Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Booker hoist by his own petard

The Telegraph's pet rabid climate change denier Christopher Booker has dropped a big one. He produced a column about Lord Stern entitled:

Lord Stern, 'Scaremonger in chief', exposed by simple blunders
How come "the world's leading expert on climate change" doesn't even know how much carbon dioxide there currently is in the air, wonders Christopher Booker.

But, later had to admit it was him who was blundering in the comments:

I must apologise for the confusion over CO2 which has been picked up by several irate commenters below. I was relying on an article in last Tusday's Daily Telegraph which quoted Lord Stern as saying that 'carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are already at 430 parts per million'. Having now checked with Lord Stern's book, I see that he was indeed referring to 'CO2 equivalent'. not CO2 (citing a source dated 2005). I am sorry about this misunderstanding (the moral of which is perhaps that one shouldn't necessarily believe anything one reads in a newspaper!) I would also point out, however, that my column above does make quite a number of other points about Lord Stern, and perhaps his defenders should now turn to answering these instead.
I have a number of words for Mr Booker, none of which I can type here. But I'm really annoyed that the Telegraph hasn't pulled the column, or even put a correction in the text. I've e-mailled them and suggest you do the same.

+++ Update 30/4/09 +++

A victory of sorts - the column now reads...

Error 404
Sorry, the page you have requested is not available
Please try again later

Can't find any apology yet, though...

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Oops, I've done it again...

I'm delighted to announce that my second child is expected on 1 November!

And that's the last one if I've got anything to say about it. I was recently asked in an interview whether having more than two children was "irresponsible". My answer was:

It is a basic human right to have as many or as few children as you want. On the other hand the world will not be able to support 9bn people at the current rates of Western resource consumption, so Governments should be working to educate people to allow them to make better informed choices.

But, in practice I'm stopping at two...

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Earth Day, by the way...

...details here, although our city tends to do more for World Environment Day on 5 June. Both have a long history back to the seventies - which to choose?

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Headline of the week (or year)...

Fatties Cause Global Warming in the Sun.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Compost frenzy part 2

So as I mentioned in part 1, my big compost heap wasn't producing the goods. Too much privet hedge, not enough anything else, was leading to a big dry pile of privet with a trickle of really poor dried out compost from the leaves. So, I shovelled all that out, smashed up the old compost bay (which was disintegrating) and built a new robust double one out of five pallets from my dry stone wall materials, plus some wood left over from our decking. Ta daa...

The two bays mean I can fill one, tip it into the second to turn it, then fill the second. This gives better mixing, oxygenation and it is easier to tell the newer compost from the old stuff.

In the medium/long term I'm not worried about the privet imbalance as, with a lawn, I'm going to have a good source of high-nitrogen garden waste to balance out the high-carbon hedge clippings. Getting that C:N balance right is, along with moisture and oxygen, the key to composting. But in the short term, to get the old privet to rot, I mixed the privet with immature compost from my food waste bin (which you can just see to the left) plus some other soil and green waste I had lying around. If nothing else, this will retain moisture in the heap and allow the woody stems to rot. I'm still not expecting fantastic compost, but this approach has worked before.

We shall see...

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

How green are electric cars?

There's a huge amount of fuss in the press about a revolution in electric vehicles driven by the government. The 'greenness' of an electric car depends on where the electricity comes from - don't buy the 0gC02/km figures that are bandied about - that is patent nonsense. It is quite difficult to get precise data, but here's a rule of thumb from

  • Battery-electric cars using renewable energy provide the largest reduction in GHGs of almost 100%. 
  • If 'standard-mix' electricity is used, battery electrics reduce greenhouse gases by around 40%. 
  • Commercially produced pure bioethanol and biodiesel also provide significant reductions in greenhouse gases in the range 35%-90%, the reduction depending on feedstock crop used. 
  • Due to their high fuel-efficiency, most petrol hybrids offer a reduction in greenhouse gases of around 25%. 
  • Bi-fuel LPG and natural gas cars also produce modest reductions of around 15% due to better combustion and to their lower carbon content.

Tesla - the makers of the £90k electric sports car go further and say their car does 46gCO2/km, compared to an European average of 158gCO2/km, but that figure assumes the electricity comes from a brand new gas fired power station.

So electric is good, but not quite as good as some may claim!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Allotment Interlude

In between the Easter weekend's epic compost odyssey (more soon, not quite finished yet) and drinking beer in a deckchair (one of two found in a skip), I was summoned to 'our' allotment to do some digging and plant some potatoes.

Allotments are great - most of the materials used are reclaimed (our greenhouse is made from old window frames and pallets), the lack of fossil energy on site means everything is muscle powered and all the water is collected from the rain. And, of course, with food being one of the biggest parts of our ecological/carbon footprints, this is one way to make a real difference.

And it's not just me who thinks so - according to the Guardian, there's a 100,000 strong waiting list, um, waiting for one of the 300,000 plots to become available. This is keeping us on our toes - we've been given a quiet word once or twice over the last couple of years about keeping on top of it. This is partly due to our laissez faire approach to tidiness (we like to think of it as "wildlife-friendliness") and, anyway, our fruit trees and bushes will produce food every year with very little intervention. I've got a big book on no-dig gardening to read to see if we can turn this into a win-win. We've also enlisted some help, but this is frowned upon in case it turns into a surreptitious way of passing the plot on to a mate bypassing the waiting list.

We'll just have to keep those spades and forks working!

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Compost frenzy part 1

Easter weekend is the biggest gardening/DIY weekend of the year and I decided to spend it this year sorting out my composting arrangements.

First I had to empty the various containers - worm bin, food waste bin and garden waste bay. Chucking food scraps, envelopes and cardboard into heaps and bins and waiting for nature to do its thing is the easy bit - it is back breaking work shovelling the resulting compost out, sieving it to take out bits of plastic, and then carting it to where you need it.

You can buy sieves for compost but, before I found my proper one, I found that an old wire shopping basket does the trick nicely. This is my food waste compost - the worm bin produces much darker, richer compost (and liquid plant food), but it works on much smaller volumes. My garden waste compost was, frankly, rubbish - too much privet, not enough moisture - more on that in part 2.

I used the compost as a mulch on our front flower bed. It sets off the plants a treat and will also release nutrients into the soil, suppress weeds and retain moisture. Some say it also protects against disease.

More on the new arrangements in Part 2...

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Green Brolly from M&S

My brolly got mangled in the wind recently, so I popped into Marks & Spencer for a replacement. I was delighted to find I could get one made out of recycled yarn. It didn't cost any more than the others, in fact less than some equivalents, so it begs the obvious question - why aren't they all made of recycled material?

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Earth Hour 2009 - Official Worldwide Roll Out

Just in case you missed just how global and high profile last Saturday's Earth Hour Switch off was...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Green April Fools

I've only spotted one, the Guardian's story that the EU will ban the amber from traffic lights next year to save energy. Classy spoof of a Daily Mail reader's nightmare.

Spotted any others?

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