Monday, 21 January 2013

Is Climate Change back on Obama's agenda?

We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. 
Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

An excerpt of President Obama's inaugural address today. It has been widely remarked upon that the address was both more specific on policies than expected, and that climate change was given a prominent mention.

1.5 of the 18 minutes of the speech was devoted to the issue. That may not sound like a lot, but given the deafening silence on the campaign trail, and for much of his first term, it is significant.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Time to switch off Derek's life support

I mentioned in my last podcast that I'm trying to figure out what to do with my old fridge ('Derek'). I want to dispose of him in an environmentally-friendly way, and I thought I would share the fruits of my research.

The first thing I discovered is that age matters. Fridges made before 2000 almost certainly contain harmful CFCs or HCFCs (freon in the US) which are both ozone-depleting and many thousands of times more potent that carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

Fridges more than 20 years old also use between two and four times more electricity than modern ones, according to the EPA.

But the good news is that more than 90% of a fridge is recyclable. That all leads me to two conclusions:
  1. It is time to flick the switch on Derek's life support. There is no point prolonging his life when he probably uses more energy living than dead. 
  2. Derek will have to be disposed of professionally. Just landfilling him or flytipping (kidding), can result in CFCs leaking and a number of other hazardous materials such as mercury contaminating the earth and ground water.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Japanese restauranteur pays $1.76m for a single tuna

A Japanese restauranteur has paid a record-breaking $1.76 million for a single bluefin tuna. The new record was set at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

The amount paid doesn't just reflect the rarity of the catch - although bluefin tuna are increasingly rare - but also the fame and publicity associated with buying the first tuna of the season.

The record was broken just days before new research from the Pew Environment Group showed that bluefin numbers in the Pacific are 96.4% below pre-fishing levels. More worryingly, nine out of ten of all the bluefin tuna being caught today are youngsters who have not yet reproduced.

Here are some photos I took on a visit to the Tsukiji fish market several years ago:

The market is a fascinating place to wander but you have to arrive at 6 or 7am to see any of the action.

The market demonstrated Japan's deep connection with seafood, and especially tuna, like no-where else I visited. Japanese sushi-eaters are extremely attuned to the quality of the tuna they eat.

Each torpedo-like tuna is rolled onto the floor and carefully examined by potential buyers, before being auctioned and packed into ice coffins or carted away.

Podcast #41: Aussie bushfires, A setback for Shell's Arctic drilling plans + Your chance to be an astronaut

 This podcast includes the following stories:
  1. Bushfires engulf southern Australia
  2. Beached Kulluk drilling platform proves a major headache for Shell
  3. Report: Half of the food produced on Earth is wasted
  4. Transocean to plead guilty over Gulf oil spill
  5. Kenya's largest ivory poaching massacre
  6. Lake Ellsworth team downs tools
  7. Ghana bans imports of fridges
  8. Record price paid for bluefin tuna in Japan
  9. Wanted: Volunteers to colonise Mars
Listen to more CoolGreen episodes here