Drax Biomass and Coal Power Station South Yorkshire. January 2016. The owners plan to be coal free by 2025.
How Green Was My Valley?
Climate change is in the news every day now without really looking for it. It’s a topic that is hard to miss even for the chief climate change repudiator Trump. Climate change and the effect we as a world population is making on the planet is far too important to our way of life. We cannot leave strategic decisions to the short-term-ist politicians. When governments have a difficult problem to solve they will commission a report and hope the report findings and the problem go away. Governments are lead by the nose chasing votes to keep themselves in power, not sensible long-term sustainable solutions.
I don’t have any global answers that are easy to implement without a cost to somebody on the planet in multiple ways. Perhaps some truth, honesty and humility might help if global governments are to begin to understand and act now on the global problem with the devastating impact and highest probability. To be honest, I do not have any real knowledge on climate change only a concern that this issue has been kicked down the political road for far too long. Enough already.
Footnote – “How Green Was My Valley” the title of this post if you missed it is a 1939 novel by Richard Llewellyn, narrated by Huw Morgan, the main character, about his Welsh family and the mining community in which they live.
Which Economic Sectors produce the most Greenhouse Gases?
Coal, Oil and Gas
How much climate warming Co2 does your lifestyle produce?
We all as individuals need to change every area of our lives to mitigate the production of Co2 going in to the atmosphere.
Here are the scary numbers
- Average Carbon Footprint for people in UK is 6.50 tonnes per year each
- Average for the European Union is about 6.4 tonnes
- Average worldwide carbon footprint is about 5 tonnes
- Worldwide target to combat climate change is 2 tonnes
There is no Planet B
Here is a free Carbon Calculator for individuals. The calculator asks you how much you spend on things like gas and electricty for this you will need to be able to put your hand on your usage figures for last year. Other than that I just estimated how much I had spent last year. It’s not very scientific or accurate but does give you an idea.
The standout things for me were the things I do and use everyday. Before I used this calculator I would have said my biggest carbon sins were flights, trains and the car, not my weekly shopping.
- Food & Drink = 2.64t – an average guesstimate – not based actual buying choices
- Car – 2.0 Diesel (average 46mpg) with slightly less than 10k average mileage = 105g/km x 9000 Miles x 1.625
- = 1.53t based on engine efficiency
- Gas (A rated Condensing Boiler) & Electricity = 1.80t
- 1 Short-haul return flight to Belfast 3 hrs in total = 0.10t = 0.03t/hour
- 13 Long train journeys of 45 hours total = 0.07t = 0.0015t/hour. Train travel produces 20x less Carbon than a short-haul flight per hour
- Bus trips = 0.02t
My Estimated Total Carbon Footprint for 2019 = 6.16t of CO2e
Two-thirds of my 2019 carbon was generated by shopping, diesel car and gas for heating a 3 bed townhouse.
I am an average bloke with a Carbon Footprint of 3x the worldwide target figure. It’s not because I have a wild and profiligate carbon lifestyle, its because I am no different to anybody else and we are all destroying our only planet for ours and future generations.
Ballylumford Power Station, Island Magee, NI. January 2019
What is Carbon Offsetting?
Carbon offsetting means compensating for the carbon-dioxide pollution you’re making (your carbon footprint) by preventing the same amount of pollution from happening somewhere else. More precisely, carbon offset means compensating for emitting one tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere by preventing a tonne of CO2 from entering the atmosphere elsewhere on Earth (for example, by investing in renewable energy) or by removing a tonne of CO2 that’s already up there (by supporting something like tree planting—since trees pull CO2 from the air when they grow).
How can individuals offset carbon?
STEP 1 – calculate your emissions
STEP 2 – start reducing your emissions
Reduce your emissions by changing your lifestyle. When that is not enough to fully mitigate the remainder of your Carbon Footprint, then or before, you could also offset your Carbon emissions.
STEP 3 – choose an offset project to invest money in
Find out more about carbon offseting projects here. I have no personal experience of this company, so this is not a recomendation.
Local trees on my daily walk that enhance the environment and the air we breathe. January 2019.
Tree Planting as a means of Carbon Offsetting
An obvious way of Carbon Offsetting is to donate money to charities who plant trees. Nice, easy and guilt-free?
I strongly advise you to do detailed research before donating money to specialist charities that plant trees. There are too many problem issues in this area for me to mention them all here and now. What the donor expects and what actually happens to the sapling can be very different. Here are a few problems I can think of right now
- Will enough money be allocated to each sapling so it can grow healthily to maturity?
- Is it the right tree in the right place to tackle local issues and not cause a problem?
- Will it be felled as part of a tree plantation before coming to full maturity?
- Will it encourage biodiversity?
My Cunning Carbon Plan
The personal carbon footprint survey above highlighted my
- Diesel Car
- Natural Gas use
Here are a few initial thoughts about how I might tackle my carbon addiction, what are you going to do about yours?
I currently eat a low carbohydrate Flexitarian diet that excludes Beef & Lamb. 8% of ALL green house gases come from the production of food.
33% of ALL food produced globally ends up in landfill. Source – Too Good To Go
a) I could happily eat more vegetarian meals.
b) Investigate food products to avoid foods that have a high carbon output.
c) Buy less unnecessary stuff thats ony wanted but not needed – reduce consumption as an Economist would put it.
d) When in the mood for new clothes go to the charity shop to donate and buy. The principles are to reduce, reuse and recycle in that order.
Critical Note – The fashion industry is responsible for 10 % of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. At this pace, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50% by 2030. Source The World Bank 2018
Flooded Childrens Playing Field by the Afon Llugwy in Capel Curig Snowdonia March 2019.
My plan is to eventually buy an all-electric car. As a step in that direction, I am investigating the used Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) car market. With current battery technology, PHEV cars have a range of about 30 miles on the battery only and hence no emissions. This is plenty far enough for shopping and trips into town. A PHEV car with the latest and cleanest Diesel Euro 6 engine could cut my emissions from 105g/Km (Euro 5a) to around 30-50g/Km. The newer engine design standard halfs the amount of Nitrogen Oxide pumped into the air which at high concentrations causes inflammation of the airways.
a) I could replace my current 7-year-old car with the brand new PHEV version of the same model for £35k – I think not.
b) Have a check carried out on my current car’s fuel efficiency and emissions.
c) When the secondhand market for PHEV’s is in better shape I will look again, possibly next year.
d) Where possible, I have been and will continue to use the bus and train more and fly less.
I had a A rated Combi Gas Boiler installed 9 years ago, that is not the issue. When my house was built in 1969 with only a single skin of blockwork to the exterior walls there was no thought about draughts, insulation and energy usage. There is no easy way to retrofit insulation on the interior or exterior of the walls.
a) I have turned the Thermostat down to 18 degrees and turned the heating off an hour earlier at night before going to bed.
b) Investigate government-sponsored double-glazing and insulation schemes, do the obvious things first. There is no point installaing fancy green heating to a draughty house!
c) Investigate government-sponsored Renewable Heat Incentive Funding such as Air Source Heat Pump Installation Schemes (they take heat from the outside air to reduce the gas boiler load). Not a fully green solution with no emissions.
d) Investigate installation of Photo Voltaic (PV) Cells to my south-facing roof to produce my own green electricity and get paid for any excess energy I feedback in to the National Grid. This may have been attractive but the Conservatives made a quanitative decision to vastly cut the Feed-in Tariffs that make it far less economically viable for new people joining the scheme. The number PV Cell installations in 2013 was 51,956 by 2018 this had fallen to 31,789. Well done them, a good green decision. Feed-In Tariff rates continue to fall making it highly unlikely to recover the capital outlay. The installation of PV Cell system may take between 20-30 years to pay for it’s self.
Eggborough Power Coal-fired Power Station Yorkshire 2016 now closed
Photo Exhibtions and Talk by David Hurn Hon FRPS in Cardiff
I will be going to Cardiff (by bus and train) on the Saturday 15th of February to see a few exhibitions and a talk by David Hurn Hon FRPS in the afternoon.
National Museum Cardiff, Cathays Park Cardiff CF10 3NP – August Sander, Martin Parr, Bernd and Brecher exhibitions.
The talk by David Hurn on his book “On Being a Photographer” Cardiff University School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Central Square, Cardiff CF10 1EE. 13.15 for a 13.45 start. Book tickets through the RPS – see link. Every photographer should read this book after chapter 1.