Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2 – Greenhouse Gas)

CO2_Emissions_IPCC_1024_SkepSci

co2_data_mauna_loa_1960-2015

Temperatures Rising (Greenhouse Effect)

NOAA_global-temp-and-co2-1880-2009

Pic_Heatwave Sun

Pic_African Womwn in Dry Landscape

Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets Melting (Rising Global Temperatures)

greenland-antarctica_combo-4

greenland_antarctic_Ice Loss_acs 2002 2009

Melting-Polar-Ice-Bear-700x525

Sea Level Rise (Melting Ice Sheets and Thermal Expansion)

CSIRO-92-13-sea-level-rise

katrina-damage-hi

Marshall Islands and Kiribati Sea Level

Pic_Venice Sinking

Scotland: Low Carbon Transportation

titles_green transportation_4

Written for the Coursera (MOOC) Class – Turn Down the Heat, Why a 4oC Warmer World Must be Avoided‘ by the World Bank Group (May 2015).

1.0  Energy and Transportation

As part of the European Union, Scotland (UK Devolved Government) has agreed to a set of ambitious targets to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions in line with UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol and extended targets.

Scotland has significantly increased Renewable Energy capacity in the past decade, mainly through Wind Energy expansion.  Marine Energy (Tidal Stream and Wave) projects are being developed at the European Marine Energy Centre on the Orkney Islands, adjacent to the Pentland Firth.

Substituting energy supply at fixed locations such as homes and factories away from fossil fuel sources is progressing well.  However, the problem of displacing transport fossil fuel consumption is more challenging.

Liquid fuels such as petrol (gasoline) and diesel are well suited to powering vehicles, since they are a highly concentrated and portable form of energy.  We are heavily reliant on petroleum fuels for personal and public transportation as well as for freight.

Transforming the transport system away from fossil fuel reliance is the most difficult element in Scotland’s transition to a sustainable low-carbon society.

2.0  Scotland Energy Statistics

Scotland’s energy consumption has reduced over the past decade, due to energy efficiency measures and the global economic downturn.

CHART_Scot_Total Final Energy Cons by SECTOR 2005-2012

All sectors, Domestic (Residential), Industry (and Commerce) and Transport, have reduced energy consumption. [2.1]

CHART_Scot_Total Final Energy Cons 2005-2012

Petroleum is the single largest final energy fuel consumed.  Gas consumption remains lower, even when this ‘final energy’ quantity is added to the quantity of gas used in electricity generation.  Gas as a direct ‘final energy’ is used in direct heating of buildings and in non-generation industrial processes. [2.1]

CHART_Scot_Electricity Gen and Cons 2004-2013

Electricity generation in Scotland has increased with exported power, with consumption falling. [2.2]

CHART_Scot_Electricity Gen and Cons by FUEL 2004-2013

Fossil fuel (Coal and Gas) generation has fallen.  Nuclear generation is stable in recent years.  Renewable electricity has increased dramatically. [2.2]

CHART_Scot_Renew Energy Production 2004-2013

Scotland has a tradition of small scale hydro electricity production which varies with rainfall.  Wind energy has seen a dramatic (1300%) increase between 2004 and 2013, and now accounts for 34% of consumption. [2.3]

This expansion is still progressing with 7.2 GW installed and a further 12.6 GW in planning or construction. [2.4]   Over the next few years, renewable energy could account for 90% of electricity consumption.

CHART_Scot Renew Cap PLANNING 2014

3.0  Scotland CO2 Emissions

CHART_Scot_CO2 Emissions inc Imports 1998-2012

The dominant greenhouse gas CO2 is measured both from direct emissions in Scotland’s production (for local consumption) and embedded CO2 from imported goods. [3.1]

CHART_Scot_CO2 Emissions Transport 1990-2012

Although the overall trend in CO2 emissions is falling (some due to economic downturn), transportation emissions are fairly static.  [3.1]

CHART_LINE_Scot_CO2 Emissions Transport 1990-2011

The vast majority of transport sector emissions are from road travel. [3.2]

CHART_LINE_Scot_CO2 Emissions Road Transport 1990-2011

Passenger cars (combined with light-duty vehicles) account for the vast majority of emissions, and are representative of single occupancy mode journeys.  This is the most inefficient form of transportation. [3.3]

PIE_Scot Transp CO2 2011

4.0  Road Transport Fleet

CHART_Scot_Road Vehicles 1993-2013

The size of the Scottish road vehicle fleet has steadily increased from the early 1990’s, with a flattening-off from 2008. [4.1]

PIE_Scot Road Fleet 2013

The vast majority of road vehicles in Scotland are cars and small vans (private and light goods).

CHART_Scot_Petroleum Cons SECTOR 2005-2012

Approximately 58% of petroleum is consumed by road transportation and only 1% by the rail network in Scotland. [2.1]

5.0  Transport Scotland (Scottish Government)  

The Scottish government transport department is investing time consulting with the community and transportation stakeholders to find a solution in decarbonising the transport network.

The biggest transportation source of CO2 emissions is the petroleum fuelled road network.

The vision of the future for a low-carbon road system is set out in ‘Switched On Scotland: A Roadmap to Widespread Adoption of Plug-in Vehicles’. [5.1]

Since cities are the source of 80% of worldwide GHG emissions, with high population densities, it makes sense to tackle air pollution from city vehicles as a priority. [5.1]

Electrified mass transit systems such as trams, light railways, underground rail, and electric busses are economically feasible in urban areas.  Edinburgh (capital city) opened a new tram network in 2014. [5.2]

Plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from road vehicles by 2050:

  • Milestone Target: 50% zero-emission vehicles by 2030
  • Milestone Target: 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2050

CHART_Uptake of EVs 2050

A report by the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) set out UK targets for electric vehicle uptake in 2013. [5.3]

TABLE_RAC Uptake EVs

Barriers to creation of Electric Vehicle Network:

  • High cost of Electric Vehicles (relative to conventional)
  • Limited EV Range
  • Availability of Recharge Infrastructure
  • Battery Life
  • Battery Disposal
  • Increased Electricity Demand

Currently there is a UK Government scheme in place to offset the high cost of new EVs.  This plug-in car grant scheme offers 25% (£5,000 max) for cars, and 20% (£8,000 max) vans. [5.3]

As EV sales develop and the technology matures, prices should fall to the level of conventional vehicles.

Similarly, recharge point infrastructure is expected to grow with vehicle sales.  Government support is helping roll out facilities to support early adopters.

Battery range and life are being developed to improve both aspects, with year on year improvements in the technology.  The materials contained in the battery can be recycled at the end of life. [5.4]

Switching cars from petroleum to electric power will put extra demands on the electricity network.  However, with expansion of renewable energy and grid storage, there should be sufficient capacity.

Since most of the battery charging will take place through the night, this will level out demand, reducing the need for energy storage capacity.  In some scenarios with smart grids, the network of plugged-in vehicles can act as a storage buffer for a limited portion of charge. [5.5]

Although the Scottish government is opposed to replacing the two current nuclear power stations in Scotland, as they are decommissioned in the next decade, this option may be revisited if electric grid generation capacity is too low. [5.6]

6.0  Future Low-Carbon Society

If the petroleum road vehicle network can be replaced satisfactorily by electric vehicles on an expanded grid, I am confident that the other carbon intensive elements of our economy can be neutralised.

Developments on all energy fronts over the next few decades will determine whether we can as a global community avert the worst effects of global warming and avoid dangerous levels of  climate change.

Let’s stay well below 4oC and keep the Heat Turned Down.

References: 

[2.1] UK Gov, Sub-national total final energy consumption statistics: 2005 – 2012 

[2.2] UK Gov, Electricity generation and supply figures for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, 2004 to 2013 

[2.3] Scot Gov, Energy in Scotland Fact Sheet 2015 

[2.4] Scot Gov, Energy Statistics for Scotland March 2015, Scottish Government 

[3.1] Scot Gov, Scotland’s Carbon Footprint 1998-2012. Data Tables and Charts [XLSX, 3796.0 kb: 13 Apr 2015]

[3.2] Scot Gov, Scotland’s Carbon Footprint 1998 – 2012, Scottish Government 

[3.3] UK Gov, Greenhouse Gas Inventories Eng Scot Wales N Ire 1990 – 2012 

[4.1] Scot Gov, Transport Scotland, Scottish Transport Statistics No 31: 2012 Edition 

[5.1] Scot Gov, Transport Scotland, Switched On Scotland: A Roadmap to Widespread Adoption of Plug-in Vehicles 

[5.2] Edinburgh City, The Tram Project 

[5.3] Royal Automobile Club, Powering Ahead – The Future of Low-Carbon Cars and Fuels 

[5.4] Scientific American, When an Electric Car Dies, What Will Happen to the Battery?  

[5.5] SmartGrid.Gov, Enabling a Charging Infrastructure for PEVs 

[5.6] The Guardian, Scottish government signals end to nuclear power opposition

Oil and Gas Exploitation in the Arctic

titles_aquaculture oceans_4

Written for Coursera (MOOC) Class ‘Ocean Solutions‘ by University of Western Australia (June 2014)

Ownership of the Arctic region has been disputed over the past century.  Discovery of Oil and Gas resources in the Arctic and improved accessibility in recent years has heightened the stakes.

  • The Arctic constitutes 5% of the earth’s surface area [1]
  • It is estimated that the Arctic Region holds the largest virgin oil and gas fields in the world [2].
  • Global warming and retreating ice is making the region more accessible [2].
  • Five countries border the region: Russia, USA, Canada, Norway and Denmark (Greenland).
  • United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UCLOS) states that each country has rights to a 200 nautical mile (370 km) area beyond the coast in the ‘Exclusive Economic Zones’
  • Most of the Arctic lies in International waters.

MAP_Arctic Oil

The US Geological Survey published estimates of Arctic Oil and Gas inventories in 2008 [4].

  • 90 billion barrels of oil.
  • 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
  • 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.
  • 84 percent of resources in offshore areas.

Ownership of the oceans and ocean floor is governed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UCLOS) [5].

This international law sets out a 200 mile ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’, extending from the coastline.  Within this area of sea, a nation has rights for exploiting and managing all materials (living and non-living) in the water and below the sea bed [6].

A sub-group of UNCLOS contains the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), which allows for a nation to extend sovereignty beyond the limits of the EEZ if the CLCS verifies that a country’s continental shelf extends further [3].

In order that a claim to extend the EEZ can be made, a country must ratify UCLOS.  As of 2014, all Arctic nations have ratified UCLOS except USA.

Currently, there is no clear ownership of the Arctic beyond the EEZ limits of bordering nations.  The Arctic Council (established 1996) is an exclusive body which seeks to resolve issues between member states, and commissioning joint research in the Arctic environment.

There is great interest in exploiting the fossil fuel mineral wealth in the Arctic, and ownership of the mineral rights would lead to lucrative deals.

There are grave concerns for the Arctic environment, as oil pollution from accidents such as the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, would be devastating to the pristine Arctic [7].

Cleaning-up spills in the Arctic would be much more difficult, due to the icy water and remoteness from response facilities [8].

I believe that no exploitation of Oil and Gas in the Arctic, beyond currently recognised EEZs should be allowed, until a robust framework for environmental protection and sharing of resources is agreed.

The stewardship of the international waters of the Arctic should be the responsibility of the United Nations (UCLOS) with a leading role for the Arctic Council.

References: 

[1] ‘The New North’, Nature vol 478, 13 October 2011

[2] ‘Redrawing the Arctic Map’, Nature vol 478, 12 Oct 2011

[3] ‘Evolution of Arctic Territorial Claims and Agreements: A Timeline (1903-Present)’, Stimson

[4] USGS, ‘Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal: Estimates of Undiscovered Oil and Gas North of the Arctic Circle

[5] United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UCLOS),

[6] Ocean Solutions: Lecture Materials, 9.0 Governance 9.2.1 Current International Law

[7] The Guardian, ‘Deepwater Horizon and the Gulf oil spill – the key questions answered’, 20 April 2011

[8] WWF Global, ‘Arctic Oil & Gas

Pentland Firth Tidal Energy

titles_aquaculture oceans_4

titles_energy production_4

Written for Coursera (MOOC) Class ‘Ocean Solutions‘ by University of Western Australia (June 2014)

Location:  North Coast of Scotland (UK), near the town of Thurso on the Pentland Firth.

Marine Tidal Energy has great potential in this location and preliminary testing is progressing with promising results [1].

The Pentland Firth has been identified as one of the best locations for harnessing tidal energy in the world.  The Firth is a narrow stretch of ocean between mainland Scotland and the Orkney Islands [2].  The North Atlantic meets the North Sea at this point and the tidal flow through the Firth is very high.

MAP_Pentland Firth

The leading Tidal Energy devices are bladed turbines, similar in appearance and operation to Wind Turbines, which are mounted on the seabed [3].

Tidal energy is very regular and predictable, unlike wind power, and since water is much denser than air, smaller turbines can yield more energy underwater [4].  It has the added advantage of being less of a potential nusance, since the turbines are located underwater and out of sight, and do not generate much noise.

PIC_Pentland Tidal Diagram

Some disadvantages of tidal energy technologies are that they need to be robust enough to cope with the harsh marine environment, and are more difficult to maintain.  These aspects mean that construction and running costs are higher than land based technologies.

PIC_Pentland Wave Photo

A team of scientists from Oxford and Edinburgh Universities estimates energy output potential of between 1.9 – 4.2 GW (16 – 35 TWh annually) [5].  The oceans are an abundant source of renewable energy, which are under utilised at present [6].

Justification for choosing Tidal Energy in my location, is supported by the scale of this natural resource, together with the strength of international interest in developing marine tidal energy here.  The European Marine Energy Centre (the only facility of its kind in the world) is located on Orkney, and as well as facilitating testing on energy devices, it plays a leading role in developing international standards for the industry [7].

Harvesting energy locally is important for Energy Security, so that we are not reliant on imported power [8].

Tidal Energy in the Pentland Firth is one of several measures in the suite of technologies currently being researched and deployed throughout Scotland (and the UK), including onshore and offshore Wind Turbines, Solar PV, Wave Energy devices, and Geothermal plant.

Scotland is committed to producing 100% of its electricity (consumption) from renewables by 2020 [9].  In February of this year, the Scottish Government granted £4.8 million to marine energy projects [10].

References:

[1] The Scotsman, ‘Pentland Firth tides ‘can power half of Scotland’, 20 January 2014.

[2] Tidal Energy EU, ‘Pentland Firth

[3] Meygen, Tidal Energy Turbine

[4] Environment: benefits of tidal 

[5] Green Energy Scotland

[6] Ocean Solutions: Lecture Materials, 3.0 Ocean Solutions 3.1.3 Energy Abundance

[7] European Marine Energy Centre, Orkney, Scotland

[8] Ocean Solutions: Lecture Materials, 2.0 The Challenge 2.1.3 Energy Security

[9] Scottish Government, ‘Renewables revolution aims for 100%’, 18 May 2011

[10] Scottish Government, ‘£4.8 million boost to marine energy sector’, 26 February 2014.

Desalination

titles_aquaculture oceans_4

Written for Coursera (MOOC) Class ‘Ocean Solutions‘ by University of Western Australia (June 2014)

Arguably, the greatest challenge facing humanity today is provision of fresh water.  Water is critical for all life on earth and humans consume an average of 1,385 m3/yr [1].  We are approaching the limit of natural fresh water availability required to match consumption [2].

PIC_Desalination Simple

The scope of this challenge is global.  According to UNESCO, more than 780 million people (10.8%) have no access to clean water, 2.5 billion (34.7%) have inadequate sanitation and around 7 million die annually from water related disease [3].

The reason for selecting this challenge is that with rising populations [4] and the prospect of significantly altered weather patterns due to global warming, provision of adequate fresh water supplies to areas of dense population and agricultural land is likely to intensify over the next few decades and beyond [5].

PIC_Desalination Global Capacity

One way to help alleviate water scarcity is by more efficient use of available water, recycling of grey water for sanitation, agriculture/horticulture, and industry [6].

The trend in the last century has been for increased global water consumption by a factor of ten [7].

  • China: 1.071 m3/yr
  • India: 1.089 m3/yr
  • USA: 2,842 m3/yr

Sources of freshwater are:

  • 74% Rainwater
  • 11% Ground/Surface Water
  • 15% Polluted Water

Agriculture is by far the largest consumer of fresh water [8].

Uses:

  • Agriculture 92%
  • Cereals 27%
  • Meat 22%
  • Milk Products 7%
  • Industry 4.4%
  • Domestic 3.6%.

The driest half of the earth is occupied by 85% of the human population [3].

An ocean-based initiative to this problem is Desalination, which converts salt water to fresh water, by a process of reverse osmosis.  Salt water is pressurised (250 – 1000 psi) and passed through a series of membranes, which strips out the impurities, including salt [9].  Desalination technology can be used to convert seawater, brackish water and waste water.

The reason and justification for making this decision is that desalination plants are already in use across the world, having been developed in the 1950s.  The technology has been particularly successful in arid regions which have the financial resources to construct plants, such as the Middle-East and the Western USA [10].

The cost of desalination plant is reducing with time, and the quantity of installations increasing.  Since the 1970s, global production doubles every decade, and costs have reduced by half every 15 years [11].

PIC_Desalination Process

Factors that impede desalination in delivering fresh water, a key resource for humanity include: Capital Cost, Energy Consumption and Public Perception of Water Quality.

As water becomes more scarce, the cost of plant will have to be met since few other options are available.  The cost is falling with time and with an expansion, economies of scale may make it more affordable.

Desalination is energy intensive, but since the worst drought affected areas are in the tropics, solar power can be harnessed [12].

Public perception is that desalinated water does not taste as good as natural fresh water.  However, ‘blind tests’ indicate that there is no real difference in water quality [13].  Desalinated water is often a healthier option, since the process also removes harmful bacteria [14].

References:

[1] ‘The water footprint of humanity’, Pratibha Joshi, March 6, 2012

[2] Ocean Solutions: Lecture Materials, 2.0 The Challenge 2.1.2 Water Security

[3] ‘United Nations: Water Cooperation’, Facts and Figures

[4] Ocean Solutions: Lecture Materials, 1.0 Problem Statement 1.1.1 Population Growth

[5] Ocean Solutions: Lecture Materials, 1.0 Problem Statement 1.1.2 Population Projections

[6] US Environmental Protection Agency, ‘Water Recycling and Reuse

[7] Ocean Solutions: Lecture Materials, 1.0 Problem Statement 1.2.4 Per Capita Water Use

[8] Ocean Solutions: Lecture Materials, 1.0 Problem Statement 1.5.9 Water Cycling

[9] Ocean Solutions: Lecture Materials, 5.0 Water  5.1.2 Process – Reverse Osmosis

[10] Ocean Solutions: Lecture Materials, 5.0 Water  5.1.4 Global Desalination Capacity

[11] Ocean Solutions: Lecture Materials, 5.0 Water  5.1.5 Desalination Production and Cost

[12] ‘Is solar-powered desalination answer to water independence for California?’, The Guardian, 28 January 2014

[13] Ocean Solutions: Lecture Materials, 5.0 Water  5.2.4 Perception Water Quality

[14] World Health Organisation, ‘Water Sanitation and Health’,

UK Domestic Buildings Energy Efficiency

titles_energy efficiency_4

Written for the Coursera (MOOC) Class ‘Energy, the Environment and Our Future’ by Pennsylvania State University (March 2014).

In the UK there is concern over future electricity generation since most of the current Coal and Nuclear capacity is approaching end of design life.  No new Nuclear stations have been built since 1995 (Sizewell B), and of the nine in operation (9.2 GW) eight are due to be decommissioned within the next ten years.  Many of them have been extended beyond their design lives already.

Indigenous supplies of North Sea oil and gas is in decline.  The UK imports most of its oil from Norway, and much of its gas.

With ambitious targets set for emissions reductions of CO2, fossil fuel technology is being displaced by renewable energy sources.

Energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important in ensuring energy security.

Summary of Action for UK:

  • Continued and Improved National Investment in Building Insulation
  • Small short-term replacement of Nuclear Capacity
  • Continued development of Wind Energy
  • Continued Research and Development of Tidal and Geothermal Energy
  • Substantial Increase in Pumped Storage Capacity
  • National Focus on Decarbonising Transportation, R&D Investment

Building Insulation

A major component of energy consumption in the UK relates to losses from poor building insulation.  The UK housing stock is approximately 24.5 million homes.

TABLE_1_UK Energy Consumption

Domestic space heating in the UK accounts for 1/5 of total energy consumption. [1]

As a first step in energy conservation, these losses must be reduced by upgrading the thermal performance of sub-standard buildings.  Many buildings in the UK are hundreds of years old, 21% built before 1919.  Those other than new builds over the past decade are likely to have sub-standard insulation.

According to the Energy Saving Trust in an uninsulated home, 20% heat loss through windows & doors, 25% heat loss through the loft/roof space, 33% heat loss through uninsulated cavity walls  and 45% heat loss through uninsulated solid walls. [2]

The Green Deal (2012) is designed to reduce the upfront costs to the consumer of energy efficiency.  Repayment is made through savings on their energy bills.

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO 2013) places a duty on energy companies both to reduce emissions through undertaking solid wall insulation and to tackle fuel poverty by installing central heating systems, replacing boilers, and subsidising cavity wall and loft insulation.  [3]

Housing Stock

According to the English Housing Survey, Housing stock report 2008:

  • Around 22.2 million dwellings in England (26.3 in UK).
  • 15 million dwellings were owner occupied and 3.3 million were privately rented.
  • Remaining 3.9 million were fairly evenly divided between local authorities and housing associations.
  • One in five (21%) dwellings were built before 1919.
  • Three quarters of these older dwellings have been subject to at least some major alterations since they were built and 43% have had extensions or loft conversions added.
  • Dwellings built after 1990 accounted for just 12% of the stock.
  • The majority (81%) of dwellings were houses or bungalows; most of these being two storey houses.
  • Flats made up 19% of the stock.
  • The average useable floor area of dwellings in England was 91m2.
  • One in ten dwellings have attics (either as built and loft conversions).
  • 95% of dwellings were of traditional masonry or timber construction; the majority of these were cavity brick/block.

Although this only applies to England, it is a good approximation for the majority of UK housing. [4]

TABLE_2_UK Housing Stock

There is a housing shortage in the UK, and as the population is increasing, more homes need to be built.  There has been a steady increase in house numbers over the past six years, with new houses built with a good standard of insulation. [5]

TABLE_3_UK Home Insulation

As well as improvements in new housing, the existing housing stock is being improved, in both private dwellings and rented accommodation. [6]

TABLE_4_UK Domestic Energy Cons 2011

Heating in this relatively cold northern European country accounts for about 80% of domestic energy consumption, 60% on space heating alone. [7]

TABLE_5_UK Energy Cons 2011

Insulation in Older Housing Stock 

Houses with solid walls were commonly built before 1930 throughout UK.  They account for about 25% of the housing stock. [8]

This type of wall construction is the most difficult and expensive to insulate.  Whereas most cavity walled (double skin) buildings can be injected with insulation foam, solid wall have to be clad, either internally or externally.

According to the UK National Insulation Association:

The UK’s housing stock is estimated at approximately 24.5 million dwellings, of that approximately 36% consist of non-cavity wall construction – solid brick, solid stone, pre 1944 timber frame and non-traditional, i.e. concrete construction.’  [9]

 

Incentives to Upgrade

There are several incentive schemes on offer to property owners for insulation upgrade work, but the rate of improvement on the whole has been slow.

The UK Government Department of Energy and Climate Change realise that the two schemes on offer are not attracting enough participants. 

‘ Ed Davey (Energy Secretary) said that while take-up of green deal financing had been poor with just a few hundred homes using it, a million homes in England and Wales will have been insulated by April 2015 under the broader green deal scheme and its sister Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) since they began in January 2013.’ [10]

The ECO scheme is attributed as incentivising a large portion of the 457,000 properties insulated in recent years, still a small percentage of the tens of millions of homes with sub-standard insulation.

That scheme was implemented both to help insulate the homes of people in fuel poverty and difficult to insulate buildings, those older properties with solid walls.

The logistics and expense of having assessment reports carried out, and the unattractive 8% interest on finance are putting many people off.  The disruption of having modification work in your home is another disincentive.

Around 150,000 assessments (costing £100-£150), have been carried out since the Green Deal began, but the take-up of insulation work has been minimal. [10]

However, with energy prices rising, improved insulation is an obvious way to future proof against this.  Overall energy efficiency will help the country in reducing total energy consumption.

Analysis

CHART_1_UK Home Insulation Levels 1990-2012

The level of insulation varies with the age of buildings and the building standards at the time of construction.  It has only been since the energy crises of the 1970s that standards have improved.  Again the building standards were raised in the past decade in light of concerns over CO2 emissions and rising energy costs.

CHART_2_UK Average Heat Loss 1990-2012

Translating insulation quality into energy losses, the largest gains are by insulating very old buildings which have little or no insulation.  It is these buildings which are more likely to be solid wall.

The vast majority of buildings have some level of insulation, but would benefit from upgrading.  The spikes in heat loss 1991, 1993, 1996, 2010 and 2012, relate to low annual average temperatures.  More energy is required to maintain rooms at a comfortable temperature.  Leaky buildings lose heat at a greater rate.

CHART_3_UK Domestic Space Heating 1990-2012

The overall trend in space heating energy consumption is linked to the number of households, the average temperature and the quality of building insulation.

TABLE_6_UK Levels of Home Insulation

For the purposes of this analysis, I chose three levels of insulation, high, medium & low.  These relate to the building standards of the time.  The largest band of medium insulation level is a broad average which best fits the energy consumption data.

CHART_4_UK Energy Savings for Insulation

In 2012 it is estimated that 17.5% of the housing stock is well insulated.  This leaves a lot of room for improvement.  As can be seen, from the linear relationship between percent of homes well insulated to national energy savings, significant energy savings can be achieved.

References:

[1]  Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2012, UK Government (DECC)         

[2]  National Insulation Association, ‘Did You Know – Facts’, March 2014. 

[3]  The Carbon Plan: Delivering our low carbon future’, UK Gov 2011 

[4]  ‘English Housing Survey, Housing stock report 2008’, October 2010

(UK Department for Communities and Local Government) 

[5]  ‘Live tables on dwelling stock’, UK Gov – Dept Communities & Local Gov (Feb 2014) 

[6]  ‘Estimates of home insulation levels in Great Britain.’, UK Gov (DECC) Sept 2013 

[7]  ‘Special Feature – Estimates of Heat Use in the UK’, UK Gov – DECC July 2012

[8]  ‘How can I insulate my house if I don’t have cavity walls?‘, The Telegraph, 14 January 2014.

[9]  National Insulation Association (UK) 7 Mar 2014.

[10]  ‘Green deal loan take-up is ‘disappointing’, The Guardian, 5 March 2014

Sea Level Rise and Low Lying Islands

titles_aquaculture oceans_4

Written for Coursera (MOOC) Class ‘Climate Change‘ by the University of Melbourne (Sept 2013).

Because of their low elevation and small size, many small island states are threatened with partial or virtually total inundation by future rises in sea level. In addition, increased intensity or frequency of cyclones could harm many of these islands. The existence or well-being of many small island states is threatened by climate change and sea-level rise over the next century and beyond.’  – IPCC 

In a World Bank Report, ‘Convenient Solutions to an Inconvenient Truth’, published in 2009, it lists the countries with the highest risk of Climate Change threats.

World Bank Top 10 Risks

Looking at Sea Level and the threat to the countries listed, I want to have a closer look at the situation for those with most to lose, who have least political or economic influence.  The Alliance of Small island States includes the low-lying countries of interest.

Established in 1990 to provide a consolidated front in voicing the very real and immediate threats posed by global warming.  It was the first body to submit a draft text in the Kyoto negotiations in 1994.

AOSIS Members

The 2007 Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) projected century-end sea levels using the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios, see the graph below.  Average sea levels are predicted to rise between 0.21 and 0.45 metres by 2100.  Also note that subsequent independent studies have found the IPCC estimates to be conservative.

CHART_IPCC AR4 Sea Level Forecast

Rises in sea level has implications for coastal habitats and economies, specifically in relation to freshwater contamination and loss of land (including supported infrastructure).

TABLE_Kiribati

Gaining independence from the UK in 1979, it remains part of the Commonwealth and is a parliamentary republic.  It comprises of 32 atolls and one coral island.  It has strong relations with Australia, Japan and New Zealand.  Approximately 90% of the population live on the Gilbert Islands, with 33% occupying an area of just 16 km2.  It is one of the most impoverished nations on earth, with little hope of retaining its territory.

It already suffers from overcrowding, with 4,700 inhabitants resettled in 1988, and in 2008 the Kiribati government approached Australia and New Zealand to accept Kiribati citizens as refugees, in preparation for sea inundation.

PHOTO_Kiribati

The president of the Refugee Council of Australia has advised the Australian government that it should prepare to create a new migration category for those fleeing the effects of climate change.[Guardian 16 April 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/apr/16/australia-climate-change-refugee-status ]

Risk Factors & Recent Impacts

Rising sea level is expected to continue in Kiribati, as with elsewhere. By conservative estimates, shown in the table below, by 2030 (under a probable high emission scenario) this rise is projected to be in the range of 5 – 14 cm.  Sea-level rise combined with natural annual changes will increase the impact of storm surges and coastal flooding.

A 50-centimetre rise, which is now considered a conservative projection for this century unless emissions are curbed, threatens the very existence of this small nation.

TABLE_Kiribati_2

  • ‘Kiribati is pretty much all coastal. The people of Kiribati are witness to unprecedented coastal erosion, on both beaches and inland.’
  • ‘Many people are now being displaced from the traditional house plots they have occupied for a century or more.  Many more people are losing their food  sources: coconut trees, papaya trees and other varieties of vegetation.’
  • Freshwater sources are becoming more contaminated by sea water.
  • The majority Kiribati’s islands are so narrow that there really is no place to go. Kiribati has more than 100,000 citizens and its main island, Tarawa, suffers from severe overcrowding.
  • ‘The World Bank recently predicted the capital island of Tarawa, where nearly half the country’s population resides, will be 25 to 54 per cent inundated by water in the south and 55 to 80 percent in the north by 2050 unless significant adaptation is undertaken.’
  • ‘The village of Tebunginako in Abaiang Island has already had to relocate due to the effects of severe coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion.’

Kiribati Official Site and Kiribati Video Link ]

TABLE_Maldives

The Maldives is an Island nation (1,190 islands in 20 atolls) in the Indian Ocean.  Largely, the Maldives have been an independent nation throughout its history, with short periods of intervention by Portugal, Netherlands and UK from which it became independent in 1965, forming a constitutional republic.

Already vulnerable to flooding due to storm surges and earthquake, rising sea levels associated with global warming are making human habitation here more precarious.  This part of South Asia is close to the equator, where sea level rise is greater than in polar ocean, and the Maldives confronting the biggest increases of between 0.100 – 0.115 metres, according to a World Bank scientific report on 19 June 2013.

[ http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2013/06/19/concerted-efforts-needed-to-support-maldives-adapt-to-climate-change-world-bank-report-findings-indicate ]

Expected pertubations in the monsoon system combined with elevated peak temperatures put water and food resources at severe risk.  An extremely wet monsoon, currently has a chance of occurring once in 100 years, is estimated to occur every 10 years by 2100.

PHOTO_Maldives

Former President Mohamed Nasheed holding the world’s first underwater council of ministers in 2009.  The 30-minute cabinet meeting held six metres below sea-level was intended to show what the future could hold for the Maldives.

Risk Factors & Recent Impacts

  • 199 islands are inhabited with a population of slightly over 300,000 people. The highest point of land is 2 metres.
  • The reefs host over 1,900 species of fish, 187 coral species, and 350 crustaceans.
  • Rising sea temperatures threaten coral reefs and cause bleaching and death.  Worst damage is in the areas that are compromised by pollutants, and damaged by physical agitation.
  • Vulnerability to Climate Change threats is exacerbated by damage to coral reefs which diminishes their protective function, a negative cycle of impact.
  • With the melting of polar ice caps, the Maldives is also exposed to the risks of sea-level rise. Future sea level is projected to rise within the range of 10 to 100 centimeters by the year 2100, which means the entire country could be submerged in the worst-case scenario.

[ Maldives Video Link ]

TABLE_Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands is an Island nation forming part of Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean, with 34 low-lying coral atolls and 1,156 individual islands.  Being variously conquered, occupied and governed by Spain, Germany, Japan and USA, the nation gained independence in 1979, forming a democratic republic.

Post world war two, the USA tested 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, prompting the Atomic Energy Commission to describe Islands as “the most contaminated place in the world”.   According to ‘Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940’,

$759 million was paid to the Marshallese Islanders in compensation for their exposure to U.S. nuclear testing, and in 1952 with the test of the first U.S. hydrogen bomb, the island of Elugelab in the Enewetak atoll was destroyed.

Party to the ‘Compact of Free Association’ with the United States, gives the USA sole responsibility for defense of the Islands.  It also permits Islanders to live and work in the United States.

PHOTO_Marshall Islands

‘Along the coastline of Majuro, Marshall Islands, old cars and trash are being piled up in an attempt to make seawalls and stop the rising water levels. In most places in Majuro there is no more than 50 – 100 meters in width between the Pacific and the Lagoon.’  – Greenpeace.

Risk Factors & Recent Impacts 

  • 2008:  Extreme waves and high tides caused widespread flooding in the capital city of Majuro and other urban centres. (1 metre above sea level), prompting the government declared a state of emergency.
  • 2013:  Heavy waves breached the city walls of Majuro, while drought afflicted northern atolls of the Marshall Islands.
  • Drought affected 6,000 Islanders, surviving on less than one litre of water per day.
  • Compounded by crops failures and food shortages, the impact on health was significant with the spread of drought-related diseases such as diarrhoea, pink eye and influenza.

[ Marshall Islands Video Link ]

TABLE_Tuvalu

Tuvalu is an Island nation in the Pacific Ocean (3 reef islands and 6 atolls). Initially colonized by Polynesians, the Islands (as part of the Ellice Island group) became a British protectorate in 1892.  Tuvalu became independent in 1974, forming a parliamentary democracy, but remains part of the Commonwealth.

With a very low average elevation, Tuvalu is under threat from sea level rise.  On top of this, these Islands (together with other islands in the region) are subject to annual king tide events which occur at the end of the summer.  These raise the sea level higher than a normal high tide.

King tide events cause flooding over low lying areas.  Even worse flooding is experienced during ‘La Niña’ years when local storms and high waves are particularly prevalent. Estimates of future, sea level rise, which may threaten to submerge the nation entirely, are of the order 0.20 –0.40 metres by 2100.

In this probable scenario, Tuvalu will become uninhabitable.

PHOTO_Tuvalu

Risk Factors & Recent Impacts

  • A typical high tide reaches about 2.5 metres,  a King Tide can be more than 3 metres.
  • A small rise (0.5 metres) will see parts of the islands disappear.
  • Islands are founded on coral which is porous and so saving these islands would be very expensive.
  • With a population of just 11,000 people, will the outside agencies think it is economically feasible?

[ Tuvalu & Kiribati Video Link ]

Scotland Recycling: Zero Waste Plan and Beyond

titles_energy efficiency_4

Written for Coursera (MOOC) Class ‘Global Sustainable Energy, Past, Present and Future‘ by the University of Florida (June 2013).

In Scotland, the devolved government launched ‘Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan’ in 2010.  Prior to this, recycling rates were steadily increasing in step with environmental awareness amongst the populous of 5.3 million.  This plan forms part of the suite of publications which supports the climate change legislation, Climate Change Delivery Plan (2009) and the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

These policies are aligned within the European Union ‘Waste Framework Directive’.

The main targets of the plan are for 70% recycling of all waste and a 5% landfill limit by 2025.  It aims to achieve this by adopting the hierarchical; waste prevention, reuse, recycling and recovery, approach.

The presentation document also highlights the need for landfill bans for specific wastes, improved source segregation and separate collection of waste and restrictions on inputs to energy from waste.  The plan includes the instigation of regulatory reporting of resource use by all businesses, to give a clearer picture of current waste levels and future improvements.

In 2008, Scotland produced almost 20 million tonnes of waste.

PIE_Scotland Waste

Recognition of the national mindset change required towards viewing waste product as a potential resource, as well as encouraging local authorities to take a lead role in this transformation by providing clear information regarding good waste management habits and collection practices, lie at the heart of the plan.

The Scottish government sees waste as an economic opportunity rather than a problem.  It’s strategy is to develop sustainable, high value markets for recycled waste, and it aims to provide support in the development of infrastructure to this end.

Together with SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency), and the local authorities, the government aims to raise awareness of the need for local and personal responsibility in waste management, through education.  Community buy-in is seen as crucial to the success of this initiative.

Local Authority Collection

It is the responsibility of the 32 local authorities (councils) in Scotland to collect and ‘dispose of’ waste in their area.

Video Link >  Recycle Now (Waste & Resource Action Programme):

Collection

PIC_Recycling Collection

In my area, there is an alternating weekly collection of waste put into colour coded 240 litre ‘wheely bins’, one week green/black general non-recycled waste, the next week blue recycle waste.  The recycle bin is only for plastic bottles, paper and card, and tins and cans.

Video Links >  Recycle Now (Waste & Resource Action Programme):

Plastic Bottles

PIC_Recycling Bottles

Cans

PIC_Recycling Cans

Urban areas also benefit from a garden waste collection in brown bins, which accepts grass cuttings, hedge trimmings etc.

Video Link >  Recycle Now (Waste & Resource Action Programme):

Garden Waste

PIC_Recycling Garden Waste

Video Link >  Recycle Now (Waste & Resource Action Programme):

Materials Recycling Facility (MRF)

PIC_Recycling Garden MRF

British Glass in their ‘Glass Sustainability Report’ of 2007, states that ‘Glass recycling is an important environmental measure as it works for sustainability across the lifecycle.’

In comparison to recycling glass back into new glass containers, it says ‘alternative uses, such as aggregates, deliver lower levels of reduction in CO2, the glass industry believes strongly that all alternative markets will be important to meeting higher targets and provide a better environmental use than landfill.’

‘The amount of glass recycled to make new bottles and jars increased by 10,000 tonnes to a record 752,000 tonnes during 2006 according to estimates from British Glass. This means that UK manufactured bottles and jars contained an average of 35.5 per cent of recycled glass.’

This suggests that there are no significant quality issues arising from using recycled glass as a feedstock.  In a review of British Glass literature on recycling I found no reference to quality concerns.

My local council state that other plastic containers and bags are not accepted due to possible contamination by contents and the difficulty in identifying and sorting the various types of plastic, and due to the lack of reliable markets for this type of recyclate.  This is a barrier to higher recycling rates.

However, the council promises that as new markets emerge, more materials will be accepted for recycling.  So the solution is to develop these markets.

Video Link >  Recycle Now (Waste & Resource Action Programme):

Glass 

PIC_Recycling Glass

Food Waste

PIC_Recycling Food

Cartons  

PIC_Recycling Garden Cartons

Throughout Scotland’s communities there are recycling banks for recycling different types of glass; clear, green and brown.  There are usually collection bins for old clothing.  Other facilities allow for collection of  batteries (car & household), fluorescent light tubes, fridges & freezers and other electrical equipment.

Video Link >  Recycle Now (Waste & Resource Action Programme):

Electrical 

PIC_Recycling Electrical

Alternative Routes

Organisations such as the ‘Freecycle’ network help facilitate reuse with an online itinerary of unwanted items, and a means of communication to arrange uplift by those in need.

There are also many local charity shops which take unwanted items and sell them on for a donation.  These mainly deal in furniture, clothing and books.  There is also a local bookstore which deals in second-hand as well as new books.

Anaerobic Digesters 

Linking the current recycling topic with our interests in energy, anaerobic digestion is a technology which spans both areas and is gaining in recognition as an economic means of converting organic waste product, food and garden waste, into energy with useful by-products.

It enlists micro-organisms to degrade organic material, to produce bio-gas, a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide, which can be used directly as a fuel or refined to the quality of natural gas.  The residue from digestion can be used as a fertiliser or soil conditioner.

It is regarded as a renewable energy source and helps reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses by; replacing fossil fuels, reducing energy usage in waste treatment, reducing methane emissions in landfill, and replacing industrial fertilisers.

DIAG_Recycling Anarobic Digestion