climate change

Joschka Fischer on Climate Change

Well, yes, this is exactly what is needed:

But the solution to the challenge of global climate change is as plain as day. The only chance of improvement is to decouple economic growth from energy consumption and emissions. This must happen in the emerging countries, and even more urgently in the old industrial economies.

This is known as decreasing carbon intensity. And who is doing this the best? Why, it\’s the USA.

Good News, Surely?

I\’m not sure why The Guardian is all exercised over this:

Britain faces the prospect of power shortages and soaring prices this winter after the National Grid warned of a shortfall in electricity-generating capacity yesterday. The alert coincides with a surge in gas prices, which are now 40% higher than in continental Europe, and the confirmation that a vital import plant in South Wales will not be operational this winter.

And it emerged last night that the energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, met power providers and users last week to discuss mounting concerns that the UK was heading into another winter of soaring prices and power shortages, similar to the one that forced some manufacturers to shut down capacity 24 months ago.

It means lower energy usage and thus lower emissions doesn\’t it? Just bringing forward a little what they keep telling us we have to do anyway?

George Monbiot Today

Apparently George has read a novel and we\’re all doomed, doomed I tell you.

"Water scarcity is already acute in many regions, and farming already takes the lion\’s share of water withdrawn from streams and groundwater." Ten per cent of the world\’s major rivers no longer reach the sea all year round.

Buried on page 148, I found this statement. "If present trends continue, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity by 2025, and two-thirds of the world population could be subject to water stress." Wastage and deforestation are partly to blame, but the biggest cause of the coming droughts is climate change. Rainfall will decline most in the places in greatest need of water. So how, unless we engineer a sudden decline in carbon emissions, are we going to feed the world? How, in many countries, will we prevent the social collapse that failure will cause?

Ever thought of pricing it appropriately George? You know, this strange, almost laughably lunatic idea that scarece resorces are best managed by markets?

Morons, We\’re Ruled by Morons.

Look, please, can we get this straight?

The confusion began last week when the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which had intended to push ahead with national bin taxes, was over-ruled by Downing Street, which is unenthusiastic about the plans before forthcoming local elections.

The U-turn was the latest sign of Mr Brown\’s fear of introducing new green taxes that are seen as disastrous electorally but are being heavily promoted within Whitehall as essential to any programme to avert climate change.

There are arguments in favour of recycling. They might not be all that strong, some of them might be wrong and we might be attempting to recycle too much, but that\’s all one issue and let\’s place it to one side for a moment.

There\’s also another issue, which is climate change. That indeed does mean reducing emissions, or taxing people so that they pay for them.

But the thing is, they\’re two quite separate issues. There are some things which, when recycled, reduce emissions (aluminium cans being the poster child here). There are other things which, dependent upon the method of recycling, increase emissions (wormeries as opposed to landfill for food and garden waste for example). There are yet other things where emissions are not a factor, like disposable nappies as against washable ones (although I do fear that the capture of methane from landfill was not included in that calculation).

Arguing for recycling to beat climate change is ignoring those differences: it\’s entirely possible that some of the recycling ideas being touted will increase emissions and thus make climate change worse.

All of which simply goes to show that we are ruled by morons.

Climate Abuser!

Killing the Planet! The polar bears! Bangladesh!

Just back from a great weekend in Cork at the jazz festival.

Oh the inhumanity! How could you Bob?

Won\’t somebody Think of the Children?



Beating Climate Change

The latest suggestion:

The campaign will urge people to plan meals, write – and stick to – shopping lists, make smaller portions, and learn to prepare and cook leftovers and food which is past its prime.

Yup, we should all eat rotten food to save the planet.

David Bellamy on Climate Change

This is certainly true:

The truth is that there are no facts that link the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide with imminent catastrophic global warming.

The IPCC, which is, after all, the scientific consensus, also says the same. The important qualifiers are "imminent" and "catastrophic".

What is actually being said is that the world will, in 100 years (as far as things go in any detail) will not be as good as it could be unless something is done.

First They Came For the Fresh Milk….

You\’ll recall that yesterday Defra was found wanting us to all switch to UHT milk (rather, they were interested in forcing us away from fresh) in order to save the carbon emissions of chilling the current preferred fresh milk. Today, from Joanna Lumley:

or, more likely, increasing the number of meat-free meals and maybe substituting dairy milk and cream with equivalents made from soya beans or oats at some meals.

So not even that is acceptable, we all have to switch to soya milk. Oats? Never even heard of that.

Just one  thought….wouldn\’t we be burning down the rain forest to find the space for all those soya plants?

The Planners Again, I\’m Afraid

Do what we think you ought to do, not what you think you ought to:

Officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have made a serious proposal that consumers switch to UHT (Ultra-High Temperature or Ultra-Heat Treated) milk to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It is part of a government strategy to ensure that some 90 per cent of milk on sale will not require refrigeration by 2020.

The paper states: “Retail and domestic refrigeration is an area with the potential for significant impact reduction. The milk chain should enhance the development, marketing and placement of UHT milk products.” It also states that existing choices for consumers (mainly fresh milk products) “mean that they may not demand milk that does not have to be refrigerated”.

That last is stating that the availability of fresh milk reduces sales of UHT milk. Well, yes, I suppose it does. They are substitutes, after all. The rather more chilling (sorry) implication is that the provision of fresh milk will be forcibly reduced against consumer desires.

The whole thing is an example of the shambles that is bound to result from allowing the planners to decide such matters. Whatever we do do about climate change (and yes, I know that some say nothing, indeed I sometimes say it myself, given the idiocy of what the politicians are already insisting upon), picking winners in this manner is absurd. What we\’re trying to do is reduce emissions at the least cost in the reduction of consumer utility. That means pricing carbon into products and then leaving consumers to make their own decisions. Not that some bureaucrat with a hard on for UHT gets to impose his vision on the rest of us.


Al Gore and Climate Change

In defending Al Gore and his apocalyptic vision of climate change Mark Lynas makes the following statement:

Hence the need to move the debate from science and towards precaution. It is now very likely that global warming this century will present major challenges to the survival of human civilisation – and to our children\’s and grandchildren\’s lives. If we listen to the deniers, we are taking a very dangerous gamble – a bit like playing Russian roulette with five bullets and only one empty chamber. That\’s not a game I want to play with my kids.

But this is exactly the point at issue: global warming in this current century will not present major challenges to the survival of human civilisation. Thus, actions based on this premise are unwarranted.

If we are to believe the most extreme of the serious analyses (The Stern Review) then climate change will cost 20% of GDP in 2100. And that\’s throwing everything including the kitchen sink in there. And that\’s 20% off an economy that will be 3 times larger than it is now.

This isn\’t the end of civilisation, this is civilisation being not quite as good as it could be. Reactions to this situation should therefore be proportionate, not the emergency crash program which the end of civilisation might require.

Cement and CO2

I do wonder about The Guardian sometimes.

There were no climate change protesters waiting to jeer as the chief executives and other senior figures of one of the world\’s biggest industries gathered on Wednesday. Yet they represented a business that produces more than 5% of mankind\’s carbon dioxide emissions. And they were in Brussels to discuss climate change.

The summit was not called by the aviation industry – that is comparatively clean in comparison. Nor was it made up of car makers, oil companies, shipping firms or any other business that has traditionally drawn the fire of green campaigners.

These chief executives deal in a more down-to-earth commodity: cement. It is the key ingredient in concrete, and one that is rapidly emerging as a major obstacle on the world\’s path to a low-carbon economy.

Anyone who has read anything at all of the IPCC studies will know that cement is a major source of CO2. And given the way chemistry works in this universe there\’s not going to be any non-emittive process either.

Anywy, tucked away is this assertion:

The booming Chinese economy has created such a demand for building materials that cement production there last year released 540,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide – just short of Britain\’s total output from all sources.

Sorry? We\’re producing half a million tonnes? Really, that should have leapt out at the journo and the subs. Anyone writing anything at all on this subject should have an eye for at least orders of magnitude. Per capita CO2 emissions are several tonnes per person in the rich countries….so half a million tonnes must be the emissions of less that half a million people, not of 60 million.

Here\’s the Defra figures. If you download one of the spreadsheets you\’ll see that they\’ve got the digits correct…there just aren\’t enough of them. The numbers are reported in thousands of tonnes, not in tonnes.

It\’s a simple enough mistake, but it\’s still not good enough. I don\’t mind people making mistakes (I do so often enough myself) but you should at least be numerate enough to spot when numbers are out by three orders of magnitude. It\’s called knowing your subject, isn\’t it?

What Do We Do About Rising Sea Levels?

So we\’re told that rising sea levels (and in the SE of England, the ongoing sinking of the land) are going to lead to losses of land. Of farmland, of buildings, of the very ability of the species to survive (TM Al Gore). So what should we do about it?

In the most ambitious and expensive project of its type, the RSPB intends to puncture sea defences around Wallasea island, near Southend, and turn 728 hectares (1,800 acres) of farmland into a mosaic of saltmarsh, creeks and mudflats – making mainland Britain just a little bit smaller.

Er, breach the sea walls and invite that rising sea in.

Excellent, don\’t you think?

Don\’t Do As I Do, Do As I Say.

Two quotes from CC Net:

European leaders are getting a bit impatient, not on our own behalf but on behalf of the planet. China, India and the other industrializing countries will not do anything unless the U.S. is moving.
    –Connie Hedegaard, Danish Environment Minister, Washington Post, 26 September 2007

Denmark\’s CO2 emissions rose 16.1 per cent in 2006 compared to the previous year on the back of strong economic growth and electricity exports from coal-fired power plants, according to statistics released today.
    –Point Carbon, 28 September 2007


Banning Incandescent Light Bulbs

There\’s a few points to be made about this announcement from Hilary Benn:

The traditional lightbulb will disappear from shops under a two year timetable announced by Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary.

The first is that it\’s not really a big decision. As the article notes we\’re signed up to an EU regulation that bans them anyway. What\’s left for our domestic politician (the one we vote for) is announcing how it will be done: not whether. Defra is simply a branch office these days.

But there is a price for consumers because CFLs are more expensive and require more energy to make.

The second is that the expense is at least party to do with the EU itself. There\’s a 66% import duty on CFLs from China. As Tebaf Margot pointed out recently, they\’re discussing whether to lift this or not. Decision in a year or so.

The third is that Greenpeace really are a group of know nothing little shits:

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "This initiative, which will reduce the UK\’s CO2 emissions and finally begin to consign these hugely energy wasteful bulbs to the history books, is long overdue.

"However, almost all of the retailers involved have already committed to removing these bulbs ahead of 2011 after a campaign by Greenpeace.

"We think the Government needs to go further and introduce tough mandatory efficiency standards rather than relying on weak voluntary initiatives.

"For every year of delay in getting rid of these bulbs, five million tonnes of C02 are emitted into the atmosphere, unnecessarily."

Along wih your desires there is the necessity of looking at how the world really is. Current world capacity for CFL manufacture is 1 billion a year or so ( calculated from the capacity and order book of one of my customers, who manufacture a vital part). Given the time it takes to build a new manufacturing plant, or to convert an old one, if we banned incandescents in 2008, or 2009, it wouldn\’t mean people buying the lovely CFLs. It would mean their being able to buy no bulbs at all.

Sorry to have to break it to you but it does actually take time to redirect an entire manufacturing industry.

Am I Missing Something Here?

Set aside, for a moment, the back story, and look only at these specific words:

They predicted that Mr Bush, who is to address the meeting tomorrow, will stress the need to make technological advances that can help combat climate change but will reject mandatory caps on emissions.

Without any reading between the lines or anything that does in fact make perfect sense. It is indeed exactly what we want to do. We want to invent the technologies which will allow us to proceed without boiling the planet. We don\’t actually care about mandatory caps, voluntary ones, what we care about is either reducing emissions or increasing the sequestration of them.

So, what Bush is actually saying is exactly right: we want to make technological advances.

The interesting question of couse is how we do this: politicians picking winners is clearly not the way to go. Bush and corn ethanol, the EU and biofuels, the UK Government and wormeries rather than landfill: all actually create more emissions than business as usual. So on the one hand we have politicians increasing emissions. Can markets inventing technologies (sorry, companies operating in markets) do better? Difficult to see that they could do worse really.

Ocean Fertilization

This plan might have merits:

They propose that vertical pipes some 10 metres across be placed in the ocean, such that wave motion would pump up cool water from 100-200 metres depth to the surface, moving nutrient-rich waters in the depths to mix with the relatively barren warm waters at the ocean surface.

This would fertilise algae in the surface waters and encourage them to bloom, absorbing carbon dioxide greenhouse gas while also releasing a chemical called dimethyl sulphide that is know to seed sunlight reflecting clouds.

"Such an approach may fail, perhaps on engineering or economic grounds", they say, adding that the effects on the acidity of the ocean also have to be factored in.

While the technique is different the actual aim is very similar to the iron fertilization proposed by Planktos. One other difference, this is proposed by James Lovelock and the past head of the British Antarctic Survey, while Planktos are mere money grubbing capitalists. Shouldn\’t matter, of course, a good idea is a good idea, wherever it comes from, but sadly it does matter.

Certainly it\’s something that might be tried. The basic idea is the same as growing forests: more CO2 is going into the atmosphere than current levels of biomass can sequestrate. So let\’s increase the amount of biomass doing the sequestrating.

Whether it will actually work is another thing, but then that\’s what experiments are for, isn\’t it?

Update. As William says, looks like experimentation won\’t be necessary. Crackpot idea (100 million 200 ft long plastic tubes?).

Iron Fertilisation

Good, at least this idea is going to be properly looked at:

Scientists are considering a plan to combat climate change by dumping millions of tons of iron into the ocean to alter its chemical make-up.

They believe the iron could act as a “fertiliser”, promoting the growth of tons of plankton that would soak up carbon dioxide from the surrounding sea water. When the plankton died, their bodies would sink into the deepest waters and sediments, where the carbon would be locked up indefinitely.

The theory, known as “ocean fertilisation”, has long caused controversy among marine scientists, many of whom doubted that it could work. This week leading researchers will meet at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts for a scientific conference to discuss the idea.

The last time I ran through the numbers on this I think I came up with a figure of a few cents per tonne of  CO2 removed: that, of course, on the assumption that it actually works. Actually having a scientific meeting to discuss it is a great idea. For, at present, we\’ve got two highly partisan sides:

Russ George, chief executive of Planktos, said adding a single ton of iron could remove as much as 100,000 tons of dissolved CO2 from the oceans.

Russ is running a company which would dearly love to be allowed to get going, to sell the offsets and also, attract more investors.

Dr David Santillo, a senior scientist at the Greenpeace research laboratories at Exeter University, said iron fertilisation was a foolish idea.

David doesn\’t want there to be a solution to climate change that doesn\’t involve a radical change in society.

While my instinctive sympathies are with Russ (good to see a man trying to make a buck) I do think it would be a good idea to actually study the evidence and find out whether it actually works. Which is, I assume, what the meeting of scientists is all about.

Biofuels:Bad for the Planet

Yet more evidence that biofuels are part of the problem, not the solution:

Rapeseed and maize biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 per cent and 50 per cent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels. The concerns were raised over the levels of emissions of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Scientists found that the use of biofuels released twice as much as nitrous oxide as previously realised. The research team found that 3 to 5 per cent of the nitrogen in fertiliser was converted and emitted. In contrast, the figure used by the International Panel on Climate Change, which assesses the extent and impact of man-made global warming, was 2 per cent. The findings illustrated the importance, the researchers said, of ensuring that measures designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are assessed thoroughly before being hailed as a solution.

Well, quite. We want indeed to have a proper cost benefit analysis of all of the things that are being proposed. Landfill, for example, has lower emissions than wormeries in dealing with food and garden waste. You\’ll note though that government action is to increase the use of wormeries and reduce landfill. You\’ll already know that the recycling of green glass into road surfacing increases emissions rather than reduces them: and that government policy is to increase the use of green glass in roads. You\’ll now know, from the above, that biofuels (except in the limited sense of driving off old chip fat) increases rather than reduces emissions. And the EU and the US are in an orgy of subsidy for this increase in emissions.

Those who insist that government actions are going to save us obviously haven\’t been paying attention.