Archive for the ‘climate change’ Tag

Climate revisionism

I am a subscriber to the Economist; not because I like it – though the writing is excellent – but because its free-market ideology is a constant reminder of the challenge the ideology presents for those looking to foster progressive change. So, when I opened this week’s copy, I was hoping to see one dominant factor, climate change. Note it was hope, not expectation.

The Economist is struggling with climate change. The writers/editors know that it is a challenge to business-as-usual. The IPCC report published earlier this week (9 August 2021), has given the the magazine’s editors a way out: sulphates. Every cloud has a silver lining, and sulphates – or more generically, aerosols – are showing themselves to be a way to justify not changing the system that delivers ever-greater climate change.

The IPCC report shows that in burning fossil fuels, sulphates are released into the atmosphere – the lower atmosphere to be precise. These particles actually reflect heat away from the planet and have contributed something in the order of 0.4 degrees Celsius of cooling. Actually scrubbing fossil fuels when they are burned, takes out the sulphates and, hence, makes warming worse (though the benefits to air quality and hence mortality from air polution are significant but peripheral in the argument). Even more interesting is the discernible decrease in sulphates that occurred after 2015 and is detailed here by James Hansen – a colossus in climate science (left). In other words, without sulphates the planet would have already reached 1.5 degrees Celsius warming since pre-industrial times. Readers may well be able to see where this is going?

The sulphates “solution” is at the heart of solar geo-engineering thinking (see Elizabeth Kolbert’s account). If human beings scatter the upper-atmosphere with sulphate particles, the heat would be reflected and the planet cooled. It seems that geo-engineering is back on the agenda for free-market thinkers, even though it is unthinkable for many reasons: political, unintended consequences (some of which are known), etc. Solar geo-engineering is not a solution for the IPCC, however.

In addition, the Economist has gone for another easy option, methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas, something-like 10 times the potency of carbon dioxide. However, it stays in the atmosphere for a much shorter time. The logic, then, is for methane to be targeted rather than carbon dioxide. Moreover, methane can be monetized (it has a market price), therefore it is easier to attract private investment than simple carbon capture. Here is a question, methane can be captured from human industrial processes, but one of the growing sources of methane is that released from melting ice and permafrost. How is that captured? I think the answer is not to release it in the first place. Zero carbon has to be the target. End.

Pic: By NASA – nasa.gov, (archived), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71506555

IPCC report reply to letter

Yesterday I sent an email to my MP, Sally-Ann Hart with some questions regarding climate change. Seemingly, there is nothing to worry about as the UK is a world leader and it’s China’s fault! And I don’t think I mentioned the weather.

Dear Mr Grantham,

Thank you for contacting me about climate change and weather. 

Tackling climate change is crucial and I am proud of the significant efforts underway to reduce carbon emissions. As the first major economy to legislate to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the UK is a world leader when it comes to tackling climate change and it is important that we as a country continue to take action to help mitigate its effects, which include flooding, costal erosion and other issues caused by extreme weather.  

When we achieve net zero, the UK will have eliminated its contribution to climate change, which as of December 2019 accounted for 1.2 per cent of global emissions. Many other countries will hopefully follow our ambition, particularly those with a much larger share of global emissions, such as China which accounted for nearly 30 per cent. Since 1990 the UK economy has grown by 75 per cent while cutting emissions by 43 per cent. 

As we transition to clean energy, there will still be some role for fossil fuels in the medium term. However, this is not sustainable in the long term and I am pleased that steps have been taken to speed up the transition. In the Energy White Paper, it set out the Government’s future plans for the oil and gas sector. This includes transforming the UK Continental Shelf to be a net zero basin by 2050. In addition, the North Sea Transition Deal creates new business opportunities, jobs and skills as the oil and gas sector works to transition to clean, green energy. I am pleased that the Government will provide opportunities for oil and gas companies to repurpose their operations away from unabated fossil fuels to abatement technologies such as Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS), or clean energy production such as hydrogen. 

Ultimately, the Government is clear that the licensing of domestic oil and gas exploration and production must continue to be compatible with our climate change ambitions. While the Government has supported the sector through the pandemic, which has protected jobs and livelihoods, there can be no ‘return to normal’ due to the context of the UK’s net zero recovery. I am encouraged that oil and gas companies are already responding positively to this challenge. For example, Shell is investing in CCUS technology which acts to capture Carbon Dioxide from fuel combustion and Industrial Process.

Kind regards, 

Climate watch: if you don’t think it matters to you, think again

Trying to introduce climate change into a business degree curriculum is not easy. One of the motivations for business students is to make money – lots of it – when they leave university. And the programmes sell themselves, understandably, on that dream. This is amusingly detailed by Martin Parker is his book, “Shut down the Business School“.

Michael StephensSo, I was interested, during one of my morning engagements with a podcast, The Bunker Daily, that has successfully displaced the BBC’s Today programme from my listening diet. The Daily on 26 November 2020, was anchored by the erudite Arthur Snell, who interviewed Michael Stephens (left) from the Foreign Policy Research Institute. They talked about the Middle East and how President Biden is going to engage with the region, especially in light of Trump’s and Kushner’s new relationship with Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. All very interesting.

Snell tried to wrap up the interview with a question about the future. Interviewees often shy away from predictions of this kind, but Stephens did not. He talked about climate change in the region. 7 million people live in the Nile Delta and are in danger of being flooded out of their homes within 10 years’. He went on to say that across the region, critical infrastructure – oil production, for example – is exposed to extreme and unsustainable heat. Temperatures in Israel, he said, are now averaging 37 degrees Celsius in the summertime. 37 degrees is, seemingly, a temperature that tourists determine is too hot and choose other destinations, impacting directly on tourist economies.

There are population movements in poorer countries where rainfall is in decline and the land is unable to sustain its populations. This migration inevitably involves Europe’s borders. The relatively modest numbers of migrants so far have led to ugly far-right nationalists taking power in some countries and regions. More can be expected if climate change is not arrested. That is not me saying that migration is bad; only that bad people can use it in their culture wars to claim power and sustain it.

Critical, argues Stephens, is that the countries of the Middle East diversify their economies away from fossil fuels. And we, in the West, need to help them do it. Though our Finance Minister has just cut the UK aid budget in solidarity.

Pic: FPI

Darning socks

When I was growing up, my grandmother used to knit my socks. I did think it was very uncool to wear knitted socks. Even worse, when a hole appeared, my mother darned the hole. My feet were always warm. And as a child, sartoriality was not much of a factor.

Today I have darned my own socks. Two motivations; first, the environment. It the past, holes such as those (left) would have warranted disposal. Against the backdrop of climate change, darning them is now just another one of those Sunday tasks. Second, I am on strike. This is knocking quite a hole in my finances. Repairing saves money. And quite a bit. It is not just about buying another pair of socks. I do not think I ever go to the shop and buy only what I intended to buy. The solution is not to go to the shops at all!