C Robb's blog

Scientists will speak out on Climaticide

Scientists will meet next month to urge governments to get off their backsides and do something. NOW!

Check out the Guardian for more. Here's an excerpt, straight to the point.

"Bob Watson, a former head of the IPCC and chief scientist in the environment department warned .... nations
should prepare for an average rise of 4C. The IPCC said temperatures
could soar by up to 6C by 2100 if current rates of carbon pollution

Are you ready for that!?

The US can reduce energy use by 30% through efficiency alone.

"Rocky Mountain Institute's Energy and Resources Team has just published a report that shows the opportunity for 30 percent energy savings in the United States. Assessing the Electric Productivity Gap and the U.S. Efficiency Opportunity analyzed electric productivity state by state, and found a significant gap between the highest and lowest performing states.

productivity measures how much gross domestic product is generated for
each kilowatt-hour consumed ($GDP/kWh). This finding is significant
because if laggard states achieved the electric productivity of the top
ten performing states through energy efficiency, we would achieve
electric savings equivalent to more than 60 percent of U.S. coal-fired
generation. According to Natalie Mims, Consultant on RMI's Energy & Resources Team
(ERT), "closing the electric productivity gap through energy efficiency
is the largest near-term opportunity to immediately reduce electricity
use and greenhouse gases, and move the United States forward as a
leader in the new clean energy economy."

electric productivity of top performing states, like New York,
Connecticut, and California, serves as an example of what's achievable.
Those states show the nation how barriers to efficiency practices can
be overcome, how state utilities can be regulated, and how new and
effective technologies can be implemented. Conversely, lower performing
states have a huge opportunity to learn from the successes of higher
performing states by closing their electric productivity gap using
known and tested technology and policy. This will be the focus of
RMI's next step, as ERT concentrates on the efficiency measures that can cost-effectively have the largest impact." - - RMI e alert Newsletter 05/02/09

has been on the forefront of research and policy recommendations
regarding efficiency for as long as I can remember. Their latest report
is startling. Check out the interactive map to see how your state is doing.

It's Cold Outside

It is a cold snowy morning. I am staying in an old sandstone residence at a boarding school in West Yorkshire dating back to the 18th century. I can feel cold air seeping in around the old single pane windows. This is an historic grade 1 listed building which severely limits the modifications allowed, double glazing isn’t likely any time soon. So, I roll up a couple of tea towels and stuff them into the gap at the bottom of the window and along the join between the upper and lower sections where I could see a cob web blowing in the breeze.

4 of the 6 windows have an extra window on hinges added inside, they are not tight but better than nothing. Adding this feature to the last 2 windows would help and for just the cost of some draft excluder these could be much improved.
We keep the windows covered whenever we don’t need the light as the radiators are directly under the windows in most rooms. This is the worst place to put a radiator. Heat rises and much of it is simply transferred through the glass to the outdoors. This is true for most double glazing as well which is only as effective as a solid wall at holding in heat. High end windows are gas filled and triple glazed with special coatings to reflect the heat back into the room. If you can afford it they may be worth the investment. Drapes should stop at the sill and be heavy enough to insulate the window. If the drape covers the top of the radiator it will route most of the heat heat behind it and along the cold glass, heating the garden. We keep the drapes tucked in behind the radiators to keep the heat away from the cold glass. An inexpensive reflector placed behind the radiator will also reduce heat loss through the wall.

I’m in the kitchen with a warm cup of tea watching the snow fall. I can feel cold air blowing across my legs. Looking under the kitchen counter top I find there is a huge hole in the wall board where the pressure adjust valves for the boiler are accessed. Cold air is pouring in there so I stuff a bath mat into it. Earlier in the week I discovered that the front door had a gap along the edge about a centimeter across. I had some leftover foam draft excluder from tightening up our house in Sheffield and used it up along the worst sections on the edge below the latch.

Now that I’ve stopped up some of the leaks I wonder about insulation. I don’t know if the floor is insulated but judging by the feeling coming through to my stockinged feet I’d guess not. It still amazes me to find buildings in which the simplest things have not been done to save energy and increase comfort. The built environment is responsible for up to half of all energy use. As part of any plan to increase resiliency it must be high on the list. Architecture 2030 has proposed a plan that I heartily support. Check em out at,

British Columbia Coastline Faces Being Shaken and Swamped

Resilience within our communities is becoming increasingly urgent as we face the twin threats of Climate Change and Peak Oil. Here's a link to an excellent article about a fascinating report dealing the likely impacts of sealevel rise in the pacific northwest.
Combining as it does the imminent threat of subsidence due to earthquake induced land slip and the more gradual threat of sea level rise due to a number of climate related changes, this report makes good reading.

I think the "probable", 11 to 50cm, is likely too conservative. The "possible" is more likely probable. Here is the "possible" from the report, 80 to 120cm. The report acknowledges that many researchers believe the figures for sea level rise from melting glalciers as projected in the IPCC 2007 are too conservative and that the rate of melting may increase substantially over the century. More recent science confirms this.

Global warming is accelerating due to numerous positive feedback loops. I don't think scientists are sure enough about the severity of the effects, scientists are after all conservative beasts, to predict outcomes with any degree of certainty but I am willing to bet that we are in for a far rougher time of it than what governments and their panels of scientists and beaureaucrats are willing to let on.

Every day that we go about business as usual, applying palliative measures to salve our conscience in form of green consumerism, endless debate instead of action, we are, like lemmings, herding closer to the edge of climate catastrophe.

It will be interesting to see if based on this report the Canadian government is willing to put and end to the disastrous exploitation of the Alberta tar sands.

British Columbia Coastline Faces Being Shaken and Swamped

Download the report at

Corn Syrup contaminated with Mercury

Industrial agriculture has had some spectacular failures of late, contaminated tomatoes, contaminated spinach, deadly beef. Now they want to irradiate our vegetables, and kill it's nutritive qualities in the process, to kill contamination after the fact rather than cleaning up their act.

On top of all that this a new study finds mercury in Corn Syrup, one of the most common ingredients in processed food and many suspect largely responsible for the epidemic rise in diabetes. The answer seems pretty simple to me, buy whole foods, organic and local or better yet grow your own.

Check out the article at Organic Consumers Association

High Fructose Corn Syrup Contaminated With Mercury

"Mercury is toxic in all its forms," said IATP's David Wallinga, M.D., and a co-author in both studies. "Given how much high fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the FDA to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply."
Have we forgotten Minamata so soon, see picture above.

Secrets of a Lunatic Farmer

Joel Salatin is featured in Michael Pollan's book An Omnivore's Dilemma and looks to be a most interesting man. Follow this link to another take, from Organic Consumers Association writer Joe McCully, on his Polyface farm in Virginia.


Here's an excerpt;

"He says that everyone has the freedom to "opt out," a favorite phrase he uses to describe the freedom of choice people can exercise when buying locally from farmers instead of supporting the large, industrial farms, often located across the country and the world.
"The only reason the framers of the Bill of Rights did not include freedom of food choice along with the right to bear arms, worship and speech was that they couldn't conceive of the day when food would have to have a USDA sticker on it"

Fun facts about livestock

Used to feed livestock:
73% of grain grown in Canada
40% of wheat grown in the UK
80% of the world's commercial soybean harvest
400,000 hectares of land in the US (an area the size of Germany)

85% of topsoil loss in the US attributable to ranching
15,000 litres of water to make 1 kg of beef
10kg of feed produces 1 kg of beef
66% of deforestation in Central and South America is to create livestock pasture
livestock are administered 8 times the amount of antibiotics as given to humans in the US.
1.3 million tonnes of Manure produced by livestock production in the US much of it treated as waste or becomes pollution.

Still want that burger?

Regardless about how you feel about the ethics of modern livestock production, as we transition towards a more sustainable food system we will have to eat less meat.

source: The Atlas of Food by Millstone and Lang

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