Thursday, July 12, 2007

Save it!

We all know that we need to save energy to save the planet. What most people don’t realize is that everything we eat, use or wear involves the use of energy and indirectly causes carbon dioxide emissions. One of the things we take least notice of is water, particularly in the UK where many households still pay a fixed fee for their water, regardless of how much they use. Of course, commercial premises and more and more homes are on metered supplies, but the cost of water, at least at present, is ignored by most people.

One cubic metre of water requires 1kWh of electricity or other energy to pump it, filter it, purify it, and deliver it to the consumer. Every cubic metre of water therefore has a carbon footprint. Although Britain has been suffering from floods in recent weeks, droughts and hose pipe bans are becoming more and more common in the summer and if we do experience the weather extremes as predicted, water shortages can only get worse.

With this in mind I was interested to see the Interflush device at a conference at York University. This is a simple way of varying the amount of water which is used to flush the lavatory. Although there are some dual-flush units, most flushing systems deliver a full cistern of water every time. The same amount of water is used whether liquids or solids need to be flushed away. The Interflush adapts the traditional flushing siphon so that the flow stops as soon as the handle is released. At the level of the individual household, the savings are relatively small. However, we know that if each household fitted a single compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) electricity demand would fall by the equivalent of the output of a whole power station. Similarly, if every household adopted an Interflush the carbon footprint of the water industry would be cut by 250,000 tons of CO2 . The cost of water would be reduced for all consumers and the existing infrastructure would be able to cope with an increase in the number of consumers without upgrading.

Have a look at the website and see what you think!

Spot the Difference

The Great Global Warming Swindle, the Channel Four programme which claimed that carbon dioxide was not the cause of global warming, suggested that sunspots and solar activity were major force. The theory is that solar winds drive away the particles that cause clouds to form and the reduced cloud cover means that the surface of the earth warms. In fact, while this is a respected theory, the actual observations show that there was little solar wind at the time the global warming was observed.

Dr Michael Lockwood of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories in Oxford has published a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society complaining that the programme was selective in the use of his research findings. The graphs that were displayed were cut short at the point at which global warming and solar activity clearly diverged. As Dr Lockwood said, the sceptics were “..taking perfectly good science and bringing it into disrepute.”

It looks as though man-made carbon dioxide is still firmly in the frame as a major cause of global warming.

Public opinion, however, still wants to believe that everything can go on as normal.