Thursday, 27 September 2012

Martyr or Mug

It’s early. 5:45 AM to be precise. I have a large paper cup of coffee in front of me with one of those dastardly plastic lids. The ones that jettison steaming hot coffee up your sleeve when you walk. Looking to my left, out of the window, I see the lights of the still sleeping city rumble by. Full of people snuggled up in bed, still in their own personal dreamland: dreaming of past glories and future ambitions, subconsciously sifting through the meaning of life. I should be there too.

Now I look forward. I see a long and wearisome day ahead. Two days ago, my presence was requested, nay, demanded, at a meeting in London later this morning. Other commitments yesterday and tomorrow mean that I must travel there and back again in a day so I’m on the day’s first Virgin train service out of Glasgow. I hope to arrive 400 miles away in London in four and a half hours.

I thought long and hard about how to travel. Whether to go for the speed of flying versus the slower but greener train, eventually opting for the train despite the ungodly hour of departure. And while almost everyone else sleeps on I ponder whether I’m being a martyr to the environmental cause or just a mug making a meaningless gesture; a misplaced idealist or true eco warrior.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Changing Seasons

There was a nip in the air this weekend as the season begins to change and, if we needed it, a timely article in this Sunday's Independent serves as a reminder of some of the things we can do to save energy over the autumn and winter. The ten suggestions from the Independent are summarised below with some comments and a few other suggestions of my own:

1. Small changes - with emphasis on energy saving lightbulbs: Incandescent light bulbs are no longer available for domestic use so we should all be using low energy bulbs now or in the near future.

2. Efficient heating - ensure your radiators are working effectively and aren't blocked by furniture. Upgrading your boiler is also suggested but this can be a significant financial investment. The savings from upgrading your boiler depend on how inefficient the old one was and there may be other more cost effective energy saving investments.

3. Keep the heat in - draught proofing, loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and double glazing all help to keep in heat but are progressively more expensive and take longer to pay back the savings.  If you live in Glasgow you may qualify for free insulation through the Home Insulation Scheme, which is funded through the Scottish Government's Universal Home Insulation Scheme. Other schemes may operate where you live. STOP PRESS: Some links here to free insulation schemes for all, subject to conditions: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/free-cavity-loft-insulation#freeforall, via @TheEcoExperts. Also see item 11 below for more.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Clyde Fastlink - A Revolution in Public Transport

The problems with delivery of Edinburgh's new tram system has been well reported in the media, mostly because of the disruption caused by the works, its immense price tag and lengthy delays but Glasgow's bold new transport initiative has grabbed a lot less headlines, probably because of its more modest price tag and, more likely, due to its spectacular lack of impact on the city.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Here Comes the Rain - Part 2

It is official. Britain has had the wettest summer since 1912 according to the Meteorological Office. This follows one of the wettest springs on record. Is this evidence of climate change or simply natural variation in the weather?

To try answering this question, data from a weather station near Glasgow has been analysed . The first part of this article presented annual rainfall records and concluded that there has been only a slight increase in annual rainfall over the past decade compared with a baseline of 1961 to 1990 but that there had been a marked increase in variability. Also of interest is whether rainfall patterns have changed throughout the year, from month to month and between the seasons which is the subject of this post.

In order to provide some context, June 2012 was the wettest recorded June in 54 years with 130mm of rainfall which is almost double(196%) the average rainfall for the month and July is the fourth wettest with 75% more than average. Apart from this year, the five wettest Junes were followed by an average or below average July and likewise the five wettest Julies were preceded with a dry or average June. Data for August 2012 has yet to be published.

Over the fifty three complete years of data examined, there are wide variations in rainfall for each month as demonstrated by the monthly mean, maximum and minimum values plotted below. In some months the minimum values are almost zero while the maximum values may be almost three times the minimum.