Energy and Climate Change

Climate change brought on by human industrial activity is the most serious threat to the survival of the biosphere as we know it.  The biosphere is the home we share with all the animal and plant life on Earth, which has just the right conditions of temperature, moisture and chemicals to sustain the diversity of life around us.  As the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increase to levels unprecedented for millions of years, the overall temperature of the atmosphere increases and severe weather events become more frequent and extreme.

We are already having to deal with the effects of climate change, as Britain is one of many countries experiencing more frequent and severe flooding, and the patterns of the seasons affect our agriculture and wildlife.  The current “mackerel war” with Iceland is the result of shoals of mackerel moving north in the ocean as a result of climate change.  We can expect the changing climate to affect many more aspects of our lives in the coming years, whilst poorer countries w – bill find it more difficult than us to adapt.

This is why it is so important that we make the right choices in energy policy, since it is our exploitation of fossil fuels over the past two centuries that is driving these changes.  It’s not just how we produce energy that is important, but also how we use it.  We need to be much more efficient in our use of energy in homes, in industry and offices, and in transport.

Solar roof in Dundee

Solar roof in Dundee

At the Tayside level, it is one of the reasons for supporting more sustainable travel (use of public transpoart, together with more walking and cycling).

It is also one of the main reasons why we are opposed to the proposal for a large biomass power station in Dundee, as burning trees results in an immediate addition to emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.  These would take decades to be reabsorbed if new trees are planted to replace them (a big “if”), quite apart from the impact on biodiverse forests and subsistence communities around the world.  Instead, we favour the small-scale use of local biomass (forest thinnings, straw from fields, animal litter, etc) in domestic and community-based heat and combined heat and power systems.  This is the Scottish Government’s stated policy – which it is ignoring by proposing to subsidise inefficient big biomass power stations such as the one proposed for Dundee.

We are supportive of the development of onshore windfarms, within limits.  The most iconic landscapes and wilderness areas should be safeguarded, sensitive wildlife sites should be avoided, and local communities should be involved both in the design of the windfarms and in the financial rewards.  Britain lags far behind countries such as Denmark and Germany in promoting community-based renewable energy initiatives which fund other aspects of community development.

It is important to have a sense of timescales – windfarms generally get planning consent for 25 years.  Planning consent is normally given on condition that money is set aside by the developer to ensure their removal and the reinstatement of the site.  So if, as we hope, the technologists come up with cost-effective ways to harness the tides and waves, and solar pv is built into the fabric of future homes, and we find other smart ways to generate and save energy, then we won’t need all these windfarms in future decades.

Wind turbines at Michelin factory, Dundee

Wind turbines at Michelin factory, Dundee