February, 2013

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Climate change

News and views from the RSPB on climate change and what you can do about it.
  • Trapped in the atmosphere – a cause of weather extremes?

    Researchers have found a common physical cause behind recent severe weather extremes, such as the heat waves in the United States in 2011 and Russia 2010, and the 2010 Pakistan flood. They say that man-made climate change repeatedly disturbs the patterns of atmospheric flow around the world’s northern hemisphere, through a subtle resonance mechanism.

    Atmospheric ‘waves’ between tropical and Arctic regions are an important part of the global air motion.  When they swing up, they suck warm air from the tropics to Europe, Russia, or the US, and when they swing down, they bring cold air from the Arctic.   

    These planetary waves almost froze in their tracks, for weeks, during several recent extreme weather events. So instead of bringing in cool air after having brought warm air in before, the heat just stays.  Time is critical: two or three days of 30 degrees Celsius are no problem, but two or three weeks can lead to extreme heat stress. Many ecosystems and cities are not adapted to this, and prolonged hot periods can bring a high death toll, forest fires, and dramatic harvest losses.

    Climate change is not uniform across the world. Greater warming in the Arctic, amplified by loss of snow and ice, is reducing the temperature difference between the Arctic and, for example, Europe – and temperature differences are a main driver of air flow. Also, continents generally warm and cool more readily than the oceans.  Combining these two things results in an unnatural pattern of mid-latitude air flow, so that the normal slow waves get trapped for extended periods.

    Scientists have been surprised by how far outside past experience some of the recent extremes have been. As an explanation of mechanism behind them, this research shows that the emergence of extraordinary weather is not just a linear response to the average warming trend.

    The research, by V Petoukhov, S Rahmstorf, S Petri and H J Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, will be published on line in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


  • How close are you to a paper-free life?

    In honour of Go Green Week, we've handed the climate blog over to colleagues to share what they are doing in their own lives to make a difference.

    Helen Leach closes Go Green Week with a final post on  how to strive for a paperless office...

    The concept of the paperless office has been around for decades. All around us our day to day activities are becoming electronic, such as having an Oyster Card to travel round the London Underground instead of a paper ticket, but we office-based folk seem to be clinging on to printing like an inky limpet!

    There’s no denying that going paperless at work is hard but we are all capable of making it happen. Think to yourself as you hover over the print button ‘how can I change my working habits to save this piece of paper?’

    Following some serious thought in my ‘clear-minded’ yoga class last night and some research there are some pretty neat ways you can achieve this!

    • Yes the ‘Think Before You Print’ logo has been around a while but refocus on it – seriously, do you really need to print that?
    • Many of us have smartphones – use these for taking meeting notes
    • Get electronic versions of local papers when doing media reviews
    • Use a cloud service such as Dropbox to save, access and share documents wherever you are – you wouldn’t even need to email yourself files anymore and that unsightly filing cabinet could be replaced by that yucca plant you’ve always wanted!
    • Get suppliers to invoice you electronically
    • Let your contacts know you’ve gone paperless and get them to send you electronic versions of documents

    Of course there will always be those times when you will have to turn to printing but to help clear your conscience there is a certain tree symbol you can look out for when buying paper and wood-based products – that of the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC.

    To check for FSC approved products you can go onto their website and check their database and if you’re still not sure just ask the supplier before you buy.

    When you see the tree you can be certain that the paper you have bought has come from a responsibly managed forest that has benefited local people and wildlife.

    Some great tips from Helen there. Do share your own tips for ensuring you only print what you really have to.

  • Plastic Packaging? Just Go Naked!

    In honour of Go Green Week, we've handed the climate blog over to colleagues to share what they are doing in their own lives to make a difference.

    Helen Leach from our Norwich office discusses the merits of ridding her world of food packaging.

    More and more of our food is purchased surrounded by plastic packaging – four apples can be nestled in three different types of plastic just to get them from the supermarket shelf to the fruit bowl. Why? And what are the consequences of this?

    It is true that plastic packing can reduce food wastage by slowing down the rotting process but let’s look at the rotten process of having the plastic in the first place.

    Plastics can be bad for the environment in several ways:

    • Oil: Plastic has been termed the ‘global oil spill’. 8% of the world’s annual oil production is used in the manufacture of plastic
    • Precious resources: land and water is needed to make it
    • Toxic chemicals: potentially harmful chemicals are used in its production
    • Landfill: most plastics are non-degradable and sit in landfill for hundreds of years
    • Litter: over 50% of litter found on beaches is plastic

    Beaches are really revealing when it comes to finding out what we’ve been throwing away. If you’ve ever walked along the beach after a storm it’s pretty obvious that we’ve been eating a lot of plastic encased food. While we may have really enjoyed that vacuum packed piece of Coley with chips, the plastic packaging they came in are now floating in the sea on the other side of the world and a sea turtle has eaten the ballooned bag thinking it’s a tasty jellyfish. The Earth is now believed to be suffocating in an air-tight layer of plastic waste that’s killing thousands of marine animals and seabirds, choking coral reefs and covering critical environments.

    But there are alternatives to this scenario. The best thing I did to reduce the use of plastic packing in my weekly shop was to sign up to a veggie box scheme. Every Wednesday when I get home from work the anticipation brews inside as I pick up my box from the front garden to see what’s in there. Albeit not mud free, there is not a single morsel of plastic and to boot the food is local, seasonal and very tasty! A lot of fruits and vegetables don’t even need to be put in a bag – things like bananas and onions come with their own natural packaging. You could even try growing your own.

    For other kitchen cupboard necessities you could set up deliveries with the local milkman so the glass bottles can be reused and keep the shelves stacked with recyclable tin cans.

    Be like Gok Wan and show how food can look good just as it is, naked!

    How can you reduce the packaging in your life? Do share your own tips below.