Saturday, January 1, 2000

Need to find extra pages - post them in 2000!

On Google blogger, wonderful as it is, we are only allowed TEN special undated pages.

These appear as Tabs at the top of the Blogsite. If we could make more that were not tabs, that would be good, but we can't.

Therefore, if I want to have additional extra pages, I have to make false postings with fictitious dates, such as the 1st January 2000. I hope this wont get you too confused!

Jonathan Porritt's lecture 14 Dec 2010 : Part One

Jonathan Porritt's lecture, The Scourge of Denialism,
at the Science park on 14th December 2010 : Part One

Cancun question
He started by saying that he had been quite cheered by Cancun, the recent summit in Mexico. Everyone attending had been desperate for it not to be sidetracked or blown out of the water like the Copenhagen summit. It wasn't perfect, but some consensus emerged and it was better than nothing. Climate change involves many complex interacting issues of policy, economy etc, but with all the good science to prove it, how come fewer politicians and members of the public believe in the risks of Climate Change than a decade ago?
Science or Faith?
  Politicians know that to be elected, they have to promise greater prosperity, health, economic growth, gross national product and the like. The media promote the affluent lifestyle through advertising. Culturally, opinion formers like Jeremy Clarkson make it seem laddish and amusing to be in denial about climate change. But worse, far worse is when elected politicians turn their backs on scientific evidence entirely and take a religious view like Fred Upton, or an economic view like G W Bush, both of whom deny that there's any point doing anything about it.
What will Climate change lead to?
  People misuse the expression 'global warming' when we should be talking about 'climate change'. They miss the point every time we get a winter snap like we are having in the UK. Climate change is non linear, it is a greater level of Chaos (for example, some places will get hotter, but it is likely to make the UK's climate colder in the long term), and it is Runaway (meaning that one symptom provokes another, eg methane gases released by melting tundra), and most alarmingly, Irreversible (meaning we can't stop it within several lifetimes once the processes are moving).
What is the UK doing?
Well, if we could stabilise the atmosphere at 450 ppm, causing only a 2degC rise, we would have to cut our current emissions by 60% in 2050, and the UK is proposing an 80% cut, so we are full of good intentions. This is based on computer projections - we don't have another planet and species and global economy to test this out on, so there is no way to know firmly what future temperatures will be and what the effect of this will be - we can only theorise, plan and hope.
Carbon Reduction Planning
He suggested a number of measures to consider:
Kondratiev Cycle :
Innovation through leaps and bounds
(but leaving some behind)
1. Decoupling - separate economic growth from emissions - using carbon tax, carbon trading etc as incentives to reduce emissions.
2. Innovation - improving Technology, and the use of Materials.
3. Marketizing - putting an economic value on green resources like Forests, just like we do on oil reserves or fish stocks.
4. Regulation - remembering that private sector and the public will take too long to get moving unless they have to.
5. Behaviour change (or nudging) - using education, children teaching their parents to be more energy efficient, through greening and Transition campaigns.
6. Wellbeing - managing a cultural change whereby wellbeing and benevolence are considered just as important as wealth, searching for happiness is fulfilling in its own right, sharing and healing are important values. (Unfortunately, after experimenting with this for 2000 years, it is still too slow to work see Sermon on the Mount).
Kondratiev Cycle
Kondratiev showed a time chart revealing that innovation tend to occur in leaps and bounds, often overlapping or obsolescing the previous one. He was writing in the nineteenth century, but the theory is entirely vindicated by subsequent events. Examples would be the steam engine (industrial revolution), concrete and steel, motoring and air travel, digital technology. The countries which get on the crest of the wave do well. Britain once held the lead in manufacturing and textiles. The US had the lead in aircraft, space travel and computer evolution. The world is now entering a huge new area of economic opportunity resulting from green technology - the need to develop solar power stations etc. As this moment the US is falling behind because the Chinese are already way ahead with investment in technology, and have the sort of centralised decision making that can make change happen, eg decreeing an entire new city to have district heating, or to build solar power stations. They are no longer copying technology, they are pushing the boundaries with new processes and products. The next Kondratiev leap is now happening.
Scepticism or Denialism?
Jonathan made it clear that Scepticism is healthy, it is the whole basis of the scientific method, and the sceptic is open minded and ready for agreement provided the evidence is presented and placed in context - what may have been caused by Apathy or Ignorance can be overcome if the need is pressing. Denialism is harmful, because no amount of evidence will convert them, as their motivation is religious or economic greed - as George Lakoff points out, they have formed 'frames' in their mind, and will only regard more evidence as example of your misguidedness or faithlessness, and they might even have the attitude of "Bring it on!". Don't ever make such people chairman of an Energy committee!
  At a time like now when the winter is cold, there is a lazy tendency for denialists or sceptics to retreat into a Clarkson-Daily Mail bubble of complacency, or 'I told you so'. 

Jonathan's Lecture, Part TWO

Jonathan Porritt's lecture 14 Dec 2010 : Part Two

Jonathan Porritt's lecture, The Scourge of Denialism
at the Science park on 14th December 2010 : Part Two

Steve Chu's idea for Green Revolution
November 2010 elections in USA were very disappointing. Whatever Obama believes about Climate Change, his hands are tied, and the Republicans are determined to undo existing initiatives to combat climate protection. Professor Chu's approach is to promote a whole new approach with Energy conservation and generation at the front - recalling the "Sputnik" moment in 1959 when USA realised that they had been overtaken by the Soviets had overtaken them in Space technology. This stimulated a huge investment in the space race, even though there was also the Vietnam war in the same decade. This culminated in the voyage to the moon and 40 years of leadership in satellite and space station technology.  Similar to that, we can witness the Chinese who have established a lead in the Green Technology revolution, the next 'Kondratiev wave' that will bring wealth to the countries that have leadership in innovation and production.  This is in effect, a War of Innovation, and America is losing ungracefully.
  There are some signs of progress, US side: GE are making an unprecedentedly high level of investment in renewable technologies, and even if the Republicans will deter Obama from direct government incentives, there are many green shoots from private industry, who seem to have got Chu's message. USA has the right climate and vast availability of land in uninhabitable areas such as the Mojave Desert, and major Solar farms are planned. 
   The USA making good progress with electric car development, notably the Tesla, which was good enough to make Jeremy Clarkson say that if electric cars are going to be this good, he wants one - but high performance specialist cars are not for the mass market, and even small US towns have such low density that range is still an issue. Electric cars are an ideal device for storing surplus daytime power from solar farms or surplus night time electricity from conventional/nuclear because they can soak up a lot of charge, and smart metering can adjust the flow.
  However, do not underestimate the Chinese. A remarkable company, Build your Dreams (BYD) who used to be experts only in Battery manufacture have come from nowhere to be a significant producer of electric cars and buses, addressing the needs of the mass market. Who is their major investor? Warren Buffet!
One sided press coverage?
The Emailgate story was a disaster for the movement of climate protection, because even reputable environmental journalists could not resist the temptation to leap onto a tasty story, which expanded sufficiently to discredit the whole movement just before Copenhagen. Disreputable journalists leapt in it eagerly as a single reason to reject the entire theory. When the Emailgate story was finally revealed as very trivial, none of the press publicised this sufficiently, it was by then a non-story, and the attitude of the public had hardened into a direction of scepticism or outright denial. By Cancun, the shadow of Emailgate had lifted and attitudes were improved.
Climate Change Toolkit
Jonathan concluded with Climate Change Toolkit, a list of initiatives that were cause for hope. 

  • The Climate Change Act - Sign of government holding their course.
  • Feed in Tariffs - incentivising thousands of people to get involved with renewable technology.
  • CRC - Carbon Reduction Commitment.
  • ROCs - (the acronyms are coming at me thick and fast here....) these are Renewable Obligation Certificates, obliging UK generators to source more of their power from renewables.
  • The Green Deal - addressing the problem of the millions of houses that are not energy efficient.
  • Renewable Heat Initiative - encouragement for people generating heat.
  • Green Investment Bank - at the time of the lecture, this seems to be a cherished policy of both the Coalition partners, but seems likely to be dumped by the Treasury which has put up so many obstacles that if it happens, it will be severely limited in scope.

Our society will get to 2050 somehow, but what standard of living will we have and how will this green technology revolution have created jobs? That waits to be seen.... but the actions of politicians and officials whose judgement is affected by the Scourge of Denialism may cause life to be less survivable than if this generation continues to work to protect the climate.

That is the end of the lecture, but there was a very healthy flow of questions afterwards - on another page.

Jonathan's Lecture, Part ONE

Climate Change Lecture Derby

28 Oct '10: David NC and Tina Holt went to a meeting arranged by Derby Climate Change Coalition, for an excellent lecture on 'Zero Carbon Britain 2030'. Peter Harper, senior researcher at CAT (Centre for Alternative Technologies) is joint authored of a major report on this title, addressing the question of whether Britain can meet its future obligations (Kyoto, Copenhagen etc) by reducing its CO2 emissions, or going even further, to be considered Carbon Zero - by reducing emissions, and balancing the remainder by using renewable energy generation, nationally.
Peter started by reminding us of our obligations to future generations "The Fierce Urgency of Now". If you are lucky enough to have grandchildren, it reminds you starkly of the risks they face in the future. In all other aspects of life, we take precautions when we see a risk, we don't wait until after the house burns down before taking out insurance. The Stern Review of 2006 makes an economic case for taking care to combat climate change now, rather cheaper than waiting until after the disasters have occurred (and when major climate-responsible ones do occur, such as the floods in Pakistan does it affect public opinion in USA and UK? probably not...)
  We are getting close to a point in time... a parting of the ways... that future historians will look back to and say "in that decade, when CO2 levels were ***, that would have been the time to finally face up to the risk, the runaway effect started then". Once the runaway effect occurs, the time scale will be hundreds of human generations, as occurred with previous climate cycles. A Zero Carbon approach will be tackling both Peak oil and Climate Change, interlinked issues, both urgent.
  Different countries are at different stages - the developed world is burning more than the planet can support, but is recognising it has to cut back energy consumption, the middle world is enjoying its new affluence, and the developing world expects to reach a higher standard of living in the future - all 'high standards of living' involve high energy consumption.
  What effect can dear little Britain have? a mere 2% of the population? Well.... with climate change we are not one single country in an air tight box. All countries share the same air, so we must all be concerned, and if we wait for the others, nothing will happen. Some countries (i.e.the UK), the ones who consume MOST should be leading by example and a bit of self sacrifice (some energy abstinence).
  Hence, the Zero Carbon Britain 2030 report presented to the government in 2010. We can identify three main tasks, 1. the Reduction of demand for energy, 2, Improved delivery of Zero carbon energy supply, and 3. Net negative processes to reverse the levels of CO2 such as planting and sequestration.
  The first one, which influences our actions and decisions is TO POWER DOWN! UK buildings and construction are more than half the CO2 emission, we need not just ecohouses, but to retrofit every building in the country, millions of which are insufficiently insulated. We need a shift in our Transport, to use more public transport, travel less, avoid air transport, more trains, more sharing and cycling. We need to rethink the generation of Electricity - much more wind power (on a large scale, enough to overcome intermittency), develop ways of storing energy, e.g. with heatpumps, and we should consider a European Supergrid - for example, solar power delivered by the hot southern countries, hydro from the north and wind power from the coastal countries, and sharing of nuclear if we have to have it.
  Local generation, such as domestic PV is important for stabilising grid and reducing transmission losses.
   For the UK, there is an abundance of Wind in the North sea, and if the country invested as much in that as it did in the oil rigs of the 80s and 90s, there would be a source of energy that could never run out. Electric cars are improving in performance, image and range. Hydrogen - which the US favours - is a great technology, but it has been promised for the last 40 years and still seems to be in a state of infancy, with so little delivered or accepted.
  Agriculture is a major user of energy, but crop production uses vastly less energy and land than meat production. More land could be devoted to Biomass farming if we grew less meat, and crop growing reduces CO2 levels. The overpopulation of grazing animals emit Methane and Nitrous Oxide, both greenhouse gases. We have managed a paradigm change in land use before - in the early 1900s much of our land was still devoted to horses, our previous prime form of transport. We made a major change in 100 years - much of the land devoted to airports, motorways, transport depots, and large scale farming, with the space for horses statistically negligible. Peter brought up the idea of Carbon Farming - a policy of financial incentives for farmers to grow crops not animals.
  One of the problems for the environmental movement, in our efforts to influence government, is that we have conflicting objectives, perhaps because we interpret 'environment' differently. We may all want to stop global warming, but some will also say Nuclear No Thanks, others to Save our Land from Wind Turbines, others No to Trams or No to Tidal barrages. Some propose Carbon Offsetting, but does that work? Some propose Carbon Capture and storage (whatever the cost) but does that work? Could Biofuels enable us to continue our consumptive lifestyle - we think not! Can Lifestyle changes bring down energy consumption? yes, but who is the first to turn off the lights? Can we invest in giant geo-engineering schemes to get heat from below?
  But in the face of the major hazards ahead, we should be prepared to consider Every possible option, have no taboo about discussing them, we have to be prepared to compromise our faith or opinions if necessary to achieve the larger target.

A full copy of the Zero Carbon 2030 book is available free as a PDF on line.

David NC writes: I hope you enjoyed this summary of Peter's talk, now I hope you will enjoy seeing the full copy of the document on line!

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