Environmental Sustainability FAQ, Links

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Isn't global warming a good thing for UK as it's too cold most of the time?
A little warming sounds attractive for some countries in temperate regions, but can have a disastrous effect in large areas of the world - more desertification, increased intensity of weather systems, fires, flooding etc.. Although the UK may warm up initially, in the longer term it may cool due to modification of atmospheric and oceanic flows.

[Update 9/2007] A raised temperature would tend to increase incidence of the Bluetongue virus.

A rise of say 1 deg C in the earth's mean yearly surface temperature cannot be considered in the same way as the hardly perceptible fluctuation of 1 deg C in local day-to-day temperatures. Instead, it indicates a large increase of energy stored in land, oceans and the atmosphere. I estimate an additional thermal energy of 1.6 x 10 to the power of 20 Joules in the lower 1000m of atmosphere - equivalent to the energy content of about 1,000,000,000,000 gallons of petrol. So it may be prudent to keep a wind-resistant umbrella handy!

2. Why should I bother recycling and saving energy, I'll be dead long before the earth becomes uninhabitable?
I won't try to answer that one.


3. What is your Ecological Footprint as calculated by http://www.myfootprint.org/ ?
My result was: 4.7 hectares, "if everyone lived like you (ie me), we would need 2.6 planets"
[Note 6/2016: this used to be a free website but now requires a subscription, other sites calculating EF may be available]

4. Isn't global warming due to sunspots and cosmic rays?
According to a Channel 4 TV program "The Great Global Warming Swindle" (March 2007), this is the case. It was emphasised that the sun, particularly sunspot cycles, drive global temperature changes and not CO2 levels. I doubt if anyone would argue that the sun's activity is of paramount importance but, as the program itself explained, the greenhouse effect also influences global temperature (otherwise earth would be frozen and uninhabitable).

Assuming constant radiation levels from the sun, changes in greenhouse gas concentrations (water vapour, CO2, methane etc.) would modify the greenhouse effect, and thus affect the earth's surface temperature. Because CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it's difficult to see how it's concentration in the atmosphere will not effect surface temperatures.

A statement was made in the TV program: "... climate is controlled by clouds, clouds controlled by cosmic rays, cosmic rays controlled by the sun ". I would be interested to know to what extent cosmic rays control clouds ... and vapourise sea water (as was also reported). There's little doubt cosmic rays have some effect, and while they may be interesting, we probably shouldn't level too much blame on them for enhanced global warming on the evidence given.

5. Residents should pay for the amount of waste put in their dustbin for landfill disposal?
As many have pointed out this will encourage fly tipping, and some people may put their waste in someone else's bin. So, couldn't local authorities pay us for recycling? This would be in the form of a partial rebate on a fixed service charge, admittedly assessing the rebate value of items for recycling would be a challenge. This scheme could encourage fly-tip scavenging rather than fly tipping, but there could be some job losses in the litter gathering business.

6. Are these really Frequently Asked Questions or did you invent them?

common frog

If you have a comment, question, or (preferably) answer please send it to me and I may include it in this section (with your permission and credit).

(checked Jun 2016)

BBC Radio 4 Costing The Earth http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/costingtheearth_20050804.shtml
WWF: Global environmental conservation organization http://www.panda.org/
Centre For Alternative Technology http://www.cat.org.uk/
Redefining Progress
- ecological footprints etc.
- a view on why cheap goods are not so cheap as they seem ...
- You will find help and advice on all aspects of recycling in UK.

These pages.


If you wish to link to this section on your web site please copy and paste the link in the text box below: