Flooding – and weather weirding?

On Sunday night there were 500 flood risk warnings across the UK. Over 800 homes had been flooded – and areas like Exeter were like a war-zone. 2″ of rain fell in a 12 hour period in some parts of the south.

Flooding is one of those natural disasters which can hit quickly and is simply unstoppable. The force and volume of water is one of the most powerful, natural forces on the planet. The real damage is done no so much by the water falling, but rather the fact that the drains don’t work – in fact they work backwards – waste comes back…

The question on everyone’s lips is – are these freak weather storms caused by global warming? The reality is that we don’t know – it is difficult to make a snap decision – although this doesn’t usually stop the newspapers.

There is a new phrase – which is probably more accurate – ‘global weirding‘. In other words we are being subjected to weird changes in the weather.

The UK had drought like conditions in the early part of 2012 – but by the time I headed out to the Isle of Wight in June – it didn’t look like a drought!

There is some melting of the sea ice at both the north and south poles – which can then impact on the gulf stream. The movement of ice means a change in the physical state of water (obviously) – but this just means we get the stuff shifted around. The jest stream moving around also means a change in temperature – we are more likely to see this in increasing frequency.

So whilst we are subject to this weirding – you have to feel sorry for those who have their homes flooded.

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Climategate part 2

A couple of weeks ago the BBC published a story under the heading of ‘Global warming confirmed by independent study’ – you can read it here. The results were from the Berkeley Earth Project.

Predictions or guesses?

I couldn’t help but notice at the time that the story contained a line suggesting that the ‘report’ was still subject to peer review. So, at the moment, it is really a draft.

I don’t really doubt that man is causing problems on the planet – after all we are using up lots of resources and expending nasty CO2 gases. We need to treat the planet a bit better. My biggest beef is the lack of a coherent and accurate picture. We are basing Policy on some of the assumptions from studies like this.

To make matters worse, in the Mail on Sunday at the weekend a bit more of the story came to life. Professor Richard Muller from Berkeley said that “there was little room for doubt” that the earth was continuing to warm – along the lines of the trajectory from 1950. But then, one of his co-Authors, Professor Judith Curry, has said that this “is not remotely the case”. Her suggestion is that global warming has been flat for a decade.

It is cause for concern that the planet has grown warmer by around 1 degree since 1950, but if the temperature has more or less remained constant for 10 years – would we not be better admitting that, and concentrating on working out why?

The headlines are not helpful – and you have to question the credibility of the figures. In the words of the legal profession, we need the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And, as I was taught many years ago – about report writing – “if in doubt, leave it out”.

The green agenda – tread lightly?

We seem to be bombarded with sticks and carrots in the property industry. We are told that almost half of the UK’s carbon emissions come from buildings. So it is my industry that can make a difference.

Is this a picture of global warming? It didn't feel like it....

The Government are trying to impose rules on the Industry for new buildings – especially in the housing sector where Zero Carbon is a target for 2016 for anything newly built. In the commercial sector we are required to provide Energy Performance Certificates for sales and lettings. It has been suggested that by 2018 it will be illegal to let commercial properties with an “F” or “G” rating.

On the other hand we have the feed-in tariff for those with solar panels – a technology that allows you to sell your excess electricity back to the grid.

Putting to one side the questions over the validity of the arguments about the damage we are (allegedly) doing to the planet, the messages we get and guidelines we have to operate by can be confusing to say the least. The lack of clarity does nothing to help us make choices.

But, if you take a step back – it probably isn’t a bad thing that we should reduce our footprint. Not just on the resources we are consuming but generally on the planet. The resources are scarce and the real test is when we see prices of gas and electricity increase – last weeks suggestion of 18/20% increases this winter will start to hurt.

So perhaps the message needs to be a little more realistic. Rather than zero carbon, perhaps we should try to ‘tread lightly’. To think about what we do. But at the same time acknowledge that in some situations we can do little to get to zero carbon. In my business we spend our lives driving to property – it isn’t practical to use public transport. We do where we can (commuting to London as an example).

Tread lightly – I like that. Now I need to lose some (more) weight….

Growing Old Disgracefully…lots of us!

I think this is the maxim for later life. And according to some new statistics 2 million people who are now 50 will reach the age of 100.

Thats a lot of people behaving badly!

Coupled with this is that sometime during 2011 the population of the world is expected to hit 7 billion people. In context the population in 1960 was 3 billion. By 2045, on current estimates, there will be 9 billion people sharing the planet.

So, were getting older and there’s going to be an awful lot more of us.

The question that is exercising some people is can the the human population be sustained on the planet?

I think that the answer is a guarded yes.

But the way in which we live and consume will need to change. If we are going to live to 100, we are unlikely to be able to make sufficient money in our (short) working lives to live on for a 35 year retirement (Assuming we get jobs aged 24/5 and retire at 65). 40 years of work to pay for 35 years of retirement doesn’t add up.

It’s no wonder the Government have scrapped the ‘default retirement age’.

We aren’t going to be able to consume in the same way either – particularly in our use of fossil fuels. We will need to kerb our carbon emissions to avoid mass global warming. Our insatiable appetite for consumer goods will challenge our natural resources.

But the reason I don’t see armageddon is that we have been pretty good at adapting – that’s what we humans do best. The population of the world in 1930 was 2 billion and scholarly folk at that time were concerned about population growth.

But the key word is adaptation – we need to radically think about our impact on the world we live in. Unfortunately we need to do this soon – as this stuff is all likely to happen in our lifetimes…

Green Rubbish?

I previously blogged about the change in behaviour we probably need to make to save the planet.

But I spoke to someone today who told me I needed to read a new book – called Six Degrees – by Mark Lynas. I googled him and guess what – we are all doomed!

In essence this is what he says:

In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a landmark report projecting average global surface temperatures to rise between 1.4 degrees and 5.8 degrees Celsius (roughly 2 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. Based on this forecast Mark outlines what to expect from a warming world, degree by degree. At 1 degree Celsius, most coral reefs and many mountain glaciers will be lost. A 3-degree rise would spell the collapse of the Amazon rainforest, disappearance of Greenland’s ice sheet, and the creation of deserts across the Midwestern United States and southern Africa. A 6-degree increase would eliminate most life on Earth, including much of humanity.

Zero Carbon House Malmo Sweden

This sounds like very bad news. Especially at Gas Mark 6.

And then some great news – in bucketfuls.

Firstly, it seems that Dogs and Cats are contributing to global warming. According to New Zealand-based authors Robert and Brenda Vale the amount of land needed to grow food for pets ranging from budgerigars to cats and dogs is the issue. They say an average Collie eats 164kg of meat and 95kg of cereals a year, giving it a high impact on the planet

A medium-sized dog has the same impact as a Toyota Land Cruiser driven 6,000 miles a year, while a cat is equivalent to a Volkswagen Golf.

Wow.

And then the news got even more ‘interesting’.

Lord Stern told The Telegraph that “meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”

So the answer is that all pets need to go and we need to eat salad?

I think I will stick to trying to build greener buildings and getting folks to turn the lights off. These sort of reports really do nothing for the ‘green’ cause.