A timely lecture delivered by a Chester scientist reveals that while global warming is accelerating people’s attitudes are changing also. BARRY ELLAMS reports
Polar ice caps continue to rapidly erode but an historic financial meltdown may prove an unheralded ally in the campaign to curb carbon pollution.
The credit crunch has ushered in an era of prudence and rationing and signals a softer tread in our carbon footprints as we cut down on energy consumption, travel and food.
Tightening of the belt is making house- holders more creative about saving money with the added feel-good factor of reducing carbon output.
Using loft insulation.
Energy-saving light bulbs.
Trains instead of planes and cars,
Growing vegetables in allotments.
An inaugural lecture delivered by The University of Chester’s RSK Professor of Environmental Sustainability Roy Alexander is a timely warning that scientific evidence that points to global warming is real and is happening and not going to go away.
Professor Alexander has conducted extensive research into lichens in the badlands of South East Spain – a desert-like environment made famous by Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns.
Lichens are sensitive indicators of environmental change and the badlands are regarded by scientists as natural laboratories in which to study erosion processes.
The lecture focused on the heatwave of Europe in 2003 which killed 30,000 people. The extreme summer temperatures of that year according to Prof Alexander will be par for the course by 2040 and even cool by 2080.
The economic cost of the 2003 heatwave was £7.5billion but The Stern Report published in 2006 months after Ashton Hayes pledged to become England’s first carbon neutral village forecasts apalling economic consequences if global warming is not tackled.
Professor Alexander has been a leading light in the Ashton Hayes “Going Carbon Neutral” project launched in the village school in January 2006.
A pub quiz with friend Garry Charnock, who co-ordinates the project, sparked what is two years later a world-renowned initiative, known to millions and courted by world leaders, pop stars, filmmakers and international campaigners.
The project has blazed a trail of informed and science-backed messages on global warming. Villagers have implemented a revolutionary carbon-saving programme with simple and fun measures such as recycling and tree planting.
An energy-saving microgrid and a wind turbine are some of the more recent projects to create “clean energy”.
The University of Chester under the supervision of Professor Alexander have conducted research into the village and have charted some dynamic science research into energy output and saving.
Researchers calculated total output for the village at 4,765.76 tonnes of CO2 per year. However villagers have cut down energy use and their bills by 20%.
Ashton Hayes has worked with more than 100 like-minded campaigns in the UK, there are according to figures more than 2,000 grassroots carbon neutral groups in Britain.
The Cheshire village group has also worked with campaigners in Castlemaine, Australia to Canada-based “Zerofootprint”.
Professor Alexander said: “In recent years there has been a recognition of the reality of climate change and the influence of human activity in causing it. This has led to a groundswell of grassroots action in which Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral project has been a pioneer.”
Challenges to the environment is now a daily political concern. Politicians have warmed to global warming since former US vice-president Al Gore appeared to cut a lonely protagonist in his eco-documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
In his election victory speech three days ago US president-elect Barack Obama pointedly mentioned the “planet in peril”.
Yesterday Joan Ruddock, Minister of Energy and Climate change visited a North West conference on climate change.
She said: “Tackling climate change is a huge challenge and requires each and every one of us to take action… every part of the country will have to play a part if we’re to succeed.”
The Government has pledged an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 which will require us to get “per capita curbing footprints down to one tonne.”
One of Prof Alexander’s graphs reveals that Chester at 6.84 tonnes of CO2 emissions per individual is below the national average of 8.7 tonnes.
If we are to meet Government limits by 2050 a quantum leap in effort and imagination is required.
The lecture concluded with Prof Alexander warning: “Reaching this target won’t be easy but it won’t be as difficult as coping with the consequences of doing nothing.”