IPCC ends the adaptation = defeat argument

There has been a kind of omertà over talking too much about adapting to climate change – to do so would surely be an act of resignation, a distraction from reducing emissions and effectively a ‘gated community’ mentality by rich countries that would look after themselves and build walls to keep out the poor.

That argument cannot stand any longer. Continue reading “IPCC ends the adaptation = defeat argument”

Europe’s renewables target

Just looking at the text of the EU Council Presidency Conclusions from 9 March. The bit about renewables is to the left with some scrawl from me. I’ve already argued that this is a mad way to do policy [Renewables – why is the EU involved?] – it would be more sensible just to set the carbon targets and rigorously enforce those, letting each country decide how to meet its target. Continue reading “Europe’s renewables target”

Climate scientists in epistemological lather

I awoke today to the depressing sound of an eminent climate scientist arguing that other eminent climate scientists were going too far in making alarming statements about climate change. The self-styled purist was gathering at a Sense about Science meeting and was heroically guarding the pristine truths of science from the barbarians of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and their climate change statement. He said he was doing this in order to preserve the trust of the public in the pronouncements of scientists – fat chance. Well he’s made a mess of that..! All blown wildly out of proportion in a BBC story and interview in which, Prof Paul Hardacre, the scientist with the gripe, completely failed to explain what he was concerned about. All involved professed support for the findings of the IPCC and Prof Hardacre even said he “agrees with everything in the [AAAS] statement”, but didn’t like the way it was phrased. Continue reading “Climate scientists in epistemological lather”

Land use strategy – discuss

Good speech and blog by David Miliband last week – opening up what should be big questions for everyone involved in the environment: what do we want to do with our land?

The vast majority of land in England, perhaps up to 87% is ‘green space’ – farming, forests and urban green space… see chart [view spreadsheet more detail / download xls]. In round figures: about 70% of land has some sort of agriculture, 10% is forests or woodland, 20% is urban or suburban, of which about half is built on – houses, gardens, other properties or transport infrastructure.  Is this the right distribution, and what determines it? Continue reading “Land use strategy – discuss”

Road pricing politics – the art of listening and counting

The politics of the now-closed road pricing petition have been terrible for the environment and quality of life, with 1.8 million people given a space to vent mob rage and duck difficult choices. Progress will slow, unjustified concessions will be made, and hesitation and equivocation will be the order of the day – at least that is the impression left by the PM’s e-mail response to the petition.

I’ve already gone through the arguments about this sorry saga in No 10 road pricing petition, beware what you wish for… so I wont repeat that here… But I did wonder how the counter petitions were doing. There are probably two that are worth looking at: at 8.30pm 26 Feb, this was the position… Continue reading “Road pricing politics – the art of listening and counting”

Food miles… wrong idea, stop using it!

I do occasionally enjoy an early morning BLT sandwich at Paddington station en route to the Bristol head office of my employer – a small comfort before what inevitably lies ahead. But imagine my horror to be informed that the humble bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich may have 31,000 “food miles” embodied in it (and much more besides) – see Ecologist article here. Horreur!

This is one of the more nonsense applications of the concept of food miles – for example, it turns out that 5,961 of these ecologically destructive miles were accounted for by the yeast that would be used to make the bread…! Presumably a single freight container of yeast shipped by sea would keep the UK in bread for months and have minimal environmental impact. This is a bit of a weakness in the food miles concept, isn’t it…? Especially when applied to specific products that may have only tiny quantities of ingredients shipped many miles. Many of the international food miles are done in bulk by container ships that have very low economic and environmental costs per kilogram-kilometre of freight movement.

What’s the real story…? Continue reading “Food miles… wrong idea, stop using it!”

Renewable energy targets – why is the European Union involved?

The European Union has been busy setting out ambitious ideas for energy and climate policy – see Energy for a Changing World, and the climate change and energy announcements made in January. But is it trying to do too much of the wrong thing in trying to determine member states’ approach to renewables? I think so…

There are three main problems… Continue reading “Renewable energy targets – why is the European Union involved?”

No 10 road pricing petition – beware what you wish for…

A new system for citizens’ petitions on the Prime Minister’s web site has attracted well over 1 million signatures for a motion to: “Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy“. Extensive news coverage [BBC] and ministerial response [BBC] have followed. Despite a recent speech on Winning the debate on road pricing, Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander looks as though he may in danger of losing it.

The idea of the petition is great in some ways, but flawed in others: Continue reading “No 10 road pricing petition – beware what you wish for…”

Climate change – what the IPCC tells us (and doesn’t)

In many ways the IPCC 4th Assessment Report (known by aficionados as ‘AR4’) from the physical science working group confirms much we had already taken to be established beyond reasonable doubt (see summary). A huge impulse (greenhouse gas increases) is being applied to a complex physical system (atmosphere, oceans and carbon cycle) and modellers are struggling through the task of working out how it will respond… (see charts to the left). To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld’s famous saying, the exercise involves narrowing quantitative uncertainties in the known-knowns, giving qualitative warnings about the known-unknowns and admitting we should still be worried the unknown-unknowns. And worth remembering, Rumsfeld also concluded, albeit in a different context: “it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.” It is fashionable amongst environmentalists to see the IPCC as above reproach, but it is in this area that the IPCC is weak and does the world a serious disservice Continue reading “Climate change – what the IPCC tells us (and doesn’t)”

Blowing your money on a wind turbine

I’ve already blogged on the completely dreadful economics of solar power… now it’s time to have a look at micro wind power, of the type favoured by David Cameron (see Guardian article)

First the basics… underpinning the physics of wind power is a ‘cubic law’ – the power output of a wind turbine is approximately proportional to the cube of wind speed. So double the wind speed and the power goes up by eight times (2x2x2) – halve it, and it falls to one eighth, roughly.

So the value for money of a domestic wind turbine and its cost of reducing carbon depends very sensitively on the average wind speed at the site. And this, it turns out is why domestic wind turbines a sucha rotten green-buy… Continue reading “Blowing your money on a wind turbine”