Climate Change and Biodiversity Newsletter - West Devon

Climate Change and Biodiversity Emergency

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4th August 2020

Reducing our Carbon Footprint and increasing Biodiversity

This is the first of many Climate Change and Biodiversity updates we will be providing as part of our commitment to engage our residents and businesses in tackling the Climate Change and Biodiversity Emergency.

This newsletter will run monthly and will be a place for us to update you on what we are doing at West Devon Borough Council, what things are going on around the Borough, what's going on nationally and things, you, our residents and businesses can be doing to reduce your carbon footprint and manage your land to improve the environment and its biodiversity.

If you have anything you would like to include in this newsletter then contact our Climate Change Specialist by email here and follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Citizen Science Updates

There are two citizen science projects underway at the moment, anyone can take part, its a great way to involve yourself in scientific research and fit it around your own schedule.


First up, is the Big Butterfly Count being run by the charity Butterfly Conservation, there's only a week left running on this project, it ends on Sunday 9 August.

Follow the link to take you to the website 

1. Download the handy butterfly ID chart or the free app for iOS and Android to identify and record the butterflies you spot.

2. choose a place to spot butterflies and moths. Watch for 15 minutes.

3. Add your counts here on the website or via the app and look at the fascinating interactive map to see how your data is contributing to conservation science and research

nature walk

Next up is Nature Up Close and Personal: A Wellbeing Experiment

This project is a collaboration between the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), the University of Derby and the British Science Association (BSA) which is investigating the relationship between nature and people’s wellbeing.

During the period of lockdown, many people have learned or rediscovered just how important nature and natural, publicly accessibly spaces are to happiness and wellbeing, as lockdown is eased it is important to remain engaged with nature, what better way to do this than taking part in a wellbeing experiment?

Volunteers from across the UK are needed to take part in simple, 10-minute, nature-based activities for five days across one week, before 25 August 2020. Participants will then be asked to feedback on their experience using an online form. 

The best thing is that a private garden or access to a large open space is not required – a local park, patch of weedy ground, or even a balcony is all that is needed.

Joining instructions can be found here 

This Month's Tips

white clover

White Clover is flowering right now and is typically in full bloom between May and October. While its often considered a familiar 'weed', having these small plants and letting them grow in your garden can provide a vital source of food for Common Blue butterfly and bumblebees. Click here to find out more from The Wildlife Trust


Overheating Inside the Home?

While temperatures in recent weeks have been about average, studies show that in the UK we will likely see hotter, drier summers. As more and more people are either currently working at home or likely to be working from home in the future as businesses and organisations look to reduce their own operational carbon emissions, many people are likely to encounter uncomfortable home working conditions when the temperature rises outside. Here are some tips to keep your home cool as naturally as possible

1. Reconsider when to open your windows.

Opening your windows at the first sign heat, while tempting, this can often cause more harm than good. To keep cool, you need to keep the hot air out, this means that keeping windows shut where you can, especially south facing windows, along with keeping blinds or curtains closed during the day will reduce the heat inside your home. At night time, once the temperature has dropped, you can open everything up. It the temperature remains too high or uncomfortable and you need to open a window, do so in a way that encourages a draft, such as opening windows at opposite sides of the house, along with internal doors, so the air can move which is cooler.

2. Appliance Usage

You may be surprised just how much heat some of your common home electrical appliances can give off. Switching them off completely (not on standby) will reduce internal heat gain

3. Water and Plants

Leaving bowls of water lying around the house along with planting trees outside and having house plants can act as natural cooling for your home


Ditch the car?

Reducing car use for short trips can save up to a whopping 2 tonnes of CO2 per person, per year if a person were to live car free (click here for more information). It can be a hard habit to break but a worthwhile one to break if you can, the simplest way to do this is to build a new habit into your routine.

Is there something you can easily walk to or cycle to that doesn't take too long? a short shopping trip perhaps?

Every change, no matter how small it may be can amount to large greenhouse gas emissions savings if we are all able to make small changes where we can. 

south west water

Save 5 Litres of Water Challenge

South West Water has seen a large increase in water use over the past few months. Small changes in water use make a big difference when multiplied by their 1.8 million customers. If every one of thier customers saved 5 litres of tap water a day, that would save nearly 10 million litres. From quicker showers, changes in flushing habits to being smarter with water in the garden - whatever your lifestyle there’s lots of  simple things you can do to save water.

South West Water are running a competition to win a £100 shopping voucher. Not only will participating offer a chance at winning, taking part will also contribute to reduced water use and the associated energy demands which come from treating water and providing clean water.

Interested in taking part? then follow the link here to enter

New Research and Publications

Increasing Influence of Climate Change on UK Climate


The Met Office has recently published its sixth report in the State of the UK Climate Series. This report confirms that 2019 was the 12th warmest year in a series from 1884.

Although this sits outside the top 10 warmest years in this series, 2019 set four UK high temperature records, with a new winter record of 21.2 degrees Celsius on 26 February at Kew Gardens in London and a new all-time record of 38.7 degrees Celsius on 25 July at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. 2019 was also also among the least snowy years on record but also one of the wettest for northern England in particular, which had its wettest autumn since 2000. Overall England and Wales had its fifth wettest autumn in a series from 1766

The Woodland Trust also contributed to the report to show how the changing climate is effecting our trees, and in 2019 they found that the first leaves appeared on trees nearly 10 days earlier compared to a baseline period.

Mike Kendon, lead author of the report for the Met Office said; “Our report shows climate change is exerting an increasing impact on the UK’s climate. This year was warmer than any other year in the UK between 1884 and 1990, and since 2002 we have seen the warmest ten years in the series. By contrast, to find a year in the coldest ten we have to go back to 1963; over 50 years ago.”

Interested in reading more? the full report can be found here

Researchers Narrow the Range on Climate Sensitivity


Newly published research titled ''An assessment of Earth's climate sensitivity using multiple lines of evidence'' has sought to improve our understanding of the Earth's Climate Sensitivity. Climate Sensitivity is a measure of how much the Earth will warm if the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is maintained at double the level compared to pre-industrial times. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change currently uses the reference period 1850–1900 to represent pre-industrial temperature. The Met Office has a useful summary in more detail on the subject of Climate Sensitivity here

What the study has concluded is that if human activities (such as burning gas, oil, coal and increasing the rate of deforestation, to name a few) continue to push carbon dioxide levels to double the level of pre-industrial levels in the long term, then the Earth's global average temperature is likely to rise between 2.3 and 4.5 degrees Celsius. The previous estimated range was 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius, which was first laid out in a study in 1979 by the US National Academy of Sciences led by US meteorologist Jules Charney. This new study therefore suggests a narrower likely range of warming with the lower end of the range rising, meaning scientists are more confident that global warming will not be as small as previously thought.

An article about the research can be found here at Science Magazine and here at Science Daily and a more detailed guest post by the authors of the study at Carbon Brief here

UK Electricity Grid's Carbon Emissions Could Turn Negative by 2033

national grid report

A new report by the National Grid sets out its vision for an 'emissions negative' grid by 2033. Their vision includes more electric vehicles along with heat pumps, hydrogen boilers and district heat connections replacing gas boilers and a power sector with net negative emissions.

Interested in reading more? a full report and a shorter condensed report with key highlights can be found here