reducing their impact on the environment. Växjö is certainly leading the way to a greener way of living.

[Via The Independent]

The increase in rainfall is due to human activity

A new paper published in the journal Nature today has concluded that human activity is causing the global shifts in rainfall patterns and contributing to both the wetter weather and hot dry weather we are experiencing. This is something most people felt was true anyway, but this is the first important study to show the direct link between human activity and increased rainfall. The research was carried out by the Hadley Centre of the UK Met Office in conjunction with a number of national climate research institutes. The study looked at weather records from around the world going back to 1925 and used 10 computer models to predict the weather changes. The only models that could explain the recorded change in rainfall were the ones that factored in human induced climate change.

So there you have it, evidence that we have altered the planet’s weather systems and made our own lives more difficult. The worrying thing is there may be worse to come. Hopefully the government will take the flooding seriously enough to spend the money to improve flood defences and set up a flood response unit that can quickly send assistance to the affected areas.

[Via The Guardian]