Friday, November 09, 2007

It's Friday. It's 5 o'clock. And he's gone crackers, Jack!

Had to happen. I agree with the media: Eat, drink and be merry – you can ignore this unhealthy obsession with obesity

Dear Mr. Lawson,

I agree with all you say... with one small, wafer thin revision to suggest:

It is the uncritical reporting of scare stories as fact which does little service to almost anything that gets covered these days, I fear.

Yours sincerely,

First leak of the final IPPC report

This comes from and makes for very depressing reading. Essentially, the message is prepare to adapt to a hotter climate because it is too late to stop accelerating global warming.

"Many impacts can be avoided, reduced or delayed by mitigation, but adaptation is also necessary."

And the report misses some key new evidence, which came to late for inclusion.

"The report is said to understate the danger since alarming new evidence missed the deadline for inclusion. It does not, for example, include data showing global emissions are now climbing faster than ever as China and India power their economic booms with fossil fuels. And there is no mention of this summer's Arctic ice retreat, described as 'astounding' by scientists and government officials who fear the Arctic may be hitting a 'tipping point.'"

Coming on a day when most of the east and south east of England has just about survived a combined tidal and storm surge by a matter of centimetres, all I can say is, have a happy weekend.

Of course, there are always some who cannot accept that what scientists say is correct, as exemplified in this from Fox News. Note his figures are based on 54 survey responses out of 345 IPCC scientists. (There were 2500+ overall involved.) Note the last two questions. As I've said before, ask the right question and you can get the answer you want.

Booking the Cooks

Sorry, couldn't resist that headline - Household brands accused of "cooking the climate" as British government prepares for climate summit

This is what Greenpeace does well, but they do of course have a pretty strict agenda so read it all with eyebrow ready. That said, some uncomfortable reading in the CSR departments and boardrooms of some major brands.

Gaurdian - Does it pay to get into bed with business?

Power is only positive if well directed.

I just got around to reading this: Climate change: we have the power

Not a bad summary of where we are, with a refreshing look at where we could be, by design as much as accident. However, as I found myself muttering away, I thought I'd share some of these mutterings here, along with a few key quotes that provoked them.

In October 2007, I can now reveal the net outcome of all this science. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. CO2 emissions, now approaching 30 billion tonnes a year, have continued to rise inexorably. Good start, eh?

Green Europe is actually doing worse than the sceptical United States. European emissions continue to rise while, last year, American emissions fell by 1.6%. News, and unwelcome, but not perhaps surprising, for an entity that seems totally dominated by appearance of action over action itself.

How we [address] this is the issue. Technologically it’s a problem. Politically it’s a nightmare, requiring unprecedented levels of global co-operation from a species whose second and third favourite pastimes are tribalism and war. Now, whodaathunk?

“We are kind of poised, says Rapley, “to see if technology really is the cavalry coming over the horizon or not.” The good news is that we can definitely hear hoof beats and a bugle. Not from what I saw crest the hill, I fear, at least in this piece.

First, air-scrubbing. I'm sorry, I just can't see any merit with messing with nature on an industrial scale as a solution to the mess we might have made of nature by messing with it on an industrial scale. So almost all these 'solutions' seem scary at best.

So then we come to capture/sinks: The big advantage is that, once installed, this system consumes no energy. Ignoring the vast commitment of resources under that 'once installed', so many of these proposals seem to ignore operation, maintenance and disposal. These things are almost all in hostile environments. I love the idea of 'free energy' by harnessing the elements, but nature can bend a girder or smash a concrete block in a heartbeat. Are these things credible in any sensible enviROI+ terms?

The problem, as Sir Nicholas Stern said in the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, is that climate change is the result of the greatest market failure in history: the abject failure to put a price on growth. Yes. But look at the rhetoric of every pol, business 'leader' or media editorial: it's all about growth. And how you divorce any growth from the greatest driver of all, population, lord alone knows.

Carbon trading schemes – whereby we buy and sell carbon credits that allow us to emit – look like a solution, but their record so far has been abysmal. No, they are not that good. To see why, look at who is running them.

“We have met the enemy,” says Jesse Ausubel, director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University in New York, “and he is us. He’s not the Saudi oil minister or George Bush. He is us.” Fair quote. Not exactly a motivator, or very specific, but worth bearing in mind.

Painting everything white might also be a good idea. 'Might' I don't like. Is it? Surely we know by now. I blogged on the impact of bright yellow rape fields vs. darker hued crops an age ago. How does their reflective area compare to a ribbon of tarmac?

...and though fully electric cars are on the way, it is not yet clear whether they will be good enough and cheap enough to lure consumers away from petrol. Or, for that matter, how their energy supply produces any less Co2.

...there are hundreds of schemes for offsetting your carbon when you fly, but less than 1% of passengers use them. A ratio worthy of Gov/Quango overlapping awareness schemes. Why do they even exist, let alone fund the majority of venal/misguided parasites who run them?

And nuclear plants, once built, are more or less emission-free. There are also ZEPPs – zero-emission power plants that use new ways of handling coal and oil. Again, we know how to do this. We just have to find the will. Hmn.

All these divisions point to a fundamental problem for the green movement that has dogged all its campaigning and drained its political credibility. They squabble among themselves, and, beneath the surface, it’s always about the same thing: what are we trying to achieve? Quite. But they don't half consume a lot of time and generate a lot of hot air in doing so.

'There are three things nobody need argue about. First, global warning is a reality; secondly, it is largely caused by humans; thirdly, we know how to slow or reverse it.' For me it is yes, probably/silly not to assume it and... do we, really? That last seems to contradict a lot else written in this piece. The problem seems to be all the factions who think they know better and are still fighting for a piece of a stale pie. It's an almost intractable problem, because who (myself included) can resist an opinion? And, more importantly, if a vast 'fix' is to be committed to, the whole population needs to be sure it will, in fact, work. Few things I've learned of, save many reduction-based notions, have such certainty.

I will use this blog to share, discuss, critique and debate, but I will use and ideas such as RE:tie to try and chip away with solutions I truly believe will help do something tangible.

Telling you where to go

I am thinking of reviving a debate I once had with myself into a Prof's Poser, on the subject of Sat Nav's.

Are they enviROI+ or negative?

When it comes to toys I am your man. But we don't have one. I am fine with maps. But 'er indoors is not, and no gender commentary intended. And last weekend I had a call from her in London having circled fruitlessly for an age trying to locate her destination. Would this electronic box have saved her frustration... and a load of emissions as well? At least enough to offset its creation shipping, use and disposal? I'm erring on yes.

However, having watched today's Breakfast TV one could have doubts. Seems they are the instrument of the devil, sending container lorries through small villages and dropping coaches in the river.

Thing is, while these make for powerful, negative images, I can only wonder if the right things are being addressed here.

I am afraid I would have to ask serious questions of a coach driver who can get into the middle of a field at the behest of a 2" square screen vs. the evidence of his own eyes. And taking the example of our own fair town, there are big signs at each end to advise that large vehicles are not suitable. Mind you, they have the stupid disclaimer 'except for access', so basically a tank transporter could decide it needs to come through, and hence it is all ignorable and equally unenforceable.

Made for a silly story though. And a blog post. Which is about all. Oh, and another metaphor for trivial TV and the triumph of everything over common sense.

Muddying the global warming waters

Now as the debate/argument/bun-fight continues to rage over whether or not global warming is man made, man worsened or an entirely natural occurrence, aficionados from both sides have been involved in some very shady dealings. From big oil funding renowned scientists to produce articles ridiculing the consensus science outputs of the IPCC, through to documentaries broadcast as fact when half of the 'facts' had been massaged and even falsified. Plus we have Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth', now also regarded as containing flawed arguments and containing some overt exaggeration. Both sides have been equally responsible for creating supposed 'facts' out of little more than conjecture.

During all this, I have not come across anything quite as stupid and irresponsible as this, as reported by NineMSN, which details how someone created a fake journal (The Journal of Geoclimatic Studies) and a completely false article, which purported to prove that marine bacteria emit 300 times more CO2 than mankind does.

So what happened? Well a British scientist spotted it, and emailed it to 2000 colleagues worldwide, which cascaded it rapidly around the planet's scientific community. Of course it caused raptures of delight within the MMGW skeptic community, as it supposedly provided the absolute evidence that global warming is definitively not man made. Well, it did for a little while, until the very same scientist realised that it was a completely spurious spoof.

Where we are dealing with entrenched viewpoints, especially around an area as important to mankind as global warming, the last thing that is required is the action of some irresponsible idiot(s) creating completely false science in order to muddy the waters even further.

What we all want to know, where possible, are the facts: clear, concise and unexpurgated. We do not want to be told lies, artificially invented 'facts' or even to be presented with massaged evidence. For scientists to blur things around the edges is to some degree understandable, but whoever was behind this is totally irresponsible, stupid and asinine.

The only saving grace is that it was recognised as a spoof before any of the major media picked up on the story.

Addendum: 12/11/07
Finally, an admission from one of the guilty partners in Guardian CIF. I'm sorry, but I find it hard to even side with, let alone agree with, either his motive or his intentions.

Nice job (if not weather) if you can get it

As they do have an agenda all of their own I don't usually pay too much heed to most anti-MWCC blogs, but this one has some interesting links: UN Climate Panel to Discuss Global Warming at Tropical Resort

The main issue here is perception. And I do not perceive this very well.

Bearing in mind I used to use 'some conference in Bali' as a joke for the trend to 'not do as said' and it has come horribly true, there are some serious questions I do share in the mocking.

One accepts, sort of, that conferences have to be held to achieve consensus internationally, but why on earth here? Surely the majority of those relevant to this are located in greater proximity to somewhere less airmiles deficient? Like where the UN is? It's why I accept most things I have to attend are in London and not nearer to Ross. The costs are also something one needs to get one's head around, but again I suspect these will be high anywhere... so long as it's viewed as a great big jolly as much as an attempt to address the issue.

And as for the media... if ANY of the usual suspects are flying a cabal of 'reporters' (especially science/enviro editors who have little appreciation of the complexity of the issues, from publications who care for little other than a headline or punting out an agenda), I will treat them with the contempt they deserve. Unless of course they can manage to report objectively and with some positives and proactivity to balance the rampant irony of them being where they are, doing what they do, when doubtless one big 'idea' will be curtailing the flying for pleasure or business of those whose needs and aspirations are less 'essential' than theirs.

When this effort was planned, was no thought given to how it would play, and the damage this would do to any reasonable efforts being made by delegates?