It has been a summer full of reports of extreme weather, of unparalleled scope and severity. Among the highlights: one of the warmest years on record in the US, record-high temperatures in central and eastern Europe, the wettest summer in the UK, the heaviest rainfalls in northern India and the Philippines and the most severe droughts in the US and east Africa.
In short, climate change and weather extremes are not about a distant future. Formerly one-off extreme weather episodes seem to be becoming the new normal. Weather extremes are not that extreme any more. Heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires are the new reality of an ever warming world.
And this should not come as a surprise. Scientists have been warning for years that as the planet heats up, we will have to deal with more severe, more changeable, more unpredictable weather. The evidence is mounting that human-caused warming is pushing normal warming effects to extremes. Heatwaves have increased in duration and frequency. Some parts of Europe are now gripped by severe water shortages while other parts have suffered extreme precipitations causing floods and increased crop losses.
Food is one of society's key sensitivities to climate. A year of not enough or too much rainfall, a hot spell or cold snap at the wrong time, or extremes, like flooding and storms, can have a significant effect on local crop yields and livestock production. While modern farming technologies and techniques have helped to reduce this vulnerability and boost production, the impact of recent droughts in the USA, China and Russia on global cereal production highlight a glaring potential future vulnerability.
Europe's multibillion-euro biodiesel industry has been dealt a blow by major policy changes outlined by the EU climate commissioner on Friday.
The changes proposed by Connie Hedegaard will limit food-based biofuels to 5%, just above the current output of 4.5%.
Green campaigners, who see biodiesel as doing more harm than good, hailed the move as a major victory for the environment. But the biodiesel industry condemned what it sees as a catastrophic U-turn that will cost thousands of jobs.
The EU has a target of 10% for renewable transport fuels by 2020. But biofuels have become increasingly controversial because those derived from oil crops such as rape and palm can result in greater carbon emissions than the diesel they replace, as well as higher food prices and deforestation.
Hedegaard told the Guardian: "We cannot morally afford to build a very big industry on something that is not good for the environment or for food prices. One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century is ensuring affordable food prices.
Newcastle Neighbours is a small grants programme helping community and voluntary groups in our city to celebrate good neighbours in our communities.
You can apply for up to £300, for activities between May and August 2012 that:
• Promote good relations between different groups
• Involve all the diverse groups that make up our communities, but with a focus on what we all have in common
• Help people come together and create a sense of belonging in their neighbourhood
Residents of Wingrove and those involved in B-Green may already know that Greening Wingrove have been awarded a development grant to take forward an environmental Big Lottery application of up to £1 million.
Work is currently being carried out to find out what residents would like to see in the bid, and how YOU would like to see improvements in the way the West End of Newcastle looks.