In 2016, there was a record global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise and ocean heat, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. Extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017.
Before the flood, a Leonardo Di Caprio film about the climate crisis, was shown at Wiveliscombe Primary School on 6 April 2017 and with neighbouring groups in Taunton on 30 January 2017.
The powerful film features Di Caprio meeting world leaders and going on a journey to five continents and the Arctic to uncover the dramatic reality of climate change. The documentary also presents actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent the disruption of life on our planet, including to tax the use of carbon.
DiCaprio made the film before the 2016 American elections and urged voting for leaders who would fight climate change. Despite the outcome, a few slides were presented before the film in Wivey to show there were still reasons to be a bit cheerful.
After the film, actions to address climate change were discussed. The apparent lack of interest among the general public and difficulty in raising the subject were raised, as well as the lack of leadership from local and national politicians. It was noted that some have suggested we will only wake up sufficiently when more climate-caused disasters have occurred, but, by then, tackling the problem will be even harder.
It was observed that we should raise concerns about climate change whenever we can, especially with election candidates and our elected representatives. We need to make our feelings known and make some noise. It helps to be positive and it can make a difference if lots of us do a bit.
Local projects were agreed to be important and it was suggested these should aim for self-sufficiency. While agreed to be worthwhile, it was also questioned whether this would be enough given the scale of the problems and solutions needed.
The harm and risks that can be caused by very large scale projects were raised and from just using money to guide our decisions.
The importance of our lifestyles and consumption was powerfully raised in the film by Sunita Narain from the Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi. She pointed out that each American uses 34 times as much electricity as each Indian and it was America’s consumption and lack of leadership that was “really putting a hole in the planet”. Di Caprio agreed but did not think Americans would reduce their consumption and he looked to improved technology, such as the falling costs of solar and wind power and electricity storage as the solution. It’s a challenging dilemma on whether both reduced western consumption and improved technology are needed or if just the later could be sufficient.
A final thought was that education in our schools could help create a safer and better future.
At our November 2016 meeting, four local people shared their experience of using electric cars. It was fascinating and encouraging to hear how the technology has developed and continues to improve. All said electric cars were great fun, very economical and suited to local use while still allowing much longer trips.
The cars used were a Volvo V60 diesel hybrid, BMW i3 with a petrol-powered range extending generator and two all-electric Nissan Leafs. All were fun to drive, with better acceleration than conventional engines, no gears, just two foot pedals (brake and accelerator) and good dashboard displays.
Electric cars are clever. They have regenerative braking with the engines working in reverse while braking (or idling) to recharge the battery, which saves on brake pads and can lead to a different driving style to make good use of this feature.
They are so quiet that the Nissan Leafs emits a high-pitch whistle up to 19 mph to warn pedestrians.
Electric motors are also very efficient. They are far lighter and better than fossil fuel powered engines, which produce a lot of waste heat and are only about 30% efficient.
The cars can be charged at home and one of the Leaf owners initially charged theirs from a normal plug overnight, which fully charged the battery in 8 hours. The cars can be rapid charged from special power points in about 30 minutes.
Somerset is not yet well served by public electric charging points but there are some, including at Nissan dealerships, and Ecotricity provides them at motorway service stations. Their locations can be viewed on websites, mobile apps and some sat navs.
A 2014 Nissan leaf has a range of about 90 miles when fully charged, which has increased to 120-150 miles on new models. Some new electric cars have ranges of up to 250 miles and the best currently offers up to 380 miles.
The top of the range BMW had a 70 mile electric range and was able to get from Wivey to Bruton and back on electric power only during the summer, but in winter with lights and heating could only get to the other side of Taunton and then needed the range extending generator to make the same trip.
The hybrid Volvo V60 was a more complex car with a 30-mile electric range, allowing regular all-electric trips from Huish Champflower to Bridgwater where it could be charged at the owner’s workplace. On longer trips in hybrid mode it achieves an average of 80-90 mpg and switches automatically and almost imperceptively between diesel and electric power to optimise fuel economy.
Long journeys had been undertaken in the all-electric cars, such as to London, which required two charging stops each way.
The all-electric cars were found to be well-suited to local journeys around Wivey and within Somerset, as well as for trips to Exeter and Woolacombe. They could be used for longer journeys with planning to access on-route charging points. It was suggested that electric cars make a good second family car or that a hire car and the train could be used for occasional longer trips.
One Leaf owner had run out of power on a trip to the other side of Bristol where a planned late charging stop failed due to the facility being out of service. Nissan offer a recovery service for such situations and transported them to the nearest available charging point.
Boot space was reduced in the hybrid car but not in the all-electric Nissan Leaf which was reported to have a very spacious boot and was comfortably used for a family of five.
The Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe are two of the lowest cost electric cars available. A Nissan Leaf currently costs about £200 per month on a 3-year lease and one of the owners used only £130 of electricity to cover 4,000 miles (so costing just 3.25p per mile for fuel). It can be even cheaper by powering up on an off-peak tariff or from your own solar panels.
All-electric cars are exempt from vehicle tax and hybrids currently pay a lower rate. Maintenance needs and costs for electric cars are also low.
The Volvo hybrid had a high lease cost which has been more than offset by reduced car tax and fuel costs. It is very comfortable to drive and the battery has a 10-year guarantee.
Second-hand electric cars can offer excellent value, with a good Leaf or Zoe available for around £6,000.
All the owners greatly enjoyed driving their electric cars and would not swap back.
For further information see:
Go ultra low – joint government and industry website, which covers 100% electric cars, plug-in hybrids, extended-range electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Go ultra low: grants and savings – Government grants for electric cars and charging points in your driveway or garage or a chargepost on your street.
Zap Map (and apps) showing charging point locations, plus guides to cars and charging.
Next Green Car – buyers guide for green cars and helpful information on car tax, emissions and costs.
Fully Charged – a weekly + video series by Robert Llewellyn (star of Red Dwarf, Scrapheap Challenge and Carpool). It’s mainly about electric cars, including reviews, but also covers electric bikes, boats and planes and how we generate and can own the electricity to power these machines. It’s recommended viewing: fun and informative.
Test drive of a petrol car – a Tesla review to see how petrol compares to electric!
Wivey Action on Climate members visited a local wind turbine near Clatworthy on a misty morning on 30th October 2016.
The turbine was installed five years ago, but has had some operating and maintenance problems relating to wind flow from the steep valley below. It was generating during our visit and it was good to see the blades turning.
Most wind power comes from much larger turbines, but small installations, like roof-top solar, can still make a good contribution to local energy use.
In 2015, official statistics show renewable energy contributed 22-26% of the UK’s electricity (depending on calculation method) with onshore wind being the biggest contributor, followed by biomass (plant energy crops) and then offshore wind and solar.
Feed-in tariffs are still available for wind turbines and there are many turbine suppliers and installers, including:
In the Wiveliscombe area, there are at least four small wind turbines, but many siting constraints due to the landscape, grid capacity and potential interference with regional radar, including at Cobbacombe and Yeovilton.
Wivey Action on Climate showed our support for The Climate Coalition’s national week of action by gathering on 15th October 2016 in front of the 123 community-owned solar panels on the Paddocks Nursery and Children’s Centre.
The week of action has been supported throughout the country and calls for 100% clean energy within a generation.
Our event also celebrated the amount of renewable energy generated in Wiveliscombe, which now has 13,479 solar panels, mostly installed over the last five years. They are on 70 local roofs, including both schools, and at a small solar farm hidden away on the edge of town. Over the year, Wivey’s solar power generates the equivalent of nearly 60% of the domestic electricity used in the town.
We have also contacted Taunton Deane MP, Rebecca Pow, to ask her to support clean energy in parliament to help secure a sustainable future for our children and our planet.
Thanks very much to all members and supporters who were able to join us on the 15th and especially to Rupert Mardon for the photo with our banners.
The Climate Coalition have published an excellent and succinct guide to explain why 100% clean energy is desirable, possible and still within reach in the UK – click here to view or download.
The Sky’s Limit is a new study by Oil Change International which reveals the need to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure and industry expansion. It focuses on the potential carbon emissions from developed reserves – where the wells are already drilled, the pits dug, and the pipelines, processing facilities, railways, and export terminals constructed.
Key findings are:
- The potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond 2°C of warming.
- The reserves in currently operating oil and gas fields alone, even with no coal, would take the world beyond 1.5°C.
- With the necessary decline in production over the coming decades to meet climate goals, clean energy can be scaled up at a corresponding pace, expanding the total number of energy jobs.
- No new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure should be built, and governments should grant no new permits for them.
- Some fields and mines – primarily in rich countries – should be closed before fully exploiting their resources, and financial support should be provided for non-carbon development in poorer countries.
- This does not mean stopping the use of all fossil fuels overnight. Governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it.
We were very pleased to welcome Professor Tim Lenton to present an illustrated talk on protecting our future from climate change on 18th July 2016 at Kingsmead School. There was a good turnout with an audience of just under 100.
Tim Lenton is Professor of Earth System Science and Climate Change at the University of Exeter. His talk covered the 2015 United Nations Summit, tipping points and the urgent need for more action to reduce climate change.
Click on the following links to download Tim’s excellent presentation:
- Selected slides with explanatory notes (42 slides, 6.2 MB, PDF)
- Full set of slides (58 slides, 6.1 MB, PDF)
Tim has a great depth of knowledge on climate change, which he frankly shared, giving us much to think about.
Conclusions of his presentation were:
- There is a cap of future (cumulative) emissions to meet any climate target.
- Current emissions leads to 2°C increase in the global average temperature within the next 20-30 years (likely).
- Current declared contributions from the world’s countries are not sufficient to keep within the 2°C target …
… unless massive carbon dioxide removal is implement later (overshoot).
- If business-as-usual continues then climate tipping points are expected to become high impact high probability events.
- Early warning methods exist for tipping points and have been successfully tested against past climate data and models, but will require advances in past climate reconstruction as well as contemporary climate monitoring.
- A climate tipping point early warning system could reduce the risk they pose by helping us adapt in advance if not avoid them.
- The threat of multiple, interacting, uncertain climate tipping points should be triggering strong mitigation activity now to reduce their likelihood.
- The optimal policy response from a standard cost-benefit model with a realistic specification of risk aversion is a carbon price today of >$500 per tonne of carbon.
Pricing the carbon content of fossil fuels would encourage changes in economic behaviour. It would create a financial incentive to reduce our use of fossil fuels and use alternatives instead, such as renewable energy. Tim also said some future carbon capture and storage would be needed (suggesting the use of bioenergy from crops and wastes) and that it would help to source and use food more efficiently, including by reducing meat consumption.
This meeting was jointly promoted by Transition Athelney, Transition Minehead & Alcombe, Quantock Eco, Somerset Energy and Environment Network, Sustainable Villages Initiative, Taunton Transition Town, Forum 21, Transition Town Wellington and Wivey Action on Climate.
On World Meteorological Day (23/3/2016), the World Meteorological Organisation published a website on what is happening to our world:
“Our climate is changing. This is not just a future scenario. It is happening now. The climate will continue to change over the coming decades as more and more heat-trapping greenhouse gases emitted by human activities accumulate in the atmosphere.
“Each of the past several decades has been significantly warmer than the previous one. The period 2011–2015 was the hottest on record, and the year 2015 – with an extra boost from a powerful El Niño – was the hottest since modern observations began in the late 1800s.
“But rising temperatures tell only part of the story. Climate change is disrupting the natural pattern of the seasons, and it is increasing the frequency and intensity of certain extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and heavy rainfall. These ongoing changes provide a foretaste of a hotter, drier, wetter future.”
Click on links above for a 2015 summary and future problems.
The United Nations Climate Change Summit in Paris, held from 30 Nov – 12 Dec 2015, has reached a new universal agreement to tackle climate change. This is great news but there will still be much to do to put it into action and to ensure what has been agreed is enough. The sooner we stop using dirty fossil fuels and the quicker we switch to clean renewables the better.
The new agreement aims to limit global warming to “well below 2°C” and to aim for no more than 1.5°C. Already the increase is 1°C and current plans, at best, will limit the rise to 2.7°C. So the agreement includes a pathway for continued review, which will require ever more demanding action over coming decades.
Backed by 196 countries, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal world membership and aims “to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system”.
For reports on the final agreement see:
BBC – Global climate deal: In summary
UN – Historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change
350 – The Paris climate agreement
Kevin Anderson – 10/10 for presentation; 4/10 for content.
Michael Jacobs – Agreement is highly ambitious and very clever
New research shows that governments in the G20 group of the world’s major economies are subsidising production of fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal), when much of it cannot be used if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.
The Empty Promises report from the Overseas Development Institute details the scale and structure of fossil fuel subsidies in the G20 countries. The evidence points to a publicly financed bailout for some of the world’s largest, most carbon-intensive and polluting companies.
G20 countries are creating a ‘lose-lose’ scenario by directing large volumes of finance into high-carbon assets that cannot be exploited without catastrophic climate effects. This diverts investment from economic low-carbon alternatives such as solar, wind and hydro-power. The scale of G20 fossil fuel production subsidies calls into question the commitment of governments to an ambitious deal on climate change.
ODI report that: “The UK stands out as a major industrialised economy that has dramatically increased its support to fossil fuels in recent years. While other nations have responded to the drop in energy prices by reducing fossil fuel consumer subsidies, the UK has reduced taxes on fossil fuel production, increasing subsidies to fossil fuel producers. Many of the changes to the UK’s tax regime for oil and gas are recent and will not come into effect until 2015 or later.“