Friday, 27 August 2010

Thank God man-made global warming was proven to be a hoax.

Thank God man-made global warming was proven to be a hoax. Just imagine what the world might have looked like now if those conspiring scientists had been telling the truth. No doubt Nasa would be telling us that this year is now the hottest since humans began keeping records. The weather satellites would show that even when heat from the sun significantly dipped earlier this year, the world still got hotter. Russia's vast forests would be burning to the ground in the fiercest drought they have ever seen, turning the air black in Moscow, killing 15,000 people, and forcing foreign embassies to evacuate. Because warm air holds more water vapour, the world's storms would be hugely increasing in intensity and violence – drowning one fifth of Pakistan, and causing giant mudslides in China.

The world's ice sheets would be sloughing off massive melting chunks four times the size of Manhattan. The cost of bread would be soaring across the world as heat shrivelled the wheat crops. The increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be fizzing into the oceans, making them more acidic and so killing 40 per cent of the phytoplankton that make up the irreplaceable base of the oceanic food chain. The denialists would be conceding at last that everything the climate scientists said would happen – with their pesky graphs and studies and computers – came to pass.
This is all happening today, except for that final stubborn step. It's hard to pin any one event on man-made global warming: there were occasional freak weather events before we started altering the atmosphere, and on their own, any of these events could be just another example. But they are, cumulatively, part of a plain pattern where extreme weather is occurring "with greater frequency and in many cases with greater intensity" as the temperature soars, as the US National Climatic Data Centre puts it. This is exactly what climate scientists have been warning us man-made global warming will look like, to the letter. Ashen-faced, they add that all this is coming after less than one degree of global warming since the Industrial Revolution. We are revving up for as much as five degrees more this century.

Yet as the evidence of global warming becomes ever clearer, the momentum to stop it has died. The Copenhagen climate summit evaporated, Barack Obama has given up on passing any climate change legislation, Hu Jintao is heaving even more coal, David Cameron has shot his huskies, and even sweet liberal Canada now has a government determined to pioneer a fuel – tar sands – that causes three times more warming than oil. True, the victims are starting to see the connections. The Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev, had been opposed to meaningful action on global warming until he found the smoke-choked air in the Kremlin hard to breathe. But if we wait until every leader can taste the effects of warming in their mouths, the damage will be irreparable.

Given the stakes, the reasons why so many people still refuse to accept the evidence can seem oddly trivial. A common one is: "It snowed a lot in the US and Britain last year. Where was your warming then, eh?" But scientific theories are based on patterns, not individual events. You might know a 90-year-old woman who has smoked a pack of cigarettes every day of her life, and is totally healthy. (I do.) It doesn't disprove the theory that smoking causes lung cancer. In the same way, one heavy snowfall doesn't prove anything if it is part of a wider overall pattern of dramatic warming. And that snow probably was. While it snowed a lot in a few places, there were at the very same time harsher, more bitter droughts in many more places – making it globally the fifth hottest winter ever recorded, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (All the others were in the past decade). And that winter is your punchline proof that warming isn't happening?

But the broader public mood, smeared like sun-screen over us all, isn't active denial. No – it's the desire to endlessly postpone this issue for another day. In 1848, a 25-year-old man called Phineas Gage was working on constructing the American railroads. It was his job to lay explosives to clear rocks out of the way – but one day his explosive went off too soon, and a huge metal rod went through his skull and out the other side. Amazingly, he survived – but his personality changed. Suddenly, he was incapable of thinking about the future. The idea of restraining himself was impossible to grasp. If he had an urge, he would act on it at once. He could only ever live in an eternal present. As a civilisation, we are beginning to look like Phineas Gage on a planetary scale.
Yet scattered among us there is a fascinating group of people who are offering a path to safety. Every summer since 2006, ordinary British citizens have built impromptu camps next to some of the most environmentally destructive sites in Britain, and taken direct action to shut their pollution down. So far, it has worked: they played a crucial role in the cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow and a big new coal power station at Kingsnorth.

That's how earlier this week I found myself on a high wooden siege tower in a camp in the Scottish hills, staring down across a moat towards the glistening, empty offices of the Royal Bank of Scotland. You own this bank: 84 per cent of it belongs to the taxpayer after the bailouts. Yet it is using your money to endanger you, by financing the most environmentally destructive behaviour on earth, like burning the tar sands. The protesters chose to come here democratically – everything at the climate camps is done by discussion and consensus – because they have a better idea. Why not turn it into a Green Investment Bank, transforming Britain into a global hub for wind, solar and wave power? Why not go from promoting misery across the world to being a beacon of sanity?

So the protesters risked arrest in marching on RBS's offices because they know the stakes. As Professor Tim Flannery, one of the world's leading climate scientists, explains: "My great fear is that within the next few decades – it could be next year, or it could be in 50 years, we don't know exactly when – we will trap enough heat close to the surface to our planet to precipitate a collapse, or partial collapse, of a major ice shelf... I have friends who work on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and they say [when a collapse happens] you'll hear it in Sydney... Sea levels would rise pretty much instantaneously, certainly over a few months. We don't know how much it would rise. It could be 10 centimeters, or a metre. We will have begun a retreat from our coasts... Once you have started that process, we wouldn't know when the next part of the ice sheet would collapse, we don't know whether sea level will stabilise. There's no point of retreat where you can safely go back to... I doubt whether our global civilisation could survive such a blow, particularly the uncertainty it would bring."

Nature doesn't follow political fashion. Global warming may not be hot today, but the planet is – hotter than ever. When you stare out over the wave of Weather of Mass Destruction we are unleashing, who looks crazy – the protesters, or the people who have yet to join them?

You can follow Johann Hari on Twitter at

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Scheme to 'pull electricity from the air'

Tiny charges gathered directly from humid air could be harnessed to generate electricity, researchers say.

Dr Francesco Galembeck told the American Chemical Society meeting in Boston that the technique exploited a little-known atmospheric effect.

Tests had shown that metals could be used to gather the charges, he said, opening up a potential energy source in humid climates.
"The work I'm presenting here shows that metals placed under a wet environment actually become charged."

Dr Galembeck and his colleagues isolated various metals and pairs of metals separated by a non-conducting separator - a capacitor, in effect - and allowed nitrogen gas with varying amounts of water vapour to pass over them.

What the team found was that charge built up on the metals - in varying amounts, and either positive or negative. Such charge could be connected to a circuit periodically to create useful electricity.

The effect is incredibly small - gathering an amount of charge 100 million times smaller over a given area than a solar cell produces - but seems to represent a means of charge accumulation that has been overlooked until now.

However, experts disagree about the mechanism and the scale of the effect.

"The basic idea is that when you have any solid or liquid in a humid environment, you have absorption of water at the surface," Dr Galembeck, from the University of Campinas in Brazil, told BBC News.
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Monday, 23 August 2010

Free solar energy panels

What’s the deal?

Alternative energy companies including Isis Solar, Home Sun, and A Shade Greener are offering free solar panels that can deliver electricity bill savings of up to hundreds of pounds.

Their offers typically include the supply, installation and maintenance of solar panels worth up to about £12,000.

Homeowners benefit from free electricity when there is sufficient daylight to power the panels, while continuing to pay for electricity from their existing supplier at other times.

Large, unshaded south-facing roofs are typically needed to fit the panels.

Is this good?

The Energy Saving Trust says that solar panels can save the typical home about £200 a year in electricity costs.

Consumer Focus, the watchdog, says the panel offers could be attractive to households who don’t have funds to pay for installation.

What’s the catch?

In return for free panels, the installers pocket the new “feed in tariff” – also called the “clean energy cashback” – of about £800 a year that can be earned under the government scheme to encourage renewable energy generation.

Homeowners are also tied in to contracts with installers for 25 years – so, if you sell your home, the buyer will generally have to take on the contract.

Also, installers could go bust, making it hard for homeowners to enforce maintenance agreements.

What’s the alternative?

Households could pay to have their own solar panels fitted, and then receive the feed-in tariff payments – which are tax-free and inflation-linked – as well as saving on electricity bills.

For a £12,000 outlay, households could earn £23,000 over 25 years, says Moneysavingexpert, the consumer advice website.
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Sunday, 8 August 2010

All new homes to run on green power by 2016

Every new home is to be powered by a green energy plant to offset its environmental impact under government plans for zero-carbon living from 2016.

If a development is too small, remote or shielded from wind or sun for an effective renewables scheme, developers will pay a levy to the local council to create bigger plants nearby that would cancel out the carbon footprint of the homes, while providing green power. According to government figures, more than a quarter of all CO2 emissions come from residential properties.

All new homes are rated under the Code for Sustainable Homes. Where planned properties do not reach the highest level 6 standard – where their own green energy production offsets their emissions – developers would be charged a tariff of around £15,000 by the local council to fund infrastructure and local services. Part of this would also include contributing to a "buy-out fund" to pay for the construction of wind farms, solar panels or geothermal technologies in the local area, which would supply the new development with green power.

It is hoped the plan would result in economies of scale, where a larger renewable energy plant could offset the carbon emissions of several small plots of houses.

The housing minister, Grant Shapps, said: "We are committed to being the greenest government ever, and an essential part of that is to ensure that all homes in the future will be built without emitting any carbon. This announcement is an important and very significant step in that direction because for the first time we have described in detail how developers might be expected to achieve zero carbon, by connecting developments to local energy schemes."

Labour set the 2016 zero-carbon target in 2006 but did little to explain how it would be met, or even what the definition meant. The coalition has given £600,000 to the public-private body Zero Carbon Hub to begin testing new benchmarks for carbon emission reductions. However, even supporters of the scheme complain that the coalition has reneged on a promise to set out a definition for a zero-carbon home "within weeks" of taking office.

Simon McWhirter, from the conservation charity WWF, said the levy on developers was "really important" to ensure that new properties, such as flats, which cannot practically generate enough green power on site, can still be zero carbon. "The ability for small builders to pay into a pot which will then be used independently to deliver the emissions reductions elsewhere is a sensible approach to take."

Ministers are also being urged to ensure that building guidelines do not include measures to prevent loss of heat and power that make the homes uninhabitable, through overheating or poor ventilation.

Dr David Strong, chief executive of consultancy Inbuilt and a member of the Zero Carbon Hub's task group, said: "My big worry is as we start to build our homes to increasing standards, unless there is considerable care in the way they are designed and built, there is a real danger of a whole lot of perverse outcomes."

Nottingham City Council already runs a district heating system, in which domestic and commercial waste is used to provide electricity and hot water to more than 4,600 homes, the National Ice Centre, and two shopping centres.

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Saturday, 7 August 2010

Tesco starts selling £10,000 flat-pack homes

Self-assembly ’Helsinki’ log cabins have five rooms, double glazing and a decking area

Tesco has moved into the property sector by selling flat pack homes for under £10,000.

The supermarket giant is offering shoppers a massive 19998 Clubcard points if they buy one of the new £9,999 self-assembly log cabins the store is now selling.

The Finnlife structures come with five rooms and a decking area as well as double glazing. It can be upgraded to include a guttering kit, laminate flooring and underfloor heating

The Helsinki model is only available from Tesco’s website and anyone interested in buying it online will have to pay a £5 delivery charge.

The product comes with step-by-step building instructions and the structures are being marketed as being straight forward to self assemble with no need to hire anyone to help. However, Tesco is warning prospective buyers that they may need planning permission

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