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Climate Change and Energy

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Climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions is one of the greatest threats to the environment in Wiltshire and Swindon. This section provides a range of data in relation to climate change and energy, and links to further information below.

Carbon dioxide makes up the largest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, about 84% in 2009. Estimates of carbon dioxide emissions are published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change annually; the most recent figures for local areas are for 2011.
Between 2005 and 2011 total carbon dioxide emissions fell from 1486 to 1219 kilotonnes in Swindon Borough (22% decrease) and from 3642 to 3094 kilotonnes in Wiltshire (18% decrease). However, the attached table shows that carbon dioxide emissions per capita in both Wiltshire and Swindon are higher than the regional and national figures, although they are following the same downward trend over time.

The higher level of emissions in Wiltshire appears to be due to higher than average use of energy in homes, with more homes using 'other fuels' (such as coal and oil, which have greater carbon dioxide emissions) and fewer using gas, as well as higher emissions from road transport, particularly A roads. This is likely to be because Wiltshire's population is highly dispersed, with about half living in rural areas. Many areas are not connected to the mains gas supply and private vehicles are the primary form of transport.

These figures do not include emissions from motorways, diesel railways, land use, land use change and forestry, which are considered to be outside the local authority’s scope of influence. Of these, the M4 motorway is the largest source of emissions in Wiltshire and Swindon. This dataset was previously called National Indicator (NI) 186. A full dataset including these sources is available from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

These figures also exclude emissions from producing food and other goods elsewhere which are then consumed locally. These form a large part of our individual ecological footprint.

© Crown Copyright Source: DECC
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CO2 Emissions per Capita
CO2 Emissions per Capita

The chart shows the percentage of carbon dioxide emissions attributable to the main sources to allow comparison between areas. It shows that Swindon has a greater proportion of industrial and commercial emissions (46.6% compared to 40.2% for England), while Wiltshire has a greater proportion of road transport emissions in comparison to the South West and England as a whole (28.4% compared to 24.9% for England).

© Crown Copyright Source: DECC
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CO2 Emissions per person by Sector 2010
CO2 Emissions per person by Sector 2010

Other greenhouse gases also make a significant contribution to climate change, apart from carbon dioxide (CO2). The next two most important greenhouse gases are methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). These gases have a greater impact on climate change per tonne than carbon dioxide and are often calculated as CO2 equivalent. 1 tonne of methane is equivalent to 21 tonnes of carbon dioxide and 1 tonne of nitrous oxide is equivalent to 310 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

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Nitrous Oxide & Methane Emissions 2009
Nitrous Oxide & Methane Emissions 2009

Estimated emissions for these are available for each 1x1km square in the UK and are published by local authority area by the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory. The tables shows the main sources of methane and nitrous oxide emissions in Wiltshire and Swindon in 2009 and the CO2 equivalent of these compared to CO2 emissions.

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Methane & Nitrous Oxide Emissions as CO2 Equivalent
Methane & Nitrous Oxide Emissions as CO2 Equivalent
The links below provide further information:
National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory
Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)
© Crown Copyright Source: DECC
Data on energy use at a local level is published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC); the most recent data currently available is for 2009.
The table shows net and average electricity use in 2009. For Swindon, it shows that domestic electricity consumption is below average but commercial and industrial consumption is significantly above average.  For Wiltshire, it shows that average domestic consumption in three of the former districts is between 9% and 18% above the national average, while in Kennet it is 37% above the national average.
Further information can be found on the DECC website.
© Crown Copyright Source: DECC
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Net Average Electricity Use 2009
Net Average Electricity Use 2009
 
Similar data is available for 2005 to 2008 in the attached document. In general this shows that electricity consumption is gradually declining.
This chart shows energy consumption figures by sector for Wiltshire in 2009. There is a relatively even split between the transport, industrial/commercial and domestic sectors. This corresponds with the values of carbon emissions.
Further information can be found on the DECC website.
© Crown Copyright Source: DECC
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Energy Consumption By Sector in Wiltshire 2008
Energy Consumption By Sector in Wiltshire 2008

After several years of relatively slow growth in renewable energy production, there was a dramatic increase in 2011/12; the number of solar PV projects in Wiltshire and Swindon shot up from 347 in 2011 to 5,317 in 2012. Continued high growth in renewable electricity is predicted in the next few years as several large-scale projects, including land-based solar PV farms, are completed.

By contrast, in 2012, Wiltshire and Swindon had the lowest renewable heat capacity in the South West region.  

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Renewable Energy Capacity 2010-2012
© RegenSW 2012

Source: RegenSW

Wiltshire and Swindon fall within the climate region of Southern England, as described by the Meterological Office.
Wiltshire enjoys a relatively mild oceanic climate (Cfb in the Köppen climate classification). This means that we experience cool summers and mild winters, with small seasonal variation, and receive adequate and reliable rainfall throughout the year. Our weather patterns are monitored in three main places in Wiltshire: Boscombe Down, Larkhill and Lyneham.
Climate data from Boscombe Down, Lyneham and (for comparison) the averages for England can be found on the Meterological Office website. This shows that Wiltshire receives around 720mm of rainfall annually, significantly lower than the average for the rest of England. The temperature range is remarkably similar. It is important to remember that these figures show average climate, and exclude any extreme values.
© Crown Copyright
Predicting the change in a system as complex and chaotic as global climate is extremely difficult, but we can determine the most likely course of climatic change. The UK government published Climate Predictions in 2009 (UKCP09) and this includes detailed information on the most likely changes we will see in Wiltshire over the coming years, under a scenario of medium-level greenhouse gas emissions. This information represents our current best estimate for climatic changes.
When considering these predictions, it is important to remember that they represent the average over a period of thirty years. That means that any extreme weather events will be excluded. UKCP09 is unable to calculate precisely what these will be, but predicts that their incidence and severity will increase.
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Likely Changes in Temperature & Precipitation in Wiltshire - Medium Emissions Scenario
Likely Changes in Temperature & Precipitation in Wiltshire - Medium Emissions Scenario

Graph: Projected changes in annual mean temperature in Wiltshire over the period up until the end of the century (central estimate, 50% probability level).

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Projected Change in Annual Mean Temperature in Wiltshire 2020 -  2080
Projected Change in Annual Mean Temperature in Wiltshire 2020 - 2080
There is likely to be little change in the total annual level of precipitation (rain, snow, sleet etc.), but it will come less often, and in greater downpours, primarily in winter. These storms will fall on land that is dry, leading to increased runoff and flooding, and the increased time between them will lead to droughts. Increased year round temperatures will cause more heatwaves, threatening our health and wellbeing.
© Crown Copyright 2009
Source: Wiltshire Council based on UK Climate Projections 2009
A report examining likely climate changes in Wiltshire has been produced as part of Wiltshire Councils Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan, and can be accessed here. Further information on climate change can be accessed here.
Further information on climate change evidence and strategy is available as follows:
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