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We aim to raise public awareness among the residents of Woodstock and beyond on the issues of climate change, energy conservation, waste reduction, recycling, bio-diversity, sustainable economics and respect for the planet. 
We are working in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council, West Oxfordshire District Council, local schools and churches, Blenheim Palace and the Farmers Market and the Woodstock trade association, Wake Up to Woodstock


Climate Change

So what will BREXIT mean for Climate Change and Sustainability?

The UK government won praise six months ago for taking a leading role in the Paris climate change conference which, for the first time, reached a legally binding agreement on cutting carbon emissions.  With the Bexit vote the UK’s future participation is called into question.  But more seriously the Leave campaign’s victory provides succour to those groups who oppose climate change action.  It could conceivably delay the ratification of the Paris agreement beyond the date of the US election and, God forbid that Trump should win that particular race, a change of President in the US could scupper the agreement altogether.  Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability at PwC said, “[the referendum outcome] is a major setback for the type pf collaboration needed to tackle global environmental issues such as climate change.  The UK government has been a champion of climate action at home, within the EU, and in Paris.  This leadership is now at risk, with many supporters of Brexit also opposed to climate policies such as carbon taxes and efficiency standards.”

 

The Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) annual progress report said that emissions from electricity generation were falling fast but pollution from transport was rising and action on cutting carbon emissions from homes has gone backwards.  National carbon emissions have fallen by over 4.5% per year since 2012 but almost entirely due to increasing use of renewable sources of energy generation.  There has been virtually no reductions in the rest of the economy and the rate of installing insulation in homes has reduced by 90% and the government has scrapped plans to make all new homes zero carbon.  The UK has no policies in place to meet more than half of the carbon emissions cuts required by law by 2030.  The danger following Brexit is that without EU pressure the government will be even less inclined to adopt low carbon policies.  The government’s abandonment of research and development into Carbon Capture and Storage technology (CCS) will seriously jeopardise the UK reaching its 2050 carbon targets (see the positive news from Iceland on CCS here)

 

GreenpeaceUK Executive Director John Sauven added, “Many of the laws that make our drinking and bathing water safe, our air cleaner, our fishing industry more sustainable and our climate safer now hang by a thread …… There is a very real fear that Cameron’s successor will come from the school that supports a bonfire of anti-pollution protections.”  Friends of the Earth said the group could “no longer rely on the EU to protect our nature and habitats,” adding that clean beaches, air quality and protection of bees from pesticides were among issues put at risk by potential loss of EU legislation.

Greenpeace analysys also believe that rules governing restrictions on the amount of fracking could also be lifted.

 

So far as food is concerned it is likely that with a weaker pound food prices will rise.  30% of our food is imported from the EU and the UK’s food production is heavily dependent on migrant labour.  Some 38% of food manufacturing (the UK’s biggest manufacturing industry,; bigger than cars or aerospace) is foreign born labour and there won’t be much fresh fruit and veg without foreign pickers.

 

CO2 turned into stone in Iceland in climate change breakthrough - Guardian Report - 9th June 2016

Radical new technique promises a cheaper and more secure method of burying CO2 emissions underground instead of storing it as a gas


Site close to the Hellisheidi geothermal powerplant, where CO2 was injected into volcanic rock. In two years it was almost completely mineralised. Photograph: Juerg Matter/Science

Damian Carrington

Thursday 9 June 201619.00 BST Last modified on Thursday 9 June 201622.00 BST

Carbon dioxide has been pumped underground and turned rapidly into stone, demonstrating a radical new way to tackle climate change.

The unique project promises a cheaper and more secure way of burying CO2 from fossil fuel burning underground, where it cannot warm the planet. Such carbon capture and storage (CCS) is thought to be essential to halting global warming, but existing projects store the CO2 as a gas and concerns about costs and potential leakage have halted some plans.

The new research pumped CO2 into the volcanic rock under Iceland and sped up a natural process where the basalts react with the gas to form carbonate minerals, which make up limestone. The researchers were amazed by how fast all the gas turned into a solid – just two years, compared to the hundreds or thousands of years that had been predicted.

“We need to deal with rising carbon emissions and this is the ultimate permanent storage – turn them back to stone,” said Juerg Matter, at the University of Southampton in the UK, who led the research published on Thursday in the journal Science.

Matter said the only thing holding back CCS was the lack of action from politicians, such as putting a price on carbon emissions: “The engineering and technology of CCS is ready to be deployed. So why do we not see hundreds of these projects? There is no incentive to do it.”

The Iceland project has already been increased in scale to bury 10,000 tonnes of CO2 a year and the basalt rocks used are common around the world, forming the floor of all the oceans and parts of the land too. “In the future, we could think of using this for power plants in places where there’s a lot of basalt and there are many such places,” said Martin Stute, at Columbia University in the US and part of the research team.

Testing has taken place in the Columbia River Basalts, extensive deposits in Washington and Oregon in the US. India, which has many polluting coal power plants, has huge basalt deposits in the Deccan Traps.

One potential challenge for the new technique is that it requires large amounts of water: 25 tonnes for each tonne of CO2 buried. But Matter said seawater could be used, which would be in plentiful supply at coastal sites. Another is that subterranean microbes might break down carbonate to methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, but this was not seen in the Iceland research.

The research, called the Carbfix project, took place at Iceland’s Hellisheidi power plant, the world’s largest geothermal facility. The plant pumps up volcanically heated water to run electricity-generating turbines but this also brings up volcanic gases, including carbon dioxide and nasty-smelling hydrogen sulphide.

The researchers re-injected 230 tonnes of the gas, which was dissolved in water to prevent it escaping, down into the basalt to a depth of 400-500m. They used tracer chemicals to show that over 95% of CO2 was turned into stone within two years, “amazingly fast” according to Matter. Edda Aradottir, who heads the project for Reykjavik Energy, said: “It was a very welcome surprise.”

Members of the CarbFix science team handling rock core recovered during drilling at the CO2 injection site. Photograph: Juerg Matter/Science

The Iceland project has now begun scaling up to bury 10,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, plus the hydrogen sulphide which also turns into minerals. The Columbia University group are also investigating another rock type, found in Oman, which may be able to turn CO2 into rock even better than basalt.

In conventional CCS, the CO2 is stored as a gas in sedimentary rocks such as exhausted oil fields under the North Sea. Unlike basalt, these rocks lack the minerals needed to convert CO2 into stone. Such sedimentary reservoirs could potentially leak and therefore have to be monitored, which adds to costs.

They have also raised concerns from the public and projects on land in the Netherlands and Germany have been halted as a result. “In Europe you can forget about onshore CCS,” said Matter.

Conventional CCS also requires the CO2 to be separated from the mix of gases emitted by power stations and industrial plants, which is expensive. But the basalt-based CCS does not require this. However, Matter said there would still be a role for conventional CCS in places where power plants are close to good reservoirs.

Stuart Haszeldine, professor of CCS at the UK’s University of Edinburgh and not involved in the new research said it was promising: “This is terrific. It may well provide a low-cost and very secure remedy for parts of the world where the suitable rocks exist. [But] this needs to be used as well as all the existing propositions, because the problem to be solved of thousands of million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year in the world is immense and no single remedy is anywhere near big enough or fast enough.”

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that CCS is hugely important to tackling climate change in the most cost-effective way. Without CCS, the costs of halting global warming would double, the IPCC said, an assessment with which the UK government’s advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, agrees.

However, the UK government cancelled a pioneering £1bn CCS competition in November. Globally, CCS has not developed as quickly as hoped, although some companies are using CO2 injection to drive more oil and gas from older fields. Haszeldine said there have been over 100 injections of CO2 gas in different countries worldwide since 1972, none of which are known to have leaked.

Other innovative approaches to CCS are being explored, including an ExxonMobil-backed project using fuel cells to make capturing CO2 cheaper and one from Ford which uses CO2 to make foam for use in their vehicles. Groups are also working on chemical advances to capture CO2 more easily.

Applauding Themselves to Death:  Why the UN climate talks have wasted 23 years, and how this can change.


By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11th March 2015

 

If you visit the website of the UN body that oversees the world’s climate negotiations(1), you will find dozens of pictures, taken across 20 years, of people clapping. These photos should be of interest to anthropologists and psychologists. For they show hundreds of intelligent, educated, well-paid and elegantly-dressed people wasting their lives.

 

The celebratory nature of the images testifies to the world of make-believe these people inhabit. They are surrounded by objectives, principles, commitments, instruments and protocols, which create a reassuring phantasm of progress while the ship on which they travel slowly founders.  Leafing through these photos, I imagine I can almost hear what the delegates are saying through their expensive dentistry. “Darling you’ve re-arranged the deckchairs beautifully. It’s a breakthrough! We’ll have to invent a mechanism for holding them in place, as the deck has developed a bit of a tilt, but we’ll do that at the next conference.”

 

This process is futile because they have addressed the problem only from one end, and it happens to be the wrong end. They have sought to prevent climate breakdown by limiting the amount of greenhouse gases that are released; in other words, by constraining the consumption of fossil fuels. But, throughout the 23 years since the world’s governments decided to begin this process, the delegates have uttered not one coherent word about constraining production.

 

Compare this to any other treaty-making process. Imagine, for example, that the Biological Weapons Convention made no attempt to restrain the production or possession of weaponised smallpox and anthrax, but only to prohibit their use. How effective do you reckon it would be? (You don’t have to guess: look at the US gun laws, which prohibit the lethal use of guns but not their sale and carriage. You can see the results in the news every week). Imagine trying to protect elephants and rhinos only by banning the purchase of their tusks and horns, without limiting killing, export or sale. Imagine trying to bring slavery to an end not by stopping the transatlantic trade, but by seeking only to discourage people from buying slaves once they had arrived in the Americas. If you want to discourage a harmful trade, you must address it at both ends: production and consumption. Of the two, production is the most important.

The extraction of fossil fuels is a hard fact. The rules governments have developed to prevent their use are weak, inconsistent and negotiable. In other words, when coal, oil and gas are produced, they will be used. Continued production will overwhelm attempts to restrict consumption. Even if efforts to restrict consumption temporarily succeed, they are likely to be self-defeating. A reduction in demand when supply is unconstrained lowers the price, favouring carbon-intensive industry.

 

You can search through the UN’s website for any recognition of this issue, but you would be wasting your time. In its gushing catalogue of self-congratulation(2), at Kyoto, Doha, Bali, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, Lima and all stops en route, the phrase “fossil fuel” does not occur once. Nor do the words coal or oil. But gas: oh yes, there are plenty of mentions of gas. Not natural gas, of course, but of greenhouse gases, the sole topic of official interest.

 

The closest any of the 20 international conferences convened so far have come to acknowledging the problem is in the resolution adopted in Lima in December last year. It pledged “cooperation” in “the phasing down of high-carbon investments and fossil fuel subsidies”(3), but proposed no budget, timetable or any instrument or mechanism required to make it happen. It’s progress of a sort, I suppose, and perhaps, after just 23 years, we should be grateful.

 

There is nothing random about the pattern of silence that surrounds our lives. Silences occur where powerful interests are at risk of exposure. They protect these interests from democratic scrutiny.. I’m not suggesting that the negotiators decided not to talk about fossil fuels, or signed a common accord to waste their lives. Far from it: they have gone to great lengths to invest their efforts with the appearance of meaning and purpose. Creating a silence requires only an instinct for avoiding conflict. It is a conditioned and unconscious reflex; part of the package of social skills that secures our survival. Don’t name the Devil for fear that you’ll summon him.

 

Breaking such silences requires a conscious and painful effort. I remember as if it were yesterday how I felt when I first raised this issue in the media(4). I had been working with a group of young activists in Wales, campaigning against opencast coal mines(5). Talking it over with them, it seemed so obvious, so overwhelming, that I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t on everyone’s lips. Before writing about it, I circled the topic like a dog investigating a suspicious carcass. Why, I wondered, is no one touching this? Is it toxic?

 

You cannot solve a problem without naming it. The absence of official recognition of the role of fossil fuel production in causing climate change – blitheringly obvious as it is – permits governments to pursue directly contradictory policies. While almost all governments claim to support the aim of preventing more than 2°C of global warming, they also seek to “maximise economic recovery” of their fossil fuel reserves. (Then they cross their fingers, walk three times widdershins around the office and pray that no one burns it). But few governments go as far as the UK has gone.

 

In the Infrastructure Act that received royal assent last month, maximising the economic recovery of petroleum from the UK’s continental shelf became a statutory duty(6). Future governments are now legally bound to squeeze every possible drop out of the ground.

 

The idea came from a government review conducted by Sir Ian Wood, the billionaire owner of an inherited company – the Wood Group – that provides services to the oil and gas industry. While Sir Ian says his recommendations “received overwhelming industry support”(7), his team interviewed no one outside either the oil business or government. It contains no sign that I can detect of any feedback from environment groups or scientists.

 

His review demanded government powers to enhance both the exploration of new reserves and the exploitation of existing ones. This, it insisted, “will help take us closer to the 24 billion [barrel] prize potentially still to come.” The government promised to implement his recommendations in full and without delay(8). In fact it went some way beyond them. It is prepared to be ruthlessly interventionist when promoting climate change, but not when restraining it..

 

During December’s climate talks in Lima, the UK’s energy secretary, Ed Davey, did something unwise. He broke the silence. He warned that if climate change policies meant that fossil fuel reserves could no longer be exploited, pension funds could be investing in “the sub-prime assets of the future”(9). Echoing the Bank of England and financial analysts such as the Carbon Tracker Initiative, Mr Davey suggested that if governments were serious about preventing climate breakdown, fossil fuel could become a stranded asset.

 

This provoked a furious response from the industry. The head of Oil and Gas UK wrote to express his confusion(10), pointing out that Mr Davey’s statements come “at a time when you, your Department and the Treasury are putting great effort into [making] the UK North Sea more attractive to investors in oil and gas, not less. I’m intrigued to understand how such opposing viewpoints can be reconciled.” He’s not the only one. Ed Davey quickly explained that his comments were not to be taken seriously, as “I did not offer any suggestions on what investors should choose to do.”(11)

 

Barack Obama has the same problem. During a television interview last year, he confessed that “We’re not going to be able to burn it all.”(12) So why, he was asked, has his government been encouraging ever more exploration and extraction of fossil fuels? His administration has opened up marine oil exploration from Florida to Delaware – in waters that were formally off-limits(13). It has increased the number of leases sold for drilling on federal lands and, most incongruously, rushed through the process that might, by the end of this month, enable Shell to prospect in the highly vulnerable Arctic waters of the Chukchi Sea(14).

 

Similar contradictions beset most governments with environmental pretentions. Norway, for example, intends to be “carbon neutral” by 2030. Perhaps it hopes to export its entire oil and gas output, while relying on wind farms at home(15). A motion put to the Norwegian parliament last year to halt new drilling because it is incompatible with Norway’s climate change policies was defeated by 95 votes to 3(16).

 

Obama explained that “I don’t always lead with the climate change issue because if you right now are worried about whether you’ve got a job or if you can pay the bills, the first thing you want to hear is how do I meet the immediate problem?”(17)

 

Money is certainly a problem, but not necessarily for the reasons Obama suggested. The bigger issue is the bankrolling of politics by big oil and big coal(18), and the tremendous lobbying power they purchase. These companies have, in the past, financed wars to protect their position(19); they will not surrender the bulk of their reserves without a monumental fight. This fight would test the very limits of state power; I wonder whether our nominal democracies would survive it. Fossil fuel companies have become glutted on silence: their power has grown as a result of numberless failures to challenge and expose them. It’s no wonder that the manicured negotiators at the UN conferences, so careful never to break a nail, have spent so long avoiding the issue.

 

I believe there are ways of resolving this problem, ways that might recruit other powerful interests against these corporations. For example, a global auction in pollution permits would mean that governments had to regulate just a few thousand oil refineries, coal washeries, gas pipelines and cement and fertiliser factories, rather than the activities of 7 billion people(20). It would create a fund from the sale of permits that’s likely to run into trillions: money that could be used for anything from renewable energy to healthcare. By reducing fluctations in the supply of energy, it would deliver more predictable prices, that many businesses would welcome. Most importantly, unlike the current framework for negotiations, it could work, producing a real possibility of averting climate breakdown.

 

Left to themselves, the negotiators will continue to avoid this issue until they have wasted everyone else’s lives as well as their own. They keep telling us that the conference in Paris in December is the make or break meeting (presumably they intend to unveil a radical new deckchair design). We should take them at their word, and demand that they start confronting the real problem.

 

With the help of George Marshall at the Climate Outreach and Information Network, I’ve drafted a paragraph of the kind that the Paris agreement should contain. It’s far from perfect, and I would love to see other people refining it. But, I hope, it’s a start:

 

“Scientific assessments of the carbon contained in existing fossil fuel reserves suggest that full exploitation of these reserves is incompatible with the agreed target of no more than 2°C of global warming. The unrestricted extraction of these reserves undermines attempts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. We will start negotiating a global budget for the extraction of fossil fuels from existing reserves, as well as a date for a moratorium on the exploration and development of new reserves. In line with the quantification of the fossil carbon that can be extracted without a high chance of exceeding 2°C of global warming, we will develop a timetable for annual reductions towards that budget. We will develop mechanisms for allocating production within this budget and for enforcement and monitoring.”

 

 

If something of that kind were to emerge from Paris, it will not have been a total waste of time, and the delegates would be able to congratulate themselves on a real achievement rather than yet another false one. Then, for once, they would deserve their own applause.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot. A fully referenced version of this article can be found at Monbiot.com

 

 

References:

1. http://unfccc.int/2860.php

2. See the section titled “Key Steps”.

3. http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2014/cop20/eng/10a01.pdf

4. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/dec/11/comment.greenpolitics

5. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/dec/05/beartoherethetruthyouvespoken

6. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/7/part/6/crossheading/recovery-of-uk-petroleum/enacted

7. http://www.woodreview.co.uk/documents/UKCS%20Maximising%20Recovery%20Review%20FINAL%2072pp%20locked.pdf

8. https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/wood-review-implementation-team

9. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/11277546/Fossil-fuel-investing-a-risk-to-pension-funds-says-Ed-Davey.html

10. https://www.scribd.com/doc/256034152/Malcom-Webb-to-Secretary-of-State

11. https://www.scribd.com/doc/256034194/Secretary-of-State-to-Malcolm-Webb

12. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/08/opinion/sunday/friedman-obama-on-obama-on-climate.html?_r=1

13. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/09/how-obama-became-oil-president-gas-fracking-drill

14. http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175963/tomgram%3A_subhankar_banerjee%2C_arctic_nightmares/

15. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24299-ipcc-digested-just-leave-the-fossil-fuels-underground.html

16. https://stortinget.no/no/Saker-og-publikasjoner/Saker/Sak/?p=59412

17. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/08/opinion/sunday/friedman-obama-on-obama-on-climate.html?_r=1

18. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2012/aug/02/climate-change-political-funding-us

19. http://en.mercopress.com/2008/06/15/formal-end-to-oil-companies-proxy-chaco-war-1932-35

20. http://www.kyoto2.org/

 

Chasing Ice film screenings

Highly commended documentary Chasing Ice is showing in Oxford at the Phoenix Cinema at 12.15pm on Friday 28th and Sunday 30th January 2013. Film makers put time-lapse cameras on several glaciers in Greenland and elsewhere and recorded the changes. Well worth a watch!

Pictures of Sustainable Woodstock and friends at "The Wave" Climate Demo, London, 5th December 2009

Lord Nicholas Stern's Lecture for The James Martin 21st Century School
Thursday 7th May 2009 at The Sheldonian, Oxford
Reviewed by Colin Carritt

Professor Lord Nicholas Stern, world renowned economist and leading authority on climate change, presented his lecture on "Blueprint for a Safer Planet" at Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre on Thursday 7 May. Lord Stern made headlines in 2006 with the publication of the influential Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. The lecture is part of the 21st Century School's Distinguished Public Lecture series.

The Stern Report received public and critical acclaim when it was published in 2006. It was the first time that climate change had been analysed as an economic challenge rather than an issue exclusively for science and technology. What Stern came up with in that ground breaking document was the, perhaps surprising, conclusion that the cost of reversing climate change was infinitely less than doing nothing.

In Lord Stern’s lecture his only expressed revision to the 2006 report was that, maybe, he had underplayed the degree of urgency at the time. He now concedes that urgent action is paramount.

But what action and how? Stern insists that the twin issues of climate change and world poverty are inseparable. They are inseparable because climate change can only be resolved through international collaboration, and collaboration demands a rebalance of the world’s wealth. Without help to the developing nations to raise their GDP per head of population, there will be no global agreement to a course of action. Climate change does not recognise borders. We are all in this together from the Wall Street banker to the subsistence farmer in the Indian sub-continent.

So what do we need to do and what will it cost? Stern believes that we must stabilise the level of CO2 in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million. Currently the level is 435 but at present growth rates, in 100 years it will be 750, which would give rise to a global temperature increase of 5 degrees, enough to destroy civilisation. (Homo-sapiens have been around on the planet for 200,000 years but the last time that the planet was 5 degrees hotter than now was 30 million years ago and was an age of equatorial swamps. Such a temperature rise would totally change the physical geography of the world.) Can we hold CO2 levels at 450?  Stern believes we can and if it does rise to 500 parts per million we would see a temperature rise of 2 to 3 degrees from which it would be essential to ensure a gradual reduction back to 450 again.

What will it cost? Globally, Stern estimates the cost to be $1.95 trillion. Sounds a lot of money, but the world’s GDP is currently $50 trillion and by 2050 is expected to rise to $100 trillion. So, for at most 4% and perhaps just 2% of our international wealth we can save the planet. Not a bad insurance premium I’d say. And there are spin-offs. Better energy security, less air pollution and the development of new technologies are all positive expectations from challenging climate change and will enhance economic growth world-wide. How do we get there? The developed nations of Europe and the US will need to achieve an 80% reduction in CO2 by 2050 (actually 90% in the US, but 80% is Obama’s current target). Stern is a supporter of the principle of carbon trading. He sees the concept as a means to allow under-developed nations to trade their carbon "rations" for cash to invest in their infrastructure and development. Most of these countries already have Climate Change Action Plans expressly for this purpose. Stern also wants to see greater sharing of technology since collaborative solutions will not emerge from a restrictive approach to technological innovation. He sees a need for a clear internationally recognised "price" for carbon, the rapid transfer of energy generation to zero carbon technologies and the replacement of deforestation (which accounts for 20% of the increase in carbon emissions) with comprehensive and globally supported alternative agricultural strategies.

In the subsequent question and answer session, Stern acknowledged the hysteresis effect of climate change i.e. global temperatures rise and melts the permafrost which releases massive volumes of methane which in turn increases the rate of global temperature rises. He was encouraging about the political climate, despite some scepticism from the audience. He believes that China, the US under Obama, and the UK government are all serious about the issues. And he was clear that the best way to ensure that world leaders are left in no doubt as to the importance of the issue when they meet at the December Copenhagen conference was by engaging in clear rational debate now. Which, after all, is what Sustainable Woodstock is all about!

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