Category Archives: Meeting

Talks on local climate change – 7:30pm, 21 Nov

All are welcome to attend our next meeting on Tuesday, 21st November, in the hall at Wiveliscombe Primary School, North Street. £2 entry on door.

This will look at the signs and effects of climate change in the Wiveliscombe area, with two illustrated presentations. Gareth Varney, who works for the Environment Agency, and is an expert on measuring the water cycle, will look at changes in local rainfall, groundwater and river flows. Simon Ratsey, who has been recording local weather, including rainfall and temperatures, since the 1960s, will look at local indicators so far of climate change. Whether changes can be attributed to climate change or other factors, such as land use, will be considered.

The meeting will close by 9pm, with time for questions and discussion.

We will be holding a short Annual General Meeting before the talks from 7pm. New members and guests are welcome to attend the AGM too or to attend the talks only from 7:30pm.

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Plastics pollution film

On 19 September 2017, about 30 people attended a showing at the primary school hall of A Plastic Ocean. This is a documentary adventure film looking at the global effects of plastics pollution and the technology and policy solutions that can, if implemented in time, change things for the better.

The showing of this film reflects thought being given to widen our group’s remit, which will be considered at our AGM in November.

A Plastic Ocean (trailer on YouTube) showed the horrible problems being caused by plastic pollution throughout the world, which is killing wildlife and threatening our health.

Additional slides (click to view) were shown and discussed on the sources of plastics pollution and actions being taken to help prevent it. The slides included:

  • A landfill site near Bridgwater, which is typical of landfill operations in the UK and most European countries, which are well managed and regulated. The site has been lined with a membrane and clay and will be capped and covered when it is eventually full. Tipped waste is covered at the end of each day with inert material. Leachate (water from site) is treated and about half the gas produced is captured.
  • Studies of mis-managed plastics waste have found that over 60% entering the world’s oceans comes from five Asian countries, including China and Indonesia.
  • An action plan from Green Alliance for the UK suggests that the most effective measure would be a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles. The plan also calls for enforcement of bans on maritime waste and to stop pellet pollution from industry, treatment of waste water to catch synthetic fibres from washing clothes and a ban on microbeads in all products.
  • Previous proposals to extract plastics from giant circulations in major ocean gyres are now realised to not be feasible, as the waste breaks down into small fragments and falls to the sea floor. It is more important to prevent the continuing flow of plastics waste into our seas.
  • Plastic bank is an interesting solution to provide value for recycling plastic waste in developing countries to help stop it being thrown away.
  • WasteAid UK shares waste management and recycling skills, and aims to make lasting changes to keep communities healthy and plastic out of the oceans.
  • In the UK, charges for carrier bags have reduced use by over 80%, starting with Wales in 2011 and, eventually, England in 2015. In July 2017, Michael Gove announced there would be a ban for some microbeads in cosmetics within a year. In September 2017, the Scottish Government announced a deposit return scheme for beverage containers within a year.
  • Bristol-based consultancy, Eunomia have suggested some plastics pollution can more easily be cleaned up on beaches before it is broken into smaller pieces.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management – Addicted to plastic: Microplastic pollution and prevention (reports that more than half of microplastic losses remain on land and in soils, and calls for a new plastics’ strategy)

UK Government Office for Science – Future of the Sea: Evidence Review on Plastic Pollution (reports plastic pollution can harm wildlife, human well-being and the economy; and concludes plastic waste generated by society needs to be reduced)

European Commission – Plastic pollution (action and preparing a strategy to improve recycling, cut marine litter, and remove potentially dangerous chemicals)

The switch to renewables

Chris Goodall gave an excellent presentation on 26 June 2017* covering the subject of his latest book The Switch. He explained why a rapid transition to renewable energy is affordable and technically feasible, especially for solar power and storage. Click here to view notes and some slides from the meeting.

* Joint meeting at Taunton Quaker Meeting House by Transition Athelney, Forum 21, Taunton Transition Town, Transition Town Wellington and Wivey Action on Climate.

Fracking meeting report

We held a well attended film show on fracking, followed by a panel discussion, on 6 June 2017 at Wiveliscombe Primary School.

‘The truth behind the dash for gas’ (available on You Tube) showed views on previous proposals for exploration drilling in the Mendips and the reality of widespread drilling in Australia. The film highlighted the risks to our countryside from drilling operations and to our health from chemicals used in fracking fluid and from leaking gases.

For the panel discussion, we were pleased to be joined by Dr Julie Richardson, a local geologist and specialist in fracking issues, and Kevin Ogilvie-White, a local campaigner and founder of Frack Free EQS (Exmoor-Quantocks-Sedgemoor).

It was acknowledged the film was a little dated and some thought it may be sensationalist and scientifically questionable in parts.

Julie believed gas sources in Somerset were not deep enough for fracking and small, so were unlikely to be viable to develop. Kevin agreed they may be smaller than in other parts of the country, but we should still not allow test drilling and should show our support for the national campaign to stop fracking anywhere.

Discussion showed there was much concern about the damage and risks of fracking. It was thought regulation may be better in the UK, but the Conservatives have proposed permitting small-scale operations and, with public sector funding cuts, there were doubts whether regulation agencies would be sufficiently resourced.

It was questioned why more fossil fuel supplies were even being sought, when it is known that we need to move away from energy sources that add to carbon emissions in our atmosphere. Policy should prioritise energy saving, including through home insulation, and replacing all fossil fuels used for electricity, heating and transport as quickly as possible. Already some biogas was obtained from anaerobic digestion of food waste and specially grown crops, which should create a cycle by first absorbing carbon (during growing) and then releasing it when the biogas was used. Switching to the use of clean renewable power was essential and the Zero Carbon Britain research also proposed using crops to create both biogas and biofuel to substitute for gas and oil where still needed.

Some thought more nuclear power was needed, although it was noted this has risks too and renewable energy has been developed much more quickly, with costs that are lower and continuing to fall.

Report on 2017 general election hustings in Wiveliscombe

Four general election candidates for Taunton Deane attended the hustings organised by Wivey Action on Climate on 30 May 2017 at Kingsmead School.

Click here for a report on highlights from the hustings.

The 2017 result (with last time in 2015 shown in brackets) was:

Rebecca Pow (Conservative Party) – 33,333 (27,849)
Gideon Amos (Liberal Democrat) – 17,446 (12,358)
Martin Jevon (Labour Party) – 9,689 (5,347)
Alan Dimmic (UK Independence Party) – 1,434 (6,921)
Clive Martin (Green Party) – 1,151 (2,630)
Mike Rigby (Independent) – 2015 only (2,568)
Stephen German (Trade Unionist & Socialist) – 2015 only (118)
Bruce Gauld (Independent) – 2015 only (96)

Leonardo Di Caprio climate crisis film

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.

Wivey cars go electric

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.

car-charging

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!

Report on talk by climate expert in Wiveliscombe

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:

CONCLUSIONS

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.

JOINT MEETING

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.

Climate tipping points

This changes everything

This new film, inspired by Naomi Klein’s bestselling book, was shown on 23rd November at Wiveliscombe Primary School hall.

About 70 people from Wivey and neighbouring areas experienced the powerful film, which presented seven portraits of communities on the front line of climate change, interwoven with Klein’s narration.

The film showed how those most affected by climate change and fossil fuels were rising up to demand better alternatives. These included challenges to vast tar sands excavations in Canada, a broken oil pipeline in America, mining opposed by the anti-austerity movement in Greece, a coal plant threatening wetland and livelihoods in India and smog-polluted cities in China contrasting with growing clean solar and wind power.

Cake and chat were enjoyed before the show and afterwards there was a thoughtful facilitated discussion exploring causes and solutions to climate change. These ranged from population growth to consumerism and from developing a love for nature to changing our economic system.

It was an inspiring evening leaving all with plenty to think about.

Tidal power talk

An open meeting on power from tidal lagoons, with illustrated presentation by Steve Mewes, Consultation Manager at Tidal Lagoon Power, was held 28th September 2015 at Wiveliscombe Primary School Hall.

Rather than the barrage previously proposed to go across the Severn estuary, Tidal Lagoon Power instead plan a lagoon able to generate renewable power around Swansea Bay. They also propose further tidal lagoon schemes for Cardiff, Newport, West Cumbria, Colwyn Bay and Bridgwater Bay. Together these schemes could meet 8% of UK electricity demand.

Swansea Bay Lagoon Aerial

Steve gave a very informative talk to an audience of more than 30, which addressed the potential of tidal power lagoons as well as the challenges and the work being done to address these in the best way. For further information see: Tidal Lagoon Power