Saturday, 3 October 2009

Rich countries 'must slash living standards' to fight climate change

Ben Webster, Environment Editor

Living standards in Britain and other rich countries must fall sharply over the next decade if the world is to avoid catastrophic global warming, according to a leading climate research centre.
Consumption of energy-intensive goods and services should be cut and remain capped until low-carbon alternatives are available, said the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
The study says that Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions need to fall twice as fast as planned by the Government. It concludes that global greenhouse gas emissions are rising much faster than previously thought.
It says that Britain should commit to making all energy, including for electricity, heating and cars, zero-carbon by 2025, at least 25 years earlier than planned.
The centre, a partnership of seven universities including Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester, says that the economies of developed nations will have to shrink and consumption of almost all types of goods will have to fall “in the short to medium term”.
Speaking to The Times, Professor Kevin Anderson, the centre’s director, said: “The wealthier parts of the world, including Britain, will have to seriously consider reducing their levels of consumption over the next 10-15 years while we put in place low-carbon technologies.
“That may mean having only one car per household, a smaller fridge, buying fewer clothes and electronic goods and curtailing the number of weekend breaks that we have.
“It’s a very uncomfortable message but we need a planned economic recession. Economic growth is currently incompatible with reductions in absolute emissions.”
The study says that global emissions are rising much faster than has been assumed by Britain and other countries in setting their carbon targets. It says that these targets are “dangerously misleading” because they focus on distant dates, such as 2050, and avoid mentioning the immediate cuts that are needed.
Professor Anderson calculates that emissions in all developed countries must peak by 2012 and fall by 20 per cent a year from 2018 to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2C above the pre-industrial average.
Britain and most major economies agreed in July to limit the increase to 2C to avoid an unprecedented humanitarian disaster in the developing world. The global average has already risen by almost 1C.
Most climate scientists agree that an increase above 2C is likely to trigger mass migration from countries made uninhabitable by drought and rising sea levels.
The Tyndall study’s calculations assume that emissions from energy use in China, India and other developing countries carry on rising until 2025 and then decline at an increasing rate, reaching zero by 2050.
This is highly optimistic because China and India have made clear that they will refuse to accept any deadline for cutting their overall emissions. They have instead offered to reduce the rate of emissions growth compared with “business as usual”.
Britain has already accepted that it would be unfair to cap emissions in developing countries because this would undermine the economic growth that is lifting their populations out of extreme poverty.
Professor Anderson said Britain needed to understand that allowing emissions to grow rapidly in the developing world would require savage cuts in its own emissions.
He said that the world could afford to emit 2,200 billion tonnes of CO2 in the 21st century to have a reasonable chance of keeping the temperature rise below 2C.
“About three quarters of that carbon ration will go to developing countries, which means that Britain and other developed countries have only a quarter.”
He said that this was fair because emissions per capita were far higher in the developed world: 20 tonnes per person per year in the US and 10 tonnes in Britain but only 5 tonnes in China and less than 2 tonnes in India.
A separate study published this week by the Met Office Hadley Centre found that the global average temperature could rise by 4C as early as 2060.
Previous reports, including one in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, had suggested that an increase of this scale would not happen until 2100.
The Met Office used computer models which took into account new findings on the rate at which carbon dioxide is absorbed by oceans and forests.
Dr Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Hadley Centre, said: “If greenhouse gas emissions are not cut soon then we could see major climate changes within our own lifetimes.”
Professor David MacKay, the newly appointed chief scientist for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, said that government figures claiming Britain had cut emissions by 21 per cent since 1990 were an “illusion”.
He said that the cut had been achieved largely because Britain had exported much of its manufacturing overseas. The figures did not include emissions from goods Britain imported from China and other countries.

Stand by for the Supergrid

Why the world needs an ‘extreme energy makeover’
Anjana Ahuja

If you are a glass-half-empty sort of person you might find yourself tempted by the Cheltenham Literature Festival event on October 17 entitled “2050: Did Science Save Us?”. This discussion will take participants more than 40 years into the future, when humankind has defied all sorts of shenanigans to stay in existence. What technologies, the panel will ask, are most likely to help us to survive to that point and beyond?
As regular readers will know, I don’t go in much for doom and gloom. But I am weirdly fascinated by what 2050 will be like, given that scientists have an annoying propensity to refer to this particular year. The date has its attractions: close enough to be within our grasp, yet far enough away for scholars to make predictions that we will have forgotten about (can you recall what our predecessors said would happen in 2010?).
Here is a potpourri of predictions that may or may not be realised 40 years hence: we will be immortal; if we are still dying, we’ll be able to download our brains into machines to preserve our “souls”; our yoghurt pots will say “good morning” to us; most Britons will be obese; a million species will be extinct (although I fear that China still will be pimping its female giant pandas).
There are expected to be 10 billion people on the planet, with international borders redrawn by climate change (asylum seekers will flee the heat of Southern Europe for northerly climes). And there won’t be enough energy for everyone. That is the survival scenario that the Cheltenham event will address.
It is plausible that we’ll be in a bit of a pickle by 2050, so I’m pleased that some scientists have taken the job of soothsayer seriously, and dreamt up technologies that could help us out. Among the most exciting is the Supergrid. It is a popular word in the world of green technology, and refers to networks of pipes and cables that could channel energy around the globe.
Beyond the basic premise of countries being able to share energy, however, there are different ideas of what the Supergrid would entail. One proposal is to trap solar energy falling on the Sahara and funnel it to Europe. Less than 1 per cent of the sunlight falling in this area could power the whole of the Continent, according to the European Commission Institute for Energy. Solar farms — vast tracts of solar panels — in North Africa would generate electricity that could be sent over direct-current transmission lines. The infrastructure costs would be huge, up to £36 billion, but unavoidable if we want to keep the lights on.
Through the Supergrid, countries would also share energy; if the wind stopped blowing in the North Sea, we could import geothermal energy from Iceland, for example. Such a scheme would also prevent us becoming too dependent on Russian energy.
Another interpretation of the Supergrid appears in Physics World next month. Paul Michael Grant, a private energy consultant, calls for an “extreme energy makeover” for the world, with the construction of “SuperCities” criss-crossed with “SuperCables” carrying mostly nuclear energy. Grant notes that any supergrid could use the rights of way already exploited by natural gas pipelines, such as the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, which runs from the gas fields of northern Canada south to the US. Another version of the Supergrid has cables carrying electricity and liquid hydrogen (a mixture that has been dubbed hydricity); the hydrogen would be delivered as a fuel (for cars, say) and would also have the handy effect of cooling the cables during power transmission.
I’m rather encouraged by such big schemes: 2050 might be a date to look forward to, rather than dread — as long as we can avoid the talking yoghurt pots.

Climate scheme forces office workers to go green

Ben Webster, Environment Editor

Your boss summons you to a meeting to discuss your poor performance. Your offence was far worse than absenteeism or being rude to clients.
You have been detected wasting the company’s, and the planet’s, resources: last night you went home without switching off your computer monitor.
This is the reality for hundreds of staff working at the London headquarters of Land Securities, Britain’s largest property company. Each night all monitors are checked and a yellow card is placed on any left on standby. A second offence triggers a red card and a manager calls in the culprit and delivers a verbal warning.
Land Securities is one of a growing number of employers trying to establish “ethical offices”, where staff are no longer encouraged to behave in an environmentally friendly way but are forced to do so.

About 5,000 larger employers will, from April, be required to purchase allowances to cover their carbon dioxide emissions from electricity and gas usage. The scheme, known as the Carbon Reduction Commitment, will include publication of annual league tables showing best and worst performing companies in terms of emissions reduction. Land Securities, which leases 100 office buildings in London, has identified dozens of energy-wasting office habits and is asking tenants to sign new agreements to change their behaviour.
It found one of the most wasteful practices is the addition of glass-fronted private offices on an open-plan floor. This disrupts the sensors that control air conditioning and results in excessive heating or cooling.
Dave Farebrother, environmental director of Land Securities, said: “People put in these partitions because they want to feel important but they can waste lots of energy.”
Tenants are also being asked to move all staff still working after 6pm to desks in one small section of the building. The lights and air conditioning in the rest of the building will then be switched off. “It is very wasteful to have one or two people dotted around on each floor. We need to get all those working late in one space,” Mr Farebrother said.
Companies are also being asked to ban personal bins to reduce landfill and improve recycling. Staff will have to collect waste in a pile on their desks and carry it once or twice a day to a “recycling hub.”
Mr Farebrother said: “People made out it was the end of the world when we took away their bins but after two weeks they had adjusted.” Boots found that the amount of waste sent to landfill fell by a third after it banned personal bins for its 2,000 staff at its Nottingham headquarters. Richard Ellis, head of corporate social responsibility at Boots, said: “People who recycle at home sometimes don’t bother at work because they think it is someone else’s problem. Removing bins has encouraged people to bring their home behaviour to the workplace.”
Some offices now have large TV screens in their lift lobbies displaying consumption of electricity, gas and water and comparing it with the previous day’s performance. The screen at New Street Square, near Holborn, Central London, which is home to several law firms, also calculates hourly CO2 emissions.
The screens have raised awareness and prompted some companies to make small adjustments to office temperature. Staff tend to accept the change without complaint because they see the reduction in emissions instantly as they wait to board a lift.
Land Securities plans to rank floors in its buildings according to their emissions. However, it said some “blue chip tenants” were resisting the move because they feared being embarrassed by the results.

Japanese maples under threat from climate change

Japanese maples, which provide one of the most spectacular autumn colour displays, could be under threat from climate change, conservationists have warned.

Published: 7:00AM BST 02 Oct 2009
Assessment of almost half of the 16,000 specimens of different trees at the Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire, by the Forestry Commission has found almost a quarter do not seem to be tolerant of drought.
The site's Japanese maples - the largest collection of the tree in Britain - are particularly vulnerable to the hotter drier summers and more frequent and severe droughts expected with a changing climate, the commission's research agency Forest Research found.
The maples are at risk because of their shallow roots and a preference to be in soils which retains water.
The problem faced by the 350 types of Japanese maple at the arboretum - and those popular in gardens and parks - is not of immediate concern, but could become an issue in the coming decades, experts said.
Because trees live for many years, decisions taken now about what to grow and where must take into account changes which will take place in the coming decades and centuries.
And action must be taken now to ensure the survival of trees at Westonbirt, which is managed by the Forestry Commission.
This October, a multi-million pound project is being launched to protect the existing collection of trees in the face of climate change, conserve the Grade I listed landscape and create new facilities to give people the chance to learn more about trees.
Simon Toomer, Westonbirt Arboretum's new director, said: ''Thousands of people flock to Westonbirt each autumn to stand and wonder at the spectacular seasonal colours.
''Westonbirt is a national treasure, and we're doing everything we can to make sure it remains so for generations to come.''
And he said: ''It's vital that we act now. Working closely with scientists at Forest Research, our expert team here at Westonbirt will safeguard these important trees, and pass on the lessons learned to help climate-proof Britain's trees and woodlands.''
Steps will be taken to help protect the trees at the site, including moving vulnerable specimens to areas with deeper and more water retentive soils and ensuring good management of soils.
Gardeners keen to protect their maples can employ simple measures such as weeding around the tree so that the grass or weeds do not take up the water and mulch them, while those in pots should also be kept well-watered.

renewables have a fair wind behind them

Nick Hasell

The Copenhagen summit on climate change is still two months away, but renewable energy stocks have already got the wind behind them.
The WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation index, a basket of global shares spanning the wind, solar, biomass and fuel cell sectors, has risen 39 per cent so far this year — comfortably ahead of the 14 per cent returned by the S&P 500 or the 17 per cent gain in the FTSE all-share index. Credit Suisse’s alternative energy index, a rival benchmark, tells a similar tale — up 36 per cent since January.
It is not only share prices that are on the rise. About $25.9 billion (£16.2 billion) of new investments in global clean energy were made in the three months to September 30, according to figures released yesterday by New Energy Finance, the renewables consultancy. That number — which captures asset finance, stock market and private equity investment in the sector — suggests that the $28.6 billion notched up in the second quarter of 2009 was not merely a blip and represents a further significant rebound from the $13.3 billion trough in the first.
Closer to home, that pick-up has also filtered through to the Alternative Investment Market, which plays host to the majority of UK-listed clean energy stocks. This week, shares in Clipper Windpower, the wind turbine developer, rose 10 per cent as it disclosed advanced talks on a substantial cash injection — which could include a full takeover of the company. Renewable Energy Generation, one of a handful of small-scale wind farm developers, surged 33 per cent as it agreed to sell its Canadian assets to International Power, the FTSE 100 electricity generator. As the move in its stock suggests, the price it secured, £69 million in cash, was far in excess of the City’s estimate of their worth.

All of this is something of a relief to the sector’s investors, who have become more used to losing money than making it. Like other early stage corners of the stock market characterised by high cash consumption and negligible sales, it has been littered with disappointments.
After a series of setbacks, Solar Integrated Technologies, the solar panel maker that was once one of its brightest hopes, was bought by an American rival this summer for only £7 million — against a peak stock market value of £130 million three years earlier. Elsewhere, Voller Energy, the portable fuel cell developer, has fallen from 80p to less than 1p, CMR Fuel Cells has been delisted and last month PolyFuel, which developed fuel cell membranes, went into administration.
There have been operational setbacks. Revenues from Renewable Energy Holdings, the wind farm operator, have fallen short of forecasts simply because the wind failed to blow hard enough in Germany, its biggest market outside Britain. Clipper has suffered from cracked wind turbine blades, a problem that it has spent the past year putting right.
The broader problem has been that the development of large-scale renewable energy schemes is highly capital-intensive and reliant on the availability of private-sector project finance — such that it suffered disproportionately from the effective closure of the capital markets in the latter half of last year. That seizure explains why shares in the world’s biggest wind turbine makers fell 60 per cent in the last three months of 2008. Further, the banks and financial institutions that provided the bulk of the sector’s funding featured heavily among the credit crunch’s roster of casualties. In the United States, the dominant tax equity partners for wind farms — the system under which they are funded — were Lehman Brothers, AIG, GE and Citigroup: which, in the case of the surviving trio, have all since scaled back their lending in that niche as part of a wider effort to rebuild their balance sheets. The same phenomenon applies in Europe.
So what has changed? Most significantly, the substantial slug of government stimulus spending that has been earmarked for green energy schemes — not just to meet carbon reduction targets but also with the aim of creating jobs. New Energy Finance estimates that $163 million of public sector cash has been promised for such schemes worldwide. A rebound in oil prices from their $30-a-barrel low to back around $70 has also ensured that the commercial imperative behind alternative energy has not been lost.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign is that trade buyers, if not the stock market, are willing to price-in the future revenues of green schemes — as shown by this week’s REG disposal.
“At the trough of the market, investors would not pay for wind farm development pipelines,” Alastair Bishop, clean energy analyst at Piper Jaffray, says. “This deal shows that utilities are putting a value on them once again.” But Mr Bishop says that it will not be until 2011 that the full effect of the return of capital to the sector will be felt.
Neither is there much optimism that any post-Kyoto objectives set in Copenhagen will alter the sector’s near-term prospects. “It’s not the setting of targets that counts,” Michael McNamara, at Jefferies International, says. “It’s setting the incentives to get to the targets.”

Plan to put wind turbines near Mont-St-Michel condemned

Lizzy Davies in Paris, Friday 2 October 2009 19.26 BST
From repeated attacks by English warriors to annual invasions of daytrippers, the Mont-St-Michel has faced many a threat in its history. But locals and activists claim the majestic site is now on the verge of suffering one of the worst indignities yet: a host of towering wind turbines which critics say will ruin the magnificent panorama and "massacre" the landscape of the windswept Normandy coast.
Vowing to "send a message to the [French] government" that plans to build in 11 locations near the island were unacceptable, hundreds of locals and anti-wind energy activists led a protest march last weekend.
Calling for the "devastating" plan to be abandoned, the Federation for Sustainable Development (FED) said that, although it was committed to other renewable energy forms, large-scale industrial wind power was "neither viable, nor bearable nor fair".
Protesters blame Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, arguing that his drive to boost the green energy sector has seen a rush to build windfarms in various unsuitable locations. The choice of the countryside around Mont-St-Michel, a Unesco world heritage site, has proved particularly unpopular.
A spokeswoman for one of the protesting associations told Ouest France newspaper that the planned turbines – the closest of which would be almost 10 miles from the Mont – would be "as visible as a nose in the middle of a face.
"If we allow them to be built here, why not next to chateaux in the Loire or other world-renowned sites?" she asked.
Although the anti-wind campaign appears to be gathering momentum – inspired, among others, by the 83-year-old former president ValĂ©ry Giscard d'Estaing, who claims that windfarms are not only ugly, but are disruptive to bird migration – there is little chance that Sarkozy will tone down his rhetoric.
The president has said he wants national wind energy capacity to reach 25,000MW by 2020 from 3,400MW at the start of this year, a target which observers say he is highly unlikely to achieve.
His vision is nonetheless supported by most green groups, who are critical of "short-sighted" anti-wind organisations such as FED.
Mont-Saint-Michel is a rocky tidal island, just over half a mile from the coast and known for its Benedictine abbey and steepled church. The first monastic establishment was built there in the 8th century. During the revolution the abbey became a prison. The prison was closed in 1863 and the mount was declared a historic monument in 1874 and added to Unesco's world heritage site list in 1979.

electric bike maker 50cycles is turning back to the far East

Electric bicycle importer 50cycles began life in Japan and now plans to export back to the far East.

By Widget FinnPublished: 11:41AM BST 02 Oct 2009

The brothers cycle around Nottingham University Business School Photo: MARTIN POPE
Scott Snaith was working for a financial consultancy in Japan when his elder brother Tim contacted him about an electric bike manufactured by Honda. “Tim was based in London, didn’t have a driving licence, and was fed up with using public transport,” explains Scott, 32. “He wanted to buy an electric bike, and asked me to investigate Honda prices locally.”
The bikes were much cheaper in Japan, so Scott shipped two back to the UK where his brother created a one-page website and sold the second bike over the internet within a fortnight.
It seemed an easy way to make a bit of money, so they ordered and sold five, ten, then twenty bikes. “Things were going well,” says Scott, “then the Japanese manufacturer ended production. I had finished my job in Japan, so having found a supplier of the electric bikes in China I visited them en-route back to the UK. I ordered a container-load of forty-five bikes using a £10,000 overdraft, followed the container home and found that three quarters of the consignment was sold before the container arrived.”

This provided cash flow, so the brothers ordered another consignment. Within nine months the brothers were selling 40 bikes a month from Tim’s flat in Loughborough, and branching out into accessories like helmets and safety products.
An enthusiastic write-up in the publication A to B, which specialises in pedal-power, put 50cycles on the transport map. “Having an electric bike is life-changing,” claims Scott. “People get a pushbike, think it’s great for a couple of weeks then get bored and leave it in the shed. But people love electric bikes, and so do companies because it boosts their green credentials if they encourage their staff to cycle to work.”
As the business expanded the brothers got IT advice from their local Business Link. “We established an e-commerce system to make our business more efficient, and changed our online checkout method,” he said.
Currently the bikes are supplied by a German manufacturer which has meant that, like many businesses, the company’s finances have been affected by the weak pound. Scott explains “We had major problems at the beginning of 2009 because we were holding a lot of stock to see us over the winter, much of it on 30 days credit. When the value of the pound to the euro went from 1.35 to 1.05 in a month it wiped out our profit. We had to react quickly, cutting down expenses to the bone and letting go of a couple of temps.”
Their caution has paid off, and encouraged by the green shoots of economic recovery Scott, with his experience of working in Japan and Indonesia is keen to develop an export side.
“Business Link has been particularly helpful with exporting advice, given us a grant of £3,500 to research a new product in the US. It is also supporting us on a trade mission to Malaysia and Singapore and has arranged a whole lot of appointments with key people when I arrive. We plan to launch a website in Singapore where bicycles are still the commonest form of transport,” said Scott. is a business whose time has come, he says. “Initially we grew slowly, but the electric bike market is on the verge of rocketing because with increasing fuel prices people are looking at other forms of personal transport.” And the reason for the name? “All electric bikes have a frequency of 50 cycles per second. Eventually we aim to sell 50 cycles per second.”
Founders: Scott and Tim Snaith
Founded: 2003
Start-up funds: £10,000
Staff: 8
Turnover: £1.5m
DO watch your prices, especially if you’re exporting. We were competitively priced with European suppliers then the changes in the exchange rate took us by surprise. If you price too keenly at the start there’ll be nothing left if exchange rates drop.
DO make the most of technology. We use Google documents a lot, and found software to help with the admin side which is free on the internet.
DON’T hold a lot of stock – it ties up your money, and can lose value. That’s how we were caught out when the exchange rate dropped.
DON’T grow to quickly, or splash out unnecessarily. There’s no need to have flashy premises – we started in my flat.

The great drought: Disaster looms in East Africa

Rotting carcasses testify to the scale of the disaster looming in East Africa.
Daniel Howden reports from Marsabit, Kenya
Saturday, 3 October 2009

On the plains of Marsabit the heat is so intense the bush seems to shiver. The leafless scrub, bleached white by the sun, looks like a forest of fake Christmas trees. Carcasses of cattle and camels are strewn about the burnt red dirt in every direction. Siridwa Baseli walks out of the haze along a path of the dead and dying. He passes a skeletal cow that has given up and collapsed under a thorn tree. A nomad from the Rendille people, he is driving his herd in search of water.
He marks time in seasons but knows that it has not rained for three years: "Since it is not raining there is no pasture," he says. Only 40 of his herd of sheep and goats that once numbered 200 have survived. Those that remain are dying at a rate of 10 every day.
Already a herder before Kenya's independence he has never seen a drought like this.
"If I was young I would go to look for cash work. I am old. I may just die with my animals."
Across East Africa an extraordinary drought is drying up rivers, and grasslands, scorching crops and threatening millions of people with starvation. In Kenya, the biggest and most robust economy in the region, the rivers that feed its great game reserves have run dry and since the country relies on hydropower, electricity is now rationed in the cities.
And yet, it is in the semi-desert on the southern fringe of the Sahel zone where the most dramatic changes are being felt. Droughts are nothing new here and the nomadic way of life where herders follow patchy rains across the seasons developed centuries ago as a response to precarious natural resources. The herds of cattle, sheep, goats and camels – which are venerated by the nomads – were built up in the good years to pad the margins of life when the rains failed. But this way of life is being overwhelmed, even the camels are dying of thirst.
Naibari Arara lives in a typical Rendille village, a broad circle of domed shelters ringed by a barricade of thorny branches or bomas. Inside there are corrals for the animals on whom life depends and huts fashioned from hides, rags and sticks, designed to be collapsed, packed and rebuilt in a single day.
But the village doesn't move anymore. The animals are gone and so are the men. They left 12 months ago with the herds in search of pasture, she explains. In the meantime the women and children wait.
"We can't leave from here. We can't move without milk." The Rendille have survived for generations on a diet of milk, blood and occasionally meat. Now they are living on food stamps and milk powder. "When I was a young girl we would move every two or three months but now there are no rains. I cannot explain this."
An hour's walk away in the town of Korre, Rendille elders have been discussing the crisis. Monte Wambile, reed thin with a weather-beaten face says that what's unfolding is not a drought. According to folklore, a climatic disaster struck the same region about 120 years ago and is remembered in the local language as the "arbah", or catastrophe. Starving families were forced to sell their children in return for cattle to survive.
Now, he says it has returned.
"Since I was a young man the droughts would come but these were just changes we could cope with. Now there are carcasses all over and most of the people have lost their animals. Soon the people will start dying." Sariticho Lenelo is already dead. A 10-year-old Rendille boy in Loglogo, he was killed along with two young men when armed raiders attacked herders at the town's water pump and stole nearly 300 livestock.
Across the north of Kenya competition for water, grazing land and surviving cattle has sparked ethnic conflict. Cattle raids were always a feature of nomadic cultures but as the battle for survival intensifies the death toll climbs. Sixty-five people have been killed in the Turkana region alone since January. Despite being a disaster three years in the making, the drought is in danger of catching Kenya and the UN unprepared. Failed harvests mean high food prices, the national government is crippled by infighting and corruption, and international aid groups have seen funding squeezed by the credit crunch. The food vouchers sustaining hundreds of Rendille families will run out in less than a fortnight as the Irish aid agency paying for them, Concern, has run out of money for the project. In the last week, other big organisations such as Oxfam and Cafod have launched emergency appeals. The UN has received less than half the £350m it has called for.
In reality no one can deliver the rain that is really needed. Leina Mpoke has been working to unravel the cycles of drought, local deforestation and global influences for the Kenya Climate Working Group. "The drastic changes we're experiencing cannot be explained by local activities," he says. "Across the southern Sahel we're seeing a huge trend."
In the 1970s there was a major drought once in the decade. In the 1980s this quickened to once every seven years, in the 1990s, once every five years. At the beginning of this decade the rains failed every other season and what we now see is "perennial drought".
"What's being seen," says Mr Mpoke, who works with Concern, are "the consequences of global climate change".
Marsabit mountain rises up from the semi-desert of northern Kenya to touch the clouds at nearly 2,000 metres. Its highland slopes have always offered respite from the heat and dust of the savannah.
The mountain was known as "Saku" or mist, and its elevated forest sheltered elephants, kudus, lions and high altitude lakes. It is now home to climate refugees who have swollen the population to more than 40,000. Ibrahim Adan grew up in Marsabit and is sad to see how it's changed: "It used to be all green, now it's horrible and dusty."
"I remember as a child we had food we didn't know what do with."
He now runs a local organisation called Cifa that is working with struggling nomadic communities and distributes food stamps. He describes what's happening as a "national crisis".
"The climate has forced people to the mountain. The number of poor people is increasing every day. They are cutting down the forest for firewood, the environment is totally degraded."
Everything in town is coated in a choking layer of red dust, the two mountain lakes have dried to a green-black crust and rangers at the Marsabit National Park say that eight elephants have starved to death in recent months. "If it wasn't for climate change we wouldn't have this concentration of people, it's a vicious circle," says Mr Adan.
Many of the climate refugees come to Petro Namweni Lojich when they arrive. He is the local chief of the Turkana, proud and warlike nomads whose homeland is more than 200km west of Marsabit.
Every time a vehicle arrives in town, he says, it brings another five or six Turkana.
"Drought and conflict are forcing them to come," he explains.
These outlanders are shunned by many of the jostling communities in Marsabit and live on the margins. Their fate is a bleak harbinger for other nomads. Stripped of their livestock and "prestige" there is no way back for them.
The chief insists he is "still a Turkana" but admits that without a herd he would be treated as inferior even if he could go home. Without rain, he believes, the rest of the Turkana will be forced to do what he has done: "What is the alternative?" he shrugs.
Remembering the first time he stayed inside a building, he says: "I felt like my eyes had been closed. I couldn't see the night sky."
Looking older than his 44 years, he admits to not liking urban life. "When we lived outside we could see who was our enemy and see him coming. Here it is more complicated."