Sandy’s trying to telling us something

With ‘Sandy’ raging for all she’s worth across the pond, flooding the streets of New York and making the headlines for the all the wrong reasons; we should remind ourselves of the increasing frequency at which extreme weather events have been occurring globally, that while we are worried about our westerly cousin’s (and wish that everyone is OK) they are in a first world country and as such will be able to deal with the outcome of this storm with comparative ease. Especially when one considers the flooding disasters that constantly afflict and prevent developing countries, such as Bangladesh, from attaining a better socio-economic standing.

At the heart of all these extreme weather events occurring around the world is an underlying theme, one that may not yet be proven by statistics (which need long term monitoring and data before a result that is truly representative of reality can reached, especially for processes that are as multi-factorial as this one) and it almost certainly will be in time, Climate Change. Governments around the world may make the case for increase disaster planning and management, but isn’t treating the cause (rather than cleaning up the symptoms) a better use of time and money.

And it’s not just weather events; it’s the decline of British bees and the subsequently poor apple harvest, the melting of the ice caps and it’s the health of our Woodlands, freshwater and marine ecosystems- it is all interlinked. While there are most definitely other contributing factors anthropogenic global warming is become the underlying drum beat. Have we as humans built up so much social momentum that this is almost out of our hands?

The key problem to this issue is that the world we live in is based on a system of exploitation (an addiction to fossil fuels if you will) and since the resources aren’t completely gone (yet) any country that backs out of the system will (in the short term) be disadvantaged in the global market. However for the past four years the recession has stomped all over the markets, cutting research budgets and public benefits left right and centre;; even NASA’s budget. Maybe we can’t get out of the recession unless we base our society on more sustainable energy sources and use funding to invest in the future rather than the immediate present.

In the UK this year we have seen the highest consumption of coal since the 1960’s; out of the three fossil fuels it is the most polluting: Producing 208,000lbs of CO2, 208lbs Carbon monoxide, 457lbs of nitrogen oxide and 2591lbs of sulphur dioxide per Btu. The UK Parliament’s Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change has been investigating the UK’s current energy policy and looking into the value of nuclear and wind power. Their most recent report scrutinises the Draft Energy Bill and was released earlier this year. Within it, it made some very poignant remarks and advised that parts should be re-written as presently they may make the reforms ‘unworkable’.

“The importance of ensuring a timely delivery of electricity market reform cannot be overstated: reform is vital if we are to meet low-carbon and energy security aspirations for 2020”

“The Government has fallen into the trap of focusing far too closely on the supply side of the energy system, while neglecting to consider the contribution those demand-side activities could make to security and climate change objectives. Thinking about the demand-side needs to be given a much higher priority in the Bill, not least because it is likely to deliver much more cost effective solutions than building ever greater levels of generating capacity”

Nuclear power has last been given the go ahead as today Hitachi signed a £700 million deal that will enable the next generation of UK nuclear power plants. But has this 100 year commitment come too late considering that research into other, cleaner, renewable energies estimates that nuclear technology will be surpassed in just 6 years?

Journal of Applied Ecology released a virtual issue concerning climate change in June and it addressed both sides of the issue; the detection of impacts and the implementation of possible solutions.