North West initiative
Blackpool's new seawall was
built at a cost of £64 million
How communities are coming together to tackle global warming in the North
The ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, temperatures are increasing,
rainfall is getting heavier, the winds are getting stronger, there are
droughts and flooding and it is our entire fault because we drive cars
and fly in planes.
Well, not quite.
The Earth is getting warmer - and most scientists agree that we humans
are responsible for at least some of the climate change.
By burning fossil fuels, we are adding heat-trapping gases - especially
carbon dioxide - into the atmosphere.
Experts now say that if the world's population lived like we do in the
UK, we would need three planets to support our lifestyles.
We have just had the warmest 12 months on record - and are heading for
another graph-busting year in 2007. However, that may just be the start.
Today's children may find the North West becoming a very different place.
Hotter summers and wetter winters is the forecast for them.
By the end of this century, scientists say summer temperatures here could
rise by 6 degrees Celsius - giving the region a real Mediterranean feel.
Summer rainfall could be half what it is currently.
In winter, it could be 30% wetter than now. In the worst case prediction,
we would never see snow again.
Climate change could mean sea levels rising around the North West - particularly
in Blackpool, Southport and Liverpool.
Scientists say that in their worst case scenario, floods which now are
so rare they only happen once a century could come once a year by 2080.
New sea wall
Which is why a new sea wall is being built in Blackpool. It is designed
to withstand those superstorms
However, it does not come cheap - at £64m, it's Blackpool's largest
civil engineering project stretching from the Sandcastle to the North
When it is finished, three years from now, it will protect more than
1500 homes and businesses.
And that is all good news for tourists - who could boost the region's
economy if they decide to stay at home for their annual holidays, rather
than travel to the Mediterranean, which scientists say could become unpleasantly
|Simon Calder believes domestic holidays will be the
Holidays at home?
As well as enjoying street cafe culture, travel writer, Simon Calder
reckons domestic holidays could become the norm.
"An increasing number of people are saying 'hang on we don't want
to be responsible for climate change, therefore we are going to change
"For at least one holiday a year we're not going to fly off from
Manchester or Liverpool John Lennon airport we're actually going to
holiday at home in our own region.
"I think that could have enormous benefits in the short term for
the economy of the North West tourist industry."
Until recently, global warming was seen as a problem that someone else
would sort out - governments, scientists, corporations.
It was just too big for individuals to get to grips with.
We could do our bit by recycling, there was not much else.
|Ashton Hayes goes carbon neutral
In 2006, an engineer in a Cheshire village stood up and talked to his
He had a revolutionary idea - the question was - did anyone want to listen?
For the last 24 years, Garry Charnock's home has been in a village called
Ashton Hayes - secluded between Chester and Northwich.
Garry said: "Ashton - I suppose - you might call a typical English
"We have a pub , a school, a church - a couple of churches actually
- lots of organisations, a 1000 people in 350 houses who commute to
places like Liverpool, Manchester, Chester or work for international
organisations on the Mersey estuary."
Garry wanted future generations to understand that not only had we recognised
the danger of climate change, but, we had also started doing something
What he proposed was actually quite simple - that the village no longer
contributed to global warming.
Whatever carbon dioxide they did produce would be balanced out by planting
new trees, or using renewable energy.
The aim was to become Britain's first "carbon-neutral" village.
"Well, I was a bit nervous that people would think it was a rather
a crazy idea.
"So I went to the pub quiz one night and I spoke to my best friends
in the village and I said 'how do you feel about this?'
And they said "Oh go for it, we would really support you if you
went for it" which I was surprised about because I thought people
might think I was rather cranky.
Nearly half the village turned out to hear Garry.
Staff and students from the University of Chester would measure the amount
of carbon each family was emitting, and then suggest ways of reducing
|Barry Cooney needed persuasion... now converted
The landlord at the Golden Lion was the most sceptical person in the
village - but now you will find low energy light bulbs outside.
Barry Cooney started to switch off machines, dumped the tumble dryer
and ran the ovens later - in a month he had reduced his electricity bill
by a fifth and saved £200.
Barry said: "I mean if you just stop and think about it - why
have the Coca-Cola machine running all night?
"Why have your coolers running all night? Because we just walk
away from it.
"But once you get into it, it is like a bug, once you get into
it you know you are saving it for yourself and you are doing your bit
for the climate changes."
The village primary school has also been doing its bit - giving the children
an insight into climate change.
And how important is pester power when the kids go home?
"The village is adopting a real sort of global awareness you know
what's going on in the world, what's going on locally but also how can
they look at saving money and also helping the environment we've got
all sorts of aspects being touched through something quite simple really
but something very very exciting," says Head teacher Rob Ford.
Outside a solar panel heats water for the school cleaners, while a wind-turbine
contributes to the building's power supply.
|Architect Andy Foster used straw for insulation
And the community will use straw to insulate to two temporary classrooms.
"Well the straw works like all insulating material by trapping
air in the body of the material," says architect Andy Foster.
"Some insulating materials are much more efficient than straw
and can be thinner - a straw bale is going to be three to four feet
"And I suppose one of the advantages is that it is relatively
cheap isn't it because straw is not that expensive to use as a material?
"Well with any luck we might find a local farmer that's willing
to donate some of the materials and it will be an economic project to
take forward and have a lot of impact at the same time."
The schoolchildren have helped plant hundreds of trees - to help absorb
the carbon dioxide that they produce.
Energy saving house
Moreover, on the outskirts of the village you will find what is set to
become the most energy efficient house in Cheshire.
This house uses the heat stored in the ground to warm the building, treble
glazing, solar cells, rainwater recycling and extra insulation.
And how widespread will this type of building will become?
"Very widespread," says the developer and builder, Brian
"As time goes by people will look and say, 'why didn't we do it
earlier - what was stopping us in the first place'.
"Therefore as it becomes more and more prevalent in the market
it should then become more economically viable as well."
In the end, one local community cannot reverse global warming on its
own - but future generations may look back and say it was a good way to
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