Tag Archives: climate change

Candidates – European elections 2014

Green Party Candidates for the East Midlands Region

Lead Candidate: Kat Boettge
Second on list: Sue Mallender
Third: Peter Allen
Fourth: Richard Mallender
Fifth: Simon Hales

For photos and brief biographies of the candidates see Election page of this site.

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Fracking on Trial

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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

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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

Derbyshire Greens Solidarity with Barton Moss anti-fracking Campaign

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Green Euro Candidate Peter Allen

Members of Derbyshire Green Party visited the anti fracking protest camp at Barton Moss near Irlam, Salford, on Saturday January 4th. They were welcomed by a diverse bunch of campers, male and female, old and young, who remained in high spirits despite the atrocious weather and the heavy handed policing, which has seen as many as 30 arrests for peaceful protests in the last few weeks.

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Ian, Charlotte, Anne and Peter

Green Party members from Manchester and from the South of England were also visiting and the Green Party was given credit for being the only parliamentary party in England which has stated its unqualified opposition to fracking.

” MPs from other parties, including MPs from round here, have been given permission by party leaders to oppose fracking in their own area whilst being required to support it in principle.  It is the worst form of cynicism, designed to get them through the next election” said anti fracking activist Ian, who has had a long and successful career in the oil industry and knows the dangers in, and damage caused by fracking as well as anyone.

Ian is in no doubt that the plan is to carry out fracking and not just examine the potential for extracting methane gas from the coal deposits.  The evidence for this is the fact that drilling is taking place far below the coal deposits, into the shale rock below.

Barton Moss pic Jan14

The campers regard the protest as absolutely vital to the success of the campaign to stop fracking.  Regular early morning “slow walk” protests from the main road up to the site delay and inconvenience the work being carried out by IGas.  The Green Party fully supports the protests believing that fracking must be “fought on all fronts” if a military analogy is acceptable.  It recognises that there is a need for a “strategic battle” using all appropriate strategies, from speaking in Parliament as Green MP Caroline Lucas has done, raising the issue in forthcoming local and European elections, as Green Party candidates will do, and supporting the direct action at Barton Moss.

From Green Euro Candidate Peter Allen

The Next Event                                                  Sunday 12th January, 12.30pm

Assemble in the lay-by at M30 7RL (the junction of A57 Liverpool Road and Barton Moss Road) to march together to the camp.  Some may be walking up Liverpool Road from the Salford City Reds ground and meeting up at Barton Moss Road.  Please do bring banners and placards if you can, and definitely try to bring friends, family, colleagues and neighbours.  This event will include speeches, live music and more. For more information visit:  http://frackfreegtrmanchester.org.uk/

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 

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.

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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. 

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

 

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.

If 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.  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 expanse 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.  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.  With 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.  A 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 economy.

Mike Shipley

The Judgement of History.

As one year changes to another, we reflect on what has passed, the highs and lows, and on what might be to come, the hopes and fears. What will history make of 2011, what will it know about 2012, and what will be its judgement? Which events will the historians of the future pick out as important, which will they consign to the footnotes, which events deemed not worthy of comment? This last category will include nearly the entire output of the popular media, just about everything that has occupied the pubic mind in 2011 and again in 2012. The footnotes will pick up most of the rest. The wheeler-dealing over the global economy; the posturing politicians who thought that they were cementing their place in history; the antics of media personalities. All of this will be seen as transient when people of the mid twenty-first century try to understand the origins of the situation that they will find them selves in and try to understand why nothing effective was done to prevent it. What, they will wonder, were the people of our time doing?

The one event that will interest them from 2011 hardly made the press let alone the headlines: the Durban Conference of the Parties number 17. They will then turn straight to number 18 in Qatar, having read with incredulity about COP16 in Copenhagen. How could the world leaders so callously ignore the clear evidence of science and willingly accept a temperature rise of 3°C, in the full knowledge that this would surely trigger a further rise to 4°C with a strong possibility of a resetting of the global thermostat at 6°C above the long term Holocene average. The people of 2050 will be living with the reality that CO2 levels will not have been stabilised at 550ppm and they will know then that that level was far too high, as a majority of scientists in 2011 warned.

What will not be hitting the headlines in 2012 is the end of the first accounting period of the Kyoto protocol, which started in 2005. This period should have seen the developed nations cutting their emissions by 5% of 1990 levels. It should have seen emissions beginning to stabilise and a new accounting period launched in 2013 to see emissions brought to a level consistent with no more than a 2°C rise in average global temperatures.

What has in fact happened is that global emissions have grown by 49% since 1990. Last year, despite the global recession and 20 years of so called ‘climate negotiations’, they grew by 5.9%. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are now higher than they have been for 800,000 years and the climate is responding.

Even if all the pledges that have been made at the plethora of international conferences were kept, the journal ‘Nature Climate Change’ found that emissions would continue to rise at about 3% per year. These ‘pledges’ – including America’s ‘pledge of a 2-3% cut’ – are totally inadequate, and our leaders know it. Ahead of the Durban talks, the International Energy Agency, by no means a green organization, said this: ‘The world has only five years to seriously start replacing fossil fuels by low carbon energy and energy efficiency. Failure to make the required investment by 2017 would ‘lock in’ high future emissions to such an extent that the 2°C goal would become unattainable

Those politicians and lobbyists who set out to frustrate negotiations and block the required action, have closed the door on stabilisation at or below 2°C. They have also closed the door on the second accounting period from 2013, the corporate capitalists did not want it and they rule the planet. Even though they didn’t actually manage to kill off the Kyoto treaty in Durban, which is what they wanted, it is as good as dead and there will be no binding agreements until at least 2020. Nothing will happen by 2017, 2°C is unattainable. Our leaders have failed us, they have rolled over in front of the corporate capitalists and their lobbyists, preferring self interest instead of the welfare of humanity. They may be feeling pleased with them selves, living their lives of sumptuous luxury, but history will not be kind to them.

And our response, the response of the people whose lives will be most affected by the failure to curb carbon emissions? That is something that those who read history in 2050 will also be interested to understand.

Consider our own judgement of people who lived amid the gathering clouds of crisis, in 1930’s Europe for example. Why, we might wonder, did most people of the time do nothing? Why did they turn away as neighbours were dragged from their homes, why didn’t they ask about those who disappeared? How could they voice agreement with the lies and deceit of their governments, or merely sit silent, witnessing the manifest wrongs, but doing nothing. What, we might ask, would we do among the gathering clouds of crisis? What are we doing amid the lies and deceit of the climate denialists who control most of popular media? What are we doing when given the clear information that contemporary political policy is flawed and risks serious conflict in the future. What happens when we are given the choice at elections, the choice of business as usual or the choice of a clear programme that would head off the danger? What happened in 2010 in the UK, in 2011 in Spain, Italy and Greece? The electorate turned to the right and ignored the warnings, voted to hold on desperately to their own comforts and conveniences, choosing to ignore or deny the crisis that the next generation will have to face.

The ordinary people of Europe in the mid 1930’s possibly thought that they were acting in the best interests of their children, how could they have thought otherwise? But through their inaction and denial, they condemned their children to the bloodiest war ever fought over the face of the Earth. People today make similar claims, we must protect jobs, we must protect the economy, cutting emissions is just too costly, holds too many risks with jobs to be able to address at this time. So they condemn their children to face the frightening possibility of escalating temperatures, to the spread of uninhabitable regions, and to the unknown experience of ecological collapse.

This is one version of future history – it is the outcome of ‘business as usual’. But there is another version of history, a version that must be written by the actions of ordinary people. We must not sit passively by and let this global catastrophe unfold, we have to challenge the deceit of the denialists and take action to counter the ineptitude of our leaders. The sheer courage of ordinary people across the Middle East gives us an inspirational lead. Throughout history small groups have similarly acted with courage to confront the wrongs of entrenched and powerful interests. From Tolpuddle and Peterloo to Occupy Wall Street, those self-serving interests have been, and will be forced to concede ground to the demands of ordinary people. But they will give nothing willingly.

Time is running out, the storm clouds are gathering. Our false political leaders and their commercial puppet masters have made it abundantly clear over the last 20 years that they are not going to do anything other than continue to con us into believing that they are acting in our best interests. It is up to us now to fight the battle to prevent dangerous climate change, to close the ever widening gap between the super rich and those in poverty, and to bring about the necessary political and economic change.

Green minded and fair minded people know that there is a better way forward, together, but only together, we can, we must, take that path. Our actions can and must determine history.

[Mike Shipley January 2012]

 

GREENS CONDEMN GOVERNMENT’S SHORT SIGHTEDNESS

Derbyshire Green Party Chair urges people to install solar panels before Government slashes Feed-In Tariff payment

David Foster, Chair of Derbyshire Green Party, has urged householders to install solar panels as soon as they can. Following newspaper reports and mistakenly leaked documents, it has become clear that the Government has plans to halve the Feed-In Tariffs for solar photovoltaic panels.

Currently people can claim 43 pence for every kilowatt of electricity they generate off their roof but the government now plans to cut this to around 21p from the beginning of December, with the possibility of even deeper cuts to follow.  The feed-in tariff scheme was introduced in April 2010 and has seen over 80,000 solar installations, the creation of more than 22,000 jobs and almost 4,000 new businesses.

David Foster  said,

“If people install solar panels now before the cut is due to take place in December then they will get the 43p rate for the next 25 years if they were to install them after that they would get less than half that.”

The Green Party claims that this cut will jeopardise currently planned free solar schemes for people unable to afford the upfront costs of solar panels as well as planned schemes for council properties. These are set up to be self-funding under current Feed-In Tariff arrangements but, the Greens say, they may no longer be so after the proposed cut.

Mr. Foster went on to say, “These cuts by the government are nonsensical. Over 25,000 people are employed in the solar industry and these cuts are a threat to these jobs.  The cost of the Feed-In Tariff is very small, less than 50p/year on the average fuel bill and a fraction of the cost of government subsidies of nuclear power stations.   As always, it is those on the lowest incomes who will suffer the most since they will be unable to participate in low-cost solar schemes.  As a result of this cut, it is now almost certain that the Coalition Government will miss the legally binding carbon reduction target for the UK set in the 2008 Climate Change Act.  This government’s claim to be the Greenest Government ever is looking increasingly hollow and lacking in substance.”

John Youatt, the Greens convener in Derbyshire Dales and a founder member of Sustainable Youlgrave said,

“No matter how many Ministers try to justify this cut to the renewable energy programme, it makes no sense either financially or environmentally. The Green Party is unable to understand the logic of this decision. By investing in renewable technologies, not only does the Coalition Government help combat climate change and create jobs, but also it gives Councils a further incentive to help the fuel poor as well as increasing local authority revenue. In my locality, we held a forum and people signed up for panels, but only because the rate was right at under 10 years pay back. At over 15years, people will not invest. “

Drought hits the Amazon – again.

In 2005, the Amazon basin experienced what at the time was called a ‘once in 100 year’ drought.  Changes in normal rainfall patterns were at the time attributed to unusually warm seas in the South Atlantic.  As a result of the drought, large areas of rainforest began to die back and as they did so, began to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  The Amazon basin, one of the worlds great carbon sinks, became a carbon emitter.  In all it was calculated that five billion tonnes of carbon dioxide were released.

In 2010, it all happened again.  Two ‘once in 100-year’ events within 5 years prove nothing, yet it is cause for concern.  The 2010 event was more intense than the 2005 drought with rivers dropping to record low levels disrupting the life and economy of Amazonia.  Preliminary calculations indicate that the resultant dieback will release even more carbon dioxide than the 2005 drought – an amount equivalent to the annual release by the USA.  Some tree deaths will be a long-term result of the 2005 drought that left many weakened and unable to tolerate further drying.  By the same argument, the final impact of the 2010 drought will not be felt for several years, the climate over the next decade will determine the fate of trees weakened but not killed last year.

A joint team from Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute and the University of Leeds, which has just produced a report on the drought, is carrying out research into the impact of these droughts.  Dr Simon Lewis, from the University of Leeds, who co-authored the report with Dr Paulo Brando of AERI, said, “Having two events of this magnitude in such close succession is extremely unusual, but is unfortunately consistent with those climate models that project a grim future for Amazonia.”

The Amazon rainforest is one of the world’s great carbon sinks covering an area approximately 25 times the size of the UK.  Scientists at Leeds have previously shown that in a normal year the forests absorb approximately 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2.  However, for 2010 – 11, they predict that Amazon forests will switch from a carbon sink to a net emitter, releasing more than 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over the coming years.  In addition to this figure, there will be the release from the continuing logging operations and forest fires that may well be more frequent following the drought.  Suddenly the world has been joined by another USA.

Over the last three years the Southern hemispheres has seen a succession of extreme events.  The Brazilian droughts, the fires in Victoria, record floods in Queensland and the biggest tropical cyclone ever recorded in Australia.  The monsoons that caused the flooding in Pakistan were under the influence of the southern oceans.  None of this should surprise us.  The southern hemisphere is the blue hemisphere, dominated by its oceans and these extreme events are attributed to ‘abnormal’ warming of the oceans.  Climate is intimately tied to oceanic conditions; oceans are the heat store, exchanging energy with the atmosphere, so driving weather patterns.  In a warming world, it is the southern hemisphere that will experiences climatic changes first.  However, the world has one integrated climatic system – where the south leads, the north will follow.

[Mike Shipley.]

The Least Green Government Ever?

At a time when the effects of climate change are beginning to hit home around the globe, and even the US Government is beginning to acknowledge its seriousness, it is unfortunate to say the least that the British public has elected such a climate sceptic Parliament. This is what the corporate owned popular media intended when they focused public attention on the economic crisis which, they lead people to believe, was caused by the Labour Government’s wasteful social and welfare policies and not on the irresponsible behaviour of the financial institutions. Corporate finance and big business is not interested in climate change, it does not see enough profit in it, it thinks that it can weather the storm and come out of the crisis in total control of the planet, its governments, and its remaining assets.

David Cameron has tried to mask the climate scepticism of his party by labeling his government ‘the greenest ever.’ Empty words we might suspect. The early actions of this ‘greenest government’ show the influence of scepticism and denial.  On taking office, it abolished the Sustainable Development Commission, even though this body was able to save government more than it cost. The Environment Agency is at risk, the Environmental Transformation Fund, which supports the development of low carbon technologies, has had its budget cut by 22% to £120 million. The Low Carbon Building Programme, which provided grants for renewable energy instalations, has been scrapped. A pledge to incorporate pioneer installers of solar power into the new Feed In Tarrifs [FIT’s] has been dumped. Energy Minister Charles Hendry has even hinted that the FIT payments will be slashed.

Not looking so green, but here’s todays victory for the deniers. The idea of scrapping the Department of Energy and Climate Change [Decc] is now being floated as a ‘cost saving’ measure. Decc provides the strategic overview of the UK’s commitments to both Climate Change and to renewable energy policy, ensuring that our international obligations are met. Already Decc has had its modest budget of £3.2 billion cut by £85 million. The irony is that half of its funding, £1.7 billion, goes to the decommissioning of nuclear facilities, a subsidy to the nuclear industry of which Chris Hune, LD Minister incharge, must be unaware, since he proclaims that a new generation of nuclear power stations can be built without subsidy.

So, the fledgling dedicated Department charged with preparing and implementing our countries response to the biggest crisis the world has faced since the ice sheets started advancing, must get by on £1.5 billion per year; and its very existence together with the Carbon Trust and the Energy Saving Trust, is under threat.

In response to this threat, Caroline Lucas said, “nobody who undestands the urgency and seriousness of the climate crisis could even contemplate decimating the department that leads the effort to deal with it.”  John Sauven, head of Greenpeace described the proposal as “sheer insanity.”

Just to put this £1.5 billion budget for implementing energy and climate policy into context, total Government spending for 2010 will be £661 billion. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is planning to write off £1.5 billion of tax revenue owed over the last 2 years. Reward the tax evaders, penalise the planet.

Gives some idea of the priorities of this ‘greenest government ever.’

Global Warming Increases, And So Does Scepticism

Greenland Kangerlussuaq icesheet

The US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] has released data showing June 2010 to have been globally the warmest June sine its records began in 1880. NOAA has combined data from land and oceanic records to produce a global mean temperature. This was 16.2°C [61.1°F], 4% higher than the twentieth century average of 15.5°C. This June data follows the warmest January to June period on record and sets up 2010 to be the warmest year since records began.

Reflecting this warming trend, Arctic sea ice was 10% below the 1979-2000 average with the lowest recorded June coverage. Conversely, the Antarctic showed an 8% increase in ice cover, a point that will be seized on by sceptics who will ignore the Arctic data. This growth in Antarctic ice is a reflection of the switch from El Nino to La Nina conditions in the Pacific resulting in cold-water conditions in the southern oceans.

The June data conforms to a warming trend stretching back to the 1940’s with a decreasing number of years recording mean temperatures below the long-term average. Since 1985, there have been 304 consecutive months in which the global land-sea temperature has been above the twentieth century average. This trend is highlighted by the fact that the ten warmest years have occurred in the last 15 years.

During the last decade, solar output has been unusually low, with periods when there has been no sunspot activity. During a solar minimum, global temperatures should cool because of increased cloud cover, triggered by an increase in non-solar cosmic particles hitting the high atmosphere, [the cloud-chamber effect]. The steady rise in temperatures during a solar minimum blows another hole in the arguments of the sceptics.

So why is it that, at the same time as the scientific evidence for man-made change becomes ever stronger, we are witnessing an increase in climate change scepticism? In the New York Times on May 24, Elisabeth Rosenthal observed:

“Last month hundreds of environmental activists crammed into an auditorium here [in Britain] to ponder an anguished question: If the scientific consensus on climate change has not changed, why have so many people turned away from the idea that human activity is warming the planet?” (Rosenthal, ‘Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons,’ New York Times, May 24, 2010; (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/ science/earth/25climate.html)

The change in public opinion, Rosenthal noted, has been most striking in Britain, which has become “a home base for a thriving group of climate skeptics who have dominated news reports in recent months, apparently convincing many that the threat of warming is vastly exaggerated”.

A BBC survey in February found that only 26 per cent of Britons believed that “climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade,” down from 41 per cent in November 2009. A poll conducted for the German magazine Der Spiegel found that 42 per cent of Germans feared global warming, down from 62 per cent four years earlier. A Gallup poll in March found that 48 per cent of Americans believed that the seriousness of global warming was “generally exaggerated,” up from 41 per cent a year ago. (Ibid.) Rosenthal cited newly sceptical members of the public:

“Before, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this climate change problem is just dreadful,’ said Jillian Leddra, 50, a musician who was shopping in London on a recent lunch hour. ‘But now I have my doubts, and I’m wondering if it’s been overhyped.’”

Up to this point, Rosenthal’s analysis was reasonable enough. But this was her explanation of the change in public opinion:

“Here in Britain, the change has been driven by the news media’s intensive coverage of a series of climate science controversies unearthed and highlighted by skeptics since November. These include the unauthorized release of e-mail messages from prominent British climate scientists at the University of East Anglia that skeptics cited as evidence that researchers were overstating the evidence for global warming and the discovery of errors in a United Nations climate report.”

Rosenthal’s account is deceptive because it portrays climate scepticism, and media enthusiasm for climate scepticism, as naturally occurring phenomena, as if they simply are. But this is a lie. In fact, the public debate on climate is massively tilted in favour of the corporate interests that have long fought environmental responsibility tooth and nail. Environmental journalist Andy Rowell – author of Green Backlash and co-founder of Spinwatch (www.spinwatch.org) – offers a brief summary of the corporate stance on climate change:

“In the late 1960s, the leading PR company Hill and Knowlton, advising the tobacco industry on how to confront its critics over health, argued that doubt was the product they should use: ‘The most important type of story is that which casts doubt in the cause and effect theory of disease and smoking.’ Eye-grabbing headlines were needed and ‘should strongly call out the point – Controversy! Contradiction! Other Factors! Unknowns!’

“Since the Sixties, the tobacco industry have continued their attempts to maintain the controversy. Their documents are peppered with statements such as ‘no clinical evidence’, ‘no substantial evidence’, ‘no laboratory proof’, ‘and unresolved’. Nothing has been ‘statistically proven’, there is no ‘scientific proof’.

The techniques pioneered by the tobacco industry in the 1960’s have now been successfully adopted by the climate sceptics. To quote Andy Rowell again:

“‘Creating controversy’ is precisely what the fossil fuel industry and its spin-doctors have done on climate change. The longer they can throw doubt on the issue, the more we carry on burning fossil fuels and the more money they make. Simple. So a small number of fossil fuel-funded think tanks and scientists have managed to create doubt over the scientific consensus of climate change for nearly two decades. They have been joined by a small group of right-wing ideologues, who are opposed to climate change on political grounds.

“The mainstream media continue to give these sceptics air-time in the name of balance, but do not tell an unsuspecting public that many are fossil-fuel funded, politically opposed, or even have no scientific credentials. So no wonder the public are confused. Like the corporate media, (which take significant money off the fossil fuel industry) many people do not want to change their behaviour, so it is reassuring for everyone when a sceptic throws doubt on climate change. This is compounded by parts of the right-wing media which are running what is effectively a misinformation campaign on climate.” (Rowell, email to David Edwards of MediaLens.org, May 27, 2010)

The website Campaign Against Climate Change reports:

“It has recently been revealed that Koch Industries, a little-known, privately owned US oil company, paid nearly US$50 million to climate denial groups and individuals between 1997 and 2008. In a similar period Exxon Mobil paid out around $17 to $23 million.” (http://www.campaigncc.org/sceptics)

As the website notes, the manufactured ‘Climategate’ ‘scandal’ of autumn 2009, mentioned by Rosenthal – in which emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were illegally hacked and published – was a nonsense. Sir Muir Russell, a senior civil servant who led a six-month inquiry into the affair, said recently:

“Ultimately this has to be about what they did, not what they said. The honesty and rigour of CRU as scientists are not in doubt… We have not found any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.”  (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/08/muir-russell-climategate-climate-science)

Myles Allen, head of the climate dynamics group at the University of Oxford, commented:

“What everyone has lost sight of is the spectacular failure of mainstream journalism to keep the whole affair in perspective. Again and again, stories are sexed up with arch hints that these ‘revelations’ might somehow impact on the evidence for human impact on climate. Yet the only error in actual data used for climate change detection to have emerged from this whole affair amounted to a few hundredths of a degree in the estimated global temperature of a couple of years in the 1870s.” (Ibid.)

Rosenthal’s article was titled, ‘Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons.’ Even if we accept this ‘turn’ at face value, honest analysis of why these fears have turned to doubt, demands that we consider the deepest forces empowering climate scepticism. It is public opinion that is being manipulated, not the scientific data. Sceptics now have the upper hand in Parliament with a majority of Conservative MP’s leaning towards this viewpoint. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/feb/07/climate-scepticism-grows-tories)

The message is clear: be sceptical of climate scepticism, and act now on climate change. The longer we wait to take effective action, the more the planet will warm. A 2°C rise will be uncomfortable and will strain the global economy, but we are online for a rise of over twice this, resulting in conditions that human beings have never experienced in their history, conditions in which we will struggle to survive. We can avert this, but only if we act now, together. Please consider joining the Green Party.

Thanks to MediaLens.org for the sections on scepticism

Vote Strategically, Vote Green

Voting for the Green Party is a powerful statement and the best way to make your vote really count this election. Although the other parties talk about change, only the Green Party offers true change by providing a real alternative to the stale, ‘grey’ politics that have got us into such a mess. Sometimes it feels like we are living in a one-party state because there is so little difference between the three main parties, but the Green Party offers a breath of fresh air. This election we are hoping to send our first Green MPs to Westminster, who could make a real difference in a hung Parliament, especially if they can count on the support of hundreds of thousands of national voters. The Green Party offers constructive policies to combat climate change, and transition to a sustainable economy. We also offer a unique vision and analysis.

The big political story over the last 30 years is the domination of so-called ‘free market’ economics. Some commentators even foolishly talk about the “end of history” because there seem to be no competing views. The media carry the free market agenda, encouraging debate over nuances within this dominant ideology, represented by the three mainstream parties, and excluding those who have big things to say, such as the Green Party.

The pillars of free market economics include privatisation, deregulation, and attacks on unions and the “nanny state”, all of which can be traced back to Mrs Thatcher, who pioneered this ideology of selfishness, even claiming that “there is no such thing as society”. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown happily picked up the Thatcherite baton and ran with it, continuing to privatise public services such as hospitals and the London Tube, while trying to hide behind complicated schemes like PFI and PPP. Instead of imposing effective regulation on big business, Labour has given carte blanche to corporations to regulate themselves, resulting in the near bankruptcy of the UK due to the banking and financial crisis. Attacking unions is part of the problem, because there is a clear link between the weakened bargaining position of workers, resulting in low wages, and the massive expansion of consumer credit required to maintain people’s standards of living – a bubble still in serious danger of exploding.

More than half a century has passed since World War Two and the end of Empire, yet Britain has still not found a positive role in the world. We are a poodle to American foreign policy, obediently following their military adventures (irrespective of how ill-conceived or immoral these may be), constantly needing reassuring pats on the back from Uncle Sam in response to our pleading “Tell us we still have a special relationship”.

There are two competing visions of wealth and value in the world, and the British establishment is besotted with the wrong one. The first vision sees the natural world as beautiful and valuable in itself, to be studied and cherished. It seeks to promote and enhance those aspects of human culture which emphasise harmonious relationships with nature and with other humans. The second view assigns no intrinsic value to nature, believing it valuable only for its instrumental use to humans, violently extracting minerals and industrially cultivating a few crops as ‘mono-cultures’, thereby inflicting massive, unsustainable damage on the environment. This second view also fails to recognise the intrinsic value of human beings themselves, only valuing us to the extent we serve money and power.

This is the real reason we have a “broken society”. Under current conditions we are alienated from nature and from each other – in other words we do not value our relatedness. Our lack of relatedness manifests in the extreme inequalities which now blight our society, destroying our collective well-being, increasing our fears, and making us ill.

Even if we don’t believe that nature has intrinsic value, we can surely see that the massive destruction being inflicted on the oceans, soil, forests and atmosphere will inevitably cripple the environment’s usefulness. For example, most of our medicines originate from the plant and animal kingdoms, but how are we going to extract and synthesise new medicines if we extinguish huge numbers of species? Impoverishing and stripping variety from nature is extremely short-sighted, as each species and ecosystem embodies millions of years of evolution and experience which can never be repeated. Eventually this environmental destruction will lead to the demise of humanity itself.

Apparently people are sceptical about the scientific evidence for climate change, but whether we agree that climate change is man-made or not, does anyone seriously think it is a good idea for a few human generations to extract from the earth’s crust the entire carbon deposits from millions of years of compressed rainforests and inject them into the atmosphere as smoke? We know how sensitive modern systems are to any disruption (e.g. volcanic ash), so put your hand up if you think this massive chemical pollution of the atmosphere is a sensible idea. Yet it seems that we will stoop to anything to keep pumping oil, whether this means invading other countries on false pretexts or pandering to some of the world’s most repressive regimes.

Your vote on May 6th can make a difference. Do any of the main parties have a coherent analysis or vision which will really improve our world and our society? Do they have the committment or policies to address these challenges? Please vote with both your head and heart. Vote strategically, vote Green.

Climate Change, The Forgotten Issue?

One issue should dominate this election. It will affect the lives of our children and of their children. It has the potential to disrupt economies and topple governments. It is Climate Change.

Already extreme weather events worldwide are causing misery, death and devastation. The World Health Organization estimates that 160,000 people die each year through disease, drought and flooding caused by climate change.

On present trends, the world’s temperature is set to rise between 3º and 8ºC by 2100. Sea levels will rise, devastating deltas, island states, and putting at risk low-level mega cities like Shanghai, New York, Mumbai and London, creating up to 200 million environmental refugees by 2050. Malaria and other diseases are likely to spread dramatically. Food supplies will become erratic as rain-belts shift.

To highlight this issue and to try to bring it on to the political agenda in Derbyshire, we have organized a meeting in Buxton, to be addressed by Dr. Tom Roberts of the Manchester University Tyndall Centre for Climate Research. Dr Roberts will spell out the realities of Climate Change from a non-party political position. Peter Allen, our parliamentary candidate in the High Peak will then outline the policies we propose to counter the threat.

You are all invited, show that Climate Change matters to you by coming along and – please spread the word.

On Thursday 29th April
At: Buxton Campus, University of Derby, 1 Devonshire Road, Buxton
In: the Lecture Theatre, Room DOG01
Time: 7.30 until 9pm.

How The Greens Would Help Students

Students of the University of Derby submitted these questions to candidates in the Derby and High Peak constituencies:

1.  As the economy is moving towards recovery, how would the economic policies of your party help those looking for graduate employment?

The Green New Deal, which we have adopted, envisages the creation of one million green jobs, including investment in renewable energy technology, public transport and social housing. All of these initiatives will provide opportunities for graduates with technical and people/project management skills. We will seek to promote leadership opportunities for women in particular, requiring 40% of board members of larger companies to be female within 5 years. (For more information see http://www.neweconomics.org/projects/green-new-deal)

2.  The average student debt is approximately £27,000 upon graduating.  How would you reduce the cost of higher education without lowering standards?

The Green Party manifesto has a carefully costed pledge to abolish tuition fees. The cost of higher education is to be funded out of general taxation, maintaining current spending and standards:

Norwich Green Councillors Call For The Abolition Of University Tuition Fees
Norwich City Council on 2nd March, resolved to support the Union of UEA Students’ Higher Education funding campaign and write to the Government opposing an increase in tuition fees.  Green Party Councillors asked the Council to call for fees to be abolished altogether, but this proposal was voted down by Labour and Conservative councilors, who supported retaining the current fees of up to £3,000 per year for students.  Green Councillor Adrian Ramsay, who will be making a submission to the Browne Inquiry in to Tuition Fees on behalf of the Green Party, commented: “I am pleased to be joining the student demonstration against tuition fees. If I replace Charles Clarke as MP I will fight for tuition fees to be replaced by a fairer funding system involving a return to grants for students so that talented young people can go to university regardless of their background.”

3.  Building upon this; how would you maintain the quality of public services, in particular universities, in an atmosphere of public funding cuts?

We do not intend to cut public spending as a whole although we would reduce spending in certain areas, (defence, road building, expanding prisons for example), and save £2.5 billion by not introducing ID cards. We believe that we should pay for public services with a taxation system that promotes fairness and rewards behaviour that’s good for society and good for the environment. This will mean raising taxation for high earners, many of whom will be graduates, who thus will be repaying the cost of their education.

4.  As local councils provide much of the services that students use, how much responsibility would you like to see local councils have?

The Green Party manifesto calls for the revival of local government, with the introduction of proportional representation to encourage a grassroots democracy in smaller community and district councils. Such authorities should have enhanced powers over those areas of policy best settled at the local level including housing, education and the promotion of wellbeing by supporting cultural and sporting activity. Eventually this reinvigorated local democracy would have new tax raising powers delegated from central government.

5.  Given a finite pot of money in the Treasury, which would be your priority – returning those to work who could or supporting those who could not work?

This is a false and cruel dichotomy. All who are able to work must have the option to do so. Unemployment should not be used as either an economic or a political instrument. It represents a waste of our most valuable resource, human talent and aspiration. To squander this resource is gross mismanagement. Any person is at risk of suffering unemployment, may be through redundancy, injury, illness or because family circumstances. People in this situation should not be stigmatised. In many cases, they continue to make contributions to society. The humane and civilised society, to which we aspire, would continue to count all people as its members and beneficiaries, regardless of employment status.

6.  What are your views on how to combat Climate Change?

The failure of the Copenhagen Conference makes it more obvious than ever that finding a global solution to climate change must involve global justice. Rich countries need to reduce their emissions drastically, we think by 90% from 1990 levels by 2030, starting now! Our manifesto refers to the new three Rs: Remove, Reduce, Replace. Remove demand where possible, reduce demand through for example, energy efficiency measures, and recycling and replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. The lead must come from government, both through direct investment and through enacting the necessary legislation and tax regimes for a sustainable low carbon economy.

For more information and policy detail go to http://www.greenparty.org.uk/

Transport In Derbyshire And Beyond

Tranport policy is a fundamental failure of this and previous governments. We need a carefully planned and boldly implemented transport system if we are to build a future to cope with climate change.  Until the recession, CO2 emissions from transport had been rising inexorably. In the long term, only good public transport can reduce emissions.

Trains

Nationally, trains have been neglected for many years. Most money goes to London and the South East, now under the guise of catering for the Olympics – a party that will last for 3 weeks! You only have to compare with European continental trains to see how far behind we have fallen in this country. Important in an election? Yes to Greens. Trains (and trams) powered by renewable electricity will have to be the main source of long distance transport to reduce climate change and to overcome the lack and high price of oil supplies.

Nationally, one of the longest intercity train services is between Liverpool and Norwich, via Sheffield, Chesterfield and sometimes Long Eaton and Alfreton. Many of the trains are two coaches only. These have been overcrowded for years between Manchester and Nottingham. We were promised at a meeting in Chesterfield in March that the trains would be expanded to 4 coaches in May. We later heard they were talking about May 2012!

Derbyshire County Council (DCC) have been lamentable on this issue. The reopening of the Matlock to Buxton line was a “key” element in their Local Transport Plan 1 in 2000. They contracted Scott Wilson to produce a feasibility study which stated that it would be relatively easy to reopen the line as most infrastructure was still in place. DCC  (then Labour) got cold feet and refused to proceed with it. The Multi-Modal study on the East Midlands section of the M1 recommended that the East-West rails lines, some intact, should be reopened to passenger traffic. This report was supported by DCC and Chesterfield Borough Council (CBC).  Virtually nothing has been done to implement this recommendation. It was DCC that cut off Chesterfield Town Center from the rail station by building the so-called “bypass” between the two. There are no bus services of any use to the station, and only a few per day to Bolsover. DCC refuse to support anything to provide such a service.

Buses

In general DCC has been very supportive of bus services, and their support of Community transport has also been excellent. Unfortunately their information systems are awful. Take the journey by bus from Chesterfield to Wirksworth for example: we assume there must be reasonable services, but they do not give details in their timetable booklet that we all have to pay for. Information at bus stops is either non-existent or poor quality. Our case is that,  for a little more money, good information could persuade more people to use buses, thus reducing the necessity for so much subsidy.  The bus companies are equally guilty here, but they are let off the hook by bad management at DCC. The bus companies tell us that it is DCC’s job and not theirs to provide bus information, while DCC tell us the opposite! Nothing gets done except one playing off against the other. As the licensor and contract provider DCC should be in the driving seat.