Welcome to the blog of the course and textbook Facing up to global warming: What is going on and what you can do about it. This course is run by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Energy saving in public buildings

The Friends of the Earth have suggested that massive cuts in emissions as well as financial savings could be made by adopting more rigorous energy saving in schools, hospitals and other public offices.  It especially highlights buildings that are heated when empty during weekends and leaving computers switched on when not in use.  It estimates that it could save the state 1.75 billion euro over 10 years and  calls for  retrofitting such buildings with better insulation, reducing dependence on air conditioning and using low carbon heating systems. However, small changes can make a difference. A school in Clara in County Clare was able to reduce its electricity usage by 70% by simple actions such as lowering the heating setting on the central heating, using  time switches for heating rooms that were not used all the time, turning off the boiler at night and weekends, and encouraging staff and pupils to close doors and turn off lights.  Plans are already in place by the Government to reduce electricity use in over 10,000 buildings run by central and local government under the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan. It is claimed that the plan has already reduce energy usage by 33%  across the public sector.

More information: Friends of the Earth (2013) ‘Cuts that don’t hurt’. Friends of the Earth , Dublin. 

More information: The Second National Energy Plan launched in February 2013. 

Nick Gray

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Irish farming and climate change

Irish farming will be affected by climate change but not as severely as more southern countries.  The problems will primarily be the reduction in summer rainfall by up to 25% and an increase in winter rainfall by 17% by mid century, with Southern and Eastern counties most affected.  This will  result in extended dry periods leading to drought, flooding, heavy rainfall events and extreme temperatures, in fact far more unpredictable weather patterns making farming activities difficult to plan and execute.  While this will mainly make tillage farming more difficult from sowing to harvesting of crops, livestock farmers will also feel the pressure from increased stress to animals  and providing water in the summer to ensuring sufficient winter fodder.  The wet summer of 2012 led to a massive fodder crisis in some parts of the country during the winter and spring of 2012/13, leading to massive imports of hay and silage from the UK and Europe. The increased prevalence of pests and diseases ,especially new pests as their ranges increase in response to higher temperatures, will affect all farming sectors.   It is not all negative because the higher temperatures will increase cereal and beet yields, which is in stark comparison to countries such as Romania and Hungary which will see a steep decline in crop yields due to water scarcity.  The solution is for the Irish farming sector  to  increase crop diversity, alter planting and harvesting regimes, develop more climate resilient crops, and to introduce water management strategies.

Nick Gray

Friday, November 8, 2013

Air pollution reaches a new high in China

The airpocalypse is what people are calling the extended periods of smog that have been intensifying over the past few years in China’s capital Beijing.   In the city deaths from lung cancer have increased by 56% over the decade up to 2010 coinciding with massive industrialization and an increase in the number of cars using the city’s street exceeding 5 million. The most serious problem appears to be PM2.5, minute particles released from fires and vehicle exhausts which has strong links to lung cancer.  To counteract the effects of the smog particles all schools in the capital will be closed when smog  incidents persist for more than three days.  Twenty percent of the world’s confirmed cases of cancer now occur in china with atmopsheric pollution a major causative factor.  Seven of the top 10 most polluted cities in China are in the Hebei province in the North of the country which is a major centre for coal powered electricity generation and steel manufacturing resulting in the heavy atmospheric pollution that also contributes to the problem in Beijing.  In 2014 the city will be setting even stricter quotas on the number of new car registrations to just 150,000, a reduction of 40% over the previous year’s quota.
Nick Gray