Desertification – Impact on the UK

Desertification is not an issue that affects the UK – discuss

The following is a response to this article

I disagree with this statement. Whilst desertification is unlikely to directly affect the UK imminently, it’s effects are almost certain to appear over time.

Desertification leads to less food being able to be grown due to the impact of land degradation. With demand for food expanding due to a rising population around the globe, food prices are sure to rocket as a result of increased demand worldwide. The UK will certainly feel the impact of this, as 40% of all consumed food is imported, and this figure is on the rise.

However, it is also possible that the UK will directly suffer from desertification in the form of land degradation. As global temperatures continue to rise, our climate is likely to change. As a result of this, we may begin to see land degradation occurring in a similar to way to that which occurs in areas of southern Europe. In addition to this, our land use is changing, adding to the effect of land degradation.

The UK may also impact politically from issues surrounding desertification. It may find itself home to an increasing number of environmental refugees due to amounting tensions in affected regions around the world.

These events are yet to occur, however, some of the these issues are fast approaching. One thing does remain clear: desertification will affect the UK.

Sources: http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/issue/uk.html

Desertification

Desertification is as slow process with global and devastating effects: food security, climate change and population growth. Once soil is lost as a result, it can take up to a thousand years to grow by a single centimetre, and an average of 85 years for plants to recover without human intervention.

It is estimated that over the next decade, over 50 million people will be at risk of moving due to desertification. Those whom are directly affected by this tend be poor, have a lesser political voice as well as have few resources available to them.

Many factors can cause land degradation: human actions have the ability to cause climate change, increasing existing problems due to natural weather trends. Climate change (in part) causes desertification, which reduces vegetation; more carbon remains in the atmosphere, leading to faster climate change.

The solution lies in education & communication. Desertification must be of greater concern to countries with the ability to bring about change. Modern science must combine with local practices; and unless the strategy pays for local farmers, it is unlikely to last.

 

Fracking to the Rescue

‘If the article is right and techniques such as fracking mean that “it’s time to forget about peak oil” then do you agree with the final assertion that this “can only be a good thing”?

It is easy to look at fracking in only one of two lights, however it is important to view the whole picture, taking into account both the positives and negatives of the technology. It has halved the number of barrels that now need to be imported to the United States and is also currently generating them $76 million in revenue each year. Unfortunately, amongst these positives come an array of economic and environmental issues that must be taken into account:

Economic Issues:

As the article explains, the use of fracking leads to decreased reliance on imported oil, however it also means that the economies of exporting nations are adversely impacted. This then leads to an undesirable effect on developing countries, already struggling to keep up with global markets.

While the economies of some countries may be in decline as a result of fracking, those involved in the process see a significant economic benefit. Through the greater amount of oil being discovered, oil and gas prices drop, along with the improvement of energy security through domestic production. By producing oil domestically, the countries are less vulnerable to the consequences of, for example, and attack on an international pipeline. Fracking may also expand the assets of a particular country through technology, providing jobs and in turn, greater wealth for individuals and economic prosperity for the country. 

Environmental Issues:

Fracking requires huge amount of water that must be transported to the fracking site, using significant amounts of fuel in the transport process. As well as water being needed, chemicals are also required which are said to be potentially carcinogenic. It is feared that they may escape from the fracking site, contaminating ground water, and in turn, domestic supplies.

Environmental campaigners say that fracking is simply distracting energy firms and governments from investing in renewable sources of energy, and encouraging the continued use of fossil fuels. We need to invest in new technologies now, before it it too late and we are left without a source of energy.

There are wide-spread worries that the fracking process may result in small earth tremors. Two small earthquakes of 1.5 and 2.2 magnitude hit the Blackpool area in 2011 following fracking.

Conclusion:

In order to postpone the end of our reliance on oil, fracking is a very suitable option. It increases energy security, lowers prices as well as decreases transport costs associated with oil importation. However, it must not be forgotten that fracking is merely delaying the inevitable. Fracking is not an alternative energy source, but another method of sourcing an existing one. This highlights the biggest problem of fracking, it leads to the diversion of resources from what the industry should be investing in: alternative energy.

Sources: BBC News, 27 June 2013 – ‘What is fracking and why is it controversial?’

Image: flickr/CREDO.fracking 

 

Peak Oil

What Is Peak Oil?

Peak Oil is the maximum rate that we can extract oil. It occurs when the flows of oil can no longer be expanded, so oil comes out of the ground at a slower rate. This in turn means that there is less oil to go around.

Reaching Peak Oil:

“Even though abundant oil reserves may be uncovered with the passing of time, the ability to extract that oil will be limited physically and by the sheer cost of exploration and production” -ITPOES

This warning showed that finally, after 30 years of speculation, the world may be heading towards peak oil. This would mean the dramatic rise in the price of oil, and as a consequence they would have the ability to destabilise political, economic as well as social activity. Some argue that parts of the world have already reached ‘Peak Oil’, however others say that the worst is yet to come.

Postponing the Inevitable:

The International Energy Agency claims that oil demand will drop naturally over the coming years, with the development of renewable resources such as solar and wind power. IEA data shows that this may already be happening, with OECD countries currently using 45 million barrels per day, in comparison to 50 million back in 2006.

Adapting:

With Oil becoming unavailable due to its rising price, the answer may be simply to adapt to alternatives. Currently, transport accounts for over 95% of all oil use, therefore the focus should be placed on developing technology in order to make oil use redundant. In order to smoothly transition away from oil, work needs to start now in order to give technology a greater chance of success.

“Thousands of years ago, people invented ideas; they had ideas, innovations, technology—and the Stone Age ended, not because we ran out of stones. It’s ideas, it’s innovation, it’s technology that will end the age of oil, long before we run out of oil.” – Richard Sears, TED 2010