Tag Archives: Climate change

‘Daylighting’ or ‘deculverting’ of rivers in Sheffield

After blogging about Sheffield residents – and many in Mumbai – protesting against the felling of urban trees by Amey, better news comes from David Bailey (right). He draws attention to an article by David Cox, about ‘daylighting’ or ‘deculverting’ of urban rivers – the source of much of the following information.

Simon Ogden, chair of the Sheffield Waterways Strategy Group, recalls that the city’s rivers were used originally for water power, then for steelworking and waste disposal and finally built over and turned into sewers, commenting “That’s about as low as a river can get.”

Sheffield rivers, the Porter, Sheaf and Don rivers spend most of their urban life underground. The Porter flows between buildings, in culverts and below the surface in tunnels. It sometimes surfaces on its way to the Ponds area and, as it approaches Sheffield Railway Station (left), joins the River Sheaf under the station.

‘Daylighting’ rivers can be a more practical and cost-effective alternative to many of the UK’s Victorian-era culverts that are difficult to maintain. Last year, in central Sheffield, a culvert over the River Porter collapsed, causing part of a car park to completely cave in.

In a once-neglected corner of Sheffield’s cultural industries quarter, where music, film and science-based businesses flourish, there is now a green oasis – a “pocket park”- among housing blocks and a derelict industrial site A small amphitheatre slopes down to the banks of the river Porter, where wild trout spawn in spring and students from the technical college picnic and paddle.

Two years ago, the park did not exist. There was just a crumbling car park with the River Porter seen briefly before it disappeared into a culvert.

Simon Ogden describes the long-standing ambition of the WSG to reconnect the city centre with its waterways – the canal, Rivers Don Porter and Sheaf.

One proposal – called ‘Putting the Sheaf back into Sheffield’, featured on the BBC’s One Show – involves taking the roof off an underground culvert and bringing the waterway back into the open, surrounded by grass, flowers, trees. The bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund was not successful but ‘pocket’ parks are being created through the council’s’ City Centre Breathing Spaces programme’, using money contributed under planning rules by developers.

Climate change has been one of the major driving factors for large-scale investment in river daylighting projects

Planners hope to utilise the passive cooling provided by rivers to help combat the urban heat island effect, and most of all, increase flood protection. Funding the ‘daylighting’ of the Porter in Matilda Street and Nursery Street has been combined with the Environment Agency Local Levy which aims to cover the cost of flood defences.

“We’ve been experiencing more flash floods in recent years,” says Ogden from Sheffield council. “So we need to keep the water in the river and make more space for it. Culverts act as a kind of choke on the river, so any blockages or sudden increased rainfall forces the water out onto the streets.” He continues:

“A culvert was removed over a stretch of the brook hidden beneath a car park, and riverbed material was redistributed and stabilised using boulders and reclaimed wood. Habitats have been created for fish with help from the Trout in the Town organisation, walls made of gritstone slowly release rainwater into the brook and the park has been designed to flood in extreme weather”.

News of a Rochdale project follows.

Cox’s article also has references to work in Auckland, to Seoul’s artificial waterway that joined up with the underground river at formed 3.6 mile-long water corridor now acts as a major flood-relief channel, transforming an area of Seoul previously renowned for crime and to Zurich, where urban river restoration has been common practice and daylighting – known as the “Bachkonzept” or the “stream concept”, is has been ‘enshrined in law’  

 

 

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What went right? January to March 2017

From political upheaval to natural disasters, the first three months of 2017 have seen many challenges. But behind the headlines, there are signs of progress and possibility. Here are 20 of our favourites

  1. China is planning a national park three times larger than Yellowstone in the US, to help boost the wild population of giant panda. It will link 67 existing reserves to make mating easier
  2. A seven per cent annual drop in teenage suicide attempts among US high school students is linked to the legislation of same-sex marriage, say researchers
  3. More than 30 million people in Kerala, India, will given access to free WiFi after the state declared it a basic human right
  4. El Salvador became the first country in the world to ban metal mining
  5. Clean energy jobs in the US now outnumber jobs in oil and gas by five to one
  6. Denmark announced it has reduced food waste by 25 per cent in five years
  7. Experts revealed that 86 per cent of new power in Europe came from renewable energy sources in 2016 with wind energy overtaking coal as the largest form of power capacity
  8. The world’s largest fund manager, BlackRock, has warned it will vote out directors of companies who fail to address the risks posed to their businesses by climate change
  9. A teenager is on track to plant a trillion trees. Felix Finkbeiner, 19, who began his tree-planting quest when he was nine, founded environmental group Plant for the Planet. It has overseen the planting of more than 14bn trees in 130 countries and aims to plant 1tn – 150 trees for every person on Earth
  10. The value of UK ethical markets grew to almost double that of tobacco, new research suggests

Read on here for the other ten points; https://www.positive.news/2017/society/media/26491/went-right-jan-mar-2017/?mc_cid=e55ab60695&mc_eid=99a7ecd039

 

 

 

Antidotes were hard to find this week as one cheering message after another was debunked – only Positive News was buoyant

The message in so many headlines: “From January 1st this year, all Dutch electric trains are being powered by renewable energy – wind power. Not so, it is claimed: 100% wind power because it has a contract with various wind farms to produce enough energy to power its rail system, but this is just an accounting transaction. Only a small fraction of the power delivered to its trains actually comes from wind. 

global-fossil-fuel-subsidies-graphThen Jonathan Ford in the FT (former chairman of the Cameron generation of the Bullingdon Club, now responsible for writing and commissioning the FT’s editorials) argued that green jobs are not valuable because of public subsidy (How subsidy culture keeps Britain’s green industry in the black – leaving the uniformed or prejudiced reader to assume that fossil fuels receive no subsidy. Statistics for the UK are not readily available here – but the IMF reports that America is the world’s second biggest culprit overall, spending $669 billion this year—mostly by “post-tax” systems which fail to factor the costs of environmental damage into prices.

Leonie Greene, Head of External Affairs, Solar Trade Association replied in the FT that the UK subsidy is required only because the “polluter pays” principle has not been fully applied to fossil fuels.

She adds that despite the global market failure to tax carbon pollution, there are increasing parts of the world where solar and onshore wind compete with the cheapest fossil fuels even without subsidy or “polluter pays” taxes.

renewables-en-gen-2010-2015-graphic

Lucy Purdy of Positive News writes cheeringly: “It was a tough year by many measures but 2016 also saw some reasons for celebration. We look behind the headlines for signs of progress”. (First republished on a sister site):

right-in-2016Illustration by Spencer Wilson: the fact that some conflicts have ended has helped reduce world hunger

  1. World hunger is at its lowest point for 25 years
  2. The Rio Olympics featured more female athletes than ever before
  3. The Paris Climate Change Agreement came into force
  4. For the 24th year in a row, teenage pregnancy rates declined in the UK and US
  5. Wild tiger numbers increased for the first time in 100 years
  6. The number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes has almost halved since 1990
  7. Evidence suggests that major diseases, from colon cancer to heart disease, are now starting to wane in wealthy countries
  8. India turned on the world’s largest solar power plant – spanning 10 sq km – in the state of Tamil Nadu
  9. Public smoking bans appear to have improved health in 21 nations
  10. Black incarceration rates fell in the US
  11. Measles has been eradicated in the Americas – the first time the disease has been eliminated from an entire world region
  12. An HIV cure may be a step closer after a trial cleared the virus in a British man
  13. Italy became the last large Western country to recognise same-sex unions
  14. China installed 20 gigawatts of solar in the first half of 2016
  15. Volunteers in India planted 50m trees in 24 hours
  16. Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000, it was announced this year
  17. The amount of money it would take to eliminate extreme poverty is now lower than the annual foreign aid spend
  18. Giant pandas are no longer endangered
  19. The number of deaths from malaria is at a global record low
  20. The World Bank says we are now one generation away from achieving universal literacy

and

uk-electricity

                                                 Another sign of progress

 

 

 

 

Pilita Clark: rediscovering older traditions of a relationship with ‘our common home’

church-solar

Pilita Clark in the FT reports that more than 3,500 churches in Britain, from several denominations, are now using renewable energy. Others have registered an interest in doing so. Nearly 700 churches have individually signed up for green power tariffs through the Big Church Switch website, which offers a simple way for churches to shift to green tariffs. Some of the companies benefiting from the churches’ shift are smaller green energy groups such as Ecotricity and Good Energy, rather than the larger “big six” suppliers.] 

Switching to renewable energy suppliers

  • At least 100 Quaker meeting houses now deal directly with Good Energy.
  • Some synagogues and mosques have also made the shift.
  • More than 900 Salvation Army buildings have done so
  • 16 Catholic dioceses have switched to green electricity

More than 400 churches, church buildings and vicarages already have solar panels installed, with other developments including the first carbon-neutral churches. Other measures adopted have included the installation of ground source heat pumps.

Nearly 2,000 Catholic parishes have switched from conventional energy to green electricity in 16 dioceses. Some made the decision after Pope Francis issued an encyclical last year urging the world to cut its dependence on fossil fuels. John Arnold, Bishop of Salford, one of the 16 dioceses to have switched, said, ““Pope Francis challenges us all to ‘care for our common home’, and by adopting renewable energy we will directly help people threatened, and already most severely affected, by climate change. There are many ways in which we may respond to the threat and the reality of climate change and adopting renewable energy for our church buildings must be a priority.”

Click link and watch the mobile graphic – link tweeted by Roslyn Cook @#FossilFree – but scroll down a long way, its well worth it.

power-stations-shrink

The Church of England’s Shrinking the Footprint campaign is encouraging dioceses, cathedrals and parishes to reduce energy bills and lower carbon emissions through practical steps, from installing energy-efficient lightbulbs to switching to renewable energy.

Nicholas Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury and the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, said the churches’ move was a response to a complex environmental crisis. “It is important that Christians rediscover older traditions of a godly relationship of humanity to the wider created order,” he said. “One simple thing we can do in response to such a crisis is to switch to using clean energy in our homes, communities, schools and places of worship.”

 

 

 

Efforts to tackle climate change more effective than expected?

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iea logoEarlier this month the Financial Times reported the International Energy Agency findings that global emissions of carbon dioxide, the most long-lasting greenhouse gas, did not rise in 2014 – for the first time in 40 years. Though the global economy grew 3%, the amount of CO2 pumped out remained at the 2013 level of 32.3bn tonnes. Two factors were mentioned:

  • China has cut its use of coal, one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions, and installed more hydroelectricity, wind and solar power, imposed energy efficiency standards for industry, shut older factories and shifted away from the heavy manufacturing that has powered its economic growth.
  • Wealthy OECD countries have started to “decouple” economic expansion from emissions increases as they install more renewable energy plants and set a range of stricter standards on car fuel economy and home appliance energy use.

The IEA is to publish a June 15 report advising governments what energy measures should be agreed at a December meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris where world leaders are due to finalise a global climate change pact.

Germany generated 31% of its electricity from renewables throughout the first six months of 2014 – let’s catch up!

wind turbines in cornwall

In a recent blog, Jonathon Porritt opened: “I’m always rather heartened by the fact that the Prime Minister takes his holidays in Cornwall – for the simple reason that at least once a year he gets to see wind turbines in action, happily churning around (as they do most of the time in Cornwall) . . . But I wish these holidays would simultaneously stiffen his somewhat flaccid sinews in terms of sorting out the mess that is this country’s energy policy. Not just on wind, and other renewables, but on nuclear, fracked gas, energy efficiency, prices, regulation etc etc etc”.

Read about the ‘solar champions’ who wrote to the Prime Minister. His reply came on the day that the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany published a new report “Electricity production from solar and wind in Germany in 2014,” recording that Germany produced a 81 TWh of renewable electricity in the first half of 2014, generating 31% of its electricity from renewable energy sources throughout the first six months of 2014:

  • The country’s solar power plants increased total production by 28%
  • and wind by 19% compared with the same period in 2013.
  • Consumption of coal was down 4%,
  • nuclear down 2%,
  • and natural gas down 25%.

“Meanwhile, as Germany so powerfully demonstrates, if you keep on consistently ramping up investment in wind, solar and biomass (all of which get cheaper every year, and require less and less government support as a result), you get greater energy security, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and (in due course) an excellent deal for the consumer . . . “.

Jonathon Porritt points out that nuclear energy companies should be required to compete in the same game, putting in their bids against solar, wind, biomass, other renewables and energy from waste”.

Read his blog for the full account, including news of the ‘Contracts for Difference’ which will replace the outgoing Renewables Obligation.

Britain’s urban rivers are cleaner

wandle river

The Wandle in south London was officially designated an open sewer in the 1960s. After serious efforts by government, water companies and conservation groups to clean it, the river today is teeming with life, as Theo Pike, chair of the environmental nonprofit Wandle Trust records. Scroll down for photograph of volunteers at work.

global change biology rivers coverPilita Clark, the FT’s environment correspondent, reports on a 21-year study published in the Global Change Biology journal (26th May). It found that in the period 1991-2011 more than 2,300 rivers and tributaries, from the Thames in the south to the Tyne in north, snails, mayflies and other small creatures have become far more prevalent in previously polluted waters.

Because temperatures in Britain’s rivers have risen 1-2 degrees Celsius on average over the past 20 years, the findings surprised author/researchers Dr Ian Vaughan and Professor Steve Ormerod, from Catchment Research Group, Cardiff School of Biosciences.

They thought the benefits of cleaning up city rivers might have been offset by problems caused by climate change. As waters warm, there is a decline in the oxygen supplies that many species need to thrive. However, 40 of the 78 types of small invertebrates they studied have become more widespread, despite their warmer habitats, as cities have cleaned up the run-off allowed into rivers – but the prevalence of 19 types of animal typically found in dirtier waters has shrunk.

wandle trust volunteers

The study’s lead author, Dr Ian Vaughan, said: “It seems that efforts over the last two to three decades to clean up pollution from sewage and other sources have allowed many of these sensitive organisms to expand their range.”

Professor Steve Ormerod added, “The bigger lesson here is that if we manage other stresses on the environment, there is just a chance we could be able to lessen the impact of climate change.”