Friday, April 30, 2021

North Africa and Middle East Warning on heatwaves and extreme temperatures driven by global heating


A few years ago climate scientists announced that in coming decades Melbourne and Sydney will experience 50C days.

Those temperatures are also coming to the Mediterranean with Middle East and North Africa temperatures in heatwaves up to 56 degress Celsius according to the latest research.

This is a media release from the Italian based CMCC Foundation:

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Biden Climate Summit: Australia Fails to Deliver, remains a global outsider and climate laggard

Here is a quick summary in graphic and point form where the main countries line up on climate commitments at the end of the Climate leaders summit organised by USA President Joe Biden in his first 100 days of leadership:


Prime Minister Scott Morrison made:
  • no change in Australia's low targets.
  • no commitment to net zero by 2050 target.
  • produced meaningless statistics that don't stack up
  • slagged off the work of other countries
  • talked up hydrogen without explaining much of this will be blue hydrogen from coal and gas
  • thanked some of Australia's highest emitting companies, part of the problem
  • tried to carve out emissions from our fossil fuel exports (Australia is 3rd largest carbon exporter)
  • talked up the hired help: Allan Finkel and his contribution (including to the gas led recovery)

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Sustainable sports fields are natural turf not synthetic in a time of climate emergency

Moreland Council intends rolling out synthetic turf when evidence points to it being a highly problematic environmental and climate issue and at a substantially greater lifecycle cost even when factoring in a higher usage ratio.


So it seems the ratepayers of Moreland are going to be hit with expensive replacement costs of synthetic fields every 7-10 years, an increase in urban heat island which will result in health impacts to residents especially during extreme heat events which are becoming more common, an increase in microplastics pollution to local waterways and Port Philip Bay, 274 tonnes of landfill every 7-10 years, reduced abundance of birdlife, and extra greenhouse gas emissions (lifecycle emissions range from 500-1505 tonnes CO2e for synthetic turf) that will need mitigation. (See the Literature Review: Synthetic Turf carbon footprint, environmental, health, microplastics and biodiversity impacts)

So what is the alternative to Plastic Grass?

Well constructed natural turf field with a carefully chosen grass cultivar to suit the usage and climate.

I have just read a study that was presented at Australian Water Assocation conference last June - Ozwater20 - by Dr Mick Battam (a soil scientist) and Dr Paul Lambie (an irrigation specialist). The study was on building natural turf fields using industrial grade compost. This improves player carrying capacity to about 35-37 hours per week with minimal wear. Their study is titled: Creating Sustainable Open Spaces - Using Compost to Deliver Liveability, Sustainability, Recreation and Economic Outcomes, and is available from Australian Water Assocation website. The study paper concludes:
"Using compost to amend the soils on sports fields has been shown to improve soil fertility. The amendment of soils also reduces irrigation demand, with benefits to the water industry from water savings and increased resilience to drought. A natural turf field built with a wear tolerant turf cultivar and compost amended soil provides for more liveable cities and gives a superior economic outcome to synthetic turf alternatives."

Use of compost for sporting fields to increase their fertility, usage capacity and drought resilience is part of the circular economy. It could provide an outlet for Moreland's green bin food and organic waste collection after it has been through the industrial scale composting process. This is a no-brainer. Moreland Council should embrace this possible reuse of green waste for improving municipal sporting fields.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Statement by John Englart on Synthetic Turf to Moreland Council

 

John Englart addressing Moreland Council on Synthetic Turf 14 April 2021
(Image courtesy Moreland Council)

I made the following statement to Moreland Council on 14 April 2021 on Synthetic turf and its climate and environmental impact, although a few sections had to be skimmed over for brevity and meeting the 2 minute time limit. I also note problems with the audio feed during my speech on the video recording.

The vote to defeat this motion indicates that some Councillors may have already made their mind up prior to the public engagement being reported back to them and in listening to scientific advice on the subject. I identified clear flaws in the previous consultants report (February 2018) content and its presentation to Council in April 2018 that should indicate the need for a more transparent and in-depth independant assessment of current science on synthetic turf and artificial surfaces for proper triple bottom line decision making and governance.

Literature Review: Synthetic Turf carbon footprint, environmental, health, microplastics and biodiversity impacts

 

Hosken Reserve: grass oval used for soccer training, informal recreation, off-lead dog exercise
Hosken Reserve: grass oval used for soccer training, informal reacreation, off-lead dog exercise
(Photo by John Englart)

Abstract: 

The conversion of a grass oval to synthetic turf at Hosken Reserve, Coburg North, is about a failure in transparency and consultation with the local community, and poorly framed triple bottom line decision making by Moreland Council. There are questions about the integrity of the triple bottom line decision making embracing the social, environmental and economic impacts, costs and benefits, that was used in the process in the past decade for this site. And there are questions how triple bottom line decision making and weighting of factors will be applied for the current process. 

This literature review provides numerous reasons why conversion of a natural grass oval and open space to a fenced synthetic soccer pitch should not take place. It finds that there are two primary reasons against synthetic turf at Hosken Reserve, and that either reason is significant in itself for the primary project not to go ahead. These two essential reasons are - synthetic turf carbon footprint (up to 1500 CO2e tonnes) in total life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, and synthetic turf increasing waste to landfill contributing to toxic leachates pollution and microplastics pollution. On both these grounds conversion of a shared use natural grass oval to synthetic turf would appear to conflict with existing Council policy and frameworks related to climate change and the climate emergency, and Council’s zero waste to landfill by 2030 target. 

On the triple bottom line factors we found the social factors weighed up with some positive and some negative, the environmental factors were mostly against, and the economics didn’t stack up, even after factoring in 2 to 1 equivalence usage factor for synthetic turf. This review investigated peer reviewed science, grey literature and relevant policy documents to ascertain the following issues with synthetic turf::

  1. Derived from fossil fuel petrochemical industry
  2. Produces greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing and as it degrades
  3. Increases landfill at end of life
  4. Produces microplastics pollution
  5. Increases urban heat island effect on local residents.
  6. Replaces natural grass which allows soil organic carbon sequestration, provides oxygen
  7. Reduces soil biota, grass seeds and insects with a trophic impact on local biodiversity primarily birdlife.
  8. Compacts the soil increasing stormwater runoff
  9. Toxic Chemical leachates from rubber infill pollute waterways
  10. Results in increased lower extremity injuries in elite players
  11. Long term human health impacts uncertain, but vertebrate model confirms toxicity to human health of rubber infill leachates
  12. Enhances infection transmission risk. Encourages a microbial community structure primarily defined by anthropic contamination. 
  13. Appears to improve water conservation, but the situation is far more complex when life-cycle assessment and irrigation to reduce heat for playability is taken into account
  14. Other issues: increased fire risk, increase in traffic, parking on quiet residential streets
  15. Alternative Solutions
  • Economic Costs
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions

The Climate Action Moreland full submission to Moreland Councillors and Hosken Refresh Consultation can be downloaded in PDF format (27 March 2021). This contained extra information regarding Hosken Reserve and Moreland Couuncil.  The version below has extra references and minor updates but focuses on the science.

This document was researched and prepared by John Englart, Convenor of Climate Action Moreland and was subject to peer review by group members and other active members in the Moreland climate community.

Publication Date: 15 April 2021 

DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.28126.56646

Supplementary: Annotated Bibliography on Synthetic Turf and Climate, health, biodiversity and microplastics pollution issues, https://takvera.blogspot.com/2021/04/annotated-bibliography-synthetic-turf.html 


Suggested Citation: Englart, J (2021), Literature Review on environmental and health impacts of synthetic turf., Climate Action Moreland, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.28126.56646

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Annotated Bibliography: Synthetic Turf and Climate, health, biodiversity and microplastics pollution issues


Increasing use of synthetic surfaces and synthetic turf is problematic for Several reasons. 

Synthetic turf is:


  1. Derived from fossil fuel petrochemical industry

  2. Produces greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing and as it degrades

  3. Increases landfill at end of life

  4. Produces micro-plastic pollution as synthetic turf breaks down

  5. increases urban heat island effect on local residents.

  6. replaces natural grass which allows soil organic carbon sequestration, provides oxygen

  7. reduces soil biota, grass seeds and insects with a trophic impact on local biodiversity primarily birdlife.

  8. compacts the soil increasing stormwater runoff

  9. Toxic Chemical leachates from rubber infill pollute waterways

  10. results in increased lower extremity injuries in elite players 

  11. long term human health impacts uncertain, but vertebrate model confirms toxicity to human health of rubber infill leachates

  12. encourages a microbial community structure primarily defined by anthropic contamination

  13. appears to improve water conservation, but the situation is far more complex when life-cycle assessment and irrigation to reduce heat for playability is taken into account

  14. Other issues: increased fire risk, alternative infills, traffic, parking and cycling


This annotated bibliography was developed for the issue of conversion of an existing grass sports fields to synthetic turf in Moreland Municipality, and includes specific policy documents relating to the issue in Moreland. Most of the articles are peer reviewed science studies plus some relevant grey literature on climate. Most articles I have personally read, although for a small number I only had access to the scientific abstract to review. Google Scholar was used for researching this subject, as well as following reference trails from some science papers.


Moreland Council needs to reassess current recommended plans to rollout synthetic surfaces in the municipality with regard to Council policies developed in recent years. These policies include, but are not limited to, the Climate Emergency Framework including the Zero Carbon Moreland 2040 Framework, Waste and Litter Policy (aiming for zero waste to landfill by 2030 and a circular economy), and the Urban Heat Island Action Plan.


I have cast my scientific reading wide to encompass: total life-cycle assessment analysis related to synthetic fields and natural turf; water use and conservation; energy; soil carbon sequestration; greenhouse gas emissions; heat retention and urban heat island effect; microplastics and pollution; impact on biodiversity and plant health; health impacts and sports injuries. 


This annotated bibliography was prepared for Climate Action Moreland and is current as at 15 April 2021. Climate Action Moreland has published a submission and reference list as: Synthetic Turf and the Tragedy of the Commons in Moreland. Two other related articles were also published recently on carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions, and synthetic turf increasing urban heat island impact:

John Englart Convenor Climate Action Moreland.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Community Panel recommends 21 actions for EV transition for Victoria to reduce Transport Emissions

Community Panel for Infrastructure Victoria on Transport Emissions. I was on this panel which had 211 Victorians (most age groups, Metro and Regional) and met online during late January to mid February 2021.

The 'Tackling Transport Emissions' Community Panel successfully worked together in a virtual environment to deliver 21 recommendations to Infrastructure Victoria using principles of a Just Transition, Equitable Access, and Shared Knowledge.

These recommendations have now been taken forward by Infrastructure Victoria to undertake a detailed technical review. This may include seeking out additional evidence or undertaking further analysis where required.

The reviewed recommendations will inform Infrastructure Victoria’s advice - to support the broader community to take up zero or low emissions vehicles sooner - to government in Victoria’s 30-year infrastructure strategy. This Strategy is planned to be released in mid-2021.

The community panel was titled 'Tackling transport emissions'. Some members felt the need to broaden the remit question's scope to include public and active transport. I was one of those people. Clearly the panel was misnamed and should have been titled 'Tackling the transition to net zero emissions by 2050 through zero emission vehicles' Of course transition to EVs is needed, but we also need to look at mode share change in behaviour for more public and active transport journeys, and urban and transport planning to change transport behaviours. Sadly this wasn't part of the remit.