Information and action for our environment
Contents: Environment...2. Materials...3. Energy...4. Climate Change...5-6. Facts...7. Response.... 8 Take the LEAD....9.
Environment Our environment is our surroundings, the people, spaces and elements around us. Our needs and wants as individuals, groups or organisations cause us to interact and alter our environment. Activities we undertake require materials and energy to achieve the outcome we desire and along the way produce waste to land, air or water.
The model above, ME LAW, looks at the environmental aspects and impacts of any activity. It looks at what materials and energy are used in an activity. Materials are the raw materials and physical tools used. Energy is the electicty, fuel and water used for the activity. The process also looks at what happens to these materials and energy both during and after the activity has taken place, in terms of itâ€™s impact on land, air and water. Land. Impacts here are physical waste, both managed municipal waste and unmanaged waste such as spills, leakages and careless behaviour. Air. Impacts here include emissions, noise, light and odour. Water. Impacts here come from effluent, leaks and spills.
Materials There are three main issues surrounding obtaining the materials that go into the food and products that make our modern lives. 1. as
Our materials we only have
are finite one planet.
2. The political control and distribution of the materials. Some countries have more resources than others 3. The economic, environmental and social cost of extracting the materials.
If everyone in the world lived like we do in UK we would need 3 planets to meet our needs.
We currently using resources at an unsustainable rate. WWF estimates we are consuming 50% more natural resources than the earth can sustain. At the same time demand for these resources is likely to increase as the global population increases from 7 billion in 2011 to approximately 9 billion in 2050. A rate of 200,000 people every day. While resources are being depleted and demand increases the amount of waste we produce as a population is still high. UK households still throw away around 26 millions tonnes of rubbish a year. It is important we begin to change how we design, consume, use and dispose of the materials we in our daily lives.
Energy Similar to materials, three main issues exist in obtaining the energy needed to power our modern lives. 1. Fossils fuels are finite and at present they provide 80% of the world’s energy needs. 2. The political control and distribution of the energy. Some countries have more resources than others. 3. The economic, environmental and social cost of extracting the energy.
Peak oil is when the production of oil is at its highest level. Coal, gas, and oil are fossil fuels and have powered our way of life for over a century. They are buried sunlight and the amount stored in the ground is limited because they only form over millions of years. As this fossil fuel energy is being used at increasingly fast rates and the demand continues to increase, renewable and nuclear energy is now being pursued. In the UK the energy supply is becoming more dependent on energy imports. In 2004 it became a net importer of gas and it’s petroleum reserves are continually in decline. When considering the problems surrounding energy use it’s important to remember this advice - it’s cheaper to save energy than buy energy.
Climate Change The greenhouse effect is the natural process of the atmosphere letting in some of the energy we receive from the Sun and stopping it being transmitted back out into space. This makes the Earth warm enough for life. For several thousands of years the atmosphere has been delicately balanced with relatively stable levels of greenhouse gases. Human activities like burning coal, oil and gas have led to an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causing an enhanced greenhouse effect and extra warming. As a result, over the past century there has been an increase in average global temperatures in which the ten hottest years on record have all been since 1997. The costs and benefits of climate change for us will vary widely depending on location and the amount of warming. The net effects however will tend to be more negative the larger the change in climate.
Shortage of water resources The availability of water fluctuates up to 40% and by 2020, up to 250 million people may be exposed to increased water stress. Increased floods and storms More river run off and more frequent and intense storms. Ice caps melt causing large rises in sea level up to 7 metres. Millions face more coastal flooding each year. Species Loss Approximately 20-30% of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction. Increases in sea surface temperature of about 1-3째C, result in more frequent coral bleaching.
Food Production A potential 5-10% less grain production in tropical Africa which would increase the risk of hunger and increase food prices. Human Health Increasing malnutrition, diarrhoea, and cardio-respiratory diseases such as asthma. Increased deaths from extreme weather such as floods, droughts and heat waves. Fewer deaths from cold exposure.
Severe water problems 1 billion additional people experience water scarcity. Extensive Coastal Flooding Sea level rises flood low-lying land affecting 300 million people. 30% of global coastal wetland lost. The worst impacts will be felt in the megadeltas of Asia and Africa while small islands are especially vulnerable. Significant biodiversity loss Over 40% of species will not be able to adapt to the changing climate. Higher levels of atmospheric CO2 cause the oceans to acidify killing corals and decreasing fish stocks. Food Production 15 - 33 % decrease in African grain production. A severe decline in Australian farming, due to the increase of droughts. Human Health Massive hunger and malnutrition, increased deaths from extreme weather and disease. Source: IPCC 2007 4th Assessment The changes in temperature to 4 degrees or above are expected to occur between 2060 –2100. The increase in temperature is above the global mean annual temperature between 1980 and 1999.
The world’s energy use is at present tied to fossil fuels. In 2009 the UK for instance was dependent on coal, oil and gas for 89% of its energy. When this energy is burned it pruduces greenhouses gases which affect the atmosphere and can alter the planet’s temperature leading to considerable problems. The world needs to limit its use of carbon based fuels.
Within 6 hours deserts receive more energy Agriculture uses 70% of the planet’s fresh water. from the sun than humankind consumes within a year. UK households dispose of
80% of what we
8.3 million tonnes of food
make is thrown away every year that we could within six months of have eaten. This means the production.
average family throws £680 a year in the bin.
The world’s population is
On average in the UK
now consuming 1.5 planet’s each person uses 150 worth of resources. This litres of water per day. means it takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year. Fossil fuels are a limited resource.
There are now over 600 million motor vehicles in the world and around 80,000 flights a day.
Response Eliminate, Substitute, and Minimize When thinking about how to reduce the materials and energy that go into our processes inputs it is helpful to apply the health and safety principles of, elimination, substitution and minimization
Eliminate - think about whether the task you are doing is really neces-
sary. Can that trip to town be done another time when you need to go in for example, or do those lights need to be on?
Substitute - Is there another more energy efficient way of doing it? Or a way which uses less materials? Take the train instead of drive?
Minimize - Can you minimize the use of material and energy inputs? Run engines more efficiently or turn your heating down 1 degree?
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. When thinking about waste reduction it is helpful to apply the waste hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle.
Reduce - can the amount of waste to land, air, and water be made
smaller? Ensure the waste is being disposed properly and that leaks, spills and extra emissions are minimized.
Reuse - can the waste being produced be reused as it is? What may not be useful in one process could be used somewhere else. Ink cartridges can now often be refilled instead of remade for example.
Recycle - can the waste be remade into something else? Old bottles, newspapers and plastics can often be broken down then remade into new products, food can be composted.
Take the LEAD Take the LEAD is a Local Environmental Assessment Decision designed to help you reduce your impact on the environment both at work and home. It has 4 steps and includes the areas of ME LAW and eliminate, substitue minimize, and reduce, reuse, recycle already covered in this booklet.
By following the Take the LEAD process individuals and organisatons can recognise how they interact with environment and think about ways to reduce their impacts, costs, and build for the future.
Footprint definitions Carbon Footprint - the total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by a person, organization, event or product. Expressed as CO2e - the amount of carbon dioxide, or its equivalent of other GHGs, emitted. Ecological Footprint - measures the demand on the Earthâ€™s ecosystems and compares human demand with planet Earthâ€™s ecological capacity to regenerate. Expressed in global hectares - the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to regenerate the resources a human population consumes and to absorb and render harmless the corresponding waste.