The environment is very much in the news today. First, new research from Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has shown that the amount of plastic packaging used in supermarkets actually increased from 2017 to 2018, going from 886,000 tonnes to 903,000 tonnes. A lot of the additional weight comes from 10p 'bags for life', which are made of thicker plastic than the flimsier and 'throwaway' 5p bags used previously. The report has found that each household buys an average of 54 'bags for life' a year, making them more 'bag a week' than 'bag for life', with sales up 26% to 1.5 billion bags in 2018.
However, some of the additional weight of plastic also comes from 'food to go', like the sandwiches, cakes, crisps and fruit bought at lunch times. M & S now offers a discount to customers who bring their own containers in some stores, whilst Waitrose has an experimental 'Refill Station' in its Oxford store. But it's clear that supermarkets need to take a lot more action in this area if we are actually going to tackle the plastic waste problem. This is all the more worrying, given how aware the public now is about the issue of plastic pollution.
Tipping points may already have been crossed
The climate crisis is once again brought into focus by new research by a group of scientists in the journal Nature, which warns that the world may already have crossed a number of climate 'tipping points'. The tipping points come as one phenomenon caused by increased warming causes others to occur. For example, as permafrost in the Arctic melts, bubbles of methane (a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide) that have been trapped in the ice for millennia are released, increasing global warming further.
The lead author, Professor Tim Lenton, Director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, said, “We might already have crossed the threshold for a cascade of interrelated tipping points. The simple version is the schoolkids [those engaged in global climate strikes] are right: we are seeing potentially irreversible changes in the climate system under way, or very close.”
The article highlights the need for urgent action to tackle climate change, but suggests that in taking that action now - by adopting more renewable energies, rapidly reducing CO2 emissions and changing the way we live our lives - we can look towards a much better future for generations to come.
South Korea to shut down coal power stations
Meanwhile, in South Korea, 14 of its 60 coal-fired power stations will be shut down from December to February, rising to almost half in March, with a view to combatting dangerously high levels of fine dust. Record highs of PM 2.5 particles have been recorded in several of South Korea's major cities earlier this year. Air pollution has direct effects on people's health, with high levels increasing illnesses connected with the lungs and circulatory system.
Party leaders to debate climate crisis
Finally, with the UK election just two weeks away, Channel 4 is airing a live Leaders' Debate on the climate crisis this evening. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has yet to confirm whether he will be attending, as does Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage. All other party leaders will be there.