Sunday, 17 January 2010

Wind, fish and climate on Ascension - and do we need a green MI5?

Currently the German company Enercon are constructing some new wind generators on Ascension Island (I believe they are 5 x 330 kW for the RE geeks among you). Obviously in a place like Ascension, with its seabird colonies and delicate marine wildlife large structures like turbines can be a source of concern. Some of the birds and animals here are found nowhere else in the world, and they are only now making a tentative recovery after years of abuse .

On the other hand, the windmills are probably the least offensive towering structures on the island, since the western third is littered with radar stations, satellite dishes, transmitters and other weird and wonderful military stuff. So the fact is that the turbines are going into an area which is already pretty unsympathetically developed, and they will replace imported diesel, which can only be a good thing. In my heart I would like to see a one-in one-out policy for Ascension (i.e. you build something new, you take something old and rusting down) but I can't have everything.

The presence of new clean energy generators ties in nicely with a current 'mystery' on Ascension, and one which would potentially be a much bigger threat to the bird and marine life that any turbine. It is the absence of fish, and the changing weather. Now I have not seen any empirical evidence, but the locals agree that there are not many fish around at the moment, which is affecting the birds (and them). Similar stories are emerging all over the Atlantic from the Falklands to the Hebrides. Birds are trying to hunt different species like squid or pipefish which contain fewer nutrients than their usual diet, and chicks die as a result.

Some people in other areas are blaming climate change, suggesting that changing water temperatures are causing the movements of fish to change, or to disappear altogether. Others suspect that unsustainable and illegal fishing may be to blame, or that it may simply be a cyclical change. Still others suspect a combination of the above.

And herein lies the problem with climate change. It is hard to predict and impossible to solve with the kind of local mitigation measures which conservationist are used to dealing with. It is also a phrase which must be beloved of those causing other environmental crises. If the wildlife dies, blame climate change, which in many cases amounts to saying 'Oh well, not our problem, nothing much we can do'.

Undoubtedly CC will be the demise of many species, but I suspect that many more would be able to adapt if we keep their habitats in good condition, and don't hoover up all the fish (trees, whatever). In any case we need to be seriously investigating the health of these ecosystems - if it turns out there is no problem then great, if not it could be an early warning of very serious problems to come. Perhaps we need an agency or institute to collate information on ecological security and provide 'environmental intelligence'? Or something international to do for ecosystems what the IPCC has done for climate change?

No comments:

Post a Comment