Saturday, 29 December 2012

Bridging the Disconnect

One of the key issues of our times I think for many of us in the developed nations is disconnection. 

We are no longer the gatherer/hunters or even subsistance agriculturalists that our ancestors were and our food comes pre-packaged from who knows where, however this is not the disconnection I wish to rant about today. 

Mostly in the global North, we do not live on the front lines, we are not the Beaver Lake Cree or the people of the Niger Delta.  Even where I live, where there have been oil and gas fields opened up and a pipeline dug to bring gas onshore, mostly what we see and hear about are the workers and their occaisonal anti-social behaviour after carousing in Lerwick, or Total being asked to be a "good citizen" and fund the community officers whose jobs the council was going to cut. 

We are insulated to some degree from the consequences of our lifestyles.  And it is difficult for us to imagine, for example what the 14,000 barrels a day gushing up from the sub-salt field in the Santos Basin look like.  Yet oil saturates our lives, in our food, our clothes our gadgets and so many things. 

I think this "insulation" is wearing thin in places and we are starting to feel the consequences.  The many who have suffered the flooding in the UK, the victims of Sandy,those who felt the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill, to name but a few.  Extreme weather events are bridging the disconnection, food prices are likely to also bring it home to us. 
We cannot continue as we have. 

However, colloquilly, my eldest daughter (a teenager) reports that most of the kids her age at her (admittedly small) school do not think that climate change is real.  And I do sometimes wonder how the next generation (who seem SO disconnected to me) will cope. 

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Seasonal thoughts

At this time of year, many of us celebrate our various festivals.  Whether we are religious (in all our various ways) or secular, feasting and overconsumption and waste seem to be the (societal) norm. 

I think that this year there is a particular resonance.  So many around the globe are in poverty, and even in the global North many are feeling the financial strain this year.  As an example, it is expected that the number of people in the UK being fed by food banks this christmas will double to around 15,000. With three new food banks opening, on average, each week in the UK and the prospect of many more falling into hardship next year. 
And this does not even touch on the hardship of people in Greece or so many other places around the globe, such as those recovering from Sandy in the Carribean. 

With exreme weather events likely to become more common and financial hardship increasing, much of what we take for granted, especially in terms of food security may well be compromised. 

It is to be hoped that we will see many more community kitchens and community gardens springing up that more people will grow their own veg and share it, more gifting and more free-economy rather than more people lost and suffering alone.  If there is more Mutual Aid and an increase in community resilience and our food is locally grown with more people re-connecting to the land and to community then I would say that 2013 will be a good year at least in some respects.   

We must each do our bit, grow and share, contribute whatever we can towards building a positive alternative. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

On Re-skilling

Something which has cropped up recently in conversations with my friend Baya and others, is the issue of re-skilling. 
I feel that so many of us and many of my daughter's generation are "unskilled" apart from skills which depend on the current paradigm.  We may be able to deal with our car, our PCs or get a really high score on our Xbox or cook well on our stove but we often do not have the skills to cope outside this paradigm. 
I know that no one person can have all the skills and I think that this is where Mutual Aid and Community Sufficiency come in.  The Free Economy, Organisations such as the WI or websites like http://www.justfortheloveofit.org/ , http://www.selfsufficientish.com/main/ or http://www.bushcraftuk.com/forum/ .  Other resouces such as youtube and paleotube are very useful. 
and if there is a time bank near you it is well worth "investing" in. 

I know personally that through books, and the internet (along with trial and error) I have learned several useful skills such as soapmaking, candlemaking, preserving, breadmaking, cheesemaking, basketmaking, primitive tech hunting,foraging, fishing and gardening.  I have found a distance learning introduction to medical herbalism and there are so many courses available from places like LILI

The best resource is local people.  "Gifting" helps form links and there are so many people out there with useful skills who are willing to share them.  I know that myself I have the offer of learning drystone walling (just through being willing to go out and ask a local dyker) and learning to work with Shetland ponies to pull a cart etc in 2013. I think it is so important for us to reskill, to become less dependant on the current infrastructure and to pass the skills on to our children and others who will be the ones facing the crisis full on.

 So many of our traditional skills will have a much greater relevance and must not be lost. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Re-fracktion

So Fracking is to restart in the UK.  Climate and Energy Secretary Ed Davey has lifted the suspension on Fracking operations which was imposed after 2 earthquakes last year.
With the recent tax breaks in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement it looks like we may see (however briefly) a boom in this technique.
It appears that the first site may be in Lancashire near wells close to the earthquake sites.
And there's also this...

Despite the promise of focused regulation from the new Office of  Unconventional Gas and Oil I am very cynical. 

I understand that this is in order to offset energy dependence as North Sea Gas declines and is meant to create jobs but I believe these arguments could equally be applied to adaptation and renewables.

With the well documented impacts of US fracking and the fact that this is still a fossil fuel, I see no real benefit and several major costs to this. 

How much longer can we afford to waste our time and resources?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Doha Done

Well there has been some good news out of Doha.
Despite initial US opposition the UK, EU, Norway and Australia have pledged to give "aid" to repair "loss and damage" incurred through the ravages of climate change.
This is hugely significant, despite being hedged so that no legal "liability" or "compensation" challenges are opened up.  
In another good thing from Doha, the 25 members of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition have agreed to take action on black carbon (soot), methane and ozone.  When you consider the effect that black carbon is having on Greenland, this is significant.  The link for a crowdsourced expedition to investigate this further is here
And of course the extension of Kyoto until 2020.

For me (as I imagine for many of us)  one of the most memorable things from Doha was the impassioned plea of the envoy Naderev Sano, from the typhoon hit Phillipines


 
 
 
 
He says it so well.  "If not us, who? If not now, when?

Time is ticking on and our window of opportunity is closing fast. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Osborne goes fracking mental

So Chancellor George Osborne has unveiled his Gas Strategy and it includes tax breaks for fracking.  Despite the fact that this may well lock the UK into a carbon heavy future, in spite of all the clear warnings of the depth of the oncoming crisis and despite the warning from the Committee on Climate Change that the "dash for gas" is completely incompatible with the Government's own carbon reduction  targets and obligations under the Climate Change Act. 

While I agree with the need to switch from Coal and Nuclear power which is one of the stated intentions, surely it would be better to invest in renewables and not in gas which is still a fossil fuel.
I do not see how building gas fired power stations and fracking, with all the investment of resources that this would entail makes any sense when we need to be investing in renewable sources of energy and adapting to the future. 

It seems to me that this springs from wanting to cash in on the US type of fracking boom at the expense of our future wellbeing and resilience.  Another example of the triumph of the short-termist thinking and belief that somehow "growth will restart" which characterises this government and our current paradigm. 
I feel we have reached the limits of growth and that this attempt to "keep the lights on" is futile and an irresponsible waste of time and resources. 

We cannot afford this. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Doh!(a)

The recent deliberations at Doha seem to my mind to have been following a familiar narrative. 
While developing nations seek redress from the wealthy global North, those nations refuse financial redress and aim to preserve their economic and political hegemony. 

After Sandy hitting the US and with Obama being re-elected for his final term, I was hopeful that the US would actually start taking a real interest in dealing with climate change.  Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case, it may be premature but Obama's decision not to include US airlines in the EU wide aviation emissions trading scheme does not seem a good signal for the future.  It also makes it easier for other countries to opt out and suggests that the scheme may fail. 

While Greenland and Antarctica melt apace and scientists warn that methane emissions could push us over the edge.The Tyndall Centre warns that CO2 emissions are hitting a record annual high of 36.5 billion tonnes, which is 58% above the Kyoto baseline year of 1990.  The gap between the rhetoric and the reality, in reducing global emissions puts us on course for a 4- 6 C mean global temeperature rise .  

While much of the growth in emissions, seems to have come from the emerging E7 countries, it is worth remembering that much of China's emissions still come from manufacturing goods which are exported to the global North, and they seem to be expected to rise until 2030 

All in all I am not hopeful.....



Thursday, 1 November 2012

More UK fracking coming?

According to Reuters, John Hayes (the Energy Minister) seemms to be looking to a new round of licensing for fracking operations in the UK.  The government suspended fracking operations last year after earthquakes near a Cuadrilla fracking operation. 
This comes after The Chancellor's proposal for tax breaks for Shale gas exploration in his speech at the Tory party conference. 

John  Hayes, who has been reported as supporting NIMBYism and saying that the UK needed no more onshore windfarms.

I think that there are real social issues here, while I fully support lowering the environmental and visual impact of onshore turbines and think that they need to be "to scale" and be  "appropriate" for the community, those who are trying to "protect our green and pleasant land" do seem to be speaking from a position of privilege. 

We need to face up to the harsh realities of the future.

 One thing that the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the US highlights to me is our need to adapt.  This seems to been something of a wake up call for the US, as is well reported by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC as NY Governor Cuomo says "we have a one hundred year flood now every 2 years" and he says that  it is a "new reality now"

Hopefully this will push climate change up the political agenda and make adaptation a reality. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Hurricane Sandy and the new normal

As hurricane Sandy leaves a battered Haiti behind and hits the East Coast of the US, where it may collide with a winter storm and a cold front, New York, New Jersey and Maryland brace for the impact. 

Hurricane Sandy, image captured by NOAA's GOES-13 sattelite
According to an article published in the Guardian,Professor Mark Saunders from University College London believes that there are some unusual aspects to the storm. 

  • Apparently all historic storms in records going back to 1851, located well offshore at this latitude have followed the jetstream and turned North and East whereas Sandy turned northwest to strike the mid-atlantic US. 
  • Sandy's relative strength, with it's central pressure forecast to be 945-950mb, it is close to the pressure 955mb record for a hurricane in this region
I do wonder if with likely weakening of the jetstream due to loss of arctic summer sea ice will play a part in the direction of future storms. 

With the drought and flooding this year, with the extreme weather last year, I feel that we are entering the "new normal"  and that this is how things will be from here on.
  I am not saying that every year will be like this at the moment but that the frequency of these extereme weather events will increase as climate change bites and that their severity will be something which we and our children will have to adapt to, with their impacts on our food supply and our infrastructure. 


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Proposed Arctic drilling moratorium rejected

The European Parliament's Industry Committee has rejected a proposed moratorium on offshore drilling for Oil and Gas in the Arctic, despite a contrary vote last month by the Environment Committee.  The proposed regulation has been tansmuted into a Directive, which it will be up to member states how (and if?) they enforce.  Companies will have to show that they have adequate financial security to meet any liabilities and have to submit a  safety hazard and emergency plan to national authorities 24 weeks before commencing drilling. 

I think that this focus on "financial security" misses the point, the environment is not "repayable", damage cannot just be repaid and somehow cease to be an issue, even if the cleanup operation is "successful". 

It appears that ahead of the vote, there was intense industry lobbying, with bilateral meetings between industry and EU officials (after a stakeholder meeting) and "educational trips" to offshore platforms, which may have been genuine and necessary, but the impression is dubious. 

Meanwhile, according to Greenpeace, Exxon is emailing its 34,000 employees in the US with voter guides which give the climate change denying, fossil fuel funded, Republican party gold star rating.  As well as emailing it's retirees and contractors....

"We obviously are promoting candidates who are pro-business and candidates who recognize the importance of a viable policy on energy," "Republicans more often tend to line up on those issues than Democrats."  (Ken Cohen, Exxon vice president for Public Affairs)


The Russian Govt is also looking to "develop" its Arctic Shelf and incentivising this with tax breaks and other measures. 

As harvests fail and food prices rise, the UN forecasts a further tightening of world cereal supplies in 2012-2013. With extreme weather seeming set to become more frequent and the likely weather effects of arctic sea ice loss.  One has to question the sanity of our leaders who seem to be locked into a "growth" mentality desperately trying to restart the economy at the expense of our future. 

We need to radically rethink our priorities. 


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

On not being a sheep.

Having read this article in the Guardian, I was struck by the potential radical change that this is likely to bring.  As I have said previously, I feel we have passed the tipping point and that our present system and society is likely to face severe challenges and I doubt that we have the resilience. 
Given the prediction by Professor Wadhams of the possibility of a summer ice free Arctic by 2016, and the possibilty of Methane release, I do not think we have any time to waste. 
In relation to this urgency of adaptation, I have noticed something locally which I think applies more widely

We are sheep!

In some ways this is to be expected, we are told as children to listen to the teacher, we listen to the priest and the politician and so many other people.  We have ceased to be actively involved citizens and become merely "constituents" or "consumers".  If we are to adapt and make the radical changes necessary, it is essential that we stop being sheep.  We must cease resigning responsibility and take back some of the power over our own lives.
While, after the repeated failures at Bali, Cancun, Copenhagen and Rio+20, I have little or no faith in our politicians, We live with this system of "representation", so I think that we must remind them who they are accountable to and pressure them to take this as seriously as it warrants.   We must also make the changes in our own lives, looking to the future and adapting as best we can, building networks and working with others to build community sufficiency.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

More Arctic Blues

It appears that the extent of Arctic Summer Sea Ice has reached its lowest recorded extent, falling below 4 million square kilometres.  There is a striking visual representation of the change between 1979 and 2012 by the Guardian here
It is also reported that this loss of arctic ice, may well bring a harsh winter across Europe.  It appears that the jet stream is slowing down (as well as moving North) and that this is likely to mean prolonged periods of weather as they are not "pushed on", so perhaps longer periods of flooding and drought. 

It seems to me that this highlights our urgent need for adaptation.  If we are likely to face more extreme weather, like the 2003 heatwave and the 2005 floods then our current infrastructure is going to come under severe strain.  Our systems must be examined and critical points strenghtened, we must build resilience into local and national systems as well as our individual lives. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Over the edge

If anyone has been reading this blog recently, you will have noticed that I have been feeling bleak and rageful.  The reason for this, which it has taken me a while to face up to is that I think we have passed the tipping point. 
There has been no fanfare from the heavens, the sky has not turned pink, but I am pretty sure that we are there.  When scientists like Professor Wadhams, who has been involved in Arctic research for over 30 years, warn that atmospheric CO2 levels are accelerating at a faster than exponential rate, you know we are in trouble.
I am of the opinion that we will see an acceleration of change in the arctic, loss of sea-ice leading to a change in albedo and consequent acceleration of loss.  As the arctic warms up, I think we will see a release of methane from the dissapearing permafrost and unless something miraculous happens, I think we will see the relase of methane from the methane clathrate, a la "clathrate gun hypothesis".  I think as a consequence of this process of change we will see species extinction and a change in weather systems and ,very possibly, oceanic circulation. 

I think that we have set this inexorable process in motion and that our choice is now limited to adaptation.  I think any resources invested to "keep the lights on" are wasted.  Our future is likely to be radically different from our present and it is better to spend our limited time and resources adapting to that future as best we can.
 It might perhaps be said that as the current system is so ecologicaly destructive, it would be better if it collapsed sooner, so that there might be more left afterwards.  But in that process many, many are likely to die and so it is difficult to wish for. 

The repeated failure of our political and business leaders to initiate the necessary change coupled with our lack of of action in our own lives has led us here.
  We must act now.  It is possible that Transiton groups, permaculture groups and other like minded organisations and gatherings will begin the change, but it is a monumental task to change our paradigm and adapt to what is coming.  

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Where is the rage?

As the arctic melts, as anti-fracking protestors are on trial in the UK, as the ecocide and "slow genocide" of the Alberta tar sands continues.  As the very planetary systems are under threat.  Where is the rage?

There is an interesting quote attributed to Mussolini
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

When you consider the present political class and their links and service to the corporations, this makes you think.
 With all the repeated failures at Copenhagen, Cancun and Rio, do you have any faith that we will "be saved"?   How long do you think we (the planet) have? 

This film pretty much says it



We must resist!

Monday, 27 August 2012

A new low in the Arctic

Arctic sea ice has hit a new record low according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSDIC), breaking the previous record low set in 2007.  This is widely seen as a signal for long term global warming. 
One of the most worrying points of the NSIDC press release is this quote from NSIDC Director  Mark Serreze "The previous record, set in 2007, occurred because of near perfect summer weather for melting ice. Apart from one big storm in early August, weather patterns this year were unremarkable. The ice is so thin and weak now, it doesn't matter how the winds blow."

This seems to be due to the loss of multiyear ice and the change to  thinner seasonal ice formation, which suggests that this trend of summer sea ice loss will continue and possibly accelerate leading to an ice free Arctic (at least seasonaly) in the not too distant future. 
This is very worrying as regards the methane clathrate, and also with regards to the effect on weather systems/oceanic currents which remain to be seen.

It seems to me that we are standing on the precipice, we may even be at a tipping point and yet we just "carry on as normal" I find this very difficult to understand. 

We have not adapted our infrastructure, we are drilling in the arctic.  Our politicians and the  oil executives cannot plead ignorance, yet beside a few heroic activists, where is the rage? 

Maybe I despair too much and maybe we will all somehow pull it together, only time will tell. 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Not good at all.

This article in the Guardian is deeply disturbing.  It says that the dedicated CryoSat 2, has found that the rate of Arctic Summer sea ice loss is about 50% higher than most current scenarios suggested.  Part of the "surprise" is the dramatic thinning of the ice, which is now able to be accurately measured. 
With the loss of the white ice to reflect back some of the solar radiation, the area will warm faster.  With the recently reported plumes of methane already showing, the big, scary worry is a massive loss of methane to the atmosphere as in the "clathrate gun hypothesis", followed by how the warmer summer water will affect the Greenland ice sheet.   On a  different, but also worrying note the likely rush for oil, gas as the region becomes more accessible is likely to have a huge negative impact on the region and add more to our burden of greenhouse emissions.   

The arctic region has also offered a last sanctuary to some species of fish (like Cod), and as it opens up, we are likely to the usual overexploitation resulting in collapse. 

With Rosneft, Shell, Exxon, Chrevron, Statoil, Cairn and all the rest lining up, backed by the appropriate governments, the outlook does not appear rosy. 

Monday, 6 August 2012

A new front in the war

A new front has been opened in our war against the planet.  The government of Papua New Guinea has granted a 20 year extraction licence for deep sea mining to the Canadian firm Nautilus Minerals.  This will be the worlds first commercial deep sea mining operation and is being keenly observed by other interested parties. 
The Deep Sea Mining Campaign , a coalition against the operation, estimates that around 1m sq kilometres of seabed in the asia-pacific region is under exploration licence. 
According to a report in the Guardian,  the process will involve levelling underwater hydrothermal "chimmneys" which leak loads of minerals and then pumping the sediment to a ship for mineral extraction and then dropping the waste back onto the seabed. 

This could have a devastating effect on the local ecosystem
In our desire for metals, we could easily cause a disaster. 

Papua New Guinea has a rather unpleasant history concerning corporate access to and extraction of mineral resources.  One has only to look at Bougainville, with the, alleged deaths of more than 10,000 islanders to be reminded of how tragically these things can turn out. 






Sunday, 29 July 2012

It would be funny, if only......

It seems that a study commissioned by the Koch brothers, the US, oil tycoons and Republican funders has found that  anthropogenic Climate Change is real.  There is an article reporting on it here  and the scientific papers should be available here from July 30th. 
This would almost be funny, but for the seriousness of the unfolding crisis.

In the US alone, the  most severe drought in 25 years is having a severe impact on the corn harvest, with knock on effects on prices of livestock and dairy.  When considered along with the wildfires, graphically illustrated here which threaten ecosystems, crops and peoples lives, the climate change denial of some US politicians seems increasingly unreal.  Given that this is an election yer in the US, one can only hope that these issues recieve more attention and maybe (I am cynical, but..) real action will be taken. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Greenland melting


I don't know what to say.  Seiing this dramatic image from NASA( http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/greenland-melt.html) really brings it home. 

While there have been past episodes of melting with the last one in the 19th Century, we are currently at the beginning of a very serious crisis.  Surely, seeing this stark warning we should pause and really think about the conasequences, but I am afraid that I do not have much faith, one only has to look at the TV to see what is more "newsworthy", and where our money is being invested and one can only speculate on how the companies such as Cairn Energy and Shell which are wanting to drill in the arctic will recieve this news

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Game Changer?

The publication of this report from Harvard, may be a game changer.
 It describes how the increase in oil investment since 2003 and the increased use of "unconventional" technology such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has led to increased production and predicts a net increase in  production capacity of 17.6 million barrels per day by 2020.   The report mentions that there is an economic prerequisite of a long term price of $70 per barrel, but when you consider that Brent Crude is currently about $100 per barrel this is not unfeasible. 
The report indicates that the 4 countries with the highest potential for growth in oil production are the US, Canada, Brazil and Iraq.  Largely by exploitation of "unconventional sources" such as Oil Shales, Tar Sands, Extra-heavy Oils and
Pre-salt oils. 
I (and many others) accept(ed) peak oil as near-future.  Which while having the potential to be a major crisis in its own right perhaps had the potential to "crash"  the current fossil fuel driven industrial paradigm and maybe help us to curb our emissions with the consequent impact in terms of climate change. 
With the idea that peak oil is no longer the likely near future and that our oil drenched society has the fuel to continue for some time with the impact which it has driving climate change, there opens the frightening vision of us rushing headlong off the cliff, without any "crash" to stop us first, especially when you consider the extra heavy environmental costs of unvonventional sources.

Of course there is still the question of the Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROEI), how much energy it takes to get the oil from "unconventional" sources and the economic and political impact that will have, the infrastucture difficulties such as supply pipelines etc which affect the all important "flow rate".   With increasing global demand, to some degree, the question of peak oil still remains and  this article in The Guardian indicates that peak oil may still be "on". 

The threat of "peak" other resources like water and metals and rare earths still remains and of course the political and economic climate may change.  But to my mind this highlights the importance of taking action to adress climate change now, to adapt before we unknowingly pass the tipping point. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Up from the ashes

After the epic failure of the system at Rio+20, I have personally had a hard time getting beyond the rage and despair.  I have been feeling very bleak about the future. 
However, it seems to me that in accepting the failure of our political classes and our business leaders to take genuinely meaningful and appropriate action, there is an element of freedom. 
We do not have the time to wait for "due process", with Shell, Rosneft and Exxon drilling in the arctic, with highways coming through the amazon and the exploitation of the tar sands, with the permafrost melting and the threats to the gaian system we all depend on such as phytoplankton decline, loss of cold deep anatarctic water, biodiversity loss we stand on the very precipice. 
It is imperative that we take real action in our personal lives and our communities, we must organise and network.  We must each "do our bit" whether that is, low carbon living, direct actionactivist and prisoner support, growing our own and becoming at least self sufficientish or whatever else is needed.
 We must rise from the ashes of the failure of our political system to adress the greatest crisis of the modern age, if we fail to act then we and our children will face the consequences.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Another epic failure


So Rio+20 is over.  And I question what was achieved.  The "deep concern" expressed over the state of the planet just doesn't cut it. This "business first" paradigm has enraged Greenpeace and led them to warn of more direct action. The proposed "Sustainable Development Goals" which have yet to be decided upon before being  eventually amalgamamated with the Millenium Development Goals seem to be at best a possible target and at worst an attempt to "spin" the outcome of the conference.
One thing I think has been achieved is the exposure of the core conflict between economic growth and planetary health.
 While we have nation states and multinational corporations competing for economic advantage over their rivals and while our current global status is influenced by our GDP, while as individuals our personal status is dictated by our wealth and posessions, I fail to see how we will make the necessary changes.
We cannot have continual growth in a world with finite resources, sooner or later we will hit the wall.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Deceit

According to  The Guardian, leaked documents show that the UK government, the so called "greenest government ever" has been lobbying in Brussels to try to water down important environmental legislation. 
Apparently the government has been trying to prevent the adoption of EU rules on energy efficiency by making them voluntary instead of mandatory or curtailing the process and the government has also been trying to prevent the the adoption of new targets for renewable energy generation when the 20% target runs out in 2020.  According to documents obtained under Freedom of Information, these government moves have the backing of the Big Six energy companies.  It is also shown that these measures are endorsed by the Energy Minister Ed Davey.

The fear is that without a fixed target for renewable energy generation, then there will not be the needed investment and renewable energy will lose out to things like gas. 
The recent outspoken fears that the Govt's new Energy Bill was biased to favour Gas and Nuclear power seem well founded.  It is also seems appropriate to mention that  the rejection of Tory MEPs has played a large part in preventing the adoption of a proposed EU 30% renewable generation target by 2020.

With time being "of the essence" in the necessary response, of adaptation and minimisation, to the oncoming crisis, this seems highly irresponsible of our elected "representatives". I am of the opinion that they cannot be trusted or relied upon, we must take acion in our own lives.



Friday, 1 June 2012

Bleak Milestone

The Guardian reported today that monitoring stations across the Arctic have repor
ted that carbon dioxide in the regional atmosphere has breached the 400ppm mark.  The global average is currently at 395ppm but we can expect that soon to rise.  While the level will fluctuate seasonally and is likely to reduce in the summer, with the announcement by the International Energy Agency  last month that global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion reached a record high of 31.6 Gt in 2011, an increase of 1.0Gt on 2010

We cannot afford to delay.  We must act now and pressure our politicians to act now.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Gaia wounded

As the talks unfold, in the run up to Rio +20, the WWF has released the latest Living Planet Report, which shows that the global biodiversity has decreased by about 30% between 1970-2008, demand for resources is increasing, it now takes the planet 1.5 years to produce the resources which we use in 1 year, and WWF estimates that by 2030 it will take two planets to meet our demands. 

On top of this there are very worrying signs that the Gaian system which we all depend on may be under strain.  A recent study, published in Nature found that over the last century, phytoplankton may have declined by up to 40%,  this is staggering!  If the phytoplankton go, it is pretty much bye bye marine food chain.
Australian and US scientists have also found that there has been an estimated 60% drop in Antarctic Bottom Water since 1970.  This is the cold dense water which drives ocean currents, having a major effect on global climate. 

With our current "who dies with the best toys wins" paradigm and the imperatives to consume.  With the political focus on the financial crisis and in the face of corporate power, it is difficult to see how we will make the radical changes needed in time. 






Tuesday, 17 April 2012

More Drilling

Exxon and Rosneft have announced a deal.  To work together to exploit Arctic resources.  The deal is to "develop" projects around the Kara and Black Seas, worth around $1bn and signed in the presence of Mr Putin. 
Former Rosneft Chaiman, now Russian Deputy PM Mr Igor Sechin estimates the Kara deposits at 4.9 billion tons of oil and 8.3 trillion cubic metres of gas.  the Black Sea shelf deposits are estimated at 1.2 billion tons of oil. 
Under a seperate deal, Rosneft also gains a 30% stake in 3 Exxon Mobil projects in the US, Gulf of Mexico and Canada (I wonder if any of these is connected to the Keystone XL pipeline, or the Alberta Tar Sands?)  Rosneft and Exxon also "inked in" a deal to study the "development" of the  oil reserves in the Achimovka and Tyumen layers in Western Siberia, which Rosneft estimates at about 1.7 billion tons.
This comes shortly afer the the announcement last week , by the Russian Govt of tax relief for arctic shelf development. 
In the UK the controversial technique of "fracking" is set to go ahead and given the green light for expansion throughout the UK, despite having caused 2 earthquakes and doubts about the safety and inspection regimes of wells already drilled. 

Our addiction to fossil fuels and fears for energy security are fueling climactic change, we do not have time.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Spillage

Following on from my previous post. 
I recently came across this article in The Herald which reveals that Big Oil, led by Total, BP and Shell have polluted the North Sea with 69 oil and chemical spills in the last 3 months alone. 
The UK Dept of Energy and Climate Change has released the data and has said that forthwith, the data will be released monthly instead of yearly.

As the environmental impact of the Elgin gas leak is being calculated and as Shell is set to drill in the Arctic this summer, the repeated failures should lead us to question frankly the wisdom of these decisions and the process by which, in the light of the repeated failure, the licenses were granted.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

"Drill baby drill"

As the methane continues leaking from Total's Elgin drilling platfrom, off the east coast of Scotland and Shell gets US Dept of Interior approval for its emergency response plan and so overcomes the last major legal hurdle to its plans to drill in the Arctic this Summer, despite the shock expressed by some UK MPs, I am saddened. 
Our greed for fossil fuel energy seems to be driving us over the edge.  With all the environmental issues arising from our consumption of fossil fuel, it seems amazing to me that governments are licensing such endeavours.  We should be building for the future not scrabbling for a last fix.

Water, water....

Water and the lack of it seem to be in the news. 
With the drought across much of the southern part of the UK and the consequent restricions.  With the loss of Arctic sea ice being linked to the colder, drier winters in the UK, it seems probable that this is now likely to be a frequent phenomenon.
Elsewhere, Colorado farmers were reportedly outbid for water by fracking companies.  and a US Intelligence report is prediction that by 2040, global demand for fresh water will outstrip supply by 40%, leading to use of water as a tool of political leverage or to actual conflict.  When you consider the impact of climate change on glacier fed rivers and the countries which depend on them such as Pakistan (nuclear armed) the seriousness of this becomes more apparent.  Russia seems to be aware of the political possibilities of this water shortage and appears to be making preparations to profit from it. 
With much of the agriculture parts of  India and in parts of the US dependent on groundwater which is being used faster than it can replenish.  With more meat consumption, (one kilo of beef "drinks" an estimated 15,000 litres of water) the strain on water supply is increasing. 
We in the UK often seem to take clean fresh water for granted, I was horrified recently while watching Channel 4 news to see a representative from Thames Water saying that they were commited to trying to help their customers reduce their consumption from 150 litres per person per day to 120 litres per person per day!  When one contrasts this with the situation in sub-Saharan Africa it is quite appaling. 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A damn good video

I found this video.  To my mind it sums it up so very well.

Are we at a tipping point?

I have been reading New Scientist (31 March 2012) and some of it was very alarming! 
In the report on the Planet Under Pressure conference in London, it is mentioned that Euan Nisbet, of Royal Holloway University London warned that warming ocean currents east of Greenland were melting ice in the seabed, which could (as happened off Norway about 8000 years ago in a similar geological setting) trigger landslides on the region's steep submarines slopes therby causing tsunamis capable of reaching the UK and (this is the scary bit) releasing methane which could amplify global warming, a la  Clathrate Gun Hypothesis

Tim Lenton of Univesity of Exeter who has carried out a day by day assessment of Arctic ice cover data collected since 1979 (when satellite observation began) presented his findings showing that while up until 2007 sea ice systematically fluctuated between winter and summer cover, since 2007 the difference between summer and winter sea ice cover has been a million square kilometres greater than it was before.  This means less reflection of sunlight as the sea water has a lower albedo and therefore more warming. 

While there seems to be some positive news in the posssibility highlighted  by Peter Cox from the University of Exeter of reducing our methane emissions and Methane's role in influencing CO2 absorption.  He is said to have calculated that a 40% reduction in human-caused methane emissions would permit the release of an extra 550 gigatonnes of CO2 before we exceed 2 degrees C warming, buying us an extra 15 years at current emission rates.  Reduction of methane seems possible at relatively low cost. 

What this is saying to me is that we are approaching or at a tipping point.  We do not have the time to wait until 2020 for a global climate treaty or "business as usual". 
Yet when you consider Cairn Energy's determination to continue exploration off Greenland and the expansion of their North Sea presence, along with the UK Govt's £3.5 billion in the budget for offshore drilling in the North Sea this is exactly what seems to be happening.
 In our time of economic woe and with the concentration on the Olympics we must not lose sight of the real priority. 

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Energy blues

The government's recent measures on energy seem to me to be very worrying. 
While their move on setting Emissions Performance Standards is likely to prevent Coal fired power stations being built until 2045, Friends of the Earth (FOE) research has found that 16.2GW of gas generated power has already been approved by the Govt and could be online by 2020, in addition to the 3.9GW which has come online in the last 18 months.  As FOE points out, this is likely to lead to rises in domestic fuel bills. 
 As the Guardian reports, research by Ofgem and the Govt  shows that rises in wholesale gas prices have been a primarily responsible for recent rises in UK electricity prices. 
With the government plans to slash environmental regulations as part of their Red Tape Challenge, as leaked to the Guardian, their opposition to a 2030 EU renewables target and the recent move to give parity to nuclear power and renewables, despite the history and massive taxpayer subsidy  of the industry in the UK, I have real concerns. 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Seeds, drought and doubt

It is that time of year again, time to sow the seeds and plan our future harvest.
 For many in the south of the UK, this is not possible at the moment.  With the drought affecting much of the south-east of the UK and the midlands and the south of England "at risk" there is very likely to be a uncertainty and a rise in food prices, which will be especially hard for those suffering under the austerity measures introduced by the government.   As the Guardian reports, the next few weeks are critical.

The drought has also highlighted to me how unprepared we actually are in terms of adaptation.  How will we cope with a post peak future and the grim realities of climate change?  As climate change bites, extreme weather events, including drought and heatwaves are highly likely to become more frequent and intense. We must learn from this and start adapting now. 

Monday, 20 February 2012

Motivational Point

I have been thinking lately.  And it has struck me that one of the important issues in facing up to the crisis and taking personal action is motivation. 

As someone who self-identifies as a Gaian, I was intrigued to stumble across this blog
When you look at the "what is..." section, it seems to have a lot in common with the principles of Deep Ecology as put forward by Naess. 

 The idea of a spiritual/philosophical tie to the land, in particular ones bioregion, may seem completely flaky and not to have a place in the 21st century, but I think that in terms of motivation for personal action it is an important factor. 

To say to people that we must reduce our consumption/footprint or face collapse is a bit of a hard sell.  But if through foraging, respectful hunting/fishing, spiritual practice or other means, a person has gained some re-connection to the planet or their locale, then, I think, they are more likely to take personal responsibility and initiate positive action.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

First SOPA and now...ACTA

With the positive news of the US backing down over SOPA and PIPA barely fading from our minds, there is now ACTA.  This is a proposed global treaty which the EU is considering ratifying which would effectively allow corporations to police the internet and prosecute or close down those sites they considered had infringed copyright or harmed their business.
This obviously leads to the same issues as SOPA, the shutting down of protest, information sharing and e-activism.  Along with the co-option of site owners as tools of the corporate state.
As with SOPA I am strongly against this.  

I believe that the internet is an invaluable tool for democracy, news and skill sharing etc.
In the face of the oncoming crisis we must not be left ignorant and voiceless. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sorry but you can't read this!

On the 24th January, The US congress is to vote on SOPA and PIPA two proposed pieces of legislation ostensibly to stop copyright piracy and intellectual theft.  However the proposed legislation raises very serious concerns. 
Under the proposed legislation, sites would have to check all user submitted content and could face shutdown if found to be infringing copyright or such.  This would have really huge effects on e-activism, for example Greenpeace has famously used Nestle's KitKat logo and Mattel's (chainsaw) Barbie as part of its campaign to highlight rainforest destruction.  It would make things like Adbusters subverts illegal.  It would effectively give much of the power to police the internet into the hands of corporate America. 

The freedom and power of the internet in helping to promote global change and awareness of the oncoming crisis and its causes is absolutely vital. 
For this reason I oppose SOPA and PIPA.  

There are some suggestions for action here  and a petition  to the State Dept for those of us outside the US here

Friday, 6 January 2012

New year 2012

So it is now 2012. 
So far:-
 The EU Carbon tax on aviation is proving unpopular.  The Guardian reports that China's 4 leading airlines are saying that they will not pay charges levied.  This is not a good precedent.  The tax is unpopular in Australia and in the US.  With a Presidential election this year in the US, their response remains to be seen. 

Chatham House has published a report  which claims that the "just-in-time" model of business leaves the UK vulnerable to extreme events and that the UK could only deal for about a week of disruption in the face of a High Impact Low Probability event, before facing possible collapse.  This is disturbing when you consider the recent IPCC report on extreme weather events and climate change.  As Oxfam makes clear in its Media Briefing, Extreme weather endangers food security.  

With the recent extreme weather in the UK, economic outlook for the coming year not seeming so positive and with the ever looming peak oil, our vulnerability seems starkly highlighted. 

We must build community resilience now, we must adapt for the future.