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.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
Sunday, December 6, 2015
A new imaging technique, developed by a team led by Dr Magnus Gålfalk at the in Sweden and described in
Find out more about methane at: http://www.methanenet.org/
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Today is Action Day at COP21 in Paris. Today everyone is invited to start taking action to control global warming. http://bit.ly/1TrKg2F http://bit.ly/1lCjXMi
Our book Facing up to Global Warming: What is Going on and How You Can Make a Difference? published by Springer and launched for COP21 by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment explores what global warming is, how it affects climate and importantly how we can deal with. It is a challenge that everyone needs to be a part of. So on this day of action make a pledge to do your part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by examining how you can minimize waste without compromising how you want to live.
Friday, December 4, 2015
This year the UN climate talks (COP21) are taking place in Paris from the 30th November to 11th December. The aim is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees C. There will be an estimated 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates. For those attending the aim is to stimulate interactions during the conference between the negotiators and representatives of Civil Society. Of course the remaining 7 billion of us won't be able to attend the conference, but thanks to the UN we will be able to follow the conference live at http://unfccc6.meta-fusion.com/cop21/
More information of global warming and climate change http://bit.ly/1NPLbun
Posted Nick Gray
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
|. Photograph: Chris Jordan/Midway: http://bit.ly/1iYURFI|
Our litter and waste has reached a new level of disbelief with a new study showing that upto 90% of seabirds will have ingested plastic items they have mistaken for food. A report in the Guardian has highlighted their work link. Their results can be seen in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
We still haven’t learnt as our production of platics in the past 11 years exceeds the amount produced since it was first produced in the 1950s.But something is being done and new a new collection boom is hoping to start removing larger material soon.
You can help right now by picking up litter that will find its way eventually into the sea.
Posted: Nick Gray
Friday, November 13, 2015
Adjacent to this is another large glacier Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden which is melting at a slower rate, but together they make up 12% of the Greenland ice sheet, so together they will raise sea levels by more than 39 inches (99 centimeters) if they completely melt.
NASA has a new project - Oceans Melting Greenland- which is monitoring ocean conditions around Greenland. https://omg.jpl.nasa.gov/portal/
To find out more about global warming and what you can do about it visit http://bit.ly/1NPLbun
Posted Nick Gray
Friday, October 16, 2015
Today is World Food Day which highlights the urgent issue of chronic hunger and promotes positive action through events in some 150 countries. Follow the action on the web or on Twitter
About 795 million people are undernourished globally, down 167 million over the last decade, and 216 million less than in 1990–92. The decline is more pronounced in developing regions, despite significant population growth. In recent years, progress has been hindered by slower and less inclusive economic growth as well as political instability in some developing regions, such as Central Africa and western Asia.
Read more in the latest FAO Report The State of Food Insecurity in the World
Posted : Nick Gray https://twitter.com/Nickgraytcd
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
It is not easy living sustainably but one of my personal hero’s, Lauren Singer, does just that…right in the centre of New York. This video is by Alessandra Potenza who has made this video for The New York Times Upfront (issue Oct. 12th 2015).
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Greenhouse gas emissions from commercial air travel is a major contributor to global warming emitting approximately 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2012 alone.
A new report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (icct) (www.theicct.org) Fuel efficiency trends for new commercial jet aircraft: 1960 to 2014 has explored the fuel efficiency in relation to UN targets.
It shows that aviation fuel use, including military aircraft, quadrupled between 1960 and 2006. While most countries are agreeing to 80% reductions in emissions by 2050, aviation fuel use is expect to increase by 300% over the same period. The report explores how efforts to increase fuel efficiency of aircraft is continuing having already achieved an annual rate of reduction of 1.3% since 1968. Between 1968 and 2014 the average fuel burn of new aircraft fell approximately 45%, or a compound annual reduction rate of 1.3%. However, the efficiency of new aircraft are still a decade behind the United Nations’ fuel efficiency goals for new aircraft.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Facing Up To Global Warming: what is going on and how you can make a difference?
This new book was published today and explores climate change and how individuals can make a difference.
Below is the Preface from the new book.
In 1972, a startling book was published called Limits to Growth . This book became hugely influential in the environmental movement, and while it alerted us to the fragility of our future on planet Earth, it also, inadvertently, helped to eventually undermine the credibility of environmentalism. The book predicted when certain non-renewables, including fossil fuels and metals, would become exhausted. The predictions were based on the best available knowledge at that time, but what it never envisaged in the early 1970’s, was that within a decade humans would be extracting oil, gas, and minerals in some of the remotest, extreme, and fragile places on Earth … a process that has continued and expanded to the present day. So the predictions proved incorrect in practice, but it reinforced the idea that all resources are limited and are slowly being exhausted.
This book became a driving force for many environmental scientists who realized that we have to act both collectively and individually to preserve our home, planet Earth, with its unique biosphere and which is home to millions of different living organisms of which we are just one species. For me personally, being an environmental scientist has been a long and often disappointing journey and at various times I have been shocked, scared, and often depressed by the unfolding of the current crisis which is so intertwined with global warming. But, to my surprise, in recent years I have begun to feel more hopeful that perhaps we can deal with our climate and resource problems to create a sustainable planet. So in this book, I have attempted to explain what the problems are and suggest some solutions. However, the book comes with a warning. During the 15 chapters that follow, I am going to make a lot of you really annoyed and possibly upset, I apologize in advance. I am not trying to shock; I am simply putting the facts before you so that you can make up your own mind. Neither am I telling anyone that their lifestyle is wrong, or alternatively, that they are better than the next person because they have invested in green energy or a hybrid car. The book is an overview; it is not a text on the theory of sustainability or population dynamics; it simply looks at what the individual should know and addresses some of the issues closest to our everyday lives.
There are hundreds of academic and specialist texts on sustainability, but they fail to link sustainability to tackling global warming, especially at the individual level. Adopting any form of sustainable actions in your life will cause significant effects both direct and indirect. Such actions will lead to changes that will influence economic and social norms … so sustainability if properly applied will mean socio economic change. I begin the text by giving a brief overview of the problems of climate change and the real difficulties that having such a rapidly growing population is placing on the idea of a sustainable and equitable planet. Discussions on population is always a very emotive issue and so I have simply given some basic facts, and shown that as population grows our ability to live sustainably on planet Earth becomes more challenging. So this is not a comfortable book.
Is the text political? I have tried not to be, but if you advocate changing people’s lifestyles, then it will appear to be political. Then, we have the concept that everyone on the planet matters and that the concept of global justice and human rights is important when assessing the sustainability of our own lifestyles. So trying to avert these climate-mediated crises by ensuring that everyone has enough for their needs without being wasteful is a good starting point. However, that starting point has to be an acknowledgment that all people are equal, and that we should all have the right to pursue happiness and well-being. Is this naïve? Of course it is, but what else are we to strive for in a truly global and fair society. Global warming raises serious social as well as economic questions and many of these are going to be very difficult to deal with in practice, and my aim is to try and make you think about these issues from a personal perspective. Can we have finite economic growth? Can we have finite consumerism? Unfortunately, the answer has to be no to both of these questions, which means that both economists and social geographers or planners have a lot of work to do and that we are going to have to eventually reinvent our economy and social environment to achieve these goals.
There are also many other important environmental issues that we also need to consider and many of these are also linked to global warming such as deforestation, exploitation of new fossil fuel reserves, intensification of agriculture, and overexploitation of water resources. However, many of these issues such as pollution, are less important in the context of global warming, as we now have them largely under control. We have made huge strides in dealing with air, water, and land pollution over the past 40 years, and there are scientists and regulatory bodies all dealing with these issues on an on-going basis. Such issues are predominately local or at worst regional, but rarely global, and what is important is that we have the technology and infrastructure to deal with them. But controlling carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions must now be everyone’s priority. If we have to reduce carbon emissions by 80 % by 2050 to avert a global crisis, this will mean using significantly less energy in the developed world than we currently use, and while this does not necessarily mean an immediate and huge change in our everyday lives, it does mean changes to our current lifestyles. This is not going to be easy and the burden has to be shared by everyone. However, the fact is that people feel very threatened by the idea of altering their lifestyle, even when change can be for the better.
We also need to understand that some sectors of society are using more than their fair share of global resources, but that in the context of global warming everyone must act responsibly if we are to succeed in mitigating climate change. Those in developing countries also desire the technology, food, travel, etc. we enjoy, and to break this cycle we in the developed world need to begin to pull back from our current high-energy lifestyle while allowing the poorer nations to develop and become sustainable.
This book will never be welcomed by those who are pretty happy with the status quo and who have not become genuinely concerned, possibly scared, by the possibility of what global warming may do to our home, planet Earth. This is a very general text that looks at different aspects of our lives which we, as individuals, have control over. It is simple things like travel, food, recycling, using resources … all those things which we are all involved in on a daily basis; and how our actions affect the future of planet Earth and our ability to sustain that ever growing human population. I hope that this book will help you think and act from a position of knowledge and reassurance.
I hope that the majority of you will be reassured that we are beginning to tackle global warming successfully, but in order to succeed in stabilizing our new climate, and I believe we can, we need your help through direct action. You really can make a difference. This book is a personal journey and during it I will be asking you to do various things. Some are critical others will be just things that I hope you will try, but to work, I need a commitment from you. The journey is not free, it comes at a cost, and you have to decide just how much you are willing to pay for your planet.
This is about your future.
Trinity Centre for the Environment
Thursday, August 13, 2015
This year Earth #Overshoot Day falls on August 13th...today. This is when we have used up all our natural capacity.
Find out more and act on climate change...it is what you do that makes the difference and makes tackling global warming possible. For help in doing this go to
Posted: Nick Gray
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Although we are all watching the current wildfires in California, a more serious situation is occurring in Alaska with thousands of hectares currently affected.
The Geospatial Multi-Agency Co-ordination Group provides real time mapping of current wildfires throughout the United States. Zoom onto the flame showing a wildfire for its perimeter and then click for full details of the size of the fire, exact location and the extent to which it has grown or shrunk over the past 24 hours and also details of how much has been contained. With high temperatures and less rainfall this is the worst season for wildfires to date.
Posted: Nick Gray
Sunday, July 26, 2015
This remarkable video explores how Australia’s top climate scientists personally feel about global warming induced climate change. They were asked t respond to the question, “How does climate change make you feel?” by Joe Duggan who has compiled their handwritten responses in an exhibition to be shown in August.
posted: Nick Gray
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Germany is making enormous strides in developing its use of renewables for energy generation which reached 23.4% in 2014,and being one of the few countries to have a geothermal power station. For a full breakdown and analysis visit
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Today is US Ecological Deficit Day...for those of you who know all about ecological footprints then you know that we in the developed world are all guilty of exceeding our personal one planet allowance. Today is the day when the US exceeds its national biocapacity and goes into the red (i.e. deficit). Each year it gets earlier and today is that point in the Nation's ecological footprint balance. More information. Should every country adopt an Ecological Deficit Day...you bet they should!
Sunday, July 12, 2015
‘Trash is for Tossers (say NO to trash)’ is the blog of Lauren Singer who is trying to live a zero waste life in the heart of New York City. She is sharing her journey towards this excellent goal, although I suspect it is going to be a tough one. She has one great quote ‘I really decided that I not only needed to claim to love the environment, but actually live like I love the environment’. She also gives two really interesting and helpful definitions:
Waste …’a point source, meaning it is discarded by its holder with intent of it going to landfill. Trash is anything a person plans to throw away or anything a person deems obsolete that is then discarded in a manner where it will not be intended for re-purposing or reuse even if it unknowingly will be at some point in the future. ‘
Zero Waste means that I do not produce any garbage. No sending anything to landfill, no throwing anything in a trash can, nothing. However, I do recycle and I do compost.
Lauren is really on the right path here and I for one will be following her journey and learn from her experiences.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
On the 11th July 1987 the global population reached 5 billion and to mark this important milestone the United Nations decided to designate this day each year as World Population Day. On this day organizations around the world raise awareness of our growing population and the issues that surround a rapidly growing population. But is also about celebrating our achievements as well as bringing to our attention the plight of groups of people around the world. The theme this year is raising the awareness of vulnerable woman and children in emergencies. More information
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Dr Eileen Power, a researcher based in Botany at Trinity College Dublin is creating a flower map of Ireland to help conserve pollinators. This will involve sampling as many locations in Ireland at different times of the year to gauge the species and density of flower plants that are to be found. This is a massive undertaking and while Eileen is carrying out surveys of her own she has created an online resource to encourage people from around Ireland to help her get as a complete map as possible.
The Citizen Science Project is asking everyone who has either a camera or smartphone to take some photos of flowers while out walking and upload them to her Flickr Group Page Count Flowers for Bees: https://www.flickr.com/groups/countflowersforbees/
In order to identify which habitats provide the best food for pollinators she needs you to follow the following rules:
- Take a photo of roughly a 1 metre squared patch of ground or hedgerow
- Take 1 photo every 10 metres until you have 10 photos. One metre is equivalent to one long stride.
- Upload photos to Flickr
- Tag the photos FLOWERMAP
- Say where you took photos. You can click 'add to map' in your personal photostream.
- Add the photos to this group
Remember only to take images from Ireland. So please take part in this important research project.
Posted: Nick Gray
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Peak Water...Is water a renewable Resource?
Peak water is reached when the rate of water demand exceeds the rate at which water resources used for supply can be replenished. Therefore, all water supplies can be considered finite as they can all be depleted by over exploitation. So while the total volume of water in the hydrological cycle remains the same, the availability of water does alter. This is particularly true of aquifers (groundwater) and static water bodies such as lakes and reservoirs where the water may take a long time to replenish. So water availability is strongly linked to rainfall and the ability to retain this water within resources which is difficult as increasing intensity of water reduces infiltration.
Due to increasing demand from population growth, migration to urban centres and for agriculture, it is possible that a state of peak water could be reached in many areas if present trends continue. By 2025 it is estimated that 1.8 billion people will be living with absolute water scarcity and in excess of 4 billion of the world’s population may be subject to water stress.
A question I am often asked is how does a renewable resource become finite? The answer is not as straight forward as first appears. Water availability is governed by a number of possible factors: Over-abstraction (i.e. using it before it can be replenish thereby exhausting the supply and causing significant and often permanent ecological damage), not returning water to hydrological resources, saltwater intrusion often caused by over-abstraction, pollution of resources and finally climate change effects (glacier loss, reduced stream flow, evaporation of lakes). Comparatively only a very small amount of water is regularly renewed by rain and snowfall, resulting in only a small volume of water available on a sustainable basis. So all water supplies have an optimal abstraction rate to ensure they are sustainable, but once exceeded then supplies are doomed to failure. As we saw in Section 3.2, a modified Hubbert curve applies to any resource that can be harvested faster than it can be replaced. This applies to all water resources but especially to groundwaters.
Peak water is defined in three different ways according to the impact on the resource as: peak renewable, peak non-renewable or peak ecological water.
Peak Renewable Water comes from resources that are quickly replenished such as rivers and streams, shallow aquifers that recharge relatively quickly and rainwater systems. These resources are constantly renewed by rainfall or snow melt; however this does not mean these resources can provide unlimited supplies of water. If demand exceeds 100% of the renewable supply then the “peak renewable” limit is reached. For many major river catchments globally, the peak renewable water limit has been reached. For example, in excess of 100% of the average flow of the Colorado River is already allocated through legal agreements with the seven US States and Mexico. So in a typical year the river flow can now fall to zero before it reaches the sea. Similarly the River Thames can during periods of low flow fall below the volume of water abstracted. The river is prevented from drying up due to over-abstraction by returning wastewater after treatment to the river which is then reused numerous times as it approaches London. Due to the high population within the catchment, the Environment Agency has classified the area as seriously water stressed with towns and cities along the length of the Thames such as Swindon, Oxford and London itself, at risk of water shortages and restrictions during periods of dry weather.
Peak Non-renewable Water comes from resources that are effectively non-renewable aquifers that have very slow recharge rates , or contain ancient water that was captured and stored hundreds or thousands of years ago and is no longer being recharged ( a problem that will be exacerbated by climate change), or groundwater systems that have been damaged by compaction or other physical changes.
Abstraction in excess of natural recharge rates becomes increasingly difficult and expensive as the water table drops which results in a peak of production, followed by diminishing abstraction rates and accompanied by a rapid decline in quality as deeper more mineralized waters (i.e. increasingly salty to the taste) are accessed. Worldwide, a significant fraction of current agricultural production depends on non-renewable groundwater (e.g. North China plains, India, Ogallala Aquifer in the Great Plains of the United States) and the loss of these through over-exploitation threatens the reliability of long-term food supplies in these regions.
When the use of water from a groundwater aquifer far exceeds natural recharge rates, this stock of groundwater will be depleted or fall to a level where the cost of extraction exceeds the value of the water when used, very much like oil fields. The problem is that climate change often results in less rainfall creating a greater dependence on aquifers for supply.
Peak Ecological Water is water abstracted for human use which leads to ecological damage greater than the value of the water to humans. The human population already uses almost 50% of all renewable and accessible freshwater leading to serious ecological effects to both freshwater resources and transitional habitats such as wetlands. Since 1900, half of the world’s wetlands have disappeared while approximately 50% of freshwater species have become extinct since 1970, faster than the decline of species either on land or in the sea. Water supports both man’s need and that of its natural flora and fauna. These fragile environments need to be preserved for overall planet health. The simple fact that water supply quality is often a close relationship with the ecosystem, with most water bodies able to self purify its water constantly removing pollutants and improving quality overall. However, the problem has been in putting an economic value on ecological systems (sometimes referred to as ecological services) and nature as a whole; whereas water used by humans can be easily quantified economically. In the mistaken assumption that such values are zero has led to them being highly discounted, underappreciated, or ignored in water policy decisions in many areas. Over-abstraction is a major problem in many rivers in southern England that are fed from the aquifer below. As more groundwater is abstracted then the water table falls as does the water level in the river.
It is not only rivers that are drying up due to over abstraction and global warming but some of the largest freshwater lakes in the world such as the Aryl Sea and Lakes Chad and Victoria in Africa. Link In the USA, water abstraction and water use peaked during 1975 to 1980 but has stabilized since. This should have affected economic growth but has been able to continue to grow by implementing better water management strategies to satisfy the new needs of industry. This has been achieved through water conservation, stricter regulations, water efficient and improved technology, education, water pricing etc. So US citizens are now using less water per capita than ever before. However, many regions of the U.S. face water scarcity (e.g. the arid west) and new areas of water scarcity continue to develop due to climate change (e.g. southeast and Great Lakes region) which all indicate that peak water has been reached . The key question is how long can economic growth be sustained without water becoming a limiting factor? More information.
Will water shortages affect us in Ireland and the UK? The straight answer is yes, and to some extent already is. No one is exempt from the peak water crisis. Due to global warming most arid regions will probably run out of water in less than two decades. In wetter areas, peak water has been reached due to: heavy use of water; pollution of resources (often associated with urbanization); infrastructure not being completed to keep up with demand (China, India) and finally inadequate infrastructure (London, Dublin).
Agriculture represents at least 70% of freshwater use worldwide and with the demand for food soaring, especially as a result of climate change and increasing crop failure (e.g. China rice failure in 2011) then demand for irrigation and livestock watering will continue to be a major drain on supplies
Thursday, May 28, 2015
The EU has agreed to carbon market reform measures in an attempt to deal with the oversupply of carbon credits in the market that has resulted in a sustained collapse of the traded price for the EU emissions allowance (EUA). Introduction of the market stability reserve will be brought forward to 2019 in an attempt raise EUA prices which are currently trading at just €7.66 per tonne CO2e (May, 2015). Forecasts had suggested that this price would stagnate or at best rise to between €8.70-18.30 per tonne CO2e by 2020, so the EU has been forced into action. The new measures are predicted to triple the EUA price by 2020.
In a recent interview Professor Nick Gray of Trinity College Dublin and author of Facing up to Global Warming welcomed the news but reiterated that ‘the price will still be well below that required to stimulate either investment in renewable and alternative energies or mitigation measures. The new measures will of course help to raise and even stabilize prices, but forecasts have generally been overly optimistic, so we could still end up with a very low carbon price by the end of the decade. With the cost of carbon-capture predicted to level out at around €50-60 per tonne of CO2e, we have to ask ourselves again just how much we should be paying for offsetting carbon emissions.’
Post: Pete Ferris
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Why do we need Earth Day?
Because it works! Earth Day broadens the base of support for environmental programs, rekindles public commitment and builds community activism around the world through a broad range of events and activities. Earth Day is the largest civic event in the world, celebrated simultaneously around the globe by people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. More than a billion people participate in Earth Day events and campaigns every year. So you need to start celebrating as well!
We are celebrating Earth Day by releasing details of a new book:
Facing up to Global Warming
What is going on and how you can make a difference
The book written by Professor Nick Gray, Director of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin, is based on his course Living Sustainably: A guide to surviving a changing planet. The book is to be published by Springer and is due out in the summer.
To find out more about the book look at its website http://www.ournewclimate.com
To read more about the Earth Day movement and its history use the link: http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Here is a very interesting and useful comment about Lecture/Chapter 2 of the new textbook Facing up to Global Warming and thanks to Paul O'Gorman for sharing it:
"I like this fourth element in the economy-ecology-social nexus, which I found in “Spiritual Dimensions of Sustainable Development – Project” on the Earth Charter site. The inspiration for this project crystallized at the Earth Charter +10 Conference in Ahmedabad, India, which called for deepening the general understanding of sustainable development that considers sustainability based on distinct but interrelated ecological, social and economic dimensions. The former Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers stated: "We may even begin to speak about four ‘P's: People, Planet, Profit and ‘Pneuma' " Earth Charter International Council Co-Chair Steven C. Rockefeller commented: "There is a fourth pillar - the global ethical and spiritual consciousness that is awakening in civil society around the world and that finds expression in the Earth Charter. This global ethical consciousness is in truth the first pillar of a sustainable way of life, because it involves the internalization of the values of sustainable human development and provides the inspiration and motivation to act as well as essential guidance regarding the path to genuine sustainability."
Find out more at: http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/invent/details.php?id=898
To learn all about the Earth Charter access their information pack here.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
This St Patrick's Day, make yours a pint of nature.
The Irish Forum on Natural Capital (IFNC) has created this infographic to illustrate just how important natural processes are in making a pint of beer, but the same logic applies to every commodity in our lives: from staples like bread and milk to luxuries like lipstick and laptops, nature is at the root of everything.
So let's make it count!
Check out their website and find out what the IFNC are all about:
Happy St Patrick's Day!