threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


Leave a comment

WEF: The World’s Greatest Threat is not the Coronavirus

The World Economic Forum, on it’s web page has made the announcement in the title of this post.  They say that true sustainability will only be achieved through drastic lifestyle changes.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/affluence-bigger-threat-than-coronavirus-scientists-capitalism

The article is headed by a massive photograph of landfill rubbish and goes on to state the following:

  • Affluence is the biggest threat to our world, according to a new scientific report.
  • True sustainability will only be achieved through drastic lifestyle changes, it argues.
  • The World Economic Forum has called for a great reset of capitalism in the wake of the pandemic.

A detailed analysis of environmental research has revealed the greatest threat to the world: affluence.

 

That’s one of the main conclusions of a team of scientists from Australia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, who have warned that tackling overconsumption has to become a priority. Their report, titled Scientists’ Warning on Affluence, explains that true sustainability calls for significant lifestyle changes, rather than hoping that more efficient use of resources will be enough.

 

This assertion is taken from an article published in Nature Communications 11, Article 3107 (2020), the Abstract of which is as follows:

For over half a century, worldwide growth in affluence has continuously increased resource use and pollutant emissions far more rapidly than these have been reduced through better technology. The affluent citizens of the world are responsible for most environmental impacts and are central to any future prospect of retreating to safer environmental conditions. We summarise the evidence and present possible solution approaches. Any transition towards sustainability can only be effective if far-reaching lifestyle changes complement technological advancements. However, existing societies, economies and cultures incite consumption expansion and the structural imperative for growth in competitive market economies inhibits necessary societal change.

The reference for the article is:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-16941-y#Fig2

and it is published by Thomas Wiedmann, Thomas Lenzen, Lorenz T. Keysser and Julia Steinbergen,

The figure below is taken from the article and is entitled “The Safe and Just Space for Humanity” and is reproduced on the WEF website.

 

Fig. 2




Leave a comment

Net Zero: CCC recommendations on how to achieve it

The UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the government’s statutory advisor, published its progress report at the end of June.

CCC

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/25/road-to-net-zero-what-the-committee-on-climate-change-recommends

According to the report, a number of areas need urgent attention, if the government is to reach its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  These are:

  • Energy Efficiency – insulating Britain’s homes;
  • Domestic Heating – looking at low carbon alternatives;
  • Electric Vehicles –  the CCC suggests that a complete switch to electric vehicles can be achieved by 2032, earlier than the government’s target of 2035, though car manufacturuers are opposing this;
  • Carbon Tax – this would not hit consumers but could raise £15 billion a year, according to the CCC;
  • Agriculture and Land Use – such as tree planting and nature-friendly farming, which could change agriculture from a major source of emissions to a net absorber;
  • Reskilling and Retraining Programmes – a new workforce will be required to install low-carbon boilers, home insulation and offshore wind farms;
  • Behavioural Changes in Lockdown – showed that many people can work from home, reducing emissions from transport emissions. A new infrastructure to encourage people to cycle or walk to work needs developing;
  • Targeted Science and Innovation Funding – for the development of low-carbon technologies;
  • Adaptations to the Effects of the Climate Crisis – flood defences, protecting homes from hotter summers etc.


 


Leave a comment

UK’s biggest onshore wind farm planned for Shetland

From the BBC website:

_112946141_viking

Scottish energy giant SSE Renewables has said it plans to press ahead with what would be the UK’s biggest onshore wind farm in Shetland.

The 103-turbine Viking 443MW project would cost £580m, and create hundreds of jobs.

It is subject to energy regulator Ofgem approving a subsea power cable between Shetland and the Scottish mainland.

In April, Ofgem said it was minded to approve the link. Shetland’s current power station is to close in 2025.

It would be the UK’s largest onshore wind farm in terms of annual electricity output.

It is hoped construction will start in late summer, and the project completed in early 2024.

SSE Renewables said it would create about 400 jobs at peak construction.

Jim Smith, managing director of SSE Renewables said: “This project will bring benefits threefold for the island; harnessing its renewable potential, securing its electricity supplies for the long term, and helping decarbonise electricity.

“After more than a decade working closely with the community we are delighted to reach this stage and be playing our part in Shetland’s net-zero future.”

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse, said: “This is excellent news for Shetland, and for Scotland’s renewable energy and climate change ambitions.”

When complete, the power cable project would connect Kergord in Shetland to Noss Head on the Scottish mainland, near Wick in Caithness.



 


Leave a comment

Petition: Rebuild the economy out of lockdown with a Green New Deal

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK Government has intervened in the economy in an unprecedented way.

The recovery must not simply reinstate ‘business as usual’ – Parliament must introduce a radical 10-year strategy for public investment to decarbonise the economy and eradicate inequality.

The following petition has been lodged on the Government’s petition website.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/317343

It needs 10,000 signatures for the government to respond to the petition and 100,000 signatures before it will be considered for debate in Parliament.

Please share the petition.  It closes on 15th December 2020.



 


Leave a comment

Kyoto Protocol’s second phase emissions on target – but don’t celebrate just yet!

This post is copied from the website of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is encouraging news, though do note the sentences below in bold, which sound a note of caution.  Please note also that several significant countries did not sign up to the Kyoto Protocol and these are some of the worst polluters (eg USA; Canada; Russia; Japan).

windfarm

The report from the UNFCCC (released June 2020):

https://unfccc.int/news/kyoto-s-second-phase-emission-reductions-achievable-but-greater-ambition-needed

A new UN Climate Change assessment shows that greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions of 18% compared to 1990 levels under the Kyoto Protocol’s second phase seem fully achievable and likely to be exceeded.

The Protocol’s second phase, called the second commitment period, was established by means of the Doha Amendment in 2012 and runs from 2013 – 2020. The Amendment strengthened quantified emission limitation or reduction commitments for developed countries and set a goal of reducing GHG emissions by 18% compared to 1990 levels.

The assessment of the latest information received from Parties with commitments under the Doha Amendment (Annex B Parties), based on data for the period 1990-2018, shows that total aggregate GHG emissions in 2018 were 25.3% lower than in 1990.

Annex 1 emissions trends

Moreover, if current annual average emissions of Annex B Parties (amounting to 5,696 Mt CO2eqin the period 2013–2018) remain at this level for 2019 and 2020, the emission reduction target of 18% could be further exceeded.

Assigned amount vs cumulative emissions

“While the results of this assessment are very encouraging, they only apply to a group of some 37 countries that agreed to emission reduction targets under the Doha Amendment,” said Ms. Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change. “Globally however, emissions have been rising, which clarifies the urgent need for greater ambition,” she added.

This year is critical with respect to climate change ambition as 2020 is the year in which Parties will submit their new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

NDCs are at the heart of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Each NDC reflects the country’s ambition, taking into account its domestic circumstances and capabilities.

“The submission of new or updated NDCs represents an important opportunity for all countries to raise their ambition and to put the entire world onto a reduced emissions pathway,” said Ms. Espinosa.

“The current global emissions pathway would likely result in an increase of global average temperatures of 3C or more,” she explained. “This would be significantly higher than the temperature limits of less than 2C and as close to 1.5C as possible as contained in the Paris Agreement – hence the urgent need for greater ambition.” 

The assessment under the Doha Amendment revealed that the GHG reductions have generally been achieved through national mitigation actions.

“This shows the potential of consistently implementing climate change policies and actions at the national level. Through the NDC process, countries have the opportunity to further advance climate policies and actions, and to ratchet them up over time” Ms. Espinosa underlined.

The new figures present themselves without the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol having officially entered into force and the commitments thus having become legally binding. To date, 138 of the needed 144 instruments of acceptance to enter the amendment into force have been received.

Ms. Espinosa said: “The United Nations is actively engaging with countries to encourage governments to ratify the Doha Amendment as soon as possible. The amendment’s entry into force would be a valuable signal of a unified, multilateral commitment to the fight against climate change”.

The Kyoto Protocol, which took effect in 2005, sets binding emission reduction targets for developed countries. Its first commitment period ran from 2008-2012 and set an average reduction target of 5% compared to 1990 levels.

During this time, the emissions of the 37 developed countries that had reduction targets declined by more than 22% compared to 1990, far exceeding the initial target of 5% compared to 1990.

The Protocol thus clearly plays a key part in reaching the objective of the UN Climate Change Convention, namely to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations and reduce the consequences of climate change.



 


Leave a comment

COP 26: New date agreed for UN climate summit in Glasgow

COP 26, due to be held in Glasgow in November 2020, has now been postponed for a year.  The COP26 UN summit will now take place between 1 and 12 November next year.

It was originally supposed to take place in November 2020. However, it had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

Dozens of world leaders will attend the gathering, the most important round of talks since the global Paris Agreement to tackle climate change was secured in 2015.

This year’s event was due to take place at the Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow, which has been turned into a temporary hospital in response to coronavirus.

‘Clean, resilient recovery’ from Covid-19

COP 26 President Alok Sharma said: “While we rightly focus on fighting the immediate crisis of the coronavirus, we must not lose sight of the huge challenges of climate change.”

Mr Sharma, who is also the UK government’s business secretary, added: “With the new dates for COP26 now agreed we are working with our international partners on an ambitious roadmap for global climate action between now and November 2021.

“The steps we take to rebuild our economies will have a profound impact on our societies’ future sustainability, resilience and wellbeing and COP26 can be a moment where the world unites behind a clean resilient recovery.

The UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, said: “If done right, the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis can steer us to a more inclusive and sustainable climate path.”

COP 26 will be the event at which countries are expected to come forward with stronger emissions cuts to meet the goals of the Paris 2015 deal.

Plans submitted so far put the world on a pathway towards more than 3C of warming, though the Paris Agreement commits countries to curb temperatures to 1.5C or 2C above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

But with countries around the world grappling with coronavirus, and many putting citizens in lockdown, governments have prioritised the immediate global health crisis.

Since the pandemic took hold, greenhouse gas emissions have dropped sharply as industry and transport have been curtailed, but experts have warned that pollution will soon bounce back without climate action.



 


Leave a comment

“Planet of the Humans” removed from youtube

This controversial film, produced by Michael Moore, argues that green energy sources, including biomass energy, wind power, and solar energy, are not truly renewable or sustainable. The film has been criticized as outdated and misleading. The film was removed from YouTube on 25 May 2020.

Here is a critique of the film by George Monbiot and published in The Guardian, 8th May 2020:

“How did the radical film maker Michael Moore become a hero of the far right?”

Denial never dies; it just goes quiet and waits. Today, after years of irrelevance, the climate science deniers are triumphant. Long after their last, desperate claims had collapsed, when they had traction only on alt-right conspiracy sites, a hero of the left turns up and gives them more than they could have dreamt of.

Planet of the Humans, whose executive producer and promoter is Michael Moore, has now been watched 6 million times on YouTube. The film does not deny climate science. But it promotes the discredited myths that deniers have used for years to justify their position. It claims that environmentalism is a self-seeking scam, doing immense harm to the living world while enriching a group of con artists. This has long been the most effective means by which denial – most of which has been funded by the fossil fuel industry – has been spread. Everyone hates a scammer.

And yes, there are scammers. There are real issues and real conflicts to be explored in seeking to prevent the collapse of our life support systems. But they are handled so clumsily and incoherently by this film that watching it is like watching someone starting a drunken brawl over a spilled pint, then lamping his friends when they try to restrain him. It stumbles so blindly into toxic issues that Michael Moore, former champion of the underdog, unwittingly aligns himself with white supremacists and the extreme right.

Occasionally, the film lands a punch on the right nose. It is right to attack the burning of trees to make electricity. But when the presenter and director, Jeff Gibbs, claims that “I found only one environmental leader willing to reject biomass and biofuels”, he can’t have been looking very far. Some of us have been speaking out against them ever since they became a serious proposition (since 2004 in my case). Almost every environmental leader I know opposes the burning of fresh materials to generate power.

There are also some genuine and difficult problems with renewable energy, particularly the mining of the necessary materials. But the film’s attacks on solar and wind power rely on a series of blatant falsehoods. It claims that, in producing electricity from renewables, “You use more fossil fuels to do this than you’re getting benefit from it. You would have been better off just burning fossil fuels in the first place”. This is flat wrong. On average, a solar panel generates 26 units of solar energy for every unit of fossil energy required to build and install it. For wind turbines the ratio is 44 to 1.

Planet of the Humans also claims that you can’t reduce fossil fuel use through renewable energy: coal is instead being replaced by gas. Well, in the third quarter of 2019, renewables in the UK generated more electricity than coal, oil and gas plants put together. As a result of the switch to renewables in this country, the amount of fossil fuel used for power generation has halved since 2010. By 2025, the government forecasts, roughly half our electricity will come from renewables, while gas burning will drop by a further 40%. To hammer home its point, the film shows footage of a “large terminal to import natural gas from the United States” that “Germany just built”. Germany has no such terminal. The footage was shot in Turkey.

There is also a real story to be told about the co-option and capture of some environmental groups by the industries they should hold to account. A remarkable number of large conservation organisations take money from fossil fuel companies. This is a disgrace. But rather than pinning the blame where it lies, Planet of the Humans concentrates its attacks on Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org, who takes no money from any of his campaigning work. It’s an almost comic exercise in misdirection, but unfortunately it has horrible, real-world consequences, as McKibben now faces even more threats and attacks than he confronted before.

But this is by no means the worst of it. The film offers only one concrete solution to our predicament: the most toxic of all possible answers. “We really have got to start dealing with the issue of population … without seeing some sort of major die off in population, there’s no turning back.”

Yes, population growth does contribute to the pressures on the natural world. But while the global population is rising by 1% a year, consumption, until the pandemic, was rising at a steady 3%. High consumption is concentrated in countries where population growth is low. Where population growth is highest, consumption tends to be extremely low. Almost all the growth in numbers is in poor countries largely inhabited by black and brown people. When very rich people, such as Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs, point to this issue without the necessary caveats, they are saying, in effect, “it’s not us consuming, it’s Them breeding.” It’s not hard to see why the alt-right loves this film.

Population is where you go when you haven’t thought it through. Population is where you go when you don’t have the guts to face the structural, systemic causes of our predicament: inequality, oligarchic power, capitalism. Population is where you go when you want to kick down.

We have been here many times before. Dozens of films have spread falsehoods about  environmental activists and ripped into green technologies, while letting fossil fuels off the hook. But never before have these attacks come from a famous campaigner for social justice, rubbing our faces in the dirt.”

www.monbiot.com



 


Leave a comment

The Best Work on Sustainability?

The text below has been copied from a wordpress website of the Azimuth Project, which is described as “from math to physics to earth science and biology, computer science and the technologies of today and tomorrow—but in general, centered around the theme of what scientists, engineers and programmers can do to help save a planet in crisis.”

The Best Work on Sustainability

Some people want to give a $1,000,000 prize for a “discovery of high scientific value that has significant repercussions in the field of environmental sustainability in order to improve the quality of life, in harmony with the production system and the transition to new development models.”

So, they’re looking for people and organizations who have done the very best recent work in these area:

• energy transition towards renewable sources

• sustainable mobility

• clean energy and renewable resources

• energy efficiency

• clean technologies for the exploitation of fossil fuels

• sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources

• eco-friendly management of materials during their entire life cycle

• reduction of CO2 emissions

• innovative systems for the exploitation of solar energy

• discovery and development of new materials for the production

• storage and distribution of clean energy

What are your suggestions?



Leave a comment

Irresponsible engineering and science

https://theecologist.org/2020/mar/10/irresponsible-engineering-and-science

A report in The Ecologist from Scientists for Global Responsibility, written by Dr Stuart Parkinson.

Exxon Mobil Refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

“Britain’s largest science and engineering event for young people – the ‘Big Bang Fair’ – attracts 80,000 people a year. Its main organiser is EngineeringUK, the professional body responsible for the public promotion of engineering.

So far, so good. But there’s a catch. The ‘lead sponsor’ for 2020 – and indeed for every year since the fair’s inauguration in 2009 – is BAE Systems, the biggest arms corporation outside of the USA, key supplier of strike planes to the Saudi Arabian military – whose bombing raids have killed so many civilians in Yemen – and the lead contractor for the new UK’s new nuclear-armed Dreadnought submarines.

Disturbingly, this is not an isolated case of significant financial links between some of the world’s most controversial corporations and the UK’s professional bodies in engineering and science. Other examples are provided by the school education programmes run by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the nation’s most prestigious engineering body.

Funding 

Data published in the Academy’s own annual report showed that over 70 percent of the external funding it recently received for its school education programmes was from fossil fuel corporations.

Furthermore, almost all of the downloadable teaching resources provided by the academy on its website involved arms corporations, the armed forces and/or promoted military technologies.

Then there’s the Energy Institute, the professional body for those working across the energy supply and demand sectors. Its most high-profile activity each year is ‘International Petroleum Week’ – one of the world’s biggest events for the oil and gas industry, generating income for the institute measured in the millions of pounds. Recent sponsors included Rosneft, Russia’s controversial state-controlled oil company.

These are some of the findings of a new report by Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) on the financial links between the fossil fuel and arms industries on the one hand, and some of the UK’s leading professional engineering and science organisations on the other. The range and extent of the links has not been documented until now.

Investments

Nine PESOs ran school education programmes which had some involvement with the fossil fuel industry, the arms industry or both. Three of these nine bodies had especially high levels of involvement – the Royal Academy of Engineering, EngineeringUK, and the Energy Institute.

In addition to the examples mentioned above, EngineeringUK has received funding of at least £1m from Shell for its programme, ‘Tomorrow’s Engineers’.

We found that four PESOs, including the Energy Institute and EngineeringUK, held high levels of investments in the fossil fuel industry.

As we were launching our report, we were able to extract additional data on the investments held by the Royal Society. The society admitted that it held a minimum of £16 million in the fossil fuel industry, and that the actual holdings could be a lot higher. Of 20 PESOs in our study, only one – the British Psychological Society – had an ethical investment policy which restricted investment in the fossil fuel or arms industries.

Five other PESOs held no investments in these industries due to their practice of not holding investments listed on stock exchanges or similar. …..”

The full article can be found through the link at the top of this article.


Leave a comment

Is a world institution for climate and energy needed?

Nick Butler, writing in the Financial Times, argues that a new global institution, rather like the WHO, is needed to ensure the continuous momentum of moving towards a carbon-free world.

https://www.ft.com/content/947290a6-5319-11ea-90ad-25e377c0ee1f?accessToken=zwAAAXB2-sWYkdOUcpCmUxkR6tOQrSXjd8DuHw.MEUCIHBGXcXOrUGgg8Xwg9MIBhJUa8LqKMDOHFFhLOnjZGLHAiEA_NvbDbQXr21jfQDmCl2yxS6UbCK4k_NAOXWG6ZTuI9Q&sharetype=gift?token=69f308c7-be81-4fc6-af82-8698fa938320

pushing bike in floods

His sub-title is:

“Establishing a structure to direct the green transition is key to success”

and he starts his article as follows:

“The debate on climate change has focused over the past year on the setting of national and corporate targets around the objective of zero net carbon emissions by 2050. It is time to move the debate on and put in place the detailed steps necessary to get to that goal and the institutional structure to bring together the many elements of the challenge and the response.

The ad hoc, hand-to-mouth approach is clearly inadequate, as shown by the recent failures and disappointments of the UN’s annual COP process. An established, trusted international organisation is needed to combine both analysis of the challenge and the development of practical solutions.

So far 20 countries have now signed up to the pledge of delivering net zero by 2050, while more than 100 are discussing the target.”

He then goes on to outline how some major companies, such as Qantas, Nestle and Microsoft, have set themselves targets for becoming carbon negative. He believes that the direction of change is clear and makes the case for an international organisation to oversee the process, giving direction and advice, and co-ordinating research, rather like the World Health Organisation has been doing regarding the coronovirus outbreak.

He believes that the International Energy Agency (IEA) is the place to start.



In Chapter 8 of my book, I also argue for the establishment of a new international body, though I do not go so far as Nick Butler in setting up how this might happen.  In this chapter, I describe what the United Nations has been doing about climate change, through the UNFCCC, but believe that a more focused approach is needed.  Here is a quotation from p.221 of my book:

Global co-operation is the idea I have promoted throughout this book, because I believe it is the only way to produce the kind of rapid changes in human activity that are needed if we are to save the world from destruction. We are all in this together, so the divisiveness that is promoted by some groups and countries is just not appropriate. The world is facing a crisis and we need to join hands and work together to solve it.

So, what are the factors which are likely to limit global co-operation?

  • the massive size of the global population;
  • differences in national priorities, ethos and cultures;
  • differences across the world in how climate change is affecting individual countries;
  • lack of trust between nations;
  • ideological differences;
  • other crises seem more important to address, such as terrorism, migration etc;
  • risks to national economies;
  • fears that other nations will not do likewise;
  • fears of being left behind in trading competitiveness;
  • unwillingness to give up prestigious possessions, power and status.”

Nick Butler is coming at this idea from a different angle. Rather than seeking the co-operation of individual nations, he encourages some of the largest companies in the world, who have the largest emissions, to start acting responsibly.  Maybe, if they lead the way, then nations will follow.  But we are running out of time.