January 9th, 2020
Before the end of 2019, I noticed news of a programme scheduled on the National Geographic channel – ‘with a population of 1.4 billion people, China is one of the world’s largest polluters. After generations of oil-fuelled expansion, the Chinese are now exploring new green ways to sustain their megacities, such as the vertical forests and wind farms explored in this insightful documentary.’
I mention this, to show there is hope in the most unexpected places – and also for the sake of my niece who is currently living in China.
Now, energy news – a ‘tiny spark’, according to the BBC’s online news, in the UK’s hydrogen revolution has been lit. Hydrogen fuel is a relatively green alternative to many fuels that produce greenhouse gases. The natural gas supply at Keele University is being blended with 20% hydrogen. Adding the hydrogen will reduce the amount of CO2 that’s being produced through heating and cooking.
Using natural gas for heating generates about a third of the UK emissions that are driving global warming. But the only product of burning hydrogen is water.
Critics fear hydrogen will prove too expensive for mass usage, but supporters of the technology have high hopes. And the big positive, it seems, is the practical conversion/interim application. The fact is that so many households have gas boilers in this country.
About 85% of homes have gas central heating, and some experts believe it will prove more cost-effective to switch boilers to hydrogen, rather than to install heat pumps which would require the UK’s ageing housing stock to be highly insulated.
A recent study for the government raised the possibility that homes could be warmed by a hybrid system using electric heat pumps, then topping up with hydrogen on cold days.
I’ll just add here that I have had a very encouraging, positive personal response from Chris Stark, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change. He is ‘genuinely optimistic that we will turn things around’ – ‘we’ll get there’, ‘keep pushing’ he said.
That certainly has given me a boost; and I hope it helps others too to keep striving…..
Continuing the hydrogen theme, a young team of scientists led by inspiring woman Dr Enass Abo-Hamed has built what it believes is the future of air travel. They have come up with a revolutionary structure which could store hydrogen as a stable solid without compression. They are currently testing flying drones powered by hydrogen (to deliver medicine, or scan disaster areas to send information back); but Dr Abo-Hamed’s dream is to ultimately de-carbonise air travel – in the next twenty or thirty years….?
Now an immediate decision about air travel – Australian actor Yael Stone has vowed to give up her green card, which allows her to live and work in the US, as a ‘personal sacrifice’ in the ‘climate war’. She has decided it’s unethical for her to set up a life in two countries, calling such frequent travelling ‘environmentally unjust’.
This is interesting timing – it coincides with the announcement from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle that they intend to now live their lives between the US and the UK. I thought they made speeches against climate change, recently…?!
On my own personal note, I do have two friends who move regularly between Australia and here – impossible not to, if your family is split on both sides of the world…..
To finish this week, I’ll touch on a subject where we can all make a difference – what we eat.
Changes in land use are vital for the recovery of the earth. And it is definitely a heartening sign that more and more people (and crucially, more ‘mainstream’ companies) are reducing their meat consumption. Meat-free Mondays is ‘a thing’ (I’ve only just discovered, actually), particularly promoted by Paul McCartney. And Burger King has launched its first plant-based burger – I just hope the soya is ethically sourced….Subway has added a vegan marinara meatball sandwich to its menu too, after launching a vegan patty last year. ‘Flexitarian’ seems to be a new dietary category, describing people who still eat meat but are reducing their intake of animal products. Long may it all continue.
And eventually lab-grown food will end farming and save the planet! Check out Solar Foods, a company making very radical changes in Helsinki.
As Yael Stone says: “We have to step up because this is war.. And our enemy is not wearing a uniform that we’ll be able to recognise. Our enemy is our own behaviour.”