Friday, 30 November 2012

That All-Important First Blog Post...

Studies have shown that it's important with any form of writing to grab hold of your audience with your opening sentence. My guess is that starting with 'Studies have shown...' was a risky strategy! I'll have another go.


Better? You might think that that is some form of grand-standing on my part, based on the desperate need to have unknown persons in the internet ether read my ramblings. While that may be true, the four word sentence in capitals above is also true, from a climate perspective at least.

It's a difficult area of modern life to feel positive about, for a number of reasons. (I should add, before I go any further, that this is not all going to be doom and gloom. I am scene-setting, there will be some nice stuff later - pictures of squirrels dancing and salmon on holiday.) 

Take, for example, the laudible efforts of the Scottish Government to play its part in limiting Scotland's contribution to world carbon emissions. There are some really stringent national targets in there, and targets set out by statute (legally binding). 3% year-on-year reductions, 42% reduction from 1990 baseline by 2020 and a staggering 80% reduction from 1990 baseline by 2050 (

So far so hippy, right? Except for the news this July that Scotland had failed to meet it's 3% reduction target on the basis of 'exceptionally cold weather'. (

Now let's stop there for a moment. As anyone who lives in Scotland will know, it can be exceptionally cold here in the middle of August with the sun beaming down on you, so I would have thought that any target-setting would factor in the inherent difficulties caused by living in a country which is prone to snow in May.

Let's look a bit closer - the figures produced here are the first figures to be reported under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. Essentially, we've missed the first target (in darts terms, the equivalent of missing the board completely and hitting a spectator in the eye). Now, as anyone with any working knowledge of climate change adaptation will tell you, the first few years of meeting targets should be the easiest. You are moving from the old structure to the new: you have at that stage the highest possible level of action to take and a number of quick wins within reach, whereas 20 years down the line you will be looking at the more technologically and socially difficult mechanisms to implement. So failure to meet the first 3% reduction target does not bode well.

(I should note, in fairness, that since 1990 Scotland's emissions have reportedly fallen by 21% - but I'm looking specifically at achievements in terms of the targets set out in the 2009 Act (paragraph 1.3 of

There are so many facets to cover with climate change - hundreds, if not thousands, and I'm not going to cover them all in this first post. What I am going to do though is set myself a rule. For every piece of negativity I post, I'm going to put something positive up to balance it out - I guess it is important to keep the positivity going, as if we all get all gloomy about climate change then everyone will throw in the towel. Even if we are all f*cked, there are a number of things we can do which will at least minimise the impacts climate change has upon us, even if those impacts are going to be more severe than we would wish.

So, positivity. Again, I'm going to stick with UK policy here (although future posts will globe-trot).

The Green Deal is something that so few people know about, and which should be highlighted more. (

Essentially, the Green Deal is a scheme under which any homeowner can have energy efficiency improvements made to their homes by energy companies at no up-front cost. Costs are then repaid through additions to energy bills. But think about that - if you have cavity wall insulation, proper insulation in your loft, double-glazing... what are your basic energy costs going to be? Crucially, the green deal sets out that if you move from that property you no longer pay for the improvements - the payment obligation transfers with the property. The DECC are also looking to oblige energy companies to improve the energy efficiency of homes of the most vulnerable and of the poorest members of society.

Again, let's have a wee look at this. Ipsos Mori have estimated that by 2016 almost half of the Scottish Population could be living in fuel poverty ( Fuel poverty occurs where a household is spending more than 10% of it's post-tax income on heating (current definition, although moves are afoot to redefine). That's almost half of Scottish households spending an inordinate amount just to make sure that their families are warm in this inclement climate. And of course, this figure will disproportionately include pensioners and people on low incomes.

So the Green Deal could be an excellent response to this, and something that I would urge any readers to avail themselves of, to flag up to friends and family, to make themselves a tshirt with 'I heart Green Deal' on. Not only could it help address fuel poverty, but it can also help reduce energy demand, which is one of the largest causes of climate-changing emissions in the world. Reducing fuel poverty and climate change emissions in one fell swoop sounds pretty worthy to me.

Next blog: looking at the upcoming Conference of Parties under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Oh, and because I promised...