Posts Tagged ‘carbon cult’

Indoor work relief for the middle classes

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

RolwandsonSelectVestry

John Stuart Mill described the British Empire as “outdoor relief for the middle classes”. The phrase “indoor relief”, at the time, referred to the state-sponsored workhouse programme, which invented jobs for the poor to prevent them being idle. Mill was implying that the Empire was a gigantic job creation scheme.

But in the 21st century the British Empire appears to be resurrecting itself in a very strange and interesting new way. In response to a FOIA request from Leo Hickman, the Guardian’s ethical bloke, we learn of all the donations made for the purpose of climate energy projects by the Foreign Office (FCO).

And it’s fascinating reading.

(more…)

Peak Oil: RIP

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

The idea that seized the imaginations of the bien pensant chattering classes in the Noughties – “Peak Oil” – is no longer relevant. So says the commodities team at Citigroup, and policy-makers would be wise to examine the trends they’ve identified.

“Peak Oil” is the point at which the production of conventional crude oil begins an irreversible decline. The effect of this, some say, is that scarcity-induced prices rises would require huge changes in modern industrial societies. For some, Peak Oil was the call of Mother Earth herself, requiring a return to pre-industrial lifestyles. One example of this response is the “Transition Towns” network, a middle-class phenomenon in commuter belt towns in the UK.

But in a must-read research note [PDF] issued this month (which is also implicitly critical of the industry) this is premature.

Thanks to “unconventional” oil and gas, which can be tapped thanks to technological advances, Peak Oil is dead.
(more…)

Malcolm Gladwell, tipping points and Climategate: How a marketing buzzword changed the world

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell had a powerful impact on the way climate change was marketed to the public, without even knowing it. Gladwell’s marketing book, published in 2000, embedded the phrase “tipping point” into the public’s imagination, and this in turn was used to raise the urgency of climate change.

It seems ridiculous today, with climate sensitivity models being tuned downwards, natural variability recognised as increasingly important, and climate institutions talking about a period of long-term cooling. Much of the urgency went out of the window after countries failed to agree on a successor to the Kyoto agreement at Copenhagen in 2009, and the costs and taxes of “low carbon” strategies are political poison.

But back in the mid-noughties, it was very different. The idea that the climate was reaching a “tipping point”, and that global temperature would runaway uncontrollably, was rife. It created a sense of urgency that helped pass legislation such as the UK’s Climate Change Act in 2008.

This story emerges from the FOIA2011 archive – the so-called Climategate 2.0 emails released last week. Although it hasn’t had the immediate and dramatic impact of the first leak two years ago, the breadth of social networks uncovered in these emails will keep historians busy for years – and whets the appetite for the 95 per cent of UEA emails still under wraps.

How ideas divide science and us

The idea of climatic tipping points is fascinating for several reasons.


The question of whether ecosystems are inherently stable – or unstable – preoccupied biologists for much of the last century – and was the subject of Adam Curtis’s film The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts, in a BBC series for which I was assistant producer, and which Curtis summarised here. Fashions change, and so do myths. Arthur Tansley, who invented the word “ecosystem”, believed in “the great universal law of equilibrium”, and this was pursued for decades. Today, the idea that ecosystems are delicate and unstable instead dominates.
(more…)

Doug Keenan on Open Data

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Doug Keenan, the statistician whose work highlighted severe flaws in the work of the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia, has welcomed the Sunshine order to open up the station records.

Scientists need the raw data to replicate temperature records, but CRU refused to release the data requested – a subset of weather station records from around the world – to a top UK Oxford physicist, despite having already shared the data with Georgia Tech in the United States.

The ICO comprehensively demolished the reasons CRU offered – including intellectual property and fear of jeopardising international relations. In doing so, it’s raised the standard for academics working across all UK sciences.
(more…)

Shale ignorance

Monday, January 17th, 2011
Is it time to decouple “Climate Change” from the Department of Energy and Climate Change? If it was the plain old “Department of Energy” again, it might spend more time researching new fuel sources.

Is it time to decouple “Climate Change” from the Department of Energy and Climate Change? If it was the plain old “Department of Energy” again, it might spend more time researching new fuel sources. Two peers last week took aim at the department because its latest energy blueprints are ignoring the potential impact of shale gas.

The government is “re-consulting” (in its own words) on national energy blueprints, also known as the Revised Draft National Policy Statements, up to 2050. But one of the Lords expressed surprise during the gathering that the latest didn’t mention shale at all.

“There is the possibility that potentially abundant supplies of unconventional gas will result in considerably lower gas prices,” said Lord Reay, continuing:

“The Government apparently cannot find space in several hundred pages of their energy national policy statements to acknowledge the existence of this potentially game-changing development. Gas is now cheap, the price having decoupled from the oil price, and it is going to be accessible in many countries worldwide, not least in Europe. “It emits 50 per cent to 70 per cent less carbon than coal, with the result that when the previous ‘dash for gas’ took place in the 1990s and gas to some extent took over from coal, our power station carbon emissions fell overall by some 30 per cent.”
(more…)

Why recycling is rubbish

Friday, January 14th, 2011

In a utopian report, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) says the UK needs £20bn additional spending on recycling infrastructure over the next decade. The recommendation is made in a report today that proposes “unlocking value locked up in the UK’s current waste” – which sounds great – but the report fails to tell us whether the value unlocked will exceed £20bn. Alas, no attempt at all is made to quantity the costs and benefits of the recommendations – which are grand indeed.

Localism met gesture politics, and authorities rushed through mandatory recycling targets, even though these offered only “short-term benefits to a few groups – politicians, public relations consultants, environmental organisations, waste-handling corporations” and imposed a serious opportunity cost, “diverting money from genuine social and environmental problems”.

No new public money is likely for waste infrastructure once the current PFI-funded projects are complete, which worries the engineering trade group. It has expressed concerns that current technologies are immature and unreliable, which can only deter investors. But, in a splendid bit of utopian speculation, the State of the Nation report proposes that by 2050, “the circular economy is a reality and the waste industry has fully converted into a materials supply sector”.

This is a lofty ambition: only 9 per cent of British waste comes from households to begin with. And, the ICE notes ominously, China may stop taking our recycling as it advances economically. The engineers also advocate new tiers of administration to co-ordinate waste management.
(more…)

Personalised power cuts and pricey meat: Grey Britain in 2030

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

One of the few surviving cows gives its opinion of the Climate Change Act

It’s full steam ahead for a low carbon Britain, the UK Committee on Climate Change says in its fourth report [1], published today.

The CCC is the Government’s primary advisory panel on cutting CO2 and was established in the 2008 Climate Change Act. But there will be a price to pay for this utopia.

The CCC recommends a carbon tax on food, leading to higher beef and sheep prices – and “rebalancing diets” away from red meat. Meanwhile, household access to electricity will be restricted – thanks to smart grids – or taken away completely, with electricity rationed via a completely automated supply. You’ll do the laundry when you’re told to, not when you want to.
(more…)

Music biz vows to end CD scandal

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Influential music groups in the UK have urged the record industry to end one of its most shocking scandals. You might think you’ve heard everything – but this silent disgrace has been unreported until now. Sensitive readers may wish to stop reading at this point.

Each year UK record labels send out 25,000 promo CDs. In new research released today it is estimated that the manufacturing, packaging and transportation of these deadly items creates 1,686 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s 10 times as much CO2 as is generated by distributing the music electronically. But only a quarter of promo music is distributed electronically, today, and music groups the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Association for Independent Music (AIM) have called for that proportion to be increased – for all our sakes.
(more…)

Global warming ‘brings peace and happiness’ – study

Friday, July 16th, 2010
Sometimes nothing annoys people so much as the idea that a problem may be fixable – Andrew.

A study correlating economic and political changes in China’s Middle Kingdom has found that warmer climate benefited society. By contrast, a fall of temperature of 2C was correlated with conflict and famine.

“The collapses of the agricultural dynasties of the Han (25-220), Tang (618-907), Northern Song (960-1125), Southern Song (1127-1279) and Ming (1368-1644) are closely associated with low temperature or the rapid decline in temperature,” say the academics led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

Historical studies are problematic in two ways, and you have to be careful not to fall into one of two obvious elephant traps. One is that politics very much determines whether a society gets out of a pickle or goes into a decline. So deterministic views such as Jared Diamond’s in Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse tend to underestimate this capacity for change.

The other (not entirely unrelated) trap is that we’re no longer at the mercy of nature, and thanks to technology have tamed it to a significant degree. We don’t have a “peak wood” or a “peak whaleblubber” crisis today. Even the IPCC grudgingly admits as much. “The marginal increase in the number of people at risk from hunger due to climate change must be viewed within the overall large reductions due to socio-economic development.”

Well, obviously. Although slight increases in temperature (and CO2) result in higher productivity, wealth remains a much bigger factor. It’s poverty that makes people miserable, not the climate. And lifting a couple of billion people from messing about in the mud, and into a modern, largely urban, technological society effectively removes them from the risks our great-great-grandparents used to worry about.

The idea that tiny changes in climate (either way) cause catastrophic effects, against which we’re powerless, is really the last in a line of medieval superstitions.
(more…)

Utopians, then and now

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

 A hundred years ago, the socialist utopians had a vision of what they called “a world without want”. The Zero Carbon Trust published its vision of Britain in 2030 earlier this month, and it’s one where people’s “wants” will substantially increase. Particularly anyone wanting, say, a lamb chop with rosemary and garlic, or a Shepherd’s Pie.

 

The Trust wants British livestock be reduced to 20 per cent of current levels, and since shipping in frozen meat is carbon intensive, and verboten, you’ll have to do without. Or be a Lord to afford one.

 

This one example is just one of the random miseries to be inflicted on the population as part of the Trust’s proposed “New Energy Policy”, a collection of ideas assembled with the scattergun enthusiasm of the Taliban.

 

Let me give you another example of how what was once an idealistic progressive impulse can turned into what we might justifiably call an “austerity jihad”. After 1917, Trotsky had grand plans for mass transit – this would no longer be the preserve of an elite. The proletariat would travel far and wide, at low cost, and in great comfort. Not only that, but he envisaged room in Soviet train carriages for a string quartet. And a lectern. Travel would broaden the mind, Trotsky believed, in so many ways.

 

But back to the Zero Carbon Britain of 2030, we see that all domestic air travel will be banned, and all travel they deem unnecessary will also be impossible. This is not a group that thinks of Maglev Trains, speeding between London and Glasgow at over 300mph are a good idea. Mobility will pretty much return to C17 standards, where you had to hitch a lift from a passing horse.

(more…)