Given the amount of sunshine and wind in this country, it is difficult to fathom why we are not one of the world leaders in solar and wind energy generation.
I recall talking on radio with a Canadian environmental scientist who had lived in Australia for several years, and was now back in his homeland. As he talked about his work experiences in Australia, which were not all positive, and at times most frustrating, he said: “Australians are so stupid. I cannot believe, with the amount of sunshine you have in your country, that solar energy is not mandatory.” He was, of course, absolutely correct. Every time another gas or electricity bill arrives, I am reminded of his words; even more so, when I check the detail and realise that the bulk of the bill comprises charges for supply, and not for usage. It does not make sense, environmentally or financially. The Great Smog of London, sometimes called the ‘Big Smoke’, was a severe air-pollution event that affected the British capital of London in December 1952. A period of cold weather, combined with anticyclonic and windless conditions, collected airborne pollutants – mostly arising from the use of coal – to form a thick layer of smog over the city. It lasted from 59 December 1952, and then dispersed quickly when the weather changed. Sir Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister, and he had no comprehension of what was occurring. He was an old man who was more concerned about staying in power than dealing with an environmental calamity, which he thought was a nonsense.
The smog caused major disruption by reducing visibility, and even penetrating indoor areas. It was more severe than previous smog events known as ‘pea-soupers’. Government medical reports estimated that up to 4,000 people died as a direct result of the smog, and 100,000 more were made ill by the smog’s effects on the human respiratory tract. More recent research suggests that the total number of fatalities was considerably greater, about 12,000. As a consequence London is now a smoke free zone – no open fires et al.
The cold weather preceding, and during, the Great Smog, led Londoners to burn more coal than usual to keep warm. Post-war domestic coal tended to be of a relatively lowgrade, sulphurous variety (economic necessity meant that better-quality ‘hard’ coals tended to be exported), which increased the amount of sulphur dioxide in the smoke. There were also numerous coal-fired power stations in the Greater London area, including Fulham, Battersea, Bankside, Greenwich and Kingston upon Thames, all of which added to the pollution. According to the UK’s Met Office, the following pollutants were emitted each day during the smoggy period: 1,000-tonnes of smoke particles; 140-tonnes of hydrochloric acid; 14-tonnes of fluorine compounds; and 370-tonnes of sulphur dioxide, which may have been converted to 800-tonnes of sulphuric acid.
So much for the burning of coal as a means of domestic and commercial heating!
My asthma, which is only slight, has barely affected me since I came to live in Ballarat; however, in the winter months, when one can smell the smoke from open fires around where I live, my breathing is affected. The wheezing is obvious.
Like many environmentalists, I am concerned about the mess we are leaving for the future generations. If I am lucky, I may have another 30-years – that would make me a centenarian – so I will not be around for the worst of it; but that does not stop me from wanting to start rectifying years
of environmental abuse. I was horrified when Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce appeared in parliament brandishing lumps of coal, arguing that fossil fuel is the way of the future. That is dinosauric thinking, by any standards.
The baby-boomers have proven to be one of the most remarkable, and, at the same time, destructive and environmentally vandalous generations. For all the brilliant and life-saving technological and scientific developments which they have given the world, the unadulterated mess they have created is worrisome. It is an ugly legacy which has the potential to negate all the good they have done. Curiously, it is the male, baby-boomer decision-makers who are sticking to old ways with a grim determination, refusing to relinquish their misguided ‘right of entitlement’. Every G20 country, except the United States, recently signed a declaration to make binding the Paris climate agreement to eventually cut net emissions to zero. The United States will meet, or exceed, its Paris Agreement emissions targets, despite an increasingly isolated President Donald Trump withdrawing from the accord. The former vice-president Al Gore says:”The country as a whole is going to meet the commitments of the Paris Agreement, regardless of what Donald Trump says or does,” Mr Gore said. “He has isolated himself. He’s not irrelevant, I won’t pretend that, but it’s encouraging to me that the country is moving forward without him.” In Australia to promote his latest film, ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’, the climate campaigner, and one-time presidential candidate, said Mr Trump was out of step domestically and internationally. Sadly, President Trump is not all that different from some politicians in this country. Climate change is real! The scientific evidence is irrefutable. Roland can be heard each MONDAY morning on 3BA at 10.30.Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org