Climate Change

‘Can we avoid Climate Catastrophe?’ was the question posed by local education charity BEACONS climate change guru, David Terry, in a talk for International Peace Day at the Friends’ Meeting House in Malvern on 21st September organised by Malvern Churches Justice & Peace Group.  Yes, but only at a very great cost and with a fair measure of good luck was the essence of his reply.  David spoke for 40 minutes and then entered in to a wide-ranging discussion with his fascinated audience.

He reviewed the factors that affect climate change, starting in 1769 when James Watt, seeing the lid of a boiling kettle lifting, realised that using steam to drive a piston rather than atmospheric pressure would be far more efficient. Ever increasing amounts of fossil fuel burning followed. David outlined the Greenhouse Effect and the theory of greenhouse gases before describing the various international panels driving current work to understand climate change and to slow the rise in global temperatures.  He argued that we cannot eliminate greenhouse gas emissions totally so we have to find ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as well as reducing these emissions.  With the largest number of wind farms in Europe, almost a third of UK electricity is generated without carbon emissions already but the problem is how to generate electricity when wind and solar fail.  Also, how can we use surplus power in summer so as to provide electricity in winter? 

Further, we need to realise that two major sources of greenhouse gases – cement production and agriculture – cannot be eliminated so it is essential we find ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere.  The use of ammonia or hydrogen to store renewable energy, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), genetic alteration of plants to improve storage of carbon dioxide in their roots and the genetic alteration of ocean bacteria to capture carbon dioxide in the viruses resident within the bacteria, direct cooling of the planet and alternative fuels, such as biomass, that emit far fewer greenhouse gases are amongst possible ideas being investigated. Already potential tech-nologies exist but even if they work in the lab, the problems and costs of scaling up to make a significant contribution to greenhouse gas reduction in the atmosphere are immense. 

Ultimately, a culture change will be required in the way we live day to day, even to the extent of considering new forms of food, such as protein produced in factories or eating food made from insects and grubs.

BEACONS produce free, online guides to climate change at: http://beaconsdec.org.uk/

Philip Wetherall, Social Responsibility, Lansdowne Crescent