Climate Change & the Environment


This page is the parent page for items which I have found interesting and which I think might inform discussion in u3a Climate Groups. I've also reposted some material from another forum in the hope that it is still informative.

Use links in the sidebar to access this content.

If you have material which might usefully be posted here please send it through to me.

I've also added a FAQ page, in the perhaps optimistic assumption that there will be questions that I can answer.


The Second Nature newsletter goes out to the Climate Network once or twice a month.
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I get questions from Group Leaders (GLs) about the practical aspects of running a climate group in u3a - goals, objectives, activities, talks, what works and what doesn't - and I think that these are best answered by group leads talking among themselves, so I have set up a Facebook group Climate Group Leaders - Facebook. You don't have to be a GL to participate, just be willing to contribute your ideas. GLs from other groups such as Science and Gardening are also welcome. Note that this group is not intended for general discussion of climate issues.

John Baxter
Subject Adviser

April 2024

Second Nature 015 covers carbon intensity of UK electricity; continuing conversations about Chernobyl, recycling soft plastics, Energy from Waste, dishwashers.

March 2024

Second Nature 014 covers nuclear power, on-demand renewable energy, energy from waste, recycling soft plastics, bamboo toilet roll, dishwashers.

Second Nature 013 covers nuclear power, GB wind, sustainable gardening.

Feb 2024

Second Nature 012 covers Valentine's Day verse, reliability of EVs, large-scale electricity storage, wildfires.

Jan 2024

GB electricity in December: in December, wind was the largest component of the generation mix at 41.2%. There was a new record of 21.8GW of wind electricity on 21 December, when wind accounted for 56% of generation. High levels of wind in December meant that 60% of electricity came from zero-carbon sources, peaking at 87%. December was the greenest month of 2023 with electricity being generated at an average of 122 gCO2/kWh. Demand peaked on 1 December at 5pm. [Dec 2023 Electricity Stats]

Second Nature 011 covers 2023 hottest year on record, press release arithmetic, sustainable aviation fuel, climate science in a nutshell, green gardening.

Dec 2023

Second Nature 010 covers Cop28, hydrogen strategy update, divestment, small changes to lifestyle.

Second Nature 009 covers disco bath lights, suggested reading, planetary boundaries, get ready to vote.

Nov 2023

Second Nature 008 covers the three 'buts'; optimism, pessimism, doomism, and hope, and steps to a sustainable world.

Oct 2023

FAQ: Is it true that heat pumps don't work if it is too cold?

Second Nature 007 (The Halloween Edition) covers pumpkins, population, the planetary health diet, and 20 mph speed limits.

September 2023

Second Nature 006 covers recycling, global temperature data, GB wind, biodiversity, individual effort, heat pumps in terraced houses.

Second Nature 005 covers new heat records and a new record for carbon intensity of GB electricity: on 22 Sept: ESO announced a low of 27g/kWh on 15 September at 2pm. The previous record was 33g/kWh set on 10 April 2023.

August 2023

Possible Objectives for a CCE Group: I've posted a Discussion Note Objectives for a CCE Group on this, and would welcome feedback. We have 1030 u3as; to the best of my knowledge only 108 of these have groups devoted to climate or sustainable living.

Biomass: The Department of Energy Security and Net Zero has released its biomass strategy. It is 204 pages and I haven't read it yet, but I plan to as soon as we have a rainy afternoon. Until then there is a useful summary in Resource 10 Aug. Some key stats from that article:

  • biomass provides 8.6% of the UK's total energy needs (energy not electricity, note). This includes Energy from Waste (EfW) and Anaerobic Digestion (AD). 66% of the feedstock comes from domestic sources, which of course means that 34% is imported.
  • feedstock includes municipal solid waste, wood, waste wood, and other plant (and animal) material. It comprises 33% of UK renewable energy demand: 2/3 of it is used for generating electricity and the rest for heat.
  • in 2022 capacity from EfW was 1505MW, from 57 plants, producing in total 2378 GWh (2.37e12 Wh) of electricity in that year. To put this in context UK demand is currently around 23 TWh (2.3e13 Wh) per month.

For more on ADs, see where the food waste goes.

Beyond GDP: Nature Briefing says continuous economic growth - as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - that is good for both people and the planet is one of the ideas behind the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8. However, researchers disagree on whether growth can be green. A Nature editorial on 9 Aug urges the two sides to talk to each other. The definition of GDP is currently under revision, and it’s a chance for researchers to work together and improve it to account for sustainability and well-being. Beyond GDP is championed by UN secretary-general António Guterres; and in May, the European Parliament hosted a conference at which researchers and policymakers discussed how the EU can move beyond growth by integrating social and climate justice, equality and planetary boundaries into economic policymaking.

Second Nature 004 covers GB wind, contracts for difference, composting, carbon capture and storage, and the consumer's victory pledge.

July 2023

Plants for dry conditions Submitted by Sue O from Barnet u3a

Life in the Anthropocene: Global Groundwater Depletion. This is one of a series of general-interest posts about how human activity is changing the world. Pumping water out of acquifers is a significant contributer to global mean sea level rise, and has even moved the pole a little bit.

FAQ: Is it true that solar panels don't work if it is too hot?
FAQ: Why does the price of 'green' electricity track the gas price?

Second Nature 003 contains a correction to 002, covers biomass and the ESO app, and includes a postcard from the future.

Second Nature 002 covers China, the role of the individual, and single-use stuff.

June 2023

Where the electricity comes from (GB Electricity Stats from ESO)

Second Nature 001 discusses possible objectives for a u3a climate group.

Reposted content

Bioplastics / Circular Economy / Recycling in the UK / Solar panel cost savings / What to recycle / Where the food waste goes