All posts by Tom Bliss

Heating with Biomass in the United Kingdom: Lessons from New Zealand

In past centuries, home heating and cooking in the British Isles involved the burning of wood, mainly in open hearths. The Romans developed underfloor heating using hot air (the ‘hypocaust’) but this still relied on wood combustion. The first wood-burning stove was patented in Strasbourg in 1557, but by the industrial revolution urban houses were typically heated with coal. By the mid Twentieth century oil, gas and electricity had become the fuel of choice largely due to the introduction of the Clean Air act, which curtailed the use of household ‘dirty’ coal, but open fires and stoves remained popular where they could be accommodated, especially in rural areas.

In recent years, ‘aspirational lifestyle’ marketing by stove manufacturers (and TV shows like Grand Designs), along with the availability of new biomass-based fuels (pellets and briquettes), have been driving a resurgence – with some even suggesting that because wood is technically a renewable energy source, woodfuel is a clean and green way to heat your home. But is it? And what are the other implications?

Stove from

Continue reading Heating with Biomass in the United Kingdom: Lessons from New Zealand

Want to help us understand the potential for woodlands to reduce flooding?

After the heavy rains and flood damage of last winter, the need to protect communities from flooding has never been more important. Natural Flood Management – using the natural capacity of rivers, wetlands and woodlands to reduce downstream flood risk – has become a buzzword.  But there are still major gaps in our understanding of how the natural world can be harnessed to help reduce flooding.

Wet woodland at Bryngarw Country Park

The University of Leeds, with support from UBoC, is taking a leading role in the effort to better understand the potential of Natural Flood Management. The University hosts water@leeds –  one of the largest interdisciplinary centres for water research in any university in the world – making it the ideal location to lead research efforts.

Three new PhDs  students will start next October to explore the role of different land-management options to reduce flooding.  Continue reading Want to help us understand the potential for woodlands to reduce flooding?

New UBoC paper on deaths from peatland fires

UBoC’s Ed Butt and Dom Spracklen have published a paper in’s Scientific Reports: “Population exposure to hazardous air quality due to the 2015 fires in Equatorial Asia” – with researchers from Newcastle UK, Boulder Colorado USA, Singapore, Bloomington USA and Riau Province Indonesia.

The full authorship is P. Crippa, S. Castruccio, S. Archer-Nicholls, G. B. Lebron, M. Kuwata, A. Thota, S. Sumin, E. Butt, C. Wiedinmyer & D. V. Spracklen. (See here for individual links)

Continue reading New UBoC paper on deaths from peatland fires

Last Trump for a Liveable Climate?

Two worrying stories have dominated our news feed this week.

The first is, of course, President Elect Donald Trump’s alarming stance(s) on climate change. Although in favour of urgent action before Copenhagen, he’s promised to pull out of the Paris Agreement immediately, claimed that climate science is just a Chinese Whisper, has announced an end to the ‘war on coal‘ and is appointing climate sceptics (including Myron Ebell and possibly Harold Hamm) to key positions.

The other is the scary news that 2016 is set to be the third consecutive hottest year in succession at 1.2C above pre-industrial levels (when the Paris target is just 1.5C). This comes on the back of continual bad climate news from all quarters of the globe. Continue reading Last Trump for a Liveable Climate?

UBoC Scientists Visit Colorado


Three members of the UBoC team (all also members of LEAF), had a fruitful trip last month to Breckenridge, Colorado (USA) for the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) Conference.

Dom's chart

Professor Dom Spracklen gave a presentation on ‘Evaluating natural aerosol – climate interactions using long-term observations and an aerosol model

(Co-Authors: Catherine Scott, University of Leeds; Stephen Arnold, University of Leeds; Sarah Monks, University of Colorado and NOAA; Pauli Paasonen, University of Helsinki; Ari Asmi, University of Helsinki)

Continue reading UBoC Scientists Visit Colorado

Bringing aviation in line with the Paris agreement: Will flying save the world’s forests?


Last week was a big week for climate policy. Last Tuesday the countries of the EU ratified the Paris agreement, taking it past the threshold required to make it legally binding – which will happen as soon as the 4th of November.

Then on Thursday, the 191 countries of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), who’ve tended to be at the tortoise end of the decarbonisation race,  finally agreed a deal to curb emissions from international aviation, which along with shipping has steadfastly been excluded from all previous climate agreements. So this deal is a big deal. Continue reading Bringing aviation in line with the Paris agreement: Will flying save the world’s forests?

Samuel Grant Packaging

Following a chance meeting between UBoC’s Tom Bliss and Samuel Grant Packaging’s Martin Harris at the recent Manufactured Yorkshire trade fair, the two organisations are delighted to announce a new collaboration which represents great news for both Samuel Grant Packaging’s customers and projects supported by UBoC.
SGP_SM_LogoThe Samuel Grant Group is based in Leeds, where it was formed in 1891 by the great grandfather of current Directors Andrew and Matthew Grant. Today’s team is fully committed to helping companies reduce packaging waste and associated environmental footprints.

Continue reading Samuel Grant Packaging

Paris – When will the UK ratify?

The news that the USA and China have ratified the Paris Agreement is probably the best we’ve heard here at UBoC since 195 countries adopted it by consensus at the Parc des Expositions on the 12th of December last year. (See Piers’ blog at the time).

The totaliser now shows that 180 have since signed, and 26 have formally ratified. And while 26 out of 195 may seem paltry, because China (20.09%) and USA (17.89%) are the world’s two largest emitters, (the third would actually be food waste, but that’s another story) these 26 represent 39% of global emissions; a fair step towards the ‘double threshold’, which requires both 55% of emissions and 55 countries to be committed before L’Accord de Paris finally becomes legally and globally binding.

Tower in Ice

However, apart from these two giants, most of the other ratifiers are tiny, with the vast majority at imminent risk from rising sea levels or other climate dangers: The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cameroon, Cook Islands, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Fiji, Grenada, Guyana, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Norway, Palau, Palestine, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Somalia and Tuvalu – few score above one percent, and most fall well below. Continue reading Paris – When will the UK ratify?