The London Underground is polluted with ultrafine metallic particles small enough to end up in the human bloodstream, according to researchers. These particles are so small that they are likely being underestimated in surveys of pollution in the world’s oldest metro system.
Insulating the lofts and cavity walls of existing UK housing stock only reduces gas consumption for the first year or two, with all energy savings vanishing by the fourth year after a retrofit, according to research from policy experts at the University of Cambridge.
The latest study is the first to track in detail household gas use across England and Wales for at least five years both before and after insulation installation.
The idea that a technology called carbon capture and storage (CCS) could catch molecules of CO₂ as they emerge from the chimneys of power stations and factories has been around for more than two decades. Michael Gove, the secretary of state responsible for “levelling up” the UK’s regions, recently justified his approval of the UK’s first new coal mine in 30 years with “increased use of CCS”. There’s only one problem: CCS won’t cancel out Woodhouse Colliery’s emissions, which are estimated at 400,000 tonnes a year, because it barely exists.
The UK government first started talking about CCS in the late 1990s, when it was looking to meet and exceed its commitment to cut emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.
The fact that developing countries like China and India were planning to burn coal for decades made the UK consider starting a CCS industry as its “gift to the world”, in the words of one senior lobbyist I interviewed for research into industrial decarbonisation.
It’s obvious why oil and gas companies like the idea of CCS. Fossil fuel firms can keep extracting and selling their product (coking coal for the steel industry in the case of the new mine in Cumbria, north-west England, almost all of which is expected to be exported) and mopping up the climate-wrecking emissions is someone else’s responsibility. Politicians have been more circumspect. Some have chafed at the enormous upfront cost of developing and installing CCS and sinking taxpayers’ money into a potential white elephant.
Advocates of a greenhouse gas removal industry which would scrub excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere now envisage a vast network of pipes and ships transporting captured CO₂ to storage facilities. One group known as the Coalition for Negative Emissions, composed of energy firms and airlines among other companies, sees the potential in CCS to allow societies to “decarbonise while ensuring continued economic progress”. It also points out, (fairly, in my opinion) that “the enabling infrastructure [has] significant scale-up times [and] this acceleration needs to start today”.
Amid all these breathless position papers and adverts, it can be easy to forget that pilot programmes for CCS have been plagued by cost-overruns and operational failures. CCS is still many years away from making a dent in humanity’s emissions, even if everything goes much more smoothly than it has – repeatedly – in the past.
To use the possible commercial existence of CCS some time in the future as a reason to wave through a high-carbon development now, as Gove has done, is a good example of what some fellow academics have called “mitigation deterrence”.
Meaning, efforts at mitigating climate change (by reducing the amount of carbon spewed into the atmosphere) are deterred by the real or imagined existence of future technologies that might work. It’s the equivalent of smoking more and more cigarettes each day and gambling that a cure for cancer will exist by the time you need it.
Some 43% of UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soy members are currently specifying requirements for deforestation and conversion free (DCF) soy to suppliers, with a further 48% reporting they plan to do so in the next 12 months.
Much of this country’s housing stock was built more than a century ago, and too much of it built poorly and unsustainably. And there are enormous inequities in British housing, creating social fissures that will be exacerbated this coming winter as people deal with soaring fuel prices. But an architectural tour of this country’s houses — from grand iconic structures, like the Elizabethan Hardwick Hall to more modest Victorian Terrace homes and modern tower blocks — suggests that the lessons learned over the centuries about how to deal with the harsh realities of weather may apply today. As one advocate for making older structures more sustainable says, “Buildings are vessels and we’ve forgotten how to sail these ships.”
The implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations in the UK has been delayed until 2024, but packaging data specialist Ecoveritas is cautioning producers to not be complacent and to start making plans now.