Monday, November 19, 2007

And as I sign off...

This from the BBC Newsnight 'teaser': 'And we hope an Environment Minister and the director of Greenpeace will go head to head on this story.'

Other than stumbling a bit over 'an' Environment Minister (how many of the sods are there?), that Newsnight still thinks one of their classic twofers - between a stonewalling 'the word of the Gord; and it is good' pol and an activist - will get the majority of the population stuck in the middle any further ahead in understanding where we are and what we need to do that's best for the future, pretty much sums up just how far down the pan the planet really is headed.

Next we'll be getting travel tips from the hugely qualified 'team' (how many, Freedom of Information request-wise, are going?) packing their factor 15 for the Bali joll... er... trip. Doubtless once there they will hook up round the pool with the aforementioned pols(s) and activist directors to figure how best to tell the rest of us what not to do and what will cost us.

New brooms all round, please.

ADDENDUM - Just watched it.

Well good golly; did that go just as I expected, predicted... and feared.

A defensive pol who got the short straw and with non hiding place, in a snit. An equally defensive media supremo on a high horse. And, actually, the guy from Greenpeace... the activist... about the only voice of calm, if not reason.

That said, we were treated to screeds of data. Targets, mainly. Missed ones even more mainly. Unachievable ones to follow, but who cares as they can be fiddled later or it won't matter to the guys who set them, as they'll have retired on the full golden well before it comes home to roost.

Was I any the wiser as a member of public, a parent... a voter... as to who had a grip on this and, more importantly, what was expected of all - government, business, media, public - and how we were going to rally around and resolve what some say is a crisis... or is it not really? We were talking second slot here. With two guys I'd never heard of as guests. In a piece on the UK's efforts to avoid global meltdown. Or not.

About the only concrete things that vaguely sunk in was some waffle about renewables, but again these were just a bunch of figures that meant nothing to me. So we catch up with Germany and end up with x% offshore, solar, tidal and whatnot by 20yy? But what's the ROI? What's the enviROI? We already are seeing vast amounts being poured into green holes by countless departments and quangos staffed by legions of salaried, pensioned paper-pushers, mainly on 'awareness' that seems to have achieved diddly squat. I must now have about a dozen ways to hand to calculate my carbon footprint, when they could have simply handed the money blown on all this to me to stick more loft insulation up to actually reduce it by a huge domestic %. Or sort out the trains. And I'm sorry, from woefully mis-informed plastic bagwagons to well-lobbied offshore projects, I simply do not trust any of this current sorry cabal of interest groups to tell me what's best for my kids, much less actually bite the bullet and get down and dirty to actually do it. Especially if there's the slightest chance that a well-feathered political nest, career or bottom line can get supported first, first-class from Valencia to Bali via Westminster. Offset of course. Just because these things LOOK green and we're told they are doesn't actually make them any better at reducing CO2, especially in the timeframes I'm hearing. Heck, some may meet a target, boost a rating, score a contribution or fund a conference pass... yet make things worse, climatically.

We are TOLD on Friday that the world is facing a climatic disaster. By Saturday few in the media have much to say about it; fewer still on Sunday. Tonight this is the best we can do, after a bit of a hoo-haa over a bank. That's what gets the ratings, so that's where the media will go. The Minister will go with the votes, and they go where the economy goes, so until he can bail it's just a matter of getting away for as long as possible with 'we need all this stuff because of the economic demands of the electorate' while saying lots 'will/may/could/ be done'. So after 1o years of 'looking at', we'll need to settle of a load more navel gazing until... er... the next load.

I respect the sincerity of activist groups such as Greenpeace, but it really is also way too easy to sit and snipe from a comfy, well-funded 'anti'-position, and ignore other, equally basic realities. Such as growing populations and increased demands on a finite planet to support ever more aspirational, competitive individuals upon it. Addressing these does not play well with the core support, and hence only selected parts of the narrative , the easy ones that play well in Islington, seem to get highlighted. But I certainly endorse spiking the pathetic official charade I heard: claiming carbon capture commitments whilst obviously having no such intention as evidenced by certain projects already committed to. Again, I repeat, after 10 years to get sorted, much less underway. What have they been doing the last decade?

No, it's not that simple. But if it is serious (and I have to believe it is), then for all the rest of us to take it seriously we need those who claim to be taking a lead to show it's serious. And some imagination. Sorry... to date, no one and nothing that's been trotted out so far seems to have floated many folks' boats very successfully, even pretty PR picture ones like the WWF effort opening the piece. So even the current crop of more incentive-based, proactive, well-directed, cost-effective and positive efforts (such as they are) are not getting through. At all. It's all fluff and bluster and scare and guilt and levy and fine. And no result.

What a shambolic performance. By the whole sorry lot. My poor kids.

We need doers; not talkers. And quick.

I have just written to BBC Breakfast news:

The day after Mr. Brown's climate speech, in which there are but a few lines on air travel, and we get... plastic bags.

If we are to get serious on this issue, I'd like to see our national broadcaster get its priorities straight.

What is the actual contribution/impact of this plastic product vs. almost any other?

And I am not even convinced that the ban calls, at least in the current from, are much more than misguided, headlines-friendly knee-jerks.

Is the Irish experience a total success as claimed? Are biodegradables the solution as advised, at least in the blanket manner portrayed?

I am not so sure.

And the thoughts of a grocery magazine editor and a 'NetMummy' (the choice of sofa twofer) hardly the considered, expert, objective views I feel like relying upon to help me decide.

Back to Newsnight:

We need less trivial TV, and a lot more like the fish stocks 'waste' topic that is both substantive and worth addressing, especially during yet another 'awareness' (are you? It's called Love Food. Hate Waste. Full colour ads in the Sunday supps) campaign exhorting the consumer not to waste food.

All I can retain is a 'me-not-EUcrat' smiling benignly and saying 'the principle is clear, but the problem is the detail'. The Devil is laughing that it is the latter that now dominates thinking. We can no longer see the deforestation for the bio-crops.

BBC - Brown tackles the home front - an interesting, er...
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Key opening line: 'A smiling Gordon Brown set out his environmental vision in London
Gordon Brown might have made it into a list of the world's sexiest men earlier this year...'

'He did the big picture stuff on UN climate negotiations and global projections for fossil fuel burning.' Did he.. really?

'But he homed in on the small ...' and, some would (well, I would) say are plain distractions from the bigger picture... and failings at top level. Abetted by such as this tripe.

'Advisors will dispense wisdom on saving energy and water, microgeneration, and green travel.' More bloody paid. pensioned talkers, taking money from DOING!!!!

If Green Homes is able to stimulate take-up of microgeneration technologies such as domestic wind turbines, ground source heat pumps and biomass co-generation units, it could put take Britain somewhere towards the third EU target, on renewable energy.' Read that though and wonder.

'The costs and the dearth of suppliers mean the take-up of these technologies is unlikely to be huge.' Is that the reason?

'So meeting the renewable energy target is still going to mean construction on a vast scale of wind and tidal turbines, solar arrays, biomass burners and so on.' How about reducing CO2... the enviROI.

Mr Brown did not neglect these areas.

...Mr Brown is aiming for...

The Severn Barrage is up for serious discussion, and planning reforms should make for easier and faster passage of all feasible renewable proposals.

... government policy would be "examined for its impact on carbon emissions"

'The prime minister's speech has generally been well received by the environment and development organisations....' these being?

'Mr Brown's speech has now pushed their plain sibling to the front of the stage, and we shall see if five million small green shoots can together make a rainbow-bright future.' I guessing this guys a shoo-in for the front of the plane to Bali with the minister!


A cross between Nixon & Mr. Bean

We don't often feature non-enviro posts on Junkk, but I'm allowing myself a slight diversion into the world of pure (sic) politics.

That post title is the excoriating description of our PM, Ol' Golden, by the Daily Express.

"Only five months into his Premiership Brown shows all the signs of becoming a unique creation: the gruff, unbalanced mediocrity of 'Tricky Dicky' Nixon mixed with the comic absurdity of Mr Bean. No wonder so many Britons seem desperate to leave the country."

I have to confess that I hadn't realised that his ratings had fallen as far in the polls as they suggest. Though to be fair, Ol' Golden's been that quiet of late, I'd almost forgotten he was our PM.

Oh, just for fun, here's the Daily Mail's take on our "constipated" and "dysfunctional" government.

Another way to get rid of CO2?

On top of all the weird and wonderful mechanisms already proposed, here's the next idea from Science Daily, slurping. This method suggests getting the oceans to slurp up the excess CO2 by removing Hydrochloric acid from sea-water by electrolysis; thereby increasing its alkalinity, which means it can absorb more CO2. They reckon 700 special treatment plants worldwide could offset all CO2 emissions.

It sounds sort of feasible, but surely reducing our emissions, whilst at least trying to halt our population growth, would be more straightforward? We need to tackle the cause, not the consequences.

The problem: as clear as night

As I watch the BBC 'environmental' 'correspondent' faithfully relate Mr. Brown's pearls of wisdom (apparently, he's going to make it easier to ban plastic bags as a point worthy of note!!), check this.

I just got it from a very dear, and talented, relative the other side of the world, who gives credibility to 'senior surfer' in all its accolades. She finds awesome stuff and sends it on!

It's from a PowerPoint of views from a space mission. Let me know if you'd like me to send it on. My only caveat is the provenance is unverified, so it's unclear whether anything has been 'enhanced'. I'd say it looks about right, though.

Or... maybe I can post it here??? IT-vestigator hat on.

"Hubris clobbered by nemesis"

A fascinating piece on Science Fiction and climate change from Brian Aldiss in today's Guardian.
He argues that our planet's dire state "makes the imaginative leaps of dystopian SF writers redundant".

A world dying

That's the first part of a headline to an article in the Independent yesterday about how the warming planet threatens a huge number of the earth's species with extinction. Can we unite to save it? ..... That's the rest of the header. A good question to which I don't know the answer, but given the general lack of interest that the media has shown in the IPCC's latest outputs which is telling us to act now or else, I guess it will go unanswered anyway.

Now one of the supposed guaranteed methods of saving the earth from an untimely end is carbon sequestration, whereby CO2 is captured and pumped down into the earth in vast quantities. I'd always assumed that this was a safe and secure mechanism, but having read this from the Environment News Service, I'm not quite so sure now.

And to cap it all, we have Ol' Golden yet again being highly visible at talking the talk, but doing sweet Fanny Adams, as reported by Capital Radio. He seems excellent at big announcements and useless on action. "we must show leadership and take the first and largest responsibility". OK, if you are listening Gordon, if you really mean that, you could start by taking some of the £29.3 billion you have already pilfered in green taxes and using it to provide better insulation in the millions of UK houses that are inadequately covered at the moment - that could be a massive saving in CO2 emissions for a minor capital outlay. And while you're at that you could also stop providing real disincentives for renewables.

Fat chance!

Blogpost extension:
Hey! Perhaps Ol' Golden WAS listening -
"the Prime Minister added that all houses would have to be zero-carbon by 2016, and that the Government would also give five million more homes discounted or free loft or cavity wall insulation". As reported in TimesOnline this very afternoon!

ADDENDUM (by Junkk Male, with a few highlights)

BBC - Brown to outline climate targets

High targets have been set for Britain's cut in emissions

Gordon Brown is due to give his first major speech on the environment, raising the prospect of tougher domestic targets on carbon emissions.
He will say action on climate change is urgent, but that new green industries could create thousands of jobs.

The prime minister is also expected to say that developed countries must lead the way in cutting carbon emissions.

Planned legislation sets a tough target of cutting Britain's emissions by 60% by 2050.

But Mr Brown believes there may be a case for going even further and may commit to what could be as much as a doubling of the targets to produce renewable energy by 2020.

It is understood he has been persuaded by the Department of the Environment's arguments that Britain must meet European obligations on wind, wave and solar power.

Mr Brown's spokesman said: "The prime minister is setting out his views on major issues in a comprehensive way."

BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said the prime minister would echo recent remarks that climate change is real and urgent.

Climate change will be discussed at a forthcoming summit of Commonwealth leaders, just ahead of a UN meeting in Indonesia where a new global deal on emissions will be considered.

Inspiring stuff, no?

No. As you've so rightly highlighted, it's all talk, might, could, expected to, considered, and yet more bloody targets! (Dave)

ADDENDUM 2 - Japan eyes demographic time bomb

ADDENDUM 3 (Dave) - And may we introduce yet another government sponsored quango, this time under the wing of the Energy Savings Trust. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you .... drum roll ....... the
Green Homes Service. Ta da! Nice little budget though.

Responsibiity 'du jour'

See that first picture? That was on a Range Rover ad a wee while ago. Actually, in the Sunday Times when they were doing a 'special' on climate change. I think I may even have commented upon it (can't seem to find it via my tags).

See the second? Same vehicle. Same paper. And, actually, run twice, in two sections. And this on the weekend after that IPCC report.

Thing is, try as I might, I can't for the life of me find that same responsibility claim. There's one about driving responsibility off road. Nothing about 'going', Co2 wise.

Now it surely can't be that the offset was just for the edition in question, so why would they not run it in all subsequent ads I wonder?

It's November; it's extraordinary'

So say the blonde and the bouffant on BBC breakfast this am, about the fact that there was snow last night. I merely ask...'is it?'. If so that is worthy of note in the MWCC issue. If not, it sets up the BBC for a fall.

Because the segue for this piece was Declan and the 'low carbon family' now car sharing. Seems that, having for no good reason taken two cars to drive side by side daily, they now have realised they can go in one.

I was moved to write:

'Car sharing is... can be a great thing in carbon mitigation.

However, I have just watched you and the 'family' agree that busses are none too effective, even when prevalent, at 'fitting in' with the family schedule.

How many people, even within the same family, can leave or, much more pertinently, ensure they return at the same period within the same location and/or timing?

I think you portray an idealistic scenario in this piece.

Perhaps some thought needs to be given to coordinating better such sharing (Midlands Today has just announced dedicated lanes for sharers, so there are incentives) ways to DO this by way of public service campaigning/information.'

I am now, of course, inspired to list these as our national broadcaster is not that worried about such things, though I bet their excellent online site is littered with advice... point at them guys! We need information, not propaganda (though the cause of bus travel took a knock).

And I'll also raise the small notion I have created that needs some help (time and money) to get off the ground. It will not address daily commutes (though it can in complement to others), but it will be a big step on 'one-offs').