Category Archives: Environment

One year on from Storm Desmond

Major Incident Declared As Storm Desmond Wreaks Havoc In Cumbria

More than 700 families have yet to be re-homed following the devastating affects of Storm Desmond in Cumbria this time last year. Cumbria County Council say that the storm will cost the local economy up to £5oo million in damages.

The three-month period between November 2015 and January 2016 was the wettest on record with 341.4mm of rain fall in just 24 hours in parts of Carlisle.

Thousands of homes and businesses were ruined in wake of the storm which bought tercentennial downpours, landslides and river bank eruptions. Many people living in the affected areas have not been able to repair the damages and are either still living in temporary accommodation or living in flooded houses and are unable to claim on their home insurance.

The Cumbria Community Foundation, which was set up in light of Storm Desmond has received over 5000 appeals for help and it has awarded more that £7 million pounds to victims of the flooding in compensation.

Although the financial cost of the storm is huge its nothing compared to the humane cost of the disaster. A study into the affects of the storm has been published a year after the floods hit.

The study’s lead Author, Terry Marsh from the Center of Ecology and Hydrology concluded that: “At a national scale the winter floods of 2015-1016 were the most extreme on record. The November to January period was the wettest three-month sequence in the UK rainfall series – which began in 1910.”

 

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Major cities plan to ban diesel cars by 2020

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Cars sit in traffic on a Bank Holiday weekend (Photo: Mirror)

Plans to ban diesel vehicles from a number of major cities have been unveiled by leaders of major cities on Friday morning. The mayors of Paris, Athens, Madrid and Mexico City came together to discuss the proposed scheme, which aims to take all diesel-fuelled vehicles off the roads by 2025. It has been reported that new incentives will be introduced to promote alternative transport, after research showed limited regulatory and little financial support in the past.

Diesel cars contribute to the toxic Nitrogen Dioxide emissions polluting major cities across the world. New research suggests that politicians’ prioritisation of economic growth and road safety surpass the focus on tackling air pollution in the UK. A report from Greenpeace showed that 4 out of 5 new diesel cars release dangerous levels of the compound, causing 40,000 deaths each year in the UK alone.

Air pollution caused by diesel engines has been heavily criticised by a number of bodies.  Friends of The Earth launched a petition titled ‘Ditch diesel, cut air pollution’

“The UK must phase out diesel vehicles by 2025”

At 1,643 signatures, the organisation stressed the health impacts of the contamination, emphasising that “Children are particularly vulnerable.”

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A chart from the European Economic Area (EEA) shows levels of Nitrogen Dioxide across major cities (Source: BBC)

Similarly, a Greenpeace press release in association with the Institute For Public Policy Research (IPPR) proposed that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan should “Introduce a charge on all non-zero cars in inner London by 2025.” Furthermore, the organisation insisted the importance of reinvesting revenue from charges in alternative methods of transport.

Campaigners across the UK are calling for action from Khan, who has launched plans to extend the Ultra-Low Emission Zone and implement further charges for the most polluting vehicles in the capital.

“It is time for the UK Government to decide if they want to give our citizens the right to breathe clean air, or continue spending valuable NHS resources on treating heart and lung diseases that could be prevented.” Source: Greenpeace

In response to the criticism of major organisations, the EU has taken actions to tighten emissions regulations. A press release said new Real Driving Emissions (RDE) tests will “determine whether a new car model is allowed to be put on the market.” The Members’ State agreement highlighted the “binding impact” the RDE test will have  on”type-approvals issues.”

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Greenpeace campaigner holding a protest poster in front of a Volkswagen factory (Photo: Independent)

Following the Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015, many automobile manufacturers have faced backlash with the likes of Mercedez-Benz, Renault and Hyundai. All have launched diesel models in 2016 with NOx emissions surpassing the official lab limit, following a study by Emissions Analytics.

7 ways Trump’s presidency will affect climate change

As the upcoming 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump has certainly made a name for himself. Among a host of other controversial comments, the Republican has spent the past five years refusing to admit that President Obama was born in the US Discussing the inspiration behind his foreign policy, he also bragged: “I have a very good brain, and I’ve said a lot of things”. Nevertheless, jokes aside, he was elected as leader of the free world in January. Among all the negative consequences that may result from Trump’s presidency, the ones regarding climate change and environment are the most worrying. Here’s a list of all the ways our planet might be affected by the president-elect’s environmental policy.

  1. Trump has called climate change a “hoax” created by the Chinese, something that certainly will not help the world tackle the problem. Nor will picking a climate change sceptic, Myron Ebell, to lead his transition.
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  1. He is poised to pull America out of the landmark Paris agreement, which will seriously hurt international momentum, especially if other countries follow.
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  1. The Republican could scrap the Environmental Protection Agency. If he goes through with this, the US will risk ending up like China where air pollution is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths every year.
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China pollution
  1. Trump wants to back coal mining. Understandably, he wants to create jobs… but why through coal mining? Natural gas is far cheaper, and coal mining would be an enormous step backward as it is responsible for thousands of premature deaths per year.
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  1. His pledge to make America energy independent – in other words, relying solely on domestic production to power the US – is risky. What if something happens to the refineries and there are no sources left?
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  1. The President-elect has argued that wind farms kill more than one million birds each year – when coal mining kills close to eight million and oil and gas kill around one million.
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  1. He also denied rising sea levels. But it takes a quick look at Florida to understand the severity of the problem.
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Sandy Garcia sits in her vehicle on a flooded street in Fort

Lauderdale, Florida, in 2015. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

A lot of things can change in four years, Trump and his administration have both the power and possibility to reverse some of the recent achievements and make things worse for the planet. Quite surprisingly, this time we found ourselves hoping that a politician will NOT follow through on his absurd promises.

Moving to mars – Humans are now closer than ever to colonising the red planet

The prospect of humans moving to Mars has always been an interesting topic for debates. Scientists have been researching the Red Planet for many years and now they have come up with the possibility that humans may inhabit Mars by the 2030s. This poses a very interesting question: how will humans be able to survive on the Red Planet?

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Image of Mars taken from The Daily Mail

Industrial work, gas emissions and litter are among the main threats to our home planet. As a result, climate change is one of the biggest threats to us all which makes the prospects of moving to another planet slightly more real.

Humans have always speculated on how life would be like on Mars, ranging from where we would live to how we will find food and water. In collaboration with Stephen Petranek, the author of “How We’ll Live on Mars”, the astronomers from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich have created the first ever model of a Martian home.

The display gives an insight into where and how we might live on the Red Planet in the next few decades. The igloo-shaped construction would be made of recycled spaceship parts and Martian soil. Inside the home, all the essentials for living on Mars will be included. There would be a space where people could grow their own food, a ‘living room’ area, a bed and even an exercise machine. It is also said that all the houses on Mars would be connected by an underground system.

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Our future home taken from National Geographic

However, the real question is: are humans even close to colonising Mars as the Royal Observatory claims? The astronomer Marios Karouzos states that we are closer than ever, since ‘’science is progressing and our technological abilities are becoming better each year”.

“This doesn’t mean that we are close enough. At this stage, going to Mars requires the same skillset as an astronaut,” he adds.

Going to Mars requires people to be able to respond to any kind of emergency that may arise at any moment. For example, engineering, physics and medicine are among the skills that are essential for humans to survive on Mars. Karouzos also points out that people travelling to Mars “need to be healthy with fully functional bodies”.

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Arriving to Mars taken from National Geographic

In order to survive, humans would have to grow their own food, melt ice for water and produce their own fuel. The physicist and senior lecturer at Imperial College London, Dr David Clements, also says that new developing technologies would create a radiation shielding using magnetic fields as a form of storm shelter. He adds: “It won’t just be a quick ‘stay a couple of days and fly straight back’ job as it was with Apollo”. “There’s a lot of work to be done on Mars itself.”

The plan would also involve a further exploration of the planet. Dr Clements believes there might be geology and maybe even biology by the time we finally colonise Mars. Nevertheless, it is important that humans take precautions and educate themselves on possible hazards we could face before jumping into the unknown.

The astrobiologist and professor of planetary science at Birkbeck University, Ian Crawford believes that people should make sure whether life exists on Mars or not, before sending people there. “I think we should certainly learn more about the composition of the Martian dust”, he says. “That red dust is very oxidised and could be quite toxic. We don’t know, because we’ve never studied it.”

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Rocks on Mars

Crawford stresses that it is crucial to send robotic missions to Mars first, in order to collect samples of rocks and soils and bring them to the Earth and study them. In this way, he says, we can determine the chemistry of the dust and decide whether it is a hazard or not.

While sending people to the Moon was a Cold War competition, moving to Mars should be a political opportunity for international collaboration. Relocating to another planet is something that involves a global effort.

But for now travelling to Mars is still a long way ahead of us. Therefore, we must make sure that our planet stays liveable for as long as possible, working hard to preserve all the natural resources it offers. In the meantime, it is wise to explore all the options that our universe has set aside for us.

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Mars robot