Category Archives: Climate Change

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Greens Question Government Claims on Fracking

Charlotte at Barton Moss farck-free camp

Charlotte at Barton Moss farck-free camp

Derbyshire Green Party has said that it finds no reason to be reassured by energy Minister Matthew Hancock’s statement that Government has guidelines on fracking that would “protect Britain’s great National Parks and outstanding landscapes”. They also ask why these guidelines will not be applied to all other parts of the country, where most people live. Hancock’s comments came on the day that the Government has announced a new licensing round for gas and oil exploration that covers large areas of the UK including most of the East Midlands.
Charlotte Farrell, the Greens Parliamentary candidate for the High Peak said that by issuing these guidelines the Government was admitting that even the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty were now at risk from fracking. ‘The Government has announced that under what they call ‘extreme circumstances’, even the Peak District could be opened to fracking companies. Who, I would like to know, will judge these ‘circumstances’? I question the independence of Government advice on such matters with the Chairman of Caudrilla, a leading Fracking company, working as a Director of the Cabinet Office, advising ministers.’
The Greens also question whether the regulations that the Government say will control any possible adverse effects of fracking, are really so strong. ‘When this Government came to power in 2010, they boasted that they would have a ‘bonfire of regulations’, Charlotte said. ‘These include the downgrading rules on hazardous waste, on air pollution, on degrading land and on noise, some of the very problems associated with fracking. In addition this Government has slashed the funding and staffing of the bodies that have the responsibility to regulate fracking, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.
‘As if all this wasn’t enough concern, this Government is a supporter of the little heard of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [TTIP] that is being negotiated between the USA and the EU. If this deal goes ahead, the fracking companies will be able to challenge any regulations that they claim affect their profits. Any action to limit the licensed companies activities, even if taken to protect our health, safety or the landscape could lead to very expensive lawsuits against the Government that we, the taxpayer will have to settle. Greens will stand firmly with communities who rightly oppose fracking. The only beneficiaries of this damaging technology will be the already very rich corporations who will sell off any gas they find gas to the highest bidder.’

The Carbon Bubble

In 2010, the Climate Change conference in Cancun adopted an agreement that carbon emissions should be limited so that the rise in global mean temperature should not exceed 2°C. In addition, it was recognised that this rise might need to be reduced to 1•5°C. Although the sceptics didn’t notice, that conference accepted the science of Climate Change. What it didn’t do was to understand the economic implications of restricting temperature rise. It’s not simply calculating the cost, Nicholas Stern did that, it’s around 2% of global GDP and rising. We now have to understand the grip carbon assets have on the global economy and find ways of loosening it.

serious_about_climate_change_splash_860x305If we are to limit temperature rise to 2°C, the Potsdam Institute has calculated that global carbon emissions in the period 2000 to 2050 will need to be limited to 884Gt CO². In the first eleven years of this century, thanks to the inaction of political, economic and business leaders, the world has emitted 321 GtCO², leaving a carbon budget of 565 GtCO² up to 2050. At present, despite the global recession, emissions are rising and the 2°C carbon budget will have been ‘spent’ by 2027. After then, we leave the 2° world and enter 3°+. At the last Climate Change conference in Durban in January, there was a behind the scenes acceptance that we will have to adapt to 3°C of warming, and probably more. That is not a comfortable prospect and millions of people will suffer as a consequence.

The reason why global leaders find it so difficult to implement the policies that will limit temperature rise to less than 2°C is not due to scepticism but because the global economic structure is built on unsustainable practices and resources, notably carbon based fuels. Limiting temperature rise to 2°C or less requires a switch to sustainable practice, and a switch away from fossil fuels. We know this, so why isn’t this happening?

A report called Unburnable Carbon, by the Carbon Tracker Initiative showed that the top 200 oil, coal, and gas companies have reserves that will emit 745 GtCO², these reserves represent their market value, and the market naturally assumes that these fuels will be burned. In addition, these companies continue to prospect aggressively, needing to replace reserves that underpin share price. Around 50% of the valuation of a fossil fuel company lies in its declared reserves. When Shell announced a 20% reduction in its reserves its market value fell by £3 billion in a week. Naturally, these companies try to secure new finds as a buffer to maintain their value, profits and dividends. In the oil and gas sector, this now means ‘unconventional’ sources like tar sands and shale gas. To finance these explorations, investors continue to pour money in to the carbon sector, assuming that this investment will yield burnable reserves that will secure a return on their investments.

Exactly how much carbon, and therefore warming potential, private companies have on their books is difficult to estimate because of confidentiality. Further, the private sector accounts for only about one third of global carbon stocks, add in state enterprises and total reserves would yield 2,795 gigatonnes. Steve Waygood of Aviva Investors has estimated that if all proven and probable oil and gas reserves are burned, CO² levels will rise beyond 700ppm, leading to 3.5°C to 5°C of warming. Add in the proven coal stocks and the planet becomes uninhabitable.

The problem lies not with science but with economics, and all the human failings that are associated with it. The world economic system is built on carbon. This is not simply our reliance on carbon fuels to drive economic activity; global assets are built on the value of fossil fuel companies. Between 20% and 30% of the value of the London Stock Exchange is based on fossil fuel. Fund managers invest heavily in fossil fuel companies, seeing them as a safe haven for investment with above average returns in the short term. The funds invested in fossil fuel assets include pensions, life assurance schemes, and personal savings plans. A majority of people in the western world have their future security tied to the fortunes of these carbon rich companies. We are indeed all in this together.

If we are to restrict the rise in average global temperature to less than 2°C, the rate of burning of fossil fuel will have to be restricted. Sequestration technology is not going to be ready in time. To achieve this target, only 20% of known reserves can be burned over the next 40 years, and this might have to be reduced further if feedback loops begin to kick in. That means that 80% of the assets of fossil fuel companies are un-burnable. None of the unproven and unconventional reserves that are now being prospected for at great expense can be burned. There can be no return on the investment in 80% of reserves and in all new prospecting. This is the carbon bubble. Depletion of fossil reserves isn’t the issue, it’s the fact that they can not be used if we are to save the planet from dangerous climate change. The wealth of some of the worlds biggest and most powerful companies, and therefore of stock exchanges, is based on an unusable asset. If these companies had to devalue their reserves by 80% the carbon bubble would burst – remember what happened to Shell with a mere 20% downgrade.

The heavy investment in carbon assets also explains the reluctance of governments to back renewable energy. Renewables coupled with efficiency measures can replace fossil fuels, and without nuclear power. 120px-EnergiaberriztagarriakWith a range of technologies like wave power waiting in the wings, existing technologies can more than cope with efficient demand. But if governments promoted these technologies, the value of carbon rich companies would decline. It isn’t just scepticism that stops the deployment of renewables, or that stops agreements to limit temperature rise, it’s vested interests and their control over the political process. We can suppose that those who profess scepticism, like many MP’s of the ruling Coalition, have heavy investments in carbon rich assets.

Denial of climate change is a smokescreen that hides the real denial that lies at the heart of global economics: the denial of long-term consequences. Economics does not think in the long term, profit today is the mantra, tomorrow is somebody else’s problem. Greens keep focusing on the scientific argument, refining their arguments with ever more facts, trying to convince the so-called sceptics with the sheer weight of the evidence. Apart from the lunatic fringe, most of these sceptics may well accept the science, however, they are not interested in science and statistics, what they are interested in is how they maintain their position of wealth and privilege in a warming world.

There are ways to break out of this carbon strangle hold. To do so we need:

 political action to require long-term accounting.
 investors to take the decision to begin the switch to low carbon assets.
 everyone who can afford it, to accept lower returns in order to secure the only long-term investment that matters: the future health of our planet and all who live on her.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King has responded to the concern expressed by Carbon Tracker and others and is considering whether over exposure to carbon assets represents a risk to market stability. A small step and it remains to be seen whether investors will similarly take note. However, a globalised economy needs international agreement to require climate change to be factored into market valuation. The markets will not do this until it is too late.

10356153_10152396653039522_7330862721074206686_nA strong political lead is required. We can help this process by being informed about the dangers of another asset bubble bursting, by being aware of our own exposure to this danger, and by demanding effective preventative action. We can also work to help the Greens promote a new, low carbon and sustainable economics.

Mike Shipley
First published 17/3/12

A Concerning Trade Deal: TTIP

By Jean Macdonald

Jean Macdonald

Jean Macdonald

I would like to raise an issue which should concern all parties in the European elections.

I have emailed all East Midlands candidates about trade deals which are giving more power to big business at the expense of people and the environment.

War on Want is asking voters to ask candidates to sign a pledge to say that, if elected as an MEP, they will stand up for trade and investment rules that serve people and the environment and take back power from the corporations.

The main concern is with Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) which allow companies to sue governments. The tribunals take place behind closed doors.

According to the United Nations, in 2012, investor-state tribunals decided in favour of the investor in 70% of such disputes, ordering taxpayers to pay billions in compensation.

In the light of climate change, I am particularly concerned about the power that corporations have been given by ISDS to opt out of responsibility for damaging our environment.

For example, Chevron was ordered by an Ecuadorian court to pay $18 billion (US) to clean up contamination in the Amazon rainforest. Chevron is trying to avoid taking responsibility by using ISDS.

A Swedish energy firm is seeking $3.7 billion from Germany because the German government took a democratic decision to phase out nuclear energy and a US company is suing Canada for $250 million (US) after the country imposed a moratorium on fracking because of environmental concerns.

If the UK Government sets up deals with fracking companies, will the taxpayer have to compensate the companies if a future government decides to ban it?

If a future government, in the light of rising sea levels and increased flooding, decides not to go ahead with the proposed nuclear power station in Somerset, will the taxpayer end up having to compensate EDF and the Chinese investors?

The EU’s current negotiations with the US – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – will include ISDS.

At present, the UK Health and Social Care Act 2012 gives companies much greater access to the provision of NHS services.

If a future UK Government decided to change this, the ISDS clause would mean the Government could be at risk of being sued by the powerful US health industry. This would be disastrous for the people of the UK.

If we are to return power to the people and their elected representatives, MEPs must reclaim the power from big business and ensure that trade benefits people and the environment, and not just corporations and shareholders.

First published in the Derby Telegraph

 

Fracking on Trial

serious_about_climate_change_splash_860x305

Speaking after the first day in court, Caroline said:

“We were moved by the support shown for us at Brighton Magistrates Court on Monday and I would like to thank everyone who wrote and tweeted in support. I am pleased that this has put the focus firmly on the dangers around Fracking.

To avoid catastrophic climate change we need a rapid shift to a zero carbon economy, matched with policies to keep the majority of known fossil fuels in the ground. The window for action is closing fast.”

Today, we are calling on the Prime Minister to redirect the billions of UK fossil fuel subsidies into flood relief and adequate flood protection.

Add your voice to Caroline’s and the other protesters by taking action today.  http://my.greenparty.org.uk/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=46629&qid=1556466

If you want to learn more about fracking and how you can help prevent runaway climate change each day we will share more ways you can take action here.  http://my.greenparty.org.uk/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=46638&qid=1556466

Getting the Fracking Facts Right

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACharlotte Farrell in the Hope Valley speaks about her concerns about Fracking.

Open Letter Against Fracking

Subject: Unconventional fossil fuels / Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive & other projects from the European Institutions

kat-gp-1

Kat Boettge – Candidate for the European Elections

The Green Party is the only party opposing Fracking.  As some of you may know the European Commission is to announce non-binding guidance for the shale gas industry this Wednesday 23rd January, 2014. This is very bad news for our campaign against fracking.

In protest over the Commission’s stance and the lack of leadership on this issue from the EU in general, East Midlands Green Party and Derbyshire Green Party have signed an Open Letter along with some 290 civil society groups and NGOs who have outlined their concerns in a joint open letter to the EU institutions.

The letter states that many groups of concerned citizens and environmental organizations are against the development in Europe of unconventional fossil fuels (UFFs) and are concerned about the multiple and unavoidable impacts on the environment, on climate, on people’s health and on a number of fundamental freedoms and human rights.

It goes on to state the main reasons why we oppose this industry; one of which is that the extraction of these hydrocarbons will worsen our GHG footprint and will divert or even jeopardize European energy and climate objectives.

Instead of moving away from fossil fuel energy sources, developing more sources of renewable energy, and improving energy efficiency policies, this industry would lock us into another dirty fossil fuel cycle.  You can find the full version of the letter here.  

You can hear more of our concerns on The Sunday Politics show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esjNP_Acwi4&feature=youtube_gdata

Katharina Boettge – Green Party Candidate for the European Elections

Political Point-scoring won’t solve the energy bill crisis

East Mikat-gp-1dland Green Party candidate in the European Elections, Katarina Boettge has accused both the Coalition and Labour of “political point-scoring” in the energy bill debate to duck the real problems.  She claims that meaningful measures to address the problems of cold homes, fuel poverty, and soaring bills are being sidelined.  As a result she claims that 1.5 million children are being brought up in cold homes and that more people in the UK are struggling to pay their energy bills than any other European country than Estonia.

The Green Party is calling for a major nationwide programme to make all homes energy efficient.  They want this funded through ‘recycled’ carbon taxes, saying that this could bring an estimated nine out of ten homes out of fuel poverty, quadruple carbon savings, and create up to 200,000 jobs across the UK.

Ms Boettge said: “It’s a scandal that the big energy companies are making large profits, which doubled between 2008 and 2010, whilst many people are struggling with high bills and cold homes. 

The Government’s own advisers are saying that the reason that bills have been rising is because of the wholesale price of gas and not because of Green Tariffs.  These, if properly used for home insulation will help households reduce their energy use and therefore their bills.

‘We need a nationwide programme to make all homes super-energy efficient – with full insulation, modern boilers, and renewable energy sources.  These measures could save households up to £500 per year, far more that any of the other Parties are offering with their short term measures.’

 

Nuclear Legacy – When will they ever learn?

ButterflyI have just read a report that the Fukushima leak is much worse than we were led to believe.  The Japan News / October 3, 2013 reported that the former Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizume, said that Japan should abandon nuclear power.    In his speech in Nagoya he said “I’m calling for zero nuclear power … The 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered a nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant, should be taken as an opportunity to build a resource-recycling society without nuclear power”

Since the reactor cores melted down in 2011, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has been struggling to deal with the consequences.   In August this year, the Japanese nuclear energy watchdog raised the incident level from one to three on the international scale after Tepco admitted that around 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank on the site.

According to the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23779561) Dr Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has examined the waterButterflys around Fukushima and is quoted as saying:   “Once it gets into the ground water, like a river flowing to the sea, you can’t really stop a ground water flow”.  

It won’t happen here – You might think that what happened in Japan can’t happen in the UK.  But according to an article in the Guardian, as many as 12 of Britain’s 19 civil nuclear sites are at risk of flooding and coastal erosion because of climate change.  Nine of the sites have been assessed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as being vulnerable now, while others are in danger from rising sea levels and storms in the future.  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/mar/07/uk-nuclear-risk-flooding

The sites include all of the eight proposed for new nuclear power stations around the coast, as well as numerous radioactive waste stores, operating reactors and defunct nuclear facilities.  According to David Crichton, a flood specialist and honorary professor at the hazard research centre at University College London, sea level rise, especially in the south-east of England, will mean some of these sites will be under water within 100 years.

Radioactive waste, especially “high-level waste” is one of the biggest problems the nuclear industry faces.  No man-made container can survive the tens of thousands of years it will take for high-level waste to decay to safe levels.  No country has yet implemented a long-term solution to this problem, although Finland and the US have plans to build repositories deep underground in areas identified for their geological stability. This solution is one of those under consideration in the UK. 

ButterflyThe Government’s proposal to build more nuclear power stations is leaving a dangerous legacy for future generations.  It is inevitable that radioactive waste will leak into ground water at some point over the thousands of years that it will take the radioactivity to decay to safe levels.  And to top it all, the Government also wants to add fracking to its bag of risks!

Green Party policy is against building new nuclear power stations and in favour of investing in sustainable renewable energy.  Some people complain about wind farms and solar panels being a blot on the countryside.  Personally, I would much rather live with a wind or solar farm on my doorstep than an unseen risk of radioactive or polluted water under my house, or even worse, like the residents of Fukushima and Chernobyl, to have to leave my house and all my possessions behind in a radioactive wasteland.  If in 50 years time a better/cheaper way of creating sustainable energy is found then it would be easy to take down the wind pylons and take out the solar panels.  There would be no lasting damage to the countryside.   The same cannot be said for nuclear power plants or fracking sites. There would still be a lasting risk and an ongoing need to contain the unseen for thousands of years.

I was inspired to write the following poem when I read about the mutations in butterflies caused by exposure to radioactive material released into the environment from the Fukushima disaster.

Butterfly’s Wings

Blue butterfly’s mutated wings
Fukushima’s legacy sings
Sea levels rise on Britain’s shores
Posing threats to nuclear cores
Nature’s powers of erosion and flood
Hammer the nuclear ark’s hot crud
 
Sanctum’s sought for a deadly stash
Cathedral for a cryptic cache
Miles of aisles in underground tomb
An epoch-lasting toxic womb
To trap a nuclear god obscene
Behind bare hermetic chancel screen
 
One slight fault in this granite vault
Leeching life-blood is hard to halt
Slowly seeping, creeping unseen
Seeking subterranean streamButterfly
Filtering up through strata’s blue veins
Earth-changing ripple of a butterfly’s wings

© Jean Macdonald

Helen Caldicott, a long standing opponent of Nuclear power, has a very interesting site on this subject:   http://nuclearfreeplanet.org/categories/fukushima.html 

Natalie Bennett’s Address in Derby 24th September 2013

Natalie Bennett DerbySpeaking to a well attended audience in Derby, Natalie Bennett catalogued the inadequacy of the Labour Party’s response to a range of political issues that are affecting people’s lives.  Contrasting the reality of fuel poverty that is becoming a reality for a growing number of people with the huge profits being made by the big energy companies, she condemned Labours proposal for a two year price freeze as inadequate.

‘After two years, then what?’ she asked. ‘The Green Party proposes a national energy conservation programme funded by the Government.  This will lead to permanently reduced energy bills and to lower carbon emissions.  The insulation programme will create sustainable jobs, taking people out of fuel poverty and off benefit.’ 

‘Labour want to see the minimum wage enforced.’ She said.  ‘We know that people cannot hope to manage on a minimum wage, that is why we want to see it raised to a Living Wage, that enables people to meet their necessary weekly costs.  This policy is supported by 70% of people.

‘Labour have no commitment to re-nationalise the railways to ensure that investment goes where it is needed to build a system that meets demand.  This is Green policy and it is supported by 75% of people.

‘Greens support a publicly funded NHS free at the point of delivery.  Labour has made no commitment to reverse the coalition policy of sell-off of the NHS.  ‘‘Labour is backing fracking, ignoring that we must leave half of all known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change.’

Natalie went on to criticise the economic strategy of the three big parties.  There was she said no evidence of fundamental change in economic strategy from any of them.  They were all supporting the creation of a low wage economy that was only possible with the availability of cheap fossil fuels.  This she explained allowed cheap food and goods to be transported to this country, pricing local production out of the market.  ‘This failed economic strategy has left half a million people in this country, the sixth richest in the world, dependent on food banks.’

She reminded the meeting about the causes of the economic crisis.  ‘The bail out of the banks took huge amounts of public money.  Yet the banks were bailed out with no guarantees that they would reform their activities, stop high risk investments and end the bonus culture.  If the economic strategy proposed by the Green Party in 2010 had been implemented, we would now be seeing investment by the banks in sustainable projects that the country needs, creating long term employment to get and keep people in work and off benefit.’

‘We now need to ‘re-localise’ the economy.’  She said that this process had to be accompanied by the restoration of local political power that could rebalance the economy away from London and the south east.  As evidence of this unbalanced economy she told the meeting that there were a million empty homes in the UK yet there was also a housing shortage.  The power of big corporations was concentrating work in the areas that suit themselves having no regard to where people now live.  As a result these economic hot spots drag people in but do not provide the facilities that workers need, hence a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

‘We need thought out regional development strategies that address both economic and social needs, backed with the necessary political power to deliver those strategies.’

‘With rising transport costs and rising wages in the developing world, we are now seeing a ‘re-shoring’ in production, with companies starting to bring production back to the UK.  This offers great opportunities but we must have the economic and political structures in place to ensure that business properly pays its way.’  Natalie explained that with a clear political determination, big business could be made to address and pay for its impact on the environment and society.  ‘Greens on Bristol Council have helped to bring in a supermarket levy that collects 8% of turnover to reflect the damaging consequences of supermarkets.  This money is ploughed back in to local small business.’

Flanked by the five East Midland European candidates, Natalie concluded with a review of  the Green Party’s electoral prospects.  ‘We are now a Parliamentary Party.  This has been very important in lifting our national profile.  Latest opinion polls are placing the Greens on 12% and show a clear growth in support, by contrast the Liberal Democrats are now on 10% with their support fading.  With our level of support we could have six MEPs, including one here in the East Midlands.’  Natalie said that recent events had shown that the public were turning away from the three main parliamentary parties and looking to the smaller parties to express a dissatisfaction with traditional politics.  ‘We know that a growing number of people are coming to support Green policy.  Our challenge is to get people to vote for what they believe in, because what they believe in is increasingly Green Party policy.’

Top Ten Reasons to say NO to Fracking

balcombe-fracking

Photo from Brighton and Hove Green Party website

The Green Party is the only Party standing against Fracking.

John Youatt is a member of Derbyshire Green Party and a retired planner and former minerals officer.  He stood in the Derbyshire County Council elections.  He pledged to fight any proposal to approve fracking for gas, which he believes is against the interests of the people of Derbyshire and of our planet.

John has stated ten good reasons why fracking is not the way forward:

  1. It adds to carbon poisoning of the atmosphere globally in breach of EU and UK commitments
  2. Diverts from investment in renewables and breaches the coalition agreement on renewables
  3. Will leak methane CH4 into the atmosphere 30 times more deadly than CO2
  4. Poisons ground waters with undeclared chemicals
  5. Is economically unproven
  6. Demands water resources we don’t have
  7. Generates lorry movements that have not been quantified
  8. Will if carried through destroy thousands of acres of landscape and wildlife
  9. What public support there is is based on mis-information from media and Government that is too close to the industry
  10. Will reduce house prices around every site proposed by far more than the fudged offer of compensation

GIVE A FIRM “NO” TO FRACKING – Please help by signing the Green Party petition http://my.greenparty.org.uk/civicrm/petition/sign?sid=3

Photo is from Brighton and Hove Green Party www.brightonhovegreens.org/news/

True Eco Scandal – A Coalition of Wealth is undermining the Green Economy

The right wing press’s animosity towards renewable energy has now extended to the whole idea of the green economy, judging by an article in the Daily Mail.     We might have thought that in true patriotic style they might rejoice at the prospects of energy self sufficiency based on home grown, British owned manufacturing businesses, commercialising the world-leading researches of British Universities.  The fact that they don’t is, we might presume, due to the heavy exposure of the paper’s proprietors to carbon investments that would be under threat if renewables began to undermine the supremacy of fossil fuel.

You can read what they say here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2362762/The-dirty-secret-Britains-power-madness-Polluting-diesel-generators-built-secret-foreign-companies-kick-theres-wind-turbines–insane-true-eco-scandals.html

In its latest broadside against wind energy, the Mail reveals that thousands of ‘dirty diesel’ generators are being deployed ‘in secret’ to back up the grid when ‘the wind fails’.  In order to give this claim credibility the paper over estimates the contribution of wind power to the grid. It states that 10% of electricity is gen120px-Energiaberriztagarriakerated by wind where as the real figure is nearer to 5%.  What they are doing is using ‘wind’ as a euphemism for ‘renewable’, a polysyllabic word deemed incomprehensible to their readership. They also claim that the Government plans to increase this to 25% by 2020.  They may have inside information on the thinking of the Government, but in truth the EU Energy Directive requires the UK to source 15% of its energy from all renewables by 2020.  Note this figure is for energy and not just electricity, it might be the case that the % of renewable electricity is raised to compensate for the current difficulties in supplying renewable fuels.

The Mail reveals this ‘secret network’ of generators as ‘STOR’, the Short Term Operating Reserve. On its far from secret website the National Grid explains why it needs  STOR: At certain times of the day National Grid needs reserve power in the form of either generation or demand reduction to be able to deal with actual demand being greater than forecast demand and plant breakdowns.  That is, demand surges like at half time in the Cup Final, or when there is an alert at a nuclear power station, there is no mention of the wind.

Another reason why many public and private bodies are installing diesel generators is over fears of cyber-security. As the sales blurb for Power Continuity Systems Ltd says, ‘The security of supply can no longer be taken for granted ‘.  This company has been providing energy backup for decades and they are responding to fears over cyber attacks on power utilities rather than the risk of calm days.  The now infamous Stuxnet virus was targeted on a control system made by Siemens that is used to manage pipelines, energy grids and nuclear power stations.  Globally more than 45,000 companies have been affected.  It is not surprising that companies and bodies like the NHS are installing back up power systems to protect valuable hardware, processes, and in some cases lives. There is also concern that the sun is entering a new active phase, big solar storms can knock out electric grids as happened in Canada in 1989.  Installing off-grid backup is prudent.  What we need is a way of doing this that doesn’t use ‘dirty diesel'; solar panels and battery storage for example. 

The variability of wind has been a fall back argument for the anti wind lobby for many years, and in 2009 the National Grid answered this argument in its consultation report Operating the Electricity Transmission Networks in 2020 .  In this report they demonstrated that the grid could be successfully operated with a major contribution from renewable, including wind, without the need for extensive fossil fuel backup.  We presume that the National Grid knows what it is talking about.

In its crusade against wind, the Mail cites a report written for the Global Warming Policy Foundation that says that it would be much cheaper to meet our Carbon Reduction targets using gas generators.  Well now they would wouldn’t they.  This is a climate sceptic organisation operating from a room in the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, headed by a Social Anthropologist and Chaired by Nigel Lawson, Thatcher’s Chancellor in the 1980’s boom and bust days.  Hardly experts on Climatology, this group will be campaigning hard for fracking, and since they don’t accept that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, they won’t see the idiocy of trying to meet our Climate Change obligations by using fossil gas.  Their report claims that using wind to meet this obligation will cost £124Billion by 2020 where as using gas generators will only cost £13 Billion.  The only problem with the calculation of costs is that the figure for gas generation does not include the cost of the gas!  As we humble payers of gas bills know, gas is not cheap, and frack-gas will be expensive because of the high costs of extraction. And no mention of what happens when the gas runs out, doubtless they will turn to nuclear, another option mired in dodgy accounting.

The article then tries to scare its readers off wind with the noise scare, citing a 1989 study from America that it claims has been buried  by the industry.  Buried largely because it has become irrelevant, since it was referring to the old generation of turbines operating in the USA in the 1980’s.  In 1994 the Scottish Office published figures for noise levels for turbines operating in the UK.  This gave the noise level from a wind turbine at 350 metres as 35 to 45 dB[A], equivalent to the ‘noise’ of the rural night-time background, 20-40 dB[A] and that of a quiet bedroom, 35 dB[A].  Since then turbines have become quieter.

Warming to its anti-green rant, the Mail continued in the same article to denounce the Green Economy, claiming that Ministers – by whom they mean the Liberal Democrat component of the Cabinet – have made a £100 Billion mistake in calculating the value of the Green Economy.  The Government claims that this is worth £122 Billion, and the paper claims that this is over inflated to justify handing out hefty subsidies to renewable energy generators in the form of Feed In Tariffs. I don’t quite follow this argument but their source of information to counter the Governments figures is interesting.  They claim to have obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act to show that the true figure is between £16 and £27 Billion.  The needn’t have bothered to use the Act, the information comes from a report from a researcher working for UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom, and it is on the researchers climate sceptic website ClimateResistance. 

UKIP of course take a sceptical view of all things Green and we can’t put too much weight behind their analysis, but some of the points made are valid.  The Government does inflate its figures for the value of the Green Economy by including such activities as landfill and nuclear power. The Government has massaged the figures to give them bragging rightsin International conferences enabling them to claim that the Conservative way of leaving things to the market works and that State intervention is not necessary. We know that the truth is different. Because of under-investment and a lack of leadership from the Government, the UK green economy is seriously under-performing and we are missing a huge opportunity to boost sustainable employment and to create valuable overseas markets for the British low carbon manufacturing sector. 

PrintWe need a Green Economy.  It is the only sustainable economy that can deliver a good lifestyle to everyone while operating within the natural limits of the Earth.  Green economic policies do not focus on growth and wealth but on fairness and well-being for all.  Health is just as important as wealth, personal development as important as business development.  Right wing economics is not interested in fairness or the well-being of the majority.  Its total focus is on growth to make the already rich even richer and therefore more powerful.  Green policies will undermine the supremacy of wealth.  This is why the right wing press will broaden its attack to all aspects of Green policy.

 Mike Shipley

Brussels Biofuels Debate coming to a Head

Steven Roddy blogged on the RSPB website that “The next few months will be crucial as the European Union debates a change to EU biofuels law. We know how to fix this problem in a way that will stop the harm being done to nature and the climate, while still allowing innovative industries to bring new, genuinely beneficial, technologies to the market.”

The Green Party has been saying this all along.  Jean Lambert commented on the Climate and energy package back in 2009: Jean pointing 501234567“The adoption this week of the new climate and energy package has been hailed as ‘historic’ by some, but it remains to be seen how history will judge this week’s vote. … I sincerely believe that if it were not for the very strong presence of Green MEPs in the intense negotiation process the package may have completely derailed and the outcomes would have been much weaker.”

On 10 March 2013, Molly Scott Cato, the Green Party’s top candidate for the south-west in the 2014 European Elections stated  “The decision by MPs to continue to offer subsidies to crops that can be burned in power stations to create electricity is quite irrational and will cause more environmental harm than good.  … The fundamental problem arises because the government is allowing subsidies for industrial scale burning of biofuels, yet setting a low rate for the Feed in Tariff for new domestic and small-scale generators. This encourages the global market in biofuels rather than supporting local community renewables development.  Read more here:   http://southwest.greenparty.org.uk/news.html/2013/03/10/biofuel-subsidies-irrational-top-euro-green/

Why do Greens oppose biofuels?  In order to satisfy the world’s insatiable demand for fuel in the face of declining oil output and rising oil prices, huge areas of land are being turned over to growing fuel crops.  It is simply not possible to meet current demand for fuel oil with biofuels – there isn’t enough land.  Growing fuel crops in the absence of a determined push to reduce fuel use can only lead to biofuels being used as well as oil, leading to greater carbon emissions. 

Biofuels 800px-Greenpeace_biodiesel_demonstrationThe growing demand for biofuels is leading to massive clearances of land including tropical rain forest, as is currently happening in Indonesia, resulting in the choking smogs of Singapore.  These clearances will lead to the total destruction of rainforest unless strong action is taken.  With rising demand and high profits to be earned, we cannot hope for sufficient strong action to protect this vital ecosystem. 

Sugarcane mechanized harvest operationIn addition thousands of small farmers, the mainstay of local food production, are being forced off the land to make way for industrial scale biofuel plantations.  This will lead directly to the collapse of local food markets and therefore yet more hunger.  Diverting land from food to fuel is simply wrong and is leading to rising global food prices.  This leads to big profits for food companies and starvation for millions. 

A final objection to biofuels is that, on the back of the drive for more fuel crops rides a drive to use GM crops.  This is happening in Argentina, where the Government has been persuaded to embrace GM technology and in its drive to get into the biofuel market.  GM crops will become established in global agriculture, contaminating the whole human food chain with completely unknown consequences.  We also suspect that the biggest drive to develop biofuels is coming from the military, who fully understand the consequences of peak oil.

Every year the UK burns enough food crops in our cars to feed 15 million people. Following action from the IF campaign, for the first time ever, land grabs were put on the G8 agenda. Trial partnerships with a small number of developing countries were also agreed, which show progress towards preventing land grabs that leave poor people hungry. Development Minister Justine Greening also spoke for the first time about biofuels affecting food security.

459px-Rape-seed-field

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds say – “Using food for fuel when millions of people are starving is wrong. But it’s not just people who are suffering because of the global demand for biofuels, nature is too.  What you may not realise is that the UK’s landscape is also changing and our green and pleasant land is becoming covered in ever more yellow rape-seed oil.”

How you can help – A key parliamentary committee, the Environment Committee, will be voting on the biofuels issue on Wednesday 10th July.  The RSPB are asking people to email or write to their MEPs about these concerns.  Read more and take action on the RSPB Community website: http://clicks.dbgi.co.uk/DC/ctr.aspx?6C6164=31393033303233&736272=$$EfwYGGq81T08EEE&747970=6874&66=30

Fair is Worth Fighting ForGreen policy does recognise that biofuels can play a limited part in the supply of liquid fuels in a post oil world, but they must be from either certifiable sustainable crops grown close to the point of use, or be from non-recyclable waste. 

People’s Assembly Against Austerity

PA CropThe Tories have unleashed the biggest assault on ordinary people for generations. It needs to be met head-on. The People’s Assembly Against Austerity is a key opportunity to bring together all those who want to stop the cuts and the ­devastation they are bringing to millions of people in the UK, and to launch the next steps in the fightback.

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity was launched with a letter to the Guardian on February 28th 2012.  Two of the initial signatories were Caroline Lucas MP and Natalie Bennett. 

The Green Party had voted at their conference in February to support the event and agreed to send a delegation to the People’s Assembly and to  encourage local parties, regional federations and other GP bodies to also send delegations and to support future local People’s Assemblies.

People’s Assembly Against Austerity – Saturday June 22nd 

GeneralThis gathering is going to be a huge expression of opposition to “austerity” and privatisation involving all the main Trade Unions, local Trades Union Councils, local and national anti-cuts groups, campaign groups focused on NHS, Education, Housing, the People’s Charter, Coalition of Resistance and the Green Party.  Most of the policies that the People’s Assembly are advancing are Green Party policies

Derby People’s Assembly – A new local “networking” group has been formed in Derby made up of individuals and people representing local groups concerned with issues such as Climate Change, Taxation, NHS etc.  Two Green Party Members attended the initial meeting.  The aim of the meeting was twofold: to publicise the national gathering in London on 22nd June and to arrange a follow up event in Derby in the Autumn. 

Transport has been arranged for those who would like to attend the London event.  See our events page for details.  A Facebook page has been established (https://www.facebook.com/groups/143367235856170/?fref=ts ) and a blog and website will also be set up 

The time has come for us, the People, to make our voice heard. We are a democracy.  We must demand that the Government uses the power and money we give it to serve our interests, and not just those of the wealthy vested interests that are controlling politics.  Austerity will never succeed because the economic crisis was not caused by public spending. We must demand that the government we elected adopts policies that address the causes of the financial crisis.  We must demand that they invest in our future to build a sustainable economy.  We must make it clear that if this Government will not listen to us, we will elect one that will.

Nuclear Power is Not the Answer

Cloud_over_Sellafield_(non_radioactive)_-_geograph.org.uk_-_335287I am very concerned about the problem of the storage of nuclear waste.  The government wants to build new nuclear power stations. If their plan succeeds, it will be at the cost of blocking the real solutions to climate change and a reliable future energy supply. It will also result in the continued production of dangerous nuclear waste and an increased risk from terrorism, radioactive accident and nuclear proliferation.

Some environmentalists, faced with the urgent need to combat climate change, have reluctantly decided that nuclear power will have to be part of the energy mix.  However, climate change itself also threatens the safety of nuclear power stations; many reactors are built on coastal sites vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise, including flooding and erosion.

I am pleased that Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet decided on 30th January 2013 that West Cumbria should no longer be considered as a potential location for a deep geological repository. However, the problem of what to do with radioactive waste already in storage will not go away.

One of the fundamental problems of nuclear power is the hazard posed by the radioactive materials it produces. No one can guarantee that this highly radioactive waste won’t leak back into the environment, contaminating water supplies and the food chain.

To me, the government’s plans to allow ten new reactors to be built are shortsighted to say the least.  This would add threefold to the amount of highly radioactive waste we already have to deal with.

The nuclear industry is hugely expensive. The construction and generating costs of nuclear power are greater than most renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Added to these are the costs associated with dismantling nuclear stations and waste disposal.

Green Party policy is that nuclear power should be phased out and we should not consider building new plants.

This quote from Clean Technica sums up my view:  “Essentially, renewable clean energy technologies are a better choice than nuclear in every way. They are cheaper, faster to build, don’t create radioactive waste, aren’t as susceptible to environmental disasters, don’t require the same level of safety measures, and have far more public support. At current rates of growth, renewables are predicted to generate more electricity in the UK than nuclear by 2018, and expected to power 1 in every 10 homes in the UK by 2015.”

This is a much more encouraging picture than we are led to believe by the government.  They want us to believe that we cannot do without nuclear power.  It is ironic that the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has the responsibility for the legacy of decommissioning nuclear reactors, roughly £1billion per reactor (averaged international figures). The expenditure on decommissioning in 2012-13 is £1.5 billion which is 42% of DECC’s budget.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change is, of course, having its budget cut by Chancellor George Osborne, and it, in turn, has cut funding to a range of energy conservation and renewable energy schemes.  This is the legacy of nuclear power; every year from now to eternity, the government of these islands, whether Green, Red, Yellow, Blue, Purple or Pink, will have to find funds to safeguard the legacy of the long-ago nuclear power programmes.  This is why I believe the Green Party’s policy to phase out the use of nuclear energy makes sense.

© Jean Macdonald

Information taken from: 

Green Party Policy         http://greenparty.org.uk/policies.html

Greenpeace                   http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/nuclear/problems

Clean Technica                  http://cleantechnica.com/2013/02/14/new-nuclear-power-in-the-uk-looking-increasingly-unlikely/#GXJY9Zi7HREGT86c.99

 

 

Wind Farms – Adam Smith gets wind wrong, say Greens

Fornybar_energiA concerted campaign against wind energy is being conducted in some sections of the press, orchestrated by those with links to fossil fuel interests. It should be of concern to all consumers of energy. The claims made against wind energy are typically distorted or plain wrong. However as a result, potential investors are put off the UK because of what they perceive as a hostile public coupled with a lack of Government support.

The public at large are not hostile, as evidenced by polls.

An example of this campaign has just appeared in the form of a report published here by the right wing Adam Smith Institute and written by the oil financed Reason Foundation in America. This report, “The Limits of Wind Power”, tries to warn off investment in wind as a poor option. It claims that the practical upper limit for wind generation is 10% of electricity supply. Yet Germany, Europe’s most successful industrial economy, already generates 15% of its electricity from wind and is aiming for 20% by 2020.

The report says that supporters of wind claim that wind can power the entire grid. No such claim has ever been made – except by the anti-wind lobby, so that they can knock it down.

Their argument that the wind doesn’t always blow only stands up within a limited geographic area. Across the UK the wind almost always blows somewhere. If proper investment was put into a European wide grid, then wind-generated electricity would continually feed in.

The report also says that storage is an ‘expensive problem’.  It isn’t, it’s an issue. CEGB invested heavily in pumped power storage – originally for nuclear back up! (Dinorwig, N. Wales, now a commercial unit).  The impressive “Pumped Storage” system at Dinorwig and a smaller one at Ffestiniog  are still working well; see their website:  http://www.fhc.co.uk/index.asp  There are many possible solutions for storage, including millions of vehicle batteries when we go electric; pumped air; hydrogen from water; and night storage heaters.

Supporters of renewables do not want any one technology to dominate supply. They want to minimise the risk of interruptions of supply due to technical failure in one system, or some disruption to a fuel supply – as we have witnessed in recent history with both coal and oil.

If the vast waste of money on nuclear power, which is swallowing up billions of pounds in waste treatment and disposal, had been invested in renewable energy systems, Britain would now be a world leader in this much sought after technology. It is essential that the Government resists the lobbying of the fossil fuel and nuclear vested interests and puts its full support behind renewables that can deliver to us all a secure and sustainable energy supply.

Based on a letter to the press by John Youatt Hon Sec Derbyshire Green Party http://www.derbyshiregreenparty.org.uk

Renewables in Derbyshire

600px-Community_turbine_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1234697

This article is based mainly on Sustainable Youlgrave (SY) in the Peak Park www.sustainableyoulgrave.org

Summary: main points arising from Sustainable Youlgrave research and practice

  • All property owners or managers (homes, schools, factories, farms) with a suitable south roof or ground space should consider solar panels for electricity or hot water – paybacks are around 8%: or rent the space
  • Many properties especially farms should consider a wind turbine from 5 to 50 KW
  • Many properties should consider air source or ground source heat pumps: government is about to pay for renewable heat
  • After the Christmas rush, it’s a good time to consider a log, chip or pellet burner for room heat / back boiler

Government  -  There is a constant struggle within the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), and between it and the Treasury and the far right. Climate doubters occupy senior posts in DECC (Ed Milliband’s creation). The Energy Bill is good in parts. The new Green Bank is investing for example in anaerobic digestion (AD), but it seems is only interested so far in big projects. Green loans are on the property not the person, so there is uncertainty regarding the risk, making house moves more difficult, coupled with fear that the repayments might evaporate. The renewables industry and the CBI are seriously unhappy at the deliberate discouragement of renewables (eg the FITS and insulation fiascos). ‘The Carbon Bubble’ explains why renewables are discouraged in many ways, blatantly and surreptitiously.

Peak Park -  Recent cases suggest that its policies and practice continue to give more weight to short term landscape protection than saving the planet. It’s still resisting modest wind turbines and anything but on-farm waste processing for energy by anaerobic digestion (AD). Development plan policies are being reviewed, but so far there is no sign of relaxation. Without that, there is no point in encouraging medium sized wind turbines or mixed waste AD

Biomass – anaerobic digestion (AD)   Sustainable Youlgrave’s £50k study majored on a 20 farm AD plant at Friden that is in limbo, because of the Park’s intransigence.  We note that Derbyshire County Council (DCC) has recorded the need to treat biomass as a resource, not a waste. Taking our lead from the authorities, the best prospects are a farm-based AD plant and a small plant for the village, currently being researched.

Biomass – wood   Sustainable Youlgrave didn’t have the resources to develop a sustainable wood chain and the use of wood in small combined heat and power plants (CHP). A CHP plant would qualify for the recently announced heat incentive – see below. Sales of wood burning room heaters and boilers are still rising. A CHP plant could be appropriate for the eight new social houses at Conksbury, but the capital funding doesn’t allow for renewables. They have to be self funding, with the help of feed-in tariffs and renewables certificates. Deliberately over complicated?

Air and ground source heat pumping (ASHP & GSHP) - Both qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Installations after July 2009 can qualify. RHI will (later this year) pay a few pence for each kW generated. A two-unit  ASHP plant is being installed at a large house in Middleton, making it the 4th in our valley.

Solar – feed in tariffs (FITs) - Some in the industry insist that all is well, but the FIT has been reduced more than the costs have fallen. The infant industry has survived the earlier fiasco, but the earlier enthusiasm has taken a knock. Any house with a suitable roof or garden space should seriously consider up to 16 panels = 4kW.  All public buildings should be economically viable – perhaps on the rent-a-roof basis, in which no capital is needed. On my travels I see a few bigger installations on farm roofs and in fields. Perhaps the 40 farms on our database should be canvassed, and public building owners reminded? Any farm or factory with big modern buildings should seriously consider investing.

Wind  - There’s a test case for 2 no. 50 kW (60ft, tree height) windmills at the Peak’s biggest dairy farm, at Parwich, to meet the farm’s needs only. The Park’s CEO spoke in favour of machines up to 50kW on radio. Many influential members didn’t agree, but the excellent news is that the turbines were approved – on the chairman’s casting vote! There are a dozen farms in Sustainable Youlgrave’s area that would justify smaller machines (5 to 20 kW). Any farm with wind above 4m per second should seriously consider investing.

Conclusion - I suppose the political message is that the Lib Dems have failed dismally to deliver the renewables commitment in the Coalition Agreement. It will all continue to be kicked around in the shrubbery until the next election. Our best hopes for change are a Green MEP for our region and, probably, a Lab/Lib coalition, with room in its hearts and minds for advice from Green and green-minded MPs.

© John Youatt for SY December 2012: for DGP February 2013

Please add any local experience or national insights and send to john@youatt.co.uk

and to www.voteforpolicies.org.uk      count @ 3rd feb ….282

Or go to SY’s preferred contractor www.therenewableshop.com or other suppliers

Uncivilisation anyone?

Last weekend curiosity took me to a festival called “Uncivilisation” held at the beautiful Hampshire Sustainability Centre. It was organised by a group of writers and artists under the banner “The Dark Mountain Project”.

All very mysterious, but they turned out to be wonderful people with an interesting perspective on our world. You can read their manifesto and look at their writings here http://dark-mountain.net/ . Their “usp” (that’s the wrong term I know) is their sober conclusion that climate change will not be solved by technical or even political processes (though these are not irrelevant) but is a product of a failed narrative – to change as a society we need to tell ourselves better stories. They then explore some of our older, wilderness inspired stories which we have neglected, they like their sagas and tales. As they say it is storied not facts that change people.

Many of the group, such as writers like Paul Kingsnorth and the wonderful Jay Griffiths, were activised by the road protests in the 1980s which were probably the high water mark of national effective protest. Although many battles were lost road building itself simply became uneconomic and there was a dramatic cut in the programme even before Labour came to office in the 1990s. The interesting thing here was how powerful humour can be. Back then the police learnt how to deal with anger and protest and they have got better since, but when a pantomime cow burst through the police ranks and mounted a digger it was a little harder to respond. As a lovely aside the person at the back of the cow could not be charged as s/he simply claimed they did not know where they were going!

So I’ve come away what man new friend and a passion to mix a bit of “mythos” that is art, stories, fables and humour into the inevitable “logos” or canvassing, attending Council meetings and writing emails. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Duncan Kerr (Green Party Councillor)

It hasn’t gone away you know

I occasionally wonder what future generations will think of the values and choices of our daily lives when they are coping with the world we will leave them. Whilst we’ve shut our eyes and ears, global carbon emissions have kept of rising as you can see in the latest report from the International Energy Agency http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/05/24/co2-iea-idUKL5E8GO6B520120524

Not widely reported in our papers, but like the rat caught in the trap we haven’t even noticed the door limiting increases to 2 percent slamming shut. A 6 degree rise seems unimaginable, it is unimaginable, but that is the trajectory we are all now on.

However radical action on cutting carbon no longer seems to be trendy for international, national or even local governments it impairs growth we are told. So the answer to our grandchildren seems to be sorry we knew what we were doing but saving you from the full force of unchecked climate change catastrophe just seemed a little dull so we went shopping instead.

Cllr Duncan Kerr

Waking the Giant

In his book ‘Waking the Giant’ Professor Bill McGuire says, ‘Human interference in the natural world has consequences that are usually surprising and often unpleasant.’  As we consider the future scenarios of climate change that he spells out in his book, we might think this something of an understatement.  The unpleasant surprise that he has in store for us is the link between climate change and geophysical responses – earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes.

After the Asian tsunami in 2004, some tried to label this tragedy as a climate change event, wanting to use the shock of the destruction to wake people up to the potentials dangers ahead. This was probably misplaced, and it enabled sceptics to dismiss such warnings as alarmists.  Since then, geologists have looked seriously at whether climate change can affect the earth’s crust, what they have discovered, as summarised in Professor McGuire’s book, does not make comfortable reading.

First, to remind ourselves of the context: heat trapped in the atmosphere by increasing levels of carbon dioxide causes changes in the behaviour of the atmosphere, which in turn will cause changes to the water cycle.  In other words, the climate will change.  As James Lovelock has shown, all events, biological, chemical and physical are interlinked, so it is reasonable to ask whether a change in the climate, can have an effect on the solid Earth.  While such a link seems at first glance unlikely, Professor Bill McGuire has shown convincingly that there is a link.  His conclusion is clear, in a warming world there is a greater risk of seismic and volcanic activity, even small changes in climate can trigger significant geological events.

Through studying the geological record we now know that CO² levels in the atmosphere are as high as they have been for 15 million years and they have risen within the last 200 years.  Global average temperature is now within 1°C of its highest for 1 million years.  2010 was the hottest year on record.  Climate scientists are generally accepting that the likely rise in the global average by 2100 will be 4-6°C.  In the high latitudes, this may be as much as 10-14°C.  With this temperature rise, the ice caps and many of the world’s glaciers can’t survive.  As a result there will be a significant transfer of water from the arctic and antarctic, where it mostly sits on land to the worlds ocean basins. This represents a transfer of weight from the ice-covered land to the oceanic crust.  This weight transfer is how climate can affect the solid crust and the semi-solid mantle below.

At the end of the last ice age, 52 million cubic kilometres of ice melted, transferring the weight of this water to the oceans.  This amount of ice exerted great pressure on the land and pushed it down into the earth’s mantle.  It also suppressed movement in fault lines and volcanic activity.  Free of this great pressure the land began to recoil, rising up and releasing the tension that had built up in geological faults causing earthquakes.  Some of these earthquakes triggered huge landslips into the sea, causing tsunamis.  This recoil effect will happen where ice is retreating leading to the heightened possibility of earthquakes and volcanoes.

Melt-water entering the oceans will put added pressure on the oceanic crust forcing it down.  Between rising land and sinking seabed there will be a zone of tension where fault-lines will be subject to increased pressure, one such fault running parallel the coast is the San Andreas.  Many of the world’s volcanoes are in coastal regions.  Sitting under them are pockets of magma.  Rising land and/or falling seabed squeeze these pockets up towards the surface, making it more likely that the volcanoes will blow.

One of the most rapidly warming areas of the earth is Alaska, and here the level of seismic activity is rising.  The Bagley ice field has lost 1 km of ice over the last 20 years, the land is recoiling, triggering earthquakes.  As the permafrost melts, landslips become more frequent and glacial lakes drain rapidly as the natural earth dams give way.  In 2005 50 million cubic metres of rock and ice broke off mount Steller in southern Alaska travelling 9km at speeds of up to 100 metres per second.  Fortunately, there were no communities along this path.  Others have not been and will not be so lucky.

If the retreat of ice in the Arctic continues, it will trigger increased seismic and volcanic activity across the whole region. In 2010 the eruption of just one volcano, Eyjafjallajökull caused major disruption to international flights with a knock-on effect on the economy.  As the ice retreats, more such events are likely.  With ice and permafrost melting, sediments around the coast could become unstable, vulnerable to earthquakes.  A major slippage of this sediment could trigger a massive tsunami, as happened at the end of the ice age, 8,500 years ago, sending a major tsunami crashing into the east coast of Scotland.

These changing conditions raise a further concern that the so-called gas hydrates that lie in deep cold water and under permafrost, could be disturbed and start to break down.  Gas hydrates form when some gases, mostly methane join with water to condense as a solid under cold high-pressure conditions. If the conditions that keep them stable begin to change, through warming for example, they will break down, releasing their methane to the atmosphere.  Methane remember, is about twenty times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  Submarine landslides, triggered by earthquakes and melting permafrost, could also disturb the hydrates, resulting is a sudden explosive release of methane. Such sudden releases have been implicated in rapid climate change events in geological history.

There are between 10 to 30 years to save the arctic from irreversible melting that will trigger increased seismic and volcanic activity, with unknown impacts.  In 2010, CO² emissions rose 6%, despite the global recession.  The global economy is now going bust for growth and there is no significant or coordinated action to limit carbon emissions.  As a result of big oil lobbying of the Durban Climate Change meeting in January 2012, no international action is planned until 2020.  Climate change will happen because we are doing nothing to stop it.  We can now add geological havoc to climate chaos.  As Professor McGuire said ‘Things are going to be bad, if we do nothing they will be worse.’  Take your choice.

[based on a talk by Professor Bill McGuire Professor of Geophysical & Climate Hazards, UCL, given at the Peak Climate Festival 5th May 2012.]

Waking the Giant – How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes, by Bill McGuire, Oxford University Press,                               ISBN13: 9780199592265

 

The Queens Speech, a ‘Squandered Opportunity’.

Responding to the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, Caroline Lucas MP said that the Coalition Government had squandered a vital opportunity to put action to tackle climate change and the growing environmental crisis at the top of its legislative agenda.  ‘Listening to the Queen’s Speech today, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the climate crisis has simply gone away. In the face of mounting scientific concern about the urgency of the threat we face from climate change, the deafening silence from this Government is unforgivable.’

We know why there is no action.  This government is protecting the investment in the carbon sector made by those who keep it in power – read the article on the Carbon Bubble, posted here earlier this year.  This Government is incapable of showing leadership – that is not its purpose.  Its purpose is to dismantle the State and sell it off to the private sector.  It is using what it calls the ‘economic mess’ as the smoke screen to do this.  It will only address the climate crisis when its backers in the financial sector are ready to make money out of it.  By then it will be a very costly task for us all.

Others see things differently.  Writing in the Financial Times, Nicholas Stern called for a ‘Queen’s Speech for Growth’, looking to the renewable energy sector to kick-start the shrinking economy.  He said ‘Policies to encourage low-carbon investment would provide new business opportunities, would generate income for investors, and would have credibility in the long term, both because they address growing global resource challenges, while tapping into a fast-growing global market for resource-efficient activities.’

In 2010, the Green Party manifesto called for a ‘Green New Deal,’ borrowing US President Roosevelt’s concept for an economic plan to end the great 1930’s depression by investing in public works.  The Green’s fully costed economic strategy would have seen the deficit cut by 2015 through investment in the green economy, increasing employment, cutting energy costs and boosting tax revenue. Corporate media empires chose to ignore this alternative strategy since they wanted to promote privatization and protect their interests in the carbon sector.  They hood-winked the electorate into voting for a range of ‘conservative’ economic strategies that, as we warned – have led to a double dip recession and rising unemployment.

The Green programme set out clear targets to cut carbon emissions to avoid warming exceeding 2°C, we called for cuts to annual carbon dioxide emissions of 10% – starting now, with the aim of reducing emissions by 65% by 2020 and 90% from 1990 levels by 2030.  The key to doing this is to decarbonise the energy sector.  To achieve this we proposed:

  • Reducing energy demand through insulation and energy efficiency measures, creating new local businesses and thousands of jobs
  • Investing in genuinely renewable energy sources, aiming to obtain half of our energy from renewables by 2020, backing this with direct government investment with strong and clear policy support, creating genuine energy security, boosting business and employment
  • Switching the investment planned for new coal, nuclear power and nuclear weapons to research into renewable energy technologies and their commercialisation, creating a major export potential
  • Supporting renewable heat with a levy on waste heat from power stations, supporting sustainable energy crops and combined heat and power, helping councils develop heat distribution networks, boosting local employment and the rural economy
  • Supporting the adoption of bio-gas from sustainable organic sources, but opposing the large scale cultivation of bio-fuels, especially in poor countries
  • Bringing the electricity network and gas mains into the public sector to develop them to suit renewable energy schemes and introduce smart meters and appliances
  • Support Europe-wide renewable energy initiatives, including the building of highly efficient Long Distance High Voltage DC power lines.

In addition, Greens proposed a range of other policies to encourage low carbon living.

  • Develop public transport as an acceptable and reliable alternative to car travel.
  • Change planning guidelines to ensure that facilities are within reasonable walking distance of residential areas, cutting the need for travel
  • Support to small and local business, including local supply networks.
  • Decarbonise food production by supporting small-scale organic farms supplying local markets.

Had Greens been in government, we would now be creating jobs, boosting tax revenue and securing long-term energy supply.  These policies will have to be adopted as some time, in some form.  As Nicholas Stern understates in his Financial Times article, ‘there is a recognition that actions [on low carbon investment] cannot be delayed indefinitely’.  However, the longer action is delayed, the costlier it will be for all of us.  We are hearing may calls at present to ‘make the switch’ – to seek out cheaper energy suppliers.  If consumers are really serious about making long term savings on their bills there is only one switch that will be effective, the switch to Green policies.

Mike Shipley