EXPERTS and green groups in Oxfordshire hope this will be the time when the world finally stands up and takes notice of their predictions before disaster strikes.
Award-winning author and Green Party member Mark Lynas, pictured below, from Wolvercote, is campaigning for environmentalists to be more open-minded about nuclear power because he believes it is the largest potential source of low carbon energy available to tackle climate change.
He said: “If we abandon nuclear power we will see catastrophic levels of global warming, but if we combine sustainable energies like solar and wind with nuclear power we can keep climate change at safe levels.
“The arguments against are mostly designed to play on people’s fears of radiation but aren’t scientifically valid.
“I think people are concerned about the potential expense of renewable investment but we do have to spend money to ensure that our descendants have a habitable land.
“Solar power is of limited use in northern European countries, which have cold winters, and wind has the drawback of intermittency.
“Only nuclear energy can keep the lights on for 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year without emitting carbon dioxide.”
Mr Lynas, 40, believes Oxfordshire is leading the way in climate change initiatives.
He said: “We’re in the frontline in some ways with our low-lying location and the Thames coming through the city.
“We have the challenge of adapting to the increasing effect of climate change, so there’s a lot of activity.
“The flooding shows us that we weren’t immune from the climate change impact.
“It’s not something which is going to happen just in tropical countries.
“There’s a clear relationship between a warmer atmosphere and holding more water vapour.
“As local people we all have to do our bit to become part of the clean energy revolution.
“That’s from the bottom-up in small-scale renewables as well as top-down with nuclear power stations.”
Mr Lynas believes there could even be a nuclear power plant based in the former Didcot A station, which closed in March last year.
He said: “It would be wonderful because you could have clean power where the dirty power in coal was for decades. There are still reactors in Harwell so it wouldn’t be the first in Oxfordshire.”
- LOW Carbon Oxford Week will be held from June 14 to 22.
- It will include a variety of pop-up events across the city promoting sustainability, including film showings, food fairs and music.
- The event is being organised by Low Carbon Oxford, which was set up by the Oxford Strategic Partnership in 2010.
- Anyone who wants to get involved, make a donation or provide a venue should contact Jennifer Carr by visiting lowcarbonoxford.wordpress.com
Volunteers spread the green message
LOIS Muddiman co-founded Low Carbon West Oxford in 2007 in response to concerns over flooding. It aims to cut community carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
Current and future initiatives include providing thermal imagery for homeowners so they can see where energy is being leaked and encouraging green residents to invite neighbours to their home as an example of energy efficiency.
HELP AT HAND: Lois Muddiman, on the bike, with Jennifer Carr
Mrs Muddiman said: “There are a lot of community groups under the low carbon banner run by volunteers in their own locality trying to encourage people to lead more sustainable lifestyles.
“They are very successful in engaging a lot of communities because it’s on the ground.
“Climate change is going to be an issue which needs to be tackled by local and national government.
“We’ve found that these groups are very well trusted because they are run by volunteers known in the area and people can turn to them for advice on what they can do to make their homes cheaper and reduce their carbon footprint.”
The Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon group was established last year and has already taken 95 thermal photographs and set up a meeting attended by 80 residents about how to improve energy efficiency.
It also collects unwanted electrical items to be reused and recycled and followed Low Carbon Oxford North’s footsteps in setting up an electric car share club.
Member Jennifer Carr, who is also Oxford City Council’s sustainable energy officer, said: “Oxfordshire as a county has got more active community groups of low carbon than anywhere else in the UK.
“It’s enormously important. A lot of the time people don’t necessarily know where to go for resources and having people who understand what local people’s needs are.
“Starting at grassroots level with one-to-one relationship building is the first step in people getting wider support and talking about the bigger issues in climate change.”
Keeping an eye on the sky could reap benefits
SUSTAINABLE Charlbury recently unveiled plans to build a community-owned solar farm.
Chairwoman Liz Reason said: “Tell people we are to have a community solar farm and the reaction is one of real pleasure — at last here is something real that will make a contribution to tackling climate change.
PROMOTING RENEWABLES: Liz Reason
“This is their chance to do something about a horrible problem of which they are acutely aware and generally feel powerless.
“On top of that, having your own renewable energy generation makes people look at the weather and judge its impact on how much electricity it will mean.
“It also makes them very conscious about their own energy use. This sense of empowerment helps people realise that changing their behaviour to help mitigate the impact of climate change is not so difficult after all.”
Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute is involved in several aspects of climate change at local, national and international level.
It runs the world’s biggest climate prediction experiment, researches the impact of humans in climate change and assesses how carbon moves around the Amazon rainforest’s eco-system.
The institute also works with communities in Oxfordshire to help people save energy and advises councils on flood risk management.
For more than a century, it has been conducting research at Wytham Woods near Oxford.
Development officer Ian Curtis said: “There’s a huge amount of innovation in Oxfordshire in terms of high level enterprise initiatives but we’re also starting to mobilise people in low-tech community engagement.
“If we keep bringing these things together and sharing lots of ideas then there’s an exciting future for Oxfordshire. There’s so much going on, whether it’s church or school groups or hi-tech companies.”
A NEW SOURCE OF POWER
A COMMUNITY-owned hydro scheme in Oxford could be generating electricity by the spring.
The Osney Lock Hydro project was conceived in 2001 and last year received planning permission.
It has so far raised £500,000 in funding – with more than half coming from investment by residents.
Construction started last summer and the next steps include building a powerhouse and installing a turbine.
Director Saskya Hughes said: “As well as generating green electricity, profits from Osney Lock Hydro will be used to support local environmental projects.
“Our aim is to generate 186,000 kilowatt hours a year, equivalent to the electricity needs of about 60 homes, and to raise over £2m for local environmental projects.”
Floods highlighted issues
CLIMATE Change and Information Network (COIN) director Jamie Clarke, 38, pictured, hopes the flooding will get more people interested in what is happening to our weather.
The Cowley-based group holds debates in Oxford and last month staged a flotilla of rowing boats in the flooded Abingdon Road as a protest demanding discussion about climate change.
Donnington Bridge Road resident Mr Clarke, pictured, said: “We’re really focused on harnessing the horrible instance of the flooding to help people connect with the problems in Oxfordshire. We want them to be able to talk about it so they can take action.
“The flooding in Oxford of 2007 was supposed to be a once-in-a-100 years incident.
“Since then Abingdon Road has been closed three or four times due to flooding.
“The pattern very much suggests it’s to do with climate change. We need to adapt to these patterns to mitigate the problems of climate change.
“The flooding has led to more people talking about it.”