Sir David Attenborough, 96, warns against ‘alarming’ practice of destroying forests for wood-burning power stations, emitting 13million tonnes of carbon dioxide each YEAR
- Legendary broadcaster complained about the practice in letter seen by the Mail
- About six per cent of the UK’s power comes from wood-burning station Drax
- It emits approximately 13m tonnes of CO2 – yet claims to be a ‘green’ source
- Warning comes as Commons committee announced it would probe ‘biomass’
Sir David Attenborough has warned against the ‘alarming’ practice of razing forests to fuel wood-burning power stations in Britain.
The broadcaster, 96, complained about the practice in a letter seen exclusively by the Daily Mail.
About 6 per cent of the UK’s total power comes from Drax, a wood-burning power station in Yorkshire which goes through seven million tonnes of biomass pellets a year.
It emits approximately 13million tonnes of carbon dioxide – making it Britain’s biggest emitter of the greenhouse gas – yet receives more than £800million of taxpayer subsidies a year by claiming to be a ‘green’ energy source.
Sir David Attenborough, 96, is pictured speaking to launch COP26 in Glasgow, November 2021
While the power station insists burning wood is ‘renewable’ as trees grow back, critics say this is misleading as a mature tree could take 100 years to grow.
The warning comes as the House of Commons environmental audit committee announced it would investigate whether burning so-called ‘biomass’, as burning wood pellets is called, is fuelling deforestation.
In a hand-written letter to an anti-biomass campaigner, Sir David said the practice was ‘alarming’, adding: ‘I shall do my best to become better informed on the issue and I am grateful for you telling me about it.’
A nighttime view of Drax power station in Yorkshire, which emits 13million tonnes of CO2
A Drax spokesman said: ‘Drax agrees wholeheartedly with Sir David, which is why we never use biomass which causes or contributes to deforestation – this is a fundamental part of our policies, and we have a legal obligation to prove this is the case.’ The power station admits using ‘thinnings’ from poor quality trees of no use to sawmills.
Audit committee chairman Philip Dunne said: ‘We must make sure the domestic timber industry is fit for the future and can support our net zero ambitions, while better understanding the impact any imports have on the wider world.’
n Geologists have uncovered a fossil of the earliest known animal predator – and named it after Sir David Attenborough. The 560million-year-old Auroralumina attenboroughii was found near Leicester. It is related to a group that includes corals and jellyfish and is thought to be the earliest creature to have a skeleton.
560 million-year-old fossil of a primitive jellyfish unearthed in Leicester and named after Sir David Attenborough was the first animal predator on Earth, study claims
By Sam Tonkin for MailOnline
The fossil of the earliest known animal predator – which was unearthed in Leicester – has been named after Sir David Attenborough.
Called Auroralumina attenboroughii, the 560-million-year-old primitive jellyfish was found in Charnwood Forest, near Leicester — a city with which Sir David has long-established links.
The 96-year-old, who used to go fossil hunting in the area, and is credited with raising awareness of Ediacaran fossils in the forest, said he was ‘truly delighted’.
Researchers say the specimen is the first of its kind, and is thought to be the earliest creature to have a skeleton.
The creature was about seven inches tall and would have been tethered to the seabed on a beige ‘stalk’, using flame-coloured tentacles to catch food.
The first part of the name is Latin for dawn lantern, in recognition of its great age and resemblance to a burning torch.
Slice of history: The fossil of the earliest known animal predator (pictured) – which was unearthed in Leicester – has been named after Sir David Attenborough
Called Auroralumina attenboroughii, the 560-million-year-old primitive jellyfish (shown in an artist’s impression) was found in Charnwood Forest, near Leicester — a city with which Sir David has long-established links.
Fossil of a frog-legged beetle named ‘Attenborough’s beauty’ after the famous naturalist
Auroralumina attenboroughii is not the first creature to be named after Sir David Attenborough.
A new species of frog-legged beetle that lived nearly 49 million years ago in what is now Garfield County, Colorado, was also given the iconic naturalist’s name.
Pulchritudo attenboroughi, or ‘Attenborough’s beauty,’ was announced in August 2021 in the journal Papers in Palaeontology, though a fossil of the prehistoric creature has been on display in the Denver Museum of Nature & Science since 1995.
Sir David said: ‘When I was at school in Leicester I was an ardent fossil hunter.
‘The rocks in which Auroralumina has now been discovered were then considered to be so ancient that they dated from long before life began on the planet.
‘So I never looked for fossils there. A few years later a boy from my school found one and proved the experts wrong.
‘He was rewarded by his name being given to his discovery. Now I have – almost – caught up with him and I am truly delighted.’
That specimen was found by Roger Mason, after whom Charnia masoni was named.
He and a group schoolboys were rock climbing in a Charnwood Forest quarry in 1957 when they made their discovery.
Dr Phil Wilby, palaeontology leader at the British Geological Survey, is one of the scientists who made the latest find.
He said: ‘It’s generally held that modern animal groups like jellyfish appeared 540 million years ago in the Cambrian explosion.
‘But this predator predates that by 20 million years. It’s the earliest creature we know of to have a skeleton.
‘So far we’ve only found one, but it’s massively exciting to know there must be others out there, holding the key to when complex life began on Earth.’
According to the study, the creature is related to the group that includes corals, jellyfish and anemones living on Earth today.
In 2007 Dr Wilby and others spent more than a week cleaning a 100 metre square rock surface with toothbrushes and pressure jets.
In a rubber mould of the entire surface – which captured more than 1,000 fossils – one stood out.
Dr Frankie Dunn, of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, said: ‘This is very different to the other fossils in Charnwood Forest and around the world.
‘Most other fossils from this time have extinct body plans and it’s not clear how they are related to living animals.
‘This one clearly has a skeleton, with densely-packed tentacles that would have waved around in the water capturing passing food, much like corals and sea anemones do today.
‘It’s nothing like anything else we’ve found in the fossil record at the time.’
Dr Dunn dubbed A. attenboroughii a ‘lonely little fossil’. It originated from shallower water than others found in Charnwood.
She said: ‘The ancient rocks in Charnwood closely resemble ones deposited in the deep ocean on the flanks of volcanic islands, much like at the base of Montserrat in the Caribbean today.
In 2007 Dr Wilby and others spent more than a week cleaning a 100 metre square rock surface with toothbrushes and pressure jets. In a rubber mould of the entire surface – which captured more than 1,000 fossils – one stood out
A. attenboroughii was dated at the British Geological Survey’s headquarters using zircons in the surrounding rock
‘All of the fossils on the cleaned rock surface were anchored to the seafloor and were knocked over in the same direction by a deluge of volcanic ash sweeping down the submerged foot of the volcano, except one, A. attenboroughii.
‘It lies at an odd angle and has lost its base, so appears to have been swept down the slope in the deluge.’
A. attenboroughii was dated at the British Geological Survey’s headquarters using zircons in the surrounding rock.
Zircon is a tiny radioactive mineral that acts as a geological clock because it allows geologists to assess how much uranium and lead are present. From that, they can determine precisely how old the rock is.
Dr Dunn said: ‘The Cambrian Explosion was remarkable. It’s known as the time when the anatomy of living animal groups was fixed for the next half a billion years.
‘Our discovery shows that the body plan of the cnidarians was fixed at least 20 million years before this, so it’s hugely exciting and raises many more questions.’
The finding is reported in Nature Ecology and Evolution.
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