Ocean cleanup update – its prototype works!

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while you will remember I have in the past talked about the ocean cleanup.

In simple terms the ocean cleanup is a group whose aim is to remove the plastic from the world’s oceans. The majority of this plastic is caught in relatively small parts of the ocean compared to it’s full size. Because the ocean currents carry these plastics to these small areas, it is a simpler job that is otherwise might be (though still huge).

Continue reading “Ocean cleanup update – its prototype works!”

Beaver trial reintroduction in the UK has a problem when one of the animals escapes

Reintroducing beavers into the UK would be a very sensible move. As a natural part of our ecosystem the fact that they are no longer there has an impact. Apart from the substantial reduction in flash floods that will occur should beavers be reintroduced across the UK, they also have a huge impact on biodiversity and the general river ecosystem as well as acting as a filter meaning that the water further downstream is substantially cleaner virtually eliminating all farm runoff.

However at the moment all British schemes to do with reintroducing beavers consist of putting the beavers into relatively small enclosures and then watching their impacts and how well they do.

Continue reading “Beaver trial reintroduction in the UK has a problem when one of the animals escapes”

Jeremy Clarkson now admits that global warming is real

Over the last few years, after being fired by the BBC Jeremy Clarkson and the original hosts of Top Gear have been making their new show, the Grand Tour.

While the format is different, the Grand Tour is essentially the same show show with a far bigger budget and and in line increases in the dramatic scenes that it can create.

Why is it newsworthy that Jeremy Clarkson is now saying that global warming is real, given that the majority of the rest of the scientific world reach this conclusion several decades ago? I would argue because he has been one of the most vocal people against the move towards electric cars and the need to reduce pollution. Also in his car shows he has generally reviewed big gas guzzling cars far more positively than efficient ones.

Then there is the argument that Jeremy Clarkson on behalf of Top Gear had with Elon Musk and Tesla. When the first Tesla car was released the Tesla Roadster, Top Gear reviewed it. Unfortunately all the evidence suggests that this was not a fair review. It was taken out on the track but it was claimed that it ran out of battery having covered ,less than half of the range that the Tesla car was supposed to be able to drive. 

Now certainly an electric sports car not being able to survive being driven around a track a number of times fitted into the Top Gear narrative of the time, furthermore when disputing their claims Elon Musk mention several issues:

Firstly apparently the person who dropped off the car saw a script lying on a table, and in the script it specifically stated that the car ran out of battery. I don’t believe this was actually factually disputed, though it seems completely peculiar as it destroys any suggestion that Top Gear is a reviewing program and simply makes it into drama.

The second issue that was raised, appears even more stupid than leaving a script lying around. All Tesla cars have a powerful computer that runs them and make sure everything is working, but this also gives a log of performance and what is going on with the car, and this log clearly stated that there was almost 50% of the battery still remaining at the time that he said it had 0 battery left. 

He does seem to have gone back on this dislike of Tesla during his new show, including several tesla’s including a Tesla Model x in in the lineup of the grand tour.

Apparently his new epiphany (that climate change is real) came about while on one of the trips for the Grand Tour. Filming in Cambodia he was trying to navigate the Mekong river from Siem Reap to Vietnam, but he found this impossible in places due to the river having dried up. He States he found this highly alarming and it was the first time they had encountered evidence so clear.

I personally would dispute this, he has been travelling the world for his car series for decades and there have been many scenes in many episodes that have clearly demonstrated an issue with changing climate. However whatever happened on this occasion it was clearly so obvious as be undisputable.

My question now is will this have any impact whatsoever. Only 2 months ago he called the climate activist Greta thunberg a spoilt brat, a bit rich coming from someone who lives a life that most of the world could only dream of and who has had a carbon footprint of perhaps 1000 normal people. I would like to see him doing something about it.

While the super fast cars are fun, there are several things of note. Electric cars are so rapidly catching up that it is likely that they will be able to overtake combustion engine cars in many of the areas that they still out compete in the near future. He inevitably in his shows takes on all sorts of challenges, it would be good to see more of these aim towards reducing the carbon footprint of whatever it is. 

I think it is an opinion that combustion engine cars still dominate in all categories, however whether it is or isn’t is irrelevant. The majority of travel is going to have to go go fossil fuel free in the near future if we are to have a hope of continuing to be able to live comfortably on Earth. This would be helped greatly if Car People who run TV shows well less bias towards combustion engines and we’re willing to talk about the negatives as well as the positives. This way as companies like Tesla lead the way another car company start to Electrify the range, there would be more petrol heads cheering on on the advances in electric cars rather than trying to put it down all the time.

It should be noted that James May and Richard Hammond while not contradicting Jeremy Clarkson’s views on Top Gear, have another project been a standing you positive about all sorts of electric cars.

It is something that they would have to be careful to not destroy the brand but I would hope that with this realisation, he would feel the need to undo some of the damage that is done in the the past few decades

One of the arguments against electric cars? – cobalt? think again

One of the ingredients used to create electric devices batteries, is cobalt. Cobalt is something that is often mined in central Africa, and there is a significant issue with child labour. However, this is a stupid argument against electric cars. 

The electric car companies have been concerned about this, and so have reduced the amount they use. 

However, a far more significant use of cobalt, is to remove the sulphur from petrol and diesel! The fossil fuel companies are arguing you should use electric cars because they use a little cobalt (this doesn’t need refilling, it isn’t used up), but at the same time are using vast amounts of cobalt to remove the sulphur from their exhausts- because it is bad to breathe in. 

What is more ridiculous is that this process of removing sulphur uses up the cobalt, which it’s why the fossil fuel companies need so much. So far from saving cobalt, fossil fuels consume lots more and require a constant supply .

SUV sale to blame for co2 emissions, not falling diesel sales

Over the last couple of decades, the UK had gradually reduced the amount of co2 emissions. Unfortunately, over the last couple of years the number of people driving large suv cars, which use far more fossil fuel has increased dramatically. 

This recent increase in fossil fuel suv use, has increased co2 emissions so much, as to eradicate the gains of the last 2 decades. If the UK is to meet its carbon reduction targets, the government must be paying more attention, and we must start increasing taxes on fossil fuel SUVs so that they are not a good option for most people, making the electric alternatives for economically viable.

Zimbabwe is in the process of moving hundreds of elephants and two prides of lions from hwange National Park due to drought drying up their water pools, as well as shipping dozens to zoos in china

Drought hit animals too, and in this instance a Drought in Zimbabwe has hit hwange national park so hard that the animals have started to die in large numbers.

While the number of tourists that come to Zimbabwe have fallen dramatically since Mugabe started doing his more destructive policies, these fall in tourists has started to reverse again. Furthermore, with the economy gradually on its way to recovery people can afford to buy food and thus the pressure on wild areas from poaching has decreased significantly.

The translocation is not insignificant, plans to move 600 elephant 2 prides of lions a pack of wild dogs, 50 buffalo 40 giraffe and 2000 Impala. 

In other parts of Africa water is pumped into these areas to refill the watering holes. It is unclear whether this was impossible in this case or merely prohibitively expensive- though the cost of moving this many animals will be significant and does not solve the water problem permanently so so a longer-term solution must be found.

Zimbabwe is calling for the relaxation of rules about utilising animals (in ways other than photographic tourism) , and while this would be capable of giving the Zimbabwean government the money needed to protect these animals given the way they have behaved in recent years the international community cannot be sure that the Zimbabwean government will will behave responsibly towards their are flora and fauna.

It is certainly true that looking after animals like elephants that can hurt humans ( in recent years as much as 200 people  have died in human animal conflict) is not cheap, however before the disastrous policies of Mugabe the animals of Zimbabwe bought in a large amount of money for it’s people. Returning to this situation can allow the animals to thrive alongside a higher income for people of the country.

Zimbabwe moving 30 young elephants to China, more to follow

Zimbabwe is also under pressure for sending roughly 30 young elephants to China deal in a did with a country. Supposedly this has to be done for the health of the animals as hwang national park where they come from is suffering from a horrific drought that has killed many elephants. However undercover camera work has already shown these young elephants in concrete and metal enclosures having their will broken, flowers to be more easy to control the circuses and zoos in China. Unfortunately it appears that despite Mugabe having left power in Zimbabwe the current government of Zimbabwe still looks on the wildlife as simply a commodity to be traded away and not say something to be preserved for the future. Tourists should look very carefully before being prepared to spend money on safari in Zimbabwe. In total 90 elephants have been moved to China and Dubai in return for 2.7 million dollars.

Food for domestic livestock from fish a threat to African penguins?

We seem to be playing wack-a-mole when it comes to feedstock for farmed animals. In most of the world, livestock can graze for perhaps ¾ of the year. However, in countries with seasons, often in the winter the animals are in barns and are fed. 

Often, this feeding fattens up the animal faster than grazing and so in many places is used all year round. However, from a nutrients point of view, this is highly inefficient and it’s far better for humans to simply eat the crop (the land needed to raise feed stock cattle could feed far more people if they simply ate the crop of food). In other places, this feed is made from meat. 

In recent years, this foodstock has started to be made from fish, caught off the coast of south Africa. 

This,  however its not proving good for the local food chain. The majority of these fish are naturally eaten by African penguins, but with these being fished out, they are catching less fish, and having to swim further. As you can imagine, this is significantly affecting the penguin population, having significantly reduced the number of chicks that are raised significantly. 

Without rapid action, we could see the eradication of many African penguin colonies. If the fishing continues long-term, it may well guarantee a slow decline to extinction. It is ironic as for many farmers, they switched to fish based feed, to avoid damaging places like the Amazon, which is otherwise cut down to grow the feed stock for cattle.

Adding seaweed to cattle diet 70% reduction methane!

Humans are aging co2 and other warming gases to the atmosphere at an increasing rate through our activities. 

Much of these warming gases come from travel, though in the long-term this will be significantly reduced, by electrification.

Other activities appear harder to reduce emissions. One such area is farming. There are all sorts of issues in farming, but as far as emissions are concerned this issue, is methane, which comes from the animals (essentially cows breaking wind).

All sorts of solutions have been suggested, including fitting cows with a device to store the gases for use later (usually burnt for heating). 

However, a recent study has suggested a novel solution. They found by adding a small amount of seaweed (around 2% of volume) into the cattle feed, can reduce the gas creation in their stomach by as much as 70%. 

This would be a relatively cheap solution, that can cut farming emissions dramatically,  and potentially adds an industry for coastal communities as well. It is also likely far simpler and cheaper than farmers trying to collect the gas for future use.

Mc Donald’s doesn’t import beef from the Amazon, but much of the British beef is fed on soy- grown on deforested land in Brazil

Mc Donald’s has made a big issue out of the fact that they are no longer buying beef from amazonia. I fully approve of this move, but it appears that they are now importing large quantities of soy grown in the Amazon, and still requiring deforestation. 

Huge monoculture of soy, are as damaging (possibly more) than cattle ranching, as ranches often retain small pockets of forest and individual trees, so while most of the wildlife is lost, with soy plantation virtually all its lost. 

I am sure mc Donald’s understands that British people have an issue with deforestation, not with beef ranching. Better choices must be made. We must all make noise and complain about this underhand behaviour- and force them to improve their behaviour, if this doesn’t work, boycotting their restaurants might be the only way to stop ir.

Coal power is becoming uninsurable

Coal projects be then power plants or coal mines, are large projects often employing hundreds of people.

As such, the amount of money required to finance the set-up of these things is very big. This means that generally the organisation carrying out the project is required to borrow the money.

All very normal, this type of deal has been going on for centuries. However there’s an issue, the insurer has to work out the odds of you not being able to fulfill your obligations – most common case people have come across is insurance that you have had to buy when you have taken out a mortgage, that will pay off the mortgage in various circumstances such as death or serious illness.

However it is now a scientific fact that one of the highest contributors to the current climate crisis is the burning of coal, and as such the risk of these projects being halted in their tracks or being banned are high. When the odds of an insurer having to pay out increase they have to increase their prices and the market simply cannot cope with that.

As such many coal insurers have simply stopped offering the service. They started in Europe, but now some of the biggest insurance companies in America have started refusing business as well ( including Chubb and axis capital). In all so far 35 insurers have pulled out of the market or severely restricted what they will insure, and between them these insurance companies look after 8.9 trillion dollars worth of assets (roughly 37% of global markets) roughly a 50% increase in a year.

Only Lloyds in Europe will still insure and it is thought that within two or three years it will be hard if not impossible to get insurance for this sorts of projects. It should be noted that while Lloyds is still currently insuring companies, it holds no investments in fossil fuel Industries itself, having sold off the few it had left in 2018. It is thought that Asian insurers will continue to support these projects for a while but it is unlikely that they alone will be able to to give enough support to keep this dirty industry going for long.

Without insurance many projects simply will not happen. There may be some countries in the west where the government steps in to be the insurer of last resort, however it is clear that coal is in the last throes of being used by humans how to make electricity. 

Perhaps market forces will Accelerate the move away from fossil fuels after all.