threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


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European Environmental Agency’s report shows EU greenhouse gas emissions continue to fall

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/29/eus-greenhouse-gas-emissions-continue-to-fall-as-coal-ditched

drax power station hero pic

Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU continued their fall in 2018, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available, according to a new report from Europe’s environment watchdog.

Emissions fell by 2.1% compared with 2017, to a level 23% lower than in 1990, the baseline for the bloc’s emission cuts under the UN’s climate agreements. If the UK is excluded, the decline since 1990 was smaller, standing at 20.7%.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU continued their fall in 2018, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available, according to a new report from Europe’s environment watchdog.

Emissions fell by 2.1% compared with 2017, to a level 23% lower than in 1990, the baseline for the bloc’s emission cuts under the UN’s climate agreements. If the UK is excluded, the decline since 1990 was smaller, standing at 20.7%.

However, emissions must be brought down much further and faster to satisfy the EU’s obligations under the Paris agreement, campaigners said. Annual falls of about 7% are estimated to be needed to keep global heating within the Paris upper limit of 2C above pre-industrial levels.

The economic turmoil and disruption caused by the coronavirus is likely to result in a short-term drop in emissions, as it has so far this year across the world, but the longer-term impact is unknown.

Green groups urged governments to link the recovery from the coronavirus with the need to reduce carbon, ahead of the Cop26 talks, and said the year’s delay must not be allowed to slow down action on the climate crisis.

“A 2.1% emissions drop isn’t nearly enough to avert massive climate breakdown, and we absolutely cannot lose sight of the urgency of this task,” said Aaron Kiely, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Postponement of the climate talks cannot come at the cost of international climate action – it doesn’t give governments a get-out clause from their international responsibilities. There is a way out of both [the climate and coronavirus] crises if we collaborate, listen to the science, and stop losing time.”



 


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“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



 


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Actions politicians and public could take to reduce UK carbon emissions

This a youtube presentation by Prof. Keith Barnham (Imperial College, London) to help campaigners to know which issues to raise during the 2019 General Election.

It focuses on renewable energy and whether non-renewables are needed as a back-up.  He concludes that solar power and Anaerobic Digestion (AD), of farm animal and crop waste and food waste, which can generate biomethane for electricity and and gas grids are perfectly adequate to provide back-up, so that non-renewables no longer need to be used or developed.

He suggests that a new government should adopt this strategy.



 


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How a Green New Deal will benefit us all

Taken from the Labour Party’s manifesto and written by Paul Halas, with acknowledgements also to:

https://watershed2015.wordpress.com/2019/10/18/how-a-green-new-deal-will-benefit-us-all-paul-halas/


There’s been a lot of excitement about Labour’s Green New Deal, but what does it involve and how will it affect us?

Burning up carbon deposits – in the form of oil, coal and gas – which were laid down over hundreds of millions of years, is pushing us to the brink of extinction. To avoid this we need to take some pretty drastic action and we’ll have to be prepared for major changes in the way we live, work, travel and even eat.

As part of its Green New Deal, Labour has undertaken to make the UK carbon neutral by 2030. This is how –

Some of the biggest changes will have to take place at the top, starting with the major international corporations – which carry the biggest responsibility for carbon emissions. They produce and sell both the fossil fuels and the machines and gadgets that cause climate change. By increasing tax on products and services that release more carbon, and reducing it on ones that cause less damage, big business can be made to do the right thing.

Greener energy will be a priority. Renewable energy sources now account for half our electricity, but to reach carbon neutrality by 2030 green energy must still be increased vastly. Labour plans to double offshore wind-powered generation, and will encourage local energy production – whether it’s from sun, wind or water, or a combination of them.

Transport and travel are major contributors to climate change. The Green New Deal will encourage greener ways of travelling, more sustainable technologies and better ways of making use of the resources we have. While they’re only a partial solution, the development and ownership of cars running on electricity from renewable sources will be helped, public transport will be improved and bus and rail networks widened. In the areas still not well served by public transport, vehicle-sharing schemes will be created.

Energy saving begins at home, and the Green New Deal proposes both a massive scheme of building new, energy-efficient homes and finding ways of improving existing buildings. There will be a major drive to insulate homes better, and the Conservatives’ tax increases on solar heating will be reversed.

Over time we’ll have to adapt our eating habits. Clearly, flying in foodstuffs from the four corners of the globe produces an unacceptable carbon footprint; equally, industrial-scale meat production releases an incredible amount of methane, another greenhouse gas. Producing more of our food closer to home will reduce our carbon output and help our economy, and a more plant-based diet will be less wasteful and in the end healthier.

Old systems will have to go as new technologies are developed. Much of our economy depends on technology and services that are no longer sustainable and will have no place in our greener future. Old systems will have to go as new technologies are developed. This will inevitably mean that some jobs disappear, but an expanding green economy will mean that more and better jobs will be created, and training will be provided for those who fill them. The green technological revolution will be funded by a £250 billion national investment scheme.

As well as a greener future, Labour’s Green New Deal aims to bring about a more equal future too. The excesses of the super-rich corporations will be curbed; tax avoidance will at last be tackled. The multimillionaire class have taken more and more, while the rest of us – the many – have been left with less and less. One way to tackle the problem is through taxation, and another is through localism – also known as Community Wealth Building. Many communities throughout the world are already benefiting from these schemes, and an increasing number of towns and cities in the UK are adopting them.

The idea is that communities and councils always give priority to local suppliers and services. For instance when building a new school, or hospital, or sports complex, etc, local firms will always be preferred to the big players to carry out the work. The same goes for services. Under the Labour Green New Deal local energy suppliers will be encouraged, especially if they are publicly-owned, or run by people’s co-operatives. Local credit unions will be created, house-building schemes, housing associations, food co-operatives – all manner of local enterprises – all creating fairly-paid, unionised jobs. That way money earned in the locality stays in the locality and benefits local people. It cuts down our carbon output by reducing transport of both people and goods, and encourages green technologies. It also creates a greater degree of equality and reduces our dependence on the big corporations. What’s not to like?

To prevent catastrophic climate change we’re all going to have to adapt to major changes. But they needn’t be daunting. We’re not going to go back to a pre-industrial age. We won’t have to cycle everywhere unless we want to, and we won’t have to live on a diet of turnips and pottage.

 

Many of the changes will be beneficial and will bring about a more equitable and contented society. They should be embraced.

These policies were mentioned in Jeremy Corbyn’s address to the 2019 Labour Party Conference and the Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Group is campaigning on the Green New Deal as part of the Campaign against Climate Change which set up the One Million Climate Jobs campaign.



 


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Forest Green Rovers football club goes green

This story is from the Financial Times:

https://www.ft.com/content/d66ba036-763a-11e9-be7d-6d846537acab?accessToken=zwAAAWrvAwJokdPWa6A2djoR6dO-fW2EZTesqw.MEUCIDcuKj_Zv-m_cQyY3cchi6pdngx7mG2VVnl0685tqNrQAiEAvhOM4ThGqbRuLj8yAFIF2M6BTgAqsVPOkDKMwewIIRQ&sharetype=gift?token=1bc4775c-e348-4f02-9c36-4c6172949925

Above the leafy Gloucestershire town of Nailsworth, is a football stadium: “The New Lawn”. It has solar panels on the stands, electric charging points in the car park, and a green Union Jack flag outside the ground. This is the home of Forest Green Rovers, the first football club certified by the United Nations as carbon neutral.

The team, in League Two, the fourth tier of English professional football, plays on an organic pitch in a stadium powered by renewable energy. And fans eat from an all-vegan menu. Dale Vince, the club’s chairman, is the founder of green energy company, Ecotricity, based in nearby Stroud, Gloucestershire. It is a business that has turned him into a multi-millionaire.

He acquired the 130-year-old football club in 2010, when it was on brink of bankruptcy, and began transforming it along environmental principles. Forest Green Rovers’ green credentials have created a unique selling point that has gained the attention of businesses. The club made half of its nearly £5m in revenues last year through sponsorship from like-minded companies, such as Quorn, the makers of vegan food, and Grundon, a waste management and recycling group.

Vince said: “Businesses are trying to get with the new agenda. They see the need to green themselves up, to green their products up, because they see that’s what people want.”  This agenda has transformed Forest Green Rovers into one of the best resourced clubs in League Two. Its cash has allowed it to fund a team representing a town with a population of 5,000 — the smallest place to host an English professional league team — that can punch far above its weight. According to the consultancy Deloitte, League Two clubs on average make £3.8m in revenue, far less than Forest Green Rovers, meaning rival teams have less to spend on players. However, this month, the club lost to Tranmere Rovers in the end-of-season playoffs, missing out on being promoted to League One for another year.

forestgreenrovers

Still, Mr Vince’s ambition is for Forest Green Rovers to steadily rise up the divisions and reach the Championship, the tier below the Premier League. As part of plans to achieve that goal, the club will learn in the coming weeks if it has received planning permission for a new 5,000-seater stadium made entirely from timber. “Wood is the most sustainable material that you can build with and concrete is possibly the least,” said Mr Vince. “It will be the lowest carbon footprint stadium anywhere in the world, probably since the Romans invented concrete.”

In the meantime, the club wants to set a green example for others to follow. Mr Vince has been advising the English Football League, and Uefa, European football’s governing body, to develop sustainability plans for clubs based on the innovations brought to Forest Green Rovers in recent years. These include renewable energy for football facilities. About 20 per cent of The New Lawn’s power is supplied by the solar panels installed on its stands, with the remainder coming from other renewable sources, such as wind power. The club’s groundsman uses an automatic, solar-powered electric lawnmower which each day cuts a pitch fed with Scottish seaweed rather than artificial fertilisers. Drains under the turf gather rainwater which is then reused around the grounds.

Mr Vince faced initial outcry from fans after he removed red meat from the club’s match-day stalls but said supporters have come to appreciate its vegan menu, which has also attracted a new breed of fans. One favourite is the Q-Pie, a Quorn and leek pastry with soya béchamel white sauce. The club chef’s latest creation is a vegan sausage roll, which Mr Vince insists is far superior to the version recently introduced by Greggs, the high street bakery.

From next season, the club will further add to its environmental credentials with a plan to “carbon offset” every fan’s travel to the ground by slightly increasing ticket prices and using the additional money to fund projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions. “Everything we’ve done is really easy to do,” said Mr Vince. “Put solar panels on your roof . . . take meat and dairy out of menus, even just occasionally, it’s not hard to do. Organic pitches, low-energy lightbulbs, banning single-use plastics . . . everything we’ve done here is scalable.”



 


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The transition to a sustainable world: a call on scientists etc to work together

Transition Lab calls on scientists, engineers, data experts and volunteers of all ages to work together to address climate change and ecological collapse.

labimage

Transition Lab was created to give people the opportunity to address climate change and ecological collapse in the absence of adequate national or international government policy. With modern communication technology they will organise millions of volunteers to support the important work that must begin immediately.

Their job is to scale the response to this challenge, and support the organisations already on the front lines with much needed expertise.

Mission:

To create a voluntary project on the scale of CERN or the International Space Station

Transition Lab’s core mission is to place a range of people – willing scientists, engineers, highly skilled people and volunteers – directly with projects seeking to mitigate climate change, ecosystem collapse and climate change adaptation. We hope that highly trained experts will take paid or unpaid leave, take a sabbatical, take up fellowships or simply show up to help address this urgent crisis.

This work can happen independently with our own planned projects or with existing NGOs projects, corporations, local authorities, communities or any organisation that has declared a climate emergency. Our first task is to create models of how a major transition of energy, transportation and natural system management might significantly improve with large scale volunteer support.

Plans

Phase 1: Immediate objectives

•  Find technology partnerships to implement the placement/fellowship system.

•  Lobby Universities UK to declare climate emergency and support academics willing to join Transition Lab.

•  Form core working groups (ecological restoration, climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, renewable energy scaling, electric transport scaling, economic transition).

Build models for how our plans might impact current efforts.



Further details are on the Transition Lab website:

Contact details for those wishing to be involved or to receive a newsletter:

Mr Richard Dent: Project director, communications strategy
richard@transitionlab.earth

Dr Alison Green: Academic outreach, curriculum development
alison@transitionlab.earth



 


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Heat stress in the Global South

https://www.scidev.net/global/energy/news/billions-at-risk-from-heat-stress-at-home.html

Some 1.8–4.1 billion people living in the developing countries of South Asia, South-East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America are vulnerable to heat-related stress, and lack access to technology to cool their living spaces, according to new estimates.

“Addressing the lack of access to thermal comfort has important implications for reducing the risk of heat-related deaths and dysfunction and improving the well-being of billions of people in the Global South,” Alessio Mastrucci, an author of the study and researcher at the Vienna-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), tells SciDev.Net.

The authors note that as health risks rise with global temperatures, the need for air conditioning is expected to add to global energy demands.

Universal access to electricity and adequate and affordable housing are prerequisites to accessing cooling technologies, and are closely linked to meeting several of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mandated by the UN, the study notes. According to Mastrucci, filling this “cooling gap” links with the SDGs on affordable and clean energy, poverty reduction, health and wellbeing, and sustainable cities and communities.

Clinton Andrews, professor of urban planning at Rutgers University in the United States, says that the study shows that “even after accounting for longstanding adaptations that people living in hot climates have made to local conditions, the poor who lack access to electricity, and therefore air conditioning, are at increasing risk of health problems due to heat stress”.

Although previous studies have estimated demands for cooling on a global scale, few have focused on developing countries, and more specifically where adverse climate conditions and poverty converge.

The researchers looked at the energy needed to meet cooling needs of populations exposed to heat stress by taking into account climatic conditions, type of housing, access to electricity and ownership of air conditioners.

energy infographic

“We estimate that between 1.8 and 4.1 billion people in the Global South — with a median of 3.7 billion for 26 degrees Celsius set point threshold and at least five days of annual exposure — are potentially exposed to heat stress in their homes,” says Narasimha Rao, co-author of the study and assistant professor of energy systems at Yale University in the United States.

Closing the cooling gap would mean a rise in energy demand of 14 per cent above current global consumption of electricity in homes, their model suggests. This demand is expected to be met mainly by using air conditioning, which is costly and environmentally damaging.

The authors note that timely policies to make air conditioning technologies efficient and affordable, and to improve the design of residential areas in order to reduce heat island effects, would benefit both the climate and development.

With acknowledgements



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Tracking progress of the climate turning point: Mission2020

Mission2020, a global coalition of several climate analysis organisations, headed by Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who negotiated the Paris accord. Mission 2020 has calculated that if these milestones are achieved by 2020, it will make the longer-term Paris goals possible – because progress now on reducing emissions will make it easier and cheaper to reduce them in the longer term – and wants to spur sufficient progress on climate change to bring that about.  It was set up by the World Resources Institute.

Mission2020 has set milestones, to track whether climate targets are being reached, and tracked progress on each of them.  The milestones are:

  1.  Energy – renewables out-compete fossil fuels as new electricity sources worldwide.
  2. Infrastructure – cities and states are implementing policies and regulations, with the aim to fully decarbonize buildings and infrastructure by 2050;
  3. Transport – zero emission transport is the preferred form of all new mobility in the world’s major cities and transport routes;
  4. Land use – large scale deforestation is replaced with large-scale land restoration and agriculture shifts to earth-friendly practices;
  5. Industry – heavy industry, including iron and steel, cement, chemicals and oil & gas commits to being Paris compliant;
  6. Finance – investment in climate action is beyond USD $1 trillion per year and all financial institutions have a disclosed transition strategy.

Now, it is reporting that insufficient progress has been made in the milestones to comply with the Paris 2015 target of keeping global warming within 1.5°C.

Removing coal from the global energy mix is taking too long, too many forests are still being destroyed, and fossil fuel subsidies are ongoing despite their distorting effect on the market, the study has found. Coal-fired generation is still increasing, with coal-fired power plants continuing to be built in some areas, while existing plants are not being removed from service fast enough. Electric vehicles, meanwhile, comprise 1.4% of overall sales, making a 2020 milestone of 15% of new car sales hard to reach.

There has also been insufficient progress in agriculture to stop harmful practices that increase carbon dioxide production, and heavy industry is not doing enough to use energy more efficiently.

But the analysis has found important steps forward, on renewable energy, curtailing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, and public sector investment in reducing emissions. These suggest progress in other aspects of tackling climate change is also possible, with greater effort from the public and private sectors.

The Mission2020 website has produced a simple diagram to demonstrate what the targets are (or have been), in order to keep within 1.5°C and to monitor progress with them:

road-to-success

The most important one is 2020, as carbon emissions need to peak (i.e. not get any higher) by then if we are to keep within 1.5°C. If emissions continue to rise after 2020, then it will be too late to keep within 1.5 degrees, as carbon dioxide will have built up in the atmosphere and will take thousands of years to remove.

Further details about the Mission2020 analysis are reported in the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/22/analysis-warns-lack-progress-2020-global-emissions-target



An earlier blog I wrote on this website is also relevant to view in this context.  It is entitled “Three generations left – or is it only three years?  New report published in Nature.”



 


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Open Letter to Party Leaders on Climate Change and the UK Economy – from Scientists for Global Responsibility

Open letter sent to the eight political party leaders at the UK parliament on 13 June 2017:
Dear Madam/ Sir

In the wake of the inconclusive general election result and bearing in mind the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, we are writing to leaders of UK parliamentary parties to urge you to unite around a common cause – tackling climate change – as a way of helping to provide major economic, social and environmental benefits at this time of uncertainty. Not only does there continue to be there very strong scientific evidence on the urgency of this global threat, but measures to tackle it offer major opportunities to exploit science and technology to create jobs, tackle fuel poverty, reduce local air pollution and provide many other co-benefits for British society. The UK could capitalise on the renewed international commitment to tackling climate change in the wake of the ill-informed decision of President Trump to withdraw the USA from the Paris Agreement.

We have noted the widespread commitment to tackling climate change in the party manifestos. While there is some diversity in the approaches, there are many common factors. Hence, as a priority, we urge strong support for:

  • Home energy conservation programmes. These will both reduce carbon emissions and help to tackle fuel poverty, which is estimated to be responsible for nearly 8,000 UK deaths a year.1
  • Renewable energy projects – especially wind, solar, marine and biogas technologies and community-led projects. With costs for many of these falling rapidly, the potential economic and employment benefits are very large2 – and government opinion polling shows these technologies are especially popular.3
  • Energy storage technologies, including batteries, power-to-gas systems, and pumped hydro storage. Many of these technologies are already rapidly falling in cost, and they have high potential to complement the variable renewable energy sources.4 Electric vehicles will play a key role here, and their widespread adoption will help to reduce the number of UK deaths attributable to outdoor air pollution, currently estimated at 40,000 per year.5

We further recommend the following additional actions, which we strongly believe will complement those above:

  • End subsidies for fossil fuels, especially for unconventional sources like shale gas. The growth of a large-scale shale gas industry in this country is likely to seriously undermine Britain’s climate targets, as the Committee on Climate Change has warned.6 Furthermore, the technique of hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’) is not popular with the British public,7 partly as it creates significant risks for the local environment.
  • End new commitments to nuclear power stations. These create unique and unresolved economic, security, environmental and safety risks.

Finally, we urge you to use any political influence you have in the USA to try to convince President Trump that climate change is a serious threat to his country as well as the world, and that his government needs to change course. Indeed, his failure to support cleaner industries in his own country is very likely to have a negative impact on the economy there.

We would be interested to hear your thoughts on our recommendations.

 

Your sincerely

Dr Stuart Parkinson

Executive Director

Dr Philip Webber

Chair

 

References

1. Energy Bill Revolution (2015). Fuel poverty. http://www.energybillrevolution.org/fuel-poverty/

2. REN21 (2017). Renewables 2017 Global Status Report. http://www.ren21.net/gsr-2017/

3. BEIS (2017). Energy and Climate Change Public Attitudes Tracker. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/public-attitudes-tracking-survey

4. Goodall C (2016). The Switch: How solar, storage and new tech means cheap power for all. Profile Books.

5. Royal College of Physicians et al (2016). Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution. https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution

6. Committee on Climate Change (2016). The compatibility of UK onshore petroleum with meeting the UK’s carbon budgets. https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/onshore-petroleum-the-compatibility-of-uk-onshore-petroleum-with-meeting-carbon-budgets/

7. As note 3.

 http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2989043/open_letter_to_party_leaders_on_climate_change_and_the_uk_economy.html


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A possible contribution of ethical science to the Industrial Strategy of the Labour Party By Dr David Hookes, on behalf of Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR)

The paper below has been copied in its entirety, with acknowledgements to Dr David Hookes. As a strategy, I believe it takes us on further than the list of suggestions made in chapter 7 of my book, under the sub-heading Economy 6.  David’s ideas have a uniqueness and should be given serious consideration.

Who we are: SGR is an independent UK-based membership organisation of hundreds of natural scientists, social scientists, engineers, IT professionals and architects. We promote science, design and technology that contribute to peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability. SGR’s work is focused on four main issues: security and disarmament, climate change and energy, including nuclear power; who controls science and technology?, and emerging technologies. Introduction: Our view is that science and technology can be used to help implement the transformation of the socio-economic system on a global basis to create a cooperative, pluralist commonwealth based on fairness, mutuality and equality. In this economy humanity lives within ecological limits, now more commonly known as planetary boundaries. One key to the long-term survival of industrial society is to develop a low carbon energy supply to avoid catastrophic climate change. This will involve technologies which harness renewable energy in all its forms (including solar, wind, waves, hydro, bioenergy, tidal, geothermal). Energy storage technologies will also be essential to help deal with problems of variability and intermittency, and some contribution from digital systems, that is, computers and digital instrumentation will be important in integrating these various sources of energy into smart local and national grids. A background to this renewable energy revolution is that about 10,000 times more solar energy falls on the earth than we at present require for all our energy uses. For instance, a small patch of the Sahara, 100×100 square kilometres could supply all of Europe’s electrical energy needs. Capturing a small fraction of this energy and controlling its release are the vital scientific and engineering tasks necessary to avoid climate and environmental disaster.

2 |  An ethical science contribution to a Labour Party industrial strategy: We believe that would place at least three interrelated issues at the centre of an ethical science contribution to Labour’s industrial strategy: 1. Green New Deal-type proposals 2. Arms conversion or replacement program 3. Technology for sustainable development Science tells us that the fossil fuel era must come to end shortly in order to prevent rapid, catastrophic climate change. SGR is a strong supporter of most of the ideas contained in the Green New Deal. 1. The Green New Deal: This proposal has many aspects to it but we especially recommend the following: Low-carbon energy systems, ‘every building a power station’, maximisation of energy efficiency, with renewable and low-carbon energy sources to generate electricity. Creating a workforce for a large-scale environmental reconstruction program, including house insulation. Rapid reductions in fossil fuel subsidies to reflect environmental costs and support a transition to a sustainable and low carbon economy A range of financial innovations such as municipal green bonds and others to finance a green revolution. Low interest rates offered to kick start low carbon developments consistent with democratic aims, social justice and financial stability. The Green New Deal also proposes, with which we concur: Help developing countries by financing large-scale investment in climate change mitigation and adaptation using funds ($100Bn per annum) as first agreed under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord Support the free and unconstrained transfer of new, largely solar, renewable energy technologies to developing countries (see later) There is now talk, especially in the US, of a Global Green New Deal in which a UK Green New Deal could be integrated- a kind of eco-internationalism. Since the climate and many environmental issues are intrinsically international in their essence this seems a sensible strategy.

3 |  2. Arms conversion or replacement: There are many opportunities to carry a general program of arms conversion but we deal below with the most significant one, namely, the nuclear weapons program. For instance if a future Labour government decided to cancel the Trident renewal program it would have to find alternative employment for the several thousand workers involved in it. There have been a number of studies of alternatives, including ‘Oceans of Work’ by Steven Schofield, which was oriented to harnessing renewable energy from waves, wind, and tidal power. More recently, robust assessments of how skilled workers could be re-employed in the renewable and other industries have been published by organisations such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Campaign Against Arms Trade. There is particular potential in offshore wind and tidal lagoons projects. In addition to these proposals we sketch out some ideas below on to how to reemploy the ship-building community in Barrow as well as workers in sub-contracting firms. Solar eco-ships The government could finance, from the cancelled funding for Trident renewal, the development of solar eco-ships that could run on, say, solar-derived hydrogen, or some another renewable low carbon fuel. Some designers have suggested the use of flexible solar cells as sails, for additional propulsion and solar electricity. Such ships could replace the present oil-based merchant shipping over time by being both more energy and economically efficient as well as eco-friendly. The transformation of shipping into solar eco-ships will create many jobs for workers at shipyards such as Barrow, and elsewhere to replace the nuclear submarine work and the subcontracted employment. Hybrid solar eco-ships: We could also discuss the possibility of constructing a type of hybrid ship that has both cargo-carrying capacity, leisure facilities, workshops, and medical facilities. Such ships could provide largely self-funding retirement trips for workers, especially skilled ones. They could act as the link between communities in the developing world and the developed world exchanging goods, and services such as health and education, and skills, as well as promoting broader social and cultural interaction between the communities. Specialist ships for implementing a program of tidal and wave energy around Britain’s coasts and further into the North Atlantic: Britain used to have lead in wave energy until the Thatcher government withdrew funding, possibly under the influence of the nuclear and fossil fuel lobbies.

4. There is scope for tapping into the wave energy in the North Atlantic fetches so specialist ships could be built to implement this program. It would also create a large number of jobs in fabricating wave energy converters. The development of tidal lagoons would also create many jobs fabricating their structures as well as the turbines to generate electricity. Technology for Sustainable Development We suggest that this can be implemented in a network of R&D centres, each, perhaps, specialising in a specific area of technology for sustainable development. Such centres could incorporate the recently instituted catapult centres. Centres of Technology for Sustainable Development (CTSDs) These centres can eventually replace the many nuclear research, development and production plants such as Sellafield, Harwell, Capenhurst, Springfields, Aldermaston, etc. This will have to be a phased process since expertise in dealing with nuclear waste and dismantling of nuclear reactors and weapons will need to be retained for several decades or even longer. It is important to point out that the research program to develop nuclear weapons and nuclear power was initiated in the late 1940s when UK was effectively bankrupt from the cost of the war and was deeply in debt to the US. Nevertheless, money was found to create the institutional structure for nuclear power and nuclear weapons R&D. We must also note this program did not have any significant economic multiplier effect. The energy produced from the nuclear power plants is very expensive and the plants themselves were very dirty producing long-lived radioactive waste, and are also very dangerous. We suggest that money can be found to fund the CTSDs at a fraction of the long term costs of the Trident renewal program (£200bn). The CTSDs will work closely with University departments and private sector research labs which have existing research programs in similar or allied areas But they will also have an economic multiplier effect. For instance, if the UK were, in the first instance, to give the small farmers of Africa and India and elsewhere, solarbased technologies as proposed in the Green New Deal, to increase their productivity they will, in the future, be in a position to exchange their products, such as healthy food and other agricultural products under fair trade agreements. They will also undergo development without taking the fossil fuel route to development, as we did. The funding for the CTSDs could, therefore, also partly come from the annual $100bn fund created under Copenhagen Accord for developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

5 |  The CTSDs will also create much spin-off work for SMEs throughout the country again replacing subcontracting work associated with the cancelled nuclear program. The high level technical skills possessed by the nuclear industry can be adapted to help solve the technological problems associated with the technology for sustainable development. Examples are solar- powered agroecological technology for small- and medium-size farms so that they can replace the highly polluting agribusiness monocultures. The latter have been a key contributor to the catastrophic loss of biodiversity and the poisoning of the land and the planetary water systems. Possible International Alliances? The technology developed by the CTSDs could support international alliances of precariat workers and small farmers. The precariat workers, those with insecure, temporary jobs sometimes on zero hours contracts and usually low paid, constitute at least 30% of the workers in the UK and in some countries, for example, South Korea, as much as 50% of the workforce. They are in a similar situation, in terms of security, to the small farmers especially in developing countries who are preyed upon by agribusiness corporations. Many are driven off the land, ending in the slums of cities, sometimes as a result of being unable to pay debts to these corporations who supplied them with seeds, fertilisers, and so on. In India many have committed suicide. Small farmers constitute at least 40% of humanity but there is, therefore, a possibility of international alliance of these two groups of the marginalised. With appropriate-scale renewable energy technology together with the improvements suggested by scientific understanding of agroecology, it has been shown that the small farmers could grow enough healthy food to feed the world. The development and production of this technology will provide steady income for both the farmers and previously precariously employed workers. Some examples of solar-powered technology from CTSDs Solar-powered water pumping from depth for both irrigation and for drinking. Solar-powered health and education technologies Solar powered- shipping containers can also be developed. Already there are at least two institutions in Germany; one is a social enterprise, AfricaGreenTech in Hamburg, which has engineers and scientists from Africa working with German colleagues; the other is a government-funded R&D institute, the ILK, in Dresden; they both produce solar-powered shipping containers that can be adapted for the above range of functions for small farming communities [ see attached figure below for ILK solar container] They can also be equipped as Agroecology research labs.

6 |  They can even be used for the re-charging of non-military drones, for instance, to deliver medicines to remote communities. Collaboration with German and African colleagues for promoting human and environmental well-being would also be a desirable possibility for historically resonant reasons. It is possible to develop solar-powered small scale agricultural machinery for tillage, transport, and processing of the crops. Environmental clean-up technologies CTSDs can also develop technologies to clean up the environment, for instance, extracting CO2 from the atmosphere using artificial ‘trees’ and storing it underground. Techniques can possibly be developed to reuse the CO2 by converting it to carbon monoxide using a combination of catalysts and solar thermal energy. Carbon monoxide combined with hydrogen is called ‘synthesis gas’ which can then be used to create net low carbon hydrocarbon fuels through the Fischer-Tropsch process. The damage done to the environment by pesticides, herbicides used by agribusiness can be remedied using agroecological methods combined with modern scientific input. Techniques for removal and recycling of plastic waste that at present accumulate in the centre of the oceans need to be developed. Solar-powered water distillation plants: There is an emerging water shortage on the planet caused by the logging of forests and many other reasons, such as its excess use by agribusinesses. Most current methods of desalinating water are energy intensive and can only afforded by rich countries. But there are possible ways that water desalination could be achieved using solar thermal energy. An electric storage technology: This is a key part of operating a low-carbon economy. Primarily this means improved batteries but also using hydrogen, and pumped storage for hydropower. Already there are buses operating in London, Aberdeen, and elsewhere using fuel cells operating on hydrogen Electric powered vehicles: The UK has fallen behind its competitors in developing this technology. But this is likely to be the key transport technology for a low carbon world.

7 |  Conclusion: We have suggested a number of ways in which ethical science can help provide alternatives to controversial and unsustainable industries such as the arms industry and fossil fuels industry. In a sense we have only scratched the surface of the manifold opportunities for creating a truly sustainable economy. With the increasing use of solar energy and digital technology we can anticipate that we can eventually reduce the working day if the work can be shared out fairly. That means an increase in social enterprises working with private companies to create the common good- what Gar Alperowitz has described as a ‘pluralist commonwealth’. References are available on request. Contact: Dr David Hookes, davidh@sgr.org.uk 15 February 2017