Climate change is here – UN

After months of debate and reviews of a mass of scientific reports, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has this last week produced its long debated (second) report on the effects of a warming planet. The report includes a summary of the ten “climate related drivers of impacts” – see figure below.

The report is clear and deeply worrying and affects all of us. No country can avoid the ‘overwhelming’ impact of climate change, but most at risk are those living in low lying areas where rising sea levels will force mass migrations of population to other areas.

Other results of our unwillingness to cut back on carbon emissions will mean tundra regions will warm and polar ice caps melt, crop levels will be affected and fish catches will be smaller. The BBC’s website provides an excellent summary of the report. (

It’s obvious that despite the evidence of the Impact of global warming on our climate and on future generations, there has been since 2009 – when we first started commenting on this issue on this blog – a growing reluctance by many governments to take the robust actions we need to avert the growing crisis.

Perhaps because of this, Chris Field, the Chair of the IPCC Committee indicates that effective actions can actually be taken. For instance we can build defences against rising sea levels and locally cut CO2 emissions. These actions will require in the words of the report ‘ambitious investment’, but politicians and the constituencies they serve need to understand that in the long run this is the safest and only route that we can take.

A copy of the full report (in pdf format) can be downloaded from the IPCC website.

On opening a new door

It lasted we think about 130 years, but in the end there was no choice. It had to go. I’d been planing the side of the front door to The Larches two or three times a year to prevent it getting jammed in its frame, but each time the tenon joints would drop a little, the wood would swell with the damp and I was back to square one. I realised this must have been going on for decades with previous owners too.

We wanted to have a new one similar to the original 19th century one, but we made one important change to the specification. The top two fielded panels were to be replaced with two double glazed ones.

As the day approached for the fitting, I wondered a little about our decision. Would it look out of place, too modern for the traditional lakeland style of the house? I needn’t have worried.

It took Joe – who made the door – and his apprentice mate from Thomas Armstrong’s Joinery Department well into the afternoon to get it finally fitted, but from the moment it was first offered up in its frame to check for sizing, I knew we had a winner.

As the photo shows, the new door has suddenly opened up the front corridor into a warm wide lobby, dazzling with light when the sun is shining, showing off its attendant rooms like a proud owner!

And when you open and shut the door, it’s the joy that comes from a high quality car door or piece of furniture! Stainless steel hinges with brass washers, a slight hesitation as the door’s bottom brushes reach the aluminium lintel and then a discreet click. The 5 lever key rotates quietly with purpose. No worries now and good for another century!

Changing Times

Walk round the centre of one of our big cities these days, and if you haven’t been there for a year or two, you’re sure of a surprise.

Take Manchester, Cumbria’s nearest big city. Whole urban areas there have been prized open, smashed and then rebuilt. The Spinning Fields area running down to the River Irwell has now risen phoenix like as a glitzy new office and shopping zone, with adjacent Law Courts.

Near Victoria Station, the old Coop Century Building has been demolished and replaced by a futuristic gherkin shaped structure below Red Bank; and on Oxford Road the demolition of the BBC site has left a huge gaping hole as the broadcaster has moved to Salford and ‘Media City’ (See photo of the author opposite) on the site of the old Manchester Ship Canal docks.

I was reflecting on this just recently as I found a watercolour (below) my sister, Penny had done of The Larches from the Ravine Road, looking NE across the Seldom Seen hamlet with Skiddaw in the background. Painted exactly 25 years ago, the scene is now scarcely changed.

Of course rural areas don’t need the infrastructure and capital investment of cities with large populations, but it would be wrong to think nothing is happening to the economy of rural areas

While Seldom Seen and Thornthwaite have not physically changed all that much, the use made of buildings has altered. The Swan local pub beside Powter How has been turned into apartments, as have Thornthwaite Grange and Ladstocks, along the lane south from The Larches.

Sheep farming subsidies are being reduced and Increasingly in Cumbria, farming alone does not provide a living for a family. Commonly people have to hold down two jobs and offer B&B to make ends meet.

Looked at In the longer term it’s possible to see even bigger changes. Children no longer attend the School House opposite us and the Old Sawmill was long ago turned into six separate dwellings. A 1938 Kelly’s Directory of Cumberland shows too a much more stratified society 75 years ago, with a local land owning gentry and a ‘lord of the manor’, together with mining, more varied local industry and more diverse occupations.

The cobbler has gone now as has the miner, the bleacher, the dairyman, the game keeper and the mole catcher. Despite the size of our local Whinlatter forest, even the forester is becoming an endangered occupation, as mechanisation and funding cuts reduce regular full time jobs. The one clear area of growth has been that of teleworkers, who can use the internet to exchange digital material with colleagues or clients anywhere in the world. What will things look like in another 25 years time?

Dumping solar panels

We were invited over last May by our friend Thomas for a long weekend with his family in the Black Forest area of southern Germany. As we drove around the rolling countryside and woodland, I was surprised by the number of houses, with roofs covered with solar panels – see photo below. Green energy was really taking off. Why couldn’t we do the same in the UK?

He explained Germany had got into production of photo voltaic cells for the panels at an early stage. As a result a number of companies had started producing the panels and generating new jobs in the area.

It was great for the German economy, but the good news had been quickly followed by the bad news. Chinese companies began ‘dumping’ panels at such low prices that local companies couldn’t compete and collapsed. It was alleged the price of the Chinese panels was the result of large subventions from local and provincial Government.

Last weekend a story In the New York Times International (28 July 2013), “Europe and China agree to settle solar panel fight” provides a follow up. The EU trade commissioner reported that a deal had been done with the Chinese to settle for a minimum panel price of €0.56 for every deliverable watt; and that as a consequence no tariffs would be charged on Chinese panels.

It sounded OK til the EU manufacturers angrily pointed out that this was the same as the ‘dumping’ price of the panels now being sold by the Chinese. They promised to sue in the courts.

In the US meanwhile tariffs have already been slapped on the import of ‘dumped’ Chinese panels; and China has retaliated by announcing plans to put on 50% tariffs on polysilicon from the US and South Korea, from which the panels are made.

It’s clear that the Chinese have offered substantial incentives for solar panel production, including the provision of huge loans from state owned banks. As a result their production costs are a quarter of what they were five years ago and the industry represents over 6% of all Chinese exports to Europe.

It’s clear too that a solution is needed, but hammering out compromises on environmental and trade issues is tough work. Retaliatory tariffs won’t help the US, the EU or China. Who’s betting on how this will end?

A belvedere in the sky

We’ve been coming to Seattle regularly for over ten years now and staying close to Lake Union, which we’ve always been able to see from the apartment where our daughter Chloe has lived in the hilly Queen Anne district of the city.

Through all this time the sight and noise of the seaplanes taking off and landing on the lake has been a constant background from about 8.00 am onwards. Surprisingly it has been rather relaxing.

Seeing these small craft moving across the lake, at first slowly and then speeding up for take-off has been a daily reminder of Seattle’s connection with the Pacific coast and the many islands which dot the Puget Sound and the route north to Vancouver Island and Alaska.

It’s also a constant reminder of a key part of the city’s history, because it was in a hangar on the east shore of Lake Union in 1916 that William Boeing built his first B & W seaplane and saw it fly later that year across Lake Union. This was the start of Seattle’s major industry, aircraft manufacture, best known today for Boeing’s Dreamliner series.

This year though there has been one big difference in our experience of the seaplanes. To our delight I was this year given by Chloe for my birthday tickets for a return flight to Orcas Island, 70 miles by air from Seattle and a world apart. No longer was it just a case of us watching the seaplanes!

We were to travel up the coast on a fantastic viewing platform to rival any of the other belvederes we have included in this Lakeland Belvedere website. The photos in this blog give an idea of what you can see from the small 6 and 8 seater seaplanes that fly every day in and out of Seattle. The top photo shows the inside of the cockpit with Orcas Island opening up for us in the distance. Photo No 2 shows the seaplane arriving to pick us up for the return journey at Rosario and the pilot jumping out to secure the plane to the dock. Photo No 3 is of the plane flying low above the coast line as we flew to make an unscheduled beach pick up of a passenger on a neighbouring island.

For our return I was allowed to sit in the co-pilot’s seat, which provided even better views. Photo 4 shows the small Smith Island with a sandbar (covered at high tide) in the shimmering evening sun; and Photo No 5 is of an uninhabited island. Photo No 6 is of our return to Seattle with Lake Union opening up for landing. The house we were staying in is just below the radio mast on the left on Queen Anne Hill.

If you get the chance arrange yourself a trip.