Wednesday, January 31, 2007

IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (4AR) : Never Mind the Bollocks Here Are The Facts

The first volume of the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report (4AR) will be officially released Friday (2nd Feb 2007).

The IPCC reports are the international gold standard for climate science. They are inherently conservative documents due to there nature as consensus reports on what we can say with a high degree of certainty. 2500 expert reviewers and 800 contributors from around the world, the IPCC produce a highly influential report that is carefully policy relevant but not prescriptive. The subtleties will always be poorly presented by a media accustomed to short soundbites.

So just wait for the paid 'climate contrarians' to pop up with there misinformation, half truths and downright lies.

There are a relatively small number of organisations that deliberately spread this information, and a greater number of organistations who misrepresent the issues either through ignorance and lazy journalism or due to idealogical reasons. Unfortunately climate change is a highly politicised issue. Dealing with climate change should be a matter of politics but the basic information should be more respected than this.

Futher Reading (Addressing Media Noise)

Climate Science Assesed: Leading Climate Scientists discuss Controversy on RealClimate
Spin Watch: Marketing Tricks, Smoke and Mirrors Revealed on DeSmog Blog
Exxon Puppets: Climate Skeptics/Organisations Funded by Exxon Mobil (XOM)

Further Reading (Climate Change Perspectives)

Business Perspectives: Stanford Business School
Health Perspective: World Health Organisation
Development Perspective: Working Group on Climate Change and Development
Environmental Perspective: Arctic Climate Impact Assesment

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

World Development Movement Climate Change Action in Brighton

The good people at World Development Movement in Brighton. Getting busy spreading the word on the streets at the launch of this years climate campaign...notice the ballons in proportion to emissions in the UK and Bangladesh.

Other news from Brighton:

WDM Climate Change Speaker Tour (dates around the country)

We will be hosting a talk by Ricardo Navarez from El Salvador, former International Chair of Friends of the Earth. The tour is being organised by WDM head office, and it is hoped that he will bring a Southern perspective on how both developing countries & the West can work together to combat climate change. The talk will be on the afternoon of Saturday 24th February at the Brighthelm Centre

* Planning group to meet next Tues (16th Jan) 8pm at the Earth & Stars pub. Anyone who fancies coming pls email me slambrighton[at]
* The room is booked & we have flyers but we need a chair for the meeting. Anyone with any ideas for a good chair email me (above) and I will pass on relevant info.
* Trevor to liaise with FoE re public meeting

Carbon Festival

This is being organised by Brighton Climate Change with the idea of holding climate events and actions during the arts festival in May. Everyone at the meeting was keen to support this, and anyone with any ideas of eye-catching stunts can post them on the forum.

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Govornment Inaction, Business Inspiration

The farce BIG ENERGY CONSUMING INDUSTRIES are asking for regulation and Bush is replying with rhetoric and inaction.

Businesses in general have no problem with greenhouse gas constraint, as long as the cap is mandatory and nationwide or greater in scale. It's competitive distortion that worries business not the absolute cost of business.

The continued reluctance of the bush administration to undertake concrete action can only be seen as a confirmation of the special interests in charge. Businesses that would be competitively disadvantaged if carbon consumption was penalised, basically the coal and oil production companies.

This video is taken from a coalition of several huge US businesses that are desperate for the policy certainty so that they can start the inevitable move towards decarbonisation soon and without risk.

An interesting and positive business perspective...

It's time for business leaders to innovate, to profit and to give the hope we need.


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In the Philippines El Nino Means Drought and Huge Carbon Release

According to Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) El Nino cycles are associated with drought in the Philippines.

"Droughts are not generally associated with the Philippines, a country known for its steamy tropical marine climate. But during El Niño cycles, much of the country experiences moderate-to-severe dry periods that can last for a season or more."

This causes a range of problems, both social and environmental.

"[In] Manila, home to more than 10 million people, it is drought — not typhoons — that has led to rising tensions between urban dwellers and farmers who work just outside the city."

"According to the IRI, during El Niño, the water inflows into the Angat reservoir are often significantly decreased, placing substantial duress on the domestic water supply and irrigation needs of farmers."

Whilst the verdict is still open on how the El Nino effect will be altered by climate change, the prevailing view seems to be that the base state of the atmosphere--the normal mode--will become more El Nino like. According to RealClimate there is still much uncertainty as to how this will effect the events themselves, will the fluctuations remain the same (which would lead to more extreme floods and droughts if the atmosphere is already El Nino like) or will the events be tempered (leading to similar levels of extreme events)?

One very recent paper in the journal Nature suggests that extreme droughts and floods will indeed become more prevalent. According to RedBolivia:

Climate experts say new evidence suggests Indonesia's seasonal rains will diminish as global temperatures continue to rise.

That could mean a devastating blow to the country's tropical agriculture and spark more haze-producing wildfires each year.

A new study used samples of coral to track rainfall patterns from more than 6,000 years ago. The study was published a few days ago in the journal Nature.

Study co-author Nerilie Abram says the new data suggest an unexpected link between monsoons and droughts in countries surrounding the Indian Ocean.

"And so the implication is that with monsoon strengthening we expect that parts of Asia and India, where you receive monsoon rainfall, are likely to get wetter. But the knock-on effect is that parts of Indonesia and Australia are likely to get dryer," said Abram.

This year's drought in Indonesia is caused partly by a natural cycle of cooling in the Indian Ocean much like the El Nino phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean.

Despite this latest piece of science leading us to suspect a link between climate change and ever stronger droughts in Indonesia the media are by and large continuing there miserable failure to connect the dots. The International Herald Tribune writes that inflation is up in Indonesia but completely fails to mention any possible link between climate change and this economic effect! Another issue where there is no definitive evidence of a climatic cause but where this link is extremely likely and where key drivers are certainly environmental rather than political is the situation in Dar fur, but this is miraculously under reported.

Drought in Indonesia is, however, not simply worrying for the farmers and the nations economy but for the global community. Thanks to rampant deforestation of old growth rain forest and the expansion of agriculture--particularly palm oil plantations into the heart of Indonesia--the number of forest fires has increased dramatically. These fires are not, however limited to the dessicated fringes of rain forest but in many cases have led to the burning of the peat substrate on which the rain forests and newly planted crops reside. Palm oil production in particular is having disastrous effects on the global carbon cycle, high carbon bogs have to be drained in order to create palm oil plantations. Greenhouse gas emissions from this process across Indonesia have insured that in times of extreme drought due to strong El Nino Indonesia has--according to many estimates--supplanted the US for a time as the worlds largest contributor to climate change. Palm oil is, ironically, being used more and more as a source of that green fuel Biodiesil!

Further Reading:

Palm Oil and Peat Fires in Indonesia: Biofuelwatch
Indonesia, Peat Fires and Climate Change: New Scientist
Dar fur and Climate Change: Climate Change News

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Planet Positive: Smart Ideas Shared

I have just returned from London where apart from meeting up with some good friends, I attended the inaugural meeting of Planet Positive.

The event was basically an opportunity to network with a lot of interesting people, but I would argue that some definite concrete actions will come of this; the event was also both salutary and inspiring.

Bellow i will add a few notes on my thoughts/involvement with the people and organisations. Any of the people there could do the same and highlight an entirely different set of connections and ideas from the meetings.

Alex Lees Climate Camp

Last year the largest coal fired power station in the UK (Drax) was targeted by the Camp for Climate Action. Roughly 500 people attend, this year the first meeting had around 100 participants and with the interest from last years media attention a doubling of numbers for the camp would--i think--be conservative. To get involved in the organising meetings or to find out more go here; join the mailing list and find upcoming dates.

Anarchist Teapot Anarchist Teapot
Andrew Leech 4ecotips
Ann Link Shared Energy
Brian Davis Creative Dream
Briony Greenhill Anti Apathy
Calvin Jones Climate Change Action Blog & CCC
Carla Wellings Flip Side Vision

  • Very nice/stark climate change calendar--an interesting way to get the message accross.

Chantal Cooke Passion for the Planet
  • Health and Environment radio station run by a very sharp business woman with definite ambition--a great place for getting green news across to those in the southwest. I suggested Marion Birch from MedAct as an interviewee, as MedAct are doing really good work with a strong focus on the Health/Environment interface.
Chris Church London 21
Christopher Le Breton Million Dollar Green Page

  • A veteran of the UNFCCC process and current environmental management advisor, Chris is also a part of the Green Lib-Dems. With some ambitious green business ideas and experience in international relations an alternative perspective was provided to the generally uk centric deep green environmental mood.
Dave Hampton The Carbon Coach

  • Dave had his 1m diameter purple balloon representing the volume of co2 that we each emmit per hour...this is an important part of his philosophy of making carbon visible (in this case literally but also financially, environmentally etc.,)
David Wasdell Meridian Programme
Deepak Rughani Alternatives
Diana Korchien Flip Side Vision
Duncan Law CCC
Ed Gillespie Futerra

  • One of the UK's only green marketing agencies and producer of the governments original climate change communications strategy. Futerra have two short reports about climate change, both of which are amazingly simple and deserve to be at hand when any campaign is being conceived or any materials produced. I`m hoping that they may also be able to help a soon to be launched campaign called 'The Climate Justice Project (tCJP)' to effectively communicate it's message.
Eliot Lyne Sea Change
Fatemeh Eskandarypur The Save The Planet Club
Hamish Wills Sustainable Redland
Helen Gilbert St Ethelburga's & One Earth Seminars
Isobel McConnan COIN Facilitators
Jean Leston CEL Operation Noah & WEN

  • Jean is new to WEN and seems keen to move on climate change as an important issue within WEN, lobbying of government is going to be a new experience but hopefully some of the planet positive workshops added some positive suggestions to this undertaking.
Jim Cogan Good Earth Trust

  • Involved with a simple yet brilliant plan for reducing deforestation in Africa at the same time as reducing fuel costs and saving time. Generally bricks have to be fired, this takes a large amount of wood to produce charcoal that is then used to heat the bricks for an extended time. This is all made redundant when you know that if you remove the topsoil from the ground throughout much of southern Africa you have ready access to subsoil that can be mixed with a small quantity of cement and then compressed to form Stabilised Soil Blocks, that can then be used for creating buildings, water storage tanks, septic tanks etc., the latest version are ISSB's --they also interlock.
Jim Roland Levy CCC & Biofuelwatch
  • Jim setup a session on biofuels and 'pugwash' (much to the confusion of our American participants). The overview of biofuels and there currently unsustainable development was a valuable contribution to the days general exchange of ideas and more specifically may lead to some contact between carbonsense and biofuelswatch.

Jo Abbess workface & BLACKOUT LONDON
  • Jo was at the centre of this whole thing. Thanks Jo! The other organisers of the event where Dave, Nathalie, Duncan and Jonathan.

Jonathan Bootland Sustainable Development Foundation
Jonathan Elliott TalkAction
Jonathan Essex CCC & Green Party
Laurie Michaelis QGA
Karen Deignan EcoCentric
Mali Abili Contaminant Media
Mark Williamson What You Can Do
Matt Sellwood COIN
Mike Jones Quantum Consultancy
Naresh G. Giangrande Transition Town Totnes
Nathalie Koerfer Prophets of Hope & CCC

  • Energetic and organised, prophets of hope and CCC have benefited remarkably from Nathalie's involvement and her numerous creative connections may well be of benefit to tCJP.
Niel Bowerman Oxford University Students Union
Peter Robinson Derby Campaign against Climate Change
  • Interesting campaigner with a strong drive to engage with his local council...lessons from his approach fro CCC in Aberdeen i feel.
Phil England Climate Radio
Poppy Lyle London Rising Tide
  • Radical anarchist Poppy Lyle* seemed somewhat at sea: The unwillingness of other members to help in the organising of an explosive attack on BA was one issue, another was her appearance...the tinfoil hat apparently protecting her from the Met Police and it's evil mind reading equipment was slightly to conspicuous.
Rebecca Passmore TalkAction
Robin Gwyntopher Cartoon Kate
Roy Tindle Faith Sustains
Sam Gordon Good Earth Trust
  • Blackout London gets its first paid member of staff to start a sustained campaign in order to build on the modest success of this years first event.
Theresa McManus PA21 TGWS
Tim Baster Campaign against Climate Change
Tom Rivett-Carnac Carbonsense
  • Working at carbonsense, very much apart of the growing CSR movement, its always a question of where change is best effected but the dynamism of the business sector and the growing awareness of both the financial gains to be made through efficiency and positive branding make this an interesting area of work. Currently working on biofuels for some large corporates, I made clear my reservations on the viability of this energy source as did Jim Roland, I think that biofuelswatch will be having futher correspondence.

Vrinda Manglik Oxford University Students C&C Campaign

  • New recruit to the cause of contraction and convergence, sharp Californian studying at Oxford and coordinating a soon to be launched campaign that is going into 60 universities nationwide "The Climate Justice Project: A Student-led Campaign for Contraction & Convergence". Of all the projects that i heard spoken about at the meeting, this seemed like the most interesting and potentially significant. I am keen to leverage the contacts made at Planet Positive to help this campaign affect British NGO's. There is mixed support for C&C amongst uk environmental organisations but widespread support amongst there members so with a bit of catalysis there may be potential for change.

The overall day plan was as follows:

10.00 am Doors open
  • Registration
  • Make your mark on the Activist Dot Chart to show your areas of
  • concern for the day

10.30 am Informal networking

11.00 am Formal Offering
  • Speed networking exercise "Carbon Dating"
  • 2 Dimensional Space Positioning exercise "Where would you put yourself ?"
  • Presentation of COIN Climate Action Group model
  • Rapid-fire Feedback from various Climate Action Groups : "Get
  • Local. Get Active."
  • Matchmaking : An active way of discovering what people want to do
  • group work on

12.15 am Power Pitch
  • Working Groups sell ideas for the afternoon sessions. People signup. 2 minutes per speaker.

1.00 pm Lunch
  • "Wonderwall" (add your ideas to the wall charts on a range of topics)
  • Hot Topic Zone (the stuff that was parked from the earlier sessions)

2.00 pm - 3.15 pm Breakout Groups

3.45 pm - 5 pm Breakout Groups

5.00 pm - 5.30 pm Next Steps
  • Where do we go from here ? Taking it forward.
*Note Poppy is in fact not dangerous (under normal circumstances), not insane or predisposed to violent revolution: the paragraph above was for entirely fatuous.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Camp for Climate Action 2007: 14th-21st August

Camp for Climate Action 2007: 14th-21st August

Climate campers are at it again! More than seventy people from around the
UK met in Leeds last weekend and decided to organise another Camp for
Climate Action this summer from 14th to 21st August. As many of you know,
for ten days last August hundreds of people gathered in the shadow of Drax
coal-fired power station in Yorkshire
(Poster Bellow) to share knowledge and inspiration
to tackle the greatest threat to life on Earth, live an example of more
just and sustainable alternatives, and confront one of the UK's biggest
polluters in a day of mass direct action.

Following on from this success, Camp for Climate Action 2007 will take place near to a target relating to: aviation or the coal or oil industries.
The location will be chosen over the coming months. Working groups have
been set up to organise outreach, fundraising, site practicalities and
workshops. Self managed camping, eating and living neighbourhoods around
themes and geographical areas are also being planned, contact details are
on the website.

There is loads to do, and everyone is invited to get involved - no
experience necessary! The next national planning meetings will be held in Leeds at The Common Place, on the 17th and 18th February, and then in Bristol on the 17th and 18th March.

See for more info.

The energy descent is going to take a hell of a lot of energy dissent!

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Contraction and Convergence: A short video making the case.

The video bellow (By Tangent Films) is a straightforward explanation of 'contraction and convergence' (c&c) followed by some notable voices advocating it as the only equity based soloution to climate change in town. Please enjoy, and consider sharing on your own website. c&c is an equitable climate framework developed by Aubrey Meyer of the Global Commons Institute.

Contraction and Convergence Climate Change Action

To share this video on your website/blog/myspace etc., simply copy the text bellow and paste it into the appropriate page/post/template.

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Tesco's introduces 'carbon labels'

Just the other day--in my review of the weeks climate blog posts--i mentioned plans for
M&S to go carbon Neutral. Now Tesco has announced plans to label it's goods with there carbon footprint!

Quote bellow Via Carbonara:

“Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco’s chief executive, said in a speech at the environmental charity Forum for the Future last night: “The market is ready. Customers tell us they want our help to do more in the fight against climate change. We have to make sustainability a significant, mainstream driver of consumption.”

Green issues have become a hot topic for retailers in the past year as they seek to win over the growing legions of shoppers expressing concern over the environment.

Environmentalists have mooted the idea of “carbon labelling” but companies have struggled because of the complexity of measuring the carbon required to produce each item.

The “carbon footprint” of a product includes the energy required for its manufacture, packaging and transport to the supermarket shelves.

There are no well-established methods for collecting such information, and some of the decisions over what emissions to include are likely to be controversial.

Tesco will invest £5m inacademic research on these methods, working with the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University.

Sir Terry said he could not say when the labels would be ready but he hoped other retailers would label their goods so that a “carbon calorie-counting” system would become an accepted part of food packaging, in a similar way to nutritional information.

He said: “The idea is that you can compare the carbon footprint of a product as you would compare nutrition or price.”

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Real Education: New Music Video

Wow, I like the Eric Prydz video. Now, you may be thinking of the previous video they made which apparently caused Tony Blair to fall of a rowing machine when he was at the know the one with the fitness routine and the busty models in tight leotards. But infact that wouldn't make it on to this site...just a bit off topic. The latest video, however, has an energy saving message. And in a recent interview about Eric Prydz states that he hope 2007 will be the year when people finaly become more consicous of climate change and realise that it is 'really at quite a critical point'.

The song is a remix of The Wall by Pink Floyd and is dubbed 'A Real Education'.


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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Video of the Week: North American Climate Activism

The global climate movement is building. The montreal protests of the international day of climate action on Dec 3rd 2005 are documented in this video, along with growing citizen activism in North america. Things have gone much futher in the year since...update shortly. If 2005 was a real start 2007 is going to be a remarkable fruition of many links made in that year and can truly expect to be a remarkable year of climate activism both in the US and around the world. I look forward to fullfiling my own small part in this.

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Al Gore talks at TED on cross party action on climate change.

Al Gore speaks at TED, giving an amusing, and finally powerfull speech about climate change and the need for cross-political action.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Report of the Week: An alternative to coal? Efficiency .

Last year I attended the first UK Camp for Climate Action. We focused on the UK's largest source of greenhouse gases--Drax, which it turns out emits more co2 than any of the more than 100 least emitting nations!

One of the questions that we where asked was, what alternative do you propose.

Now there are alternatives, some being entirely renewable based but this has not yet been done on a nationwide scale yet. It will be soon, i`m sure. The most realistic option is changing the energy system not the technology and then using some changes of technology to enhance this model.

Electricity from coal is currently converted at efficiencies of typically 35%. If instead of carrying out this conversion at some remote point we carried out the combustion process locally(Combined Heat and Power--CHP) then we could utilise the waste heat--heat currently dissipated using enormous cooling towers.

Efficiency of energy utilisation could increase from 35 to 95%. This has been shown all over Denmark. If we then considered the fact that we use natural gas instead of coal then we decrease carbon intensity by a factor of two. If we then complement this energy using large wind turbines but in small numbers--a couple per community--we start to move towards a genuinely advanced energy system. Depending on location domestic solar thermal, solar pv, wind, and biomass are all futher refinements. If we then increase energy efficiency of usage by a factor of two--somethign that is quite feasible, then we have reduced our carbon emissions 11 fold using old fashioned technology for the supply and new but existing technology for demand--such as CFL's, high performance fridges, dishwashers and appliances. The 11 fold improvement ignores usage of biomass, solar pv, solar thermal and other site specific add-ons.

The really big gains here are from efficiency of the energy system and domestic usage. A new report by CERES and NRDC has found that texas can obviate the need for any new coal power in Texas by moving someway in this direction and investing in efficiency--so called Negawatts. Efficiency is cheap, good for health, and not unsightly. These gains are also most wellcome as alternative energies can in this context contribute an ever larger portion of the energy supply rather than a ever larger qauntity but a rather static proportion, as would likely be the case in a rapidly growing energy sector.

"This study finds that a comprehensive effort to promote efficiency and other cost-saving demand reduction measures can meet Texas’ electricity needs more reliably, at a lower cost and at a tremendous net economic benefit compared to building a new fleet of expensive and heavily polluting power plants. Over the next 15 years, boosting markets for more efficient products, lighting, cooling, heating and industrial processes can eliminate over 80% of forecast growth in electricity demand, while lowering consumer’s energy bills."

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Climate Change News: Roundup of Climate Blog Stories (#2)

I have just finished a thoughrough review of this weeks climate change blogosphere.

The topics covored are Biofuels, Transport, Electricity, Efficiency, Offsets, Extremer Weather, Business Action and China's Development.

More at this link.


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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Guest Post by Almuth Ernsting: The Global Blueprint for A Biomass Economy


A year ago, my MEP sent me a curious statement which said that growing biofuels could not just reduce carbon emissions, but would actually cool the planet. I believed that he had been misinformed, perhaps by proponents of the biofuel industry. I was wrong. Those claims, improbable as they are, pervade top scientific institutions.1

First, let us think back to early in 2005, when catastrophic global warming hit the news as the biggest climate science conference opened in Exeter.2 Frightening evidence of climate change impacts and possible disastrous feedback mechanisms were published. Most studies presented forecast a decline in grain yields, an expansion of deserts and a shrinking of the arable and habitable parts of the planet even at levels of warming which are probably now inevitable. The collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice shelves, of the Amazon rainforest, and perhaps even of the Thermohaline ocean circulation were shown to be real risks if greenhouse gas levels could not be stabilised quickly.

Whilst the media widely reported on the scary findings presented by climate scientists, the second part of the conference had a much lower profile: Recommending pathways which would help to stabilise the climate. This is the remit of Working Group 3 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Perhaps the most important paper submitted in this context was Pascala and Socolow’s proposal for ‘stabilisation wedges’.3 Pascala and Socolow argue that we need to choose from a range of technologies which we must employ on a large-enough scale so that together they reduce emissions enough to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Whilst most people would agree with the approach in general, the choice of technologies and the claims made for them are more problematic: One of the ‘wedges’ consists of having two billion 60mpg cars running on 100% biofuels, produced by 250 million hectares of high-yield crops, equivalent to one-sixth of the world’s cropland. It is interesting to read the authors’ definition of ‘sustainable’ biofuels: “A sustainable biofuel is one obtained from plants that are replaced by new plants at the same rate as they are used”. That’s it.

Another ‘wedge’ consists of ending deforestation and reforesting 250 million hectares in the tropics or 400 million hectares in the temperate zones.4 How this is compatible with the land requirements for biofuels in a world of falling grain yields and shrinking arable land, I do not know.

Yet Pascala and Socolow did not actually suggest that biofuels would cool the planet. That idea came from two other contributors to the same conference, who appear to have a high profile within the IPCC Working Group 3: Peter Read and Jonathan Lermit. They believe that biofuels are carbon neutral because they only release the carbon which they take out of the atmosphere whilst they grow. If we burn them and capture and sequester that carbon in the process, then we will be extracting carbon from the atmosphere and, if we do it on a large-enough scale, we will be cooling the planet. A large-enough scale, according to Read and Lermit, means using 40% of all arable land for bioenergy crops. How can we squeeze so much more production out of the land? We do so by intensifying agriculture across the developing world, farming all of Africa as intensively as Holland is farmed5. The promised result? A world where “the More Gas You Guzzle the Greener You Are”.

Putting hundreds of millions of hectares of land under energy crop monocultures and intensifying agriculture across the developing world is quickly being endorsed as a model for saving us from catastrophic climate change. Detailed studies have been carried out for the IEA as to how this plan can be put into action. Perhaps the most important one is the ‘Quickscan of Global Bioenergy Potentials by 2050’6, published by the International Energy Authority. This provides a blueprint for increasing the global production of food, animal feeds and growing vast amounts of energy crops without increasing the global area under agriculture. Those ‘sustainable biofuels’ must be produced essentially by eliminating traditional grazing and pasture economies and low-intensive and subsistence farming across the global South, and particularly across Africa. It is up to national governments to decide whether rural communities should have a share of the profits.

Northern NGOs, governments and scientific advisers working hard to translate the global blue-print into feasibility studies and policies for the global South: Maps or countries and continents are divided into ‘zones’ of different monoculture plantations for which they are deemed to be ‘suitable’.7 Whilst ancient forests maybe spared on paper, grasslands and low-impact agriculture and vast numbers of species which depend on them are dispensable, sacrificed for the greater good of efficiency and fuel production. Experts have little regard for ‘social factors’ – such as the inconvenient fact of that land being home to millions of people. It is hardly surprising that many southern NGOs speak of colonialism: The maps bear an eerie resemblance to those drawn up in Europe during the ‘Scramble for Africa’ of the 1880s.

With scientific endorsement, support from governments, many NGOs and the UN, new partnerships are being formed between the biotech industry, oil companies and big agri-business. They are investing billions of dollars in the firm belief that their access to land and control of the supply chain are secure.

Those who defend the global bioenergy blueprint unfortunately ignore the nature of the ecological disaster now threatening human civilization, the reality of today’s world and, worst of all, the certain reality of tomorrow’s world.

Bad science?

All of the optimistic bioenergy scenarios assume that food production is not just secure but going to increase, without eating further into ancient forests and conservation areas. As Eduardo Pereira de Carvalho, president of Unica, the union of cane-growers in Sao Paulo states: “As for conflict between food and energy, the fantastic increase in productivity has made all these Malthusian arguments completely nonsense, and we have hundreds of millions of hectares of idle land”8. This optimism defies reality: Satellite images confirm advancing deserts across vast regions including north-central China (where two large deserts are about to merge and have already destroyed 24,000 villages in what was once fertile land), Kazakhstan (which has abandoned half its crop land since 1980 due to desertification), Afghanistan (where agriculture is being squeezed out by sand dunes and 100 villages have been lost), northern Africa (with Algeria now abandoning grain production in parts of the country), Mexico, and north-east Brazil.9 The biologically productive area of the planet is clearly shrinking, long before global warming inundates vast stretches of land. The Millennium Ecosystems Report, published in 2005 was compiled by thousands of scientists and concluded, amongst other things, that 60% of all ‘ecosystem services’ have been degraded, 25% of the land surface is cultivated, and species extinction rates are 100-1000 times above the background rate. It warned of an accelerating destruction of ecosystem services – even without fully taking climate change projections into account, nor without looking at a possible shift to large-scale biofuel monocultures. Global warming, more frequent and severe heat waves, droughts and floods are a certainty for the coming decades – yet the ‘Quickscan’ report 6 states that it works on the premise that the climate will not change. This should invalidate the entire report. The Hadley Centre, a leading British climate research institute, predict that, ‘business as usual’ will lead to half of the planet suffering from drought and one-third turning to desert in coming decades.10 Over the last three years, Europe’s per hectare rapeseed yields have been falling due to ‘extreme weather events’11. Global grain production has not reached the 2004 levels in either of the past two years, and world grain reserves are being drawn down as a result, raising the cost of staple food12. A 2006 study of 700 experts, published by the International Water Management Institute and backed by the United Nations found that one third of the world’s population are now affected by water scarcity. It predicted that, based on forecasts for population and food demand growth, water use would increase by 80% by 2050, and that growing biofuel crops will put further stress on ever scarcer water resources.13 On current and predicted climate trends, it is very difficult to see how people’s water needs can be met in future even without biofuels.

Claims about ever-rising yields and the availability of vast areas of agricultural land no longer needed for food production sound like wishful thinking rather than good science. If the blueprint can’t work without great harm in today’s world, it certanly won’t work in tomorrow’s world.

Surprisingly, I have been unable to find a single peer-reviewed paper which suggests that the main biofuel feedstocks – palm oil, soya, sugar cane and jatropha actually have lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels at all. There is simply no evidence to show that they are climate friendly. Lots of studies exist about emissions linked to biofuels produced in Europe and the United States: We know, for example, that biofuels from rapeseed oil and sugar beet are linked to lower emissions than diesel or petrol, provided that no new, natural land is put under the plough - but also that thy can only replace a fraction of our energy use. Germany uses 12% of its cultivated land for biofuel crops and can’t get beyond 2% of transport fuels without imports. So why is there no peer-reviewed evidence on whether the tropical crops so widely promoted for biofuels are actually good for the climate?14 Could it conceivably be because a truly independent study on their life-cycle emissions might demolish the case for using them once and for all?

At last, one study which looks at the overall emissions from biodiesel made from palm oil grown in South-east Asian peatlands will soon be published in a journal.15 This study uses very conservative figures: It counts emissions from peat drainage, but not from the vast annual fires set by plantation owners. From those conservative figures, it finds that a tonne of palm oil used for biodiesel from peatlands in that region is linked to the emission of 10-30 tonnes of CO2. This is 3.6 to 10.9 times as much CO2 as would be emitted from burning the same amount of diesel. This is the only independent study on life-cycle emissions for a tropical biofuel feedstock which I have ever seen.

The sustainability promise:

I have seen no scientific paper nor pro-large-scale biofuel institution which agrees with destroying rainforests to make way for energy crops – virtually all the organisations and papers which call for massive expansion of energy crops insist that this need not and must not happen. Yet, unfortunately, biofuels are being introduced into a world run largely on neo-liberal principles – or, to be more specific, within trade rules which have a strong bias against regulation and any ‘trade restrictions’ to protect the environment, the climate or communities. Where crops are grown is, by and large, determined by the market – not by scientists and NGOs drafting maps and plans. The market favours those biofuels which are cheapest. Generally that means those with the highest yields, which are tropical starchy and oily plants such as palm oil and sugar cane. Lower-yield crops can capture the market if costs are kept low and governments guarantee an unlimited supply of new land and perhaps even subsidies – soy biodiesel being a prime example. Rainforests, biodiversity, healthy soil and clean water and greenhouse gas emissions remain ‘externalities’ in the accounts, which will inevitably be sacrificed for real quick profits. Take the Indonesian example: Although sustainable oil palm monocultures may be an oxymoron, Indonesia could at least tell its plantations companies that they should plant on the 12 million hectares of rainforest land which they already clear-cut and then abandoned, rather than granting them ever more concessions for new forest land. But plantation companies make far more profits by selling timber than by growing palm oil alone – and they are powerful enough to stop policies which would cut into those profits.

So here is what we are witnessing just now:

Governments, institutions, NGOs and scientists are writing studies, many of them with dodgy claims, which show that biofuels could be grown without destroying any more rainforests, wetlands, peatlands, or biodiversity hotspots. As a result, new markets are created which dramatically up the world market prices of palm oil, soy and sugar cane. On the ground, plantation owners respond by growing more of those crops in the Amazon, in Uganda’s rainforests or in Colombia’s ancient forests and grasslands – unimpeded by regulations and unimpressed by those who tell them that they could be growing them somewhere else. Trade rules, meantime, do not allow for discrimination on goods because of the way they have been produced. Even if Europe might get away with a ban on deforestation diesel, they don’t even want to try. Instead, there is a growing push to use biofuel expansion as a tool for pushing through further trade liberalisation and further barriers to regulation and environmental safeguards in the World Trade Organisation.16

Meantime, companies, like Wilmar International, sign up to the principles of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (perhaps safe in the knowledge that they won’t be translated into action probably for years to come), then apply to destroy one of Uganda’s largest rainforsests for a new oil palm plantation and still manage to get World Bank funding.17 In the absence of regulation, certification might at best tell consumers that the particular palm oil they are using comes from rainforest which was chopped down before 2005 whereas less scrupulous customers can get that from more recently destroyed forests. Yet, wherever the particular palm oil delivery came from, burning it will drive up the world market price and boost the profits of the worst and the less bad plantation owners alike.

Biofuels, not climate justice

One of Britain’s leading carbon capitalists and biofuel advocates is James Cameron, founder of Climate Change Capital. He is a long-standing opponent of equal rights to the atmosphere, and an influential supporter of the Kyoto Protocol and its inequitable carbon market. This is how he sets out his dire vision for Africa’s future: “The Africans are in a perilous position. They will not be rescued by 20 years of debate about C&C. Nor will they be rescued by the Carbon Market [or] beneficiaries of [it]. They’re going to have to really look to the possibilities that do exist in altering their economies to cope with very high fossil fuel prices and Climate Change at the same time . . . some combination of looking at land use and land use change issues; of coping more effectively with the water resources which are there; of growing biocrops; of ensuring that renewable energy technology is made available at low cost.”

This is a frank admission by one of the architects and profiteers of the carbon market. He continues to advocate an extension of the present-day unsuccessful and inequitable carbon trading, knowing full well that it will not save Africa from being devastated by climate change, and that the carbon trade will not benefit its people. It does, however, benefit him: Having helped to put the current emissions trading in place, he is now Chief Executive of a very successful merchant banking group which has just raised $380 million under Europe’s Emissions Trading Scheme, money which they will invest in ‘low carbon’ projects primarily in developing nations. Climate Change Capital will be speaking at the Bioenergy Europe Conference in February 2007, a conference which will outline “the latest EU legislation and incentive schemes that aim to produce a dramatic increase in the use of biomass and biofuels across the 25 member states.”18 Clearly, biofuels are a profitable investment opportunity. The above quote about Africa’s future was published by Aubrey Meyer, founder of the Global Commons Institute, who comments: “Cameron adds Africa to the growing pile of discards that the C3 scenario [i.e. the Kyoto Protocol] inevitably causes and the economics of genocide inevitably requires.”19

Where should we stand?

Many European environmentalists have had high hopes for sustainable local biomass from waste or community forestry. We can hold on to those ideals and many small co-operatives are trying to put them into practice. In poorer, low-energy societies, even a small amount bioenergy, from waste or intercropping, could make a real difference to people’s lives – provided that they are able to use it for their benefit, not export it to the richer nations.20

We must remember, though, that biomass from waste will only meet a tiny proportion of our energy demand – there is little chance of it having any measurable impact on our greenhouse gas emissions. Above all, we must remember that the EU Biofuel Directive, UN policies, bilateral biofuel agreements, etc. have nothing whatsoever to do with this ‘green’ idea. They are putting a global blueprint into action which is threatening local communities, biodiversity, water supplies, rainforest and the climate across the globe. If people think that they can sit at stakeholder forums and make this blueprint sustainable then they should take some time out for reading: I would recomment those papers listed above which set out the global biofuel vision, the Millennium Ecosystem Report, and some good summary of climate change impacts.

As one UN Agency, international institution and government after another adopts this global blueprint, or adjusts its policies accordingly, we need to study the plans, and unite for the rights of the hundreds of millions of people who live on land conveniently classed as ‘degraded wastelands’ which are up for grabs. We need to stop the web of biodiversity being destroyed by monocultures grown in the name of climate change mitigation. And we need to speak out against anybody, no matter their scientific degree or qualification, who claims that monocultures can stabilize the climate. There can be no sustainable energy system based on monocultures. Today’s bioenergy revolution is already destroying some of the planet’s vital climate sinks and threatens to greatly accelerate the pace of global warming. Accelerated global warming threatens all our future. We have the evidence. What we now need is a strong global opposition.

  1. See, for example, the editorial in Nature, one of the two most prestigious scientific journals, 7th December 2006
  4. To find out more about the reality of ‘reforestation’, see .
  7. For an example of a bioenergy ‘zoning’ map of Africa, see
  8. “Drink the best and drive the rest”, Nature, 7th December 2006
  14. There are studies which look the energy efficiency of tropical biofuels, particularly sugar cane, and there is information about carbon savings from fossil fuel replacement, but no full life-cycle study, which would need to include land-use change emissions.
  15. Please note that we have derived at the comparison with diesel by using conversion tables found here .
  18. (see events for details of the conference)
  20. see:

January 2007

Almuth Ernsting


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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Carbon Offsets: Development, Reccomendations and Warnings

I have commented on carbon offsets several times before. I currently have no problem with the use of carbon offsets if they work.

Perhaps that sounds obvious but many greens seem to be weary, not only for practical reasons--and there are a lot of dodgy services out there--but for a whole range of other reasons that i wont venture into here.

If you want to buy a carbon offset then they key desire is for the offset to be genuine, secondary issues such as the affect of the offset on local people and ecosystems are also important.

My Personal Recommendation: MyClimate (Via Sustainable Travel Intnl)

1. Is one tone of emissions reduction actually one tone?
  • Additionality: Is the project being used to claim reductions only happening due to your funding?
If afforestation is used in your carbon offsets you have the added issues of:
  • Permanence: You have to be sure that the carbon will remain 'locked up'.
  • Leakage: Are you sure that new trees won't push farmers onto new land such as old forest which will invalidate the project?
2. Are the projects that you are funding environmentally and socially benign?
A couple of good reports on carbon offsets: Exploring the Market for Voluntary Carbon Offsets and Voluntary Offsets for Air Travel Emissions (Tufts Univ.)
Key Points:
  • Caution is advised, regulation is likely to come into place in the coming years but the industry is at a very early stage.
  • Additionality and permanence are virtually impossible to grantee for forestry projects as the effects of climate change on forests are unclear.
  • In terms of transparency and rigour, offsets coming out of the NSW forestry projects are amongst the best around. Carbon Planet uses credits from these sources. In terms of benefits to biodiversity TreeFlights is one of the best companies around; it is arguable that it might be worth buying e.g twice the emissions offsets from organisations like these to ensure that you are truly carbon neutral as well as supporting reforestation with diverse native species.
  • To be guaranteed real and permanent carbon offsets, the best option may well be to avoid sequestration and use projects that involve sustainable development and energy efficiency in the developing world. MyClimate carries out such projects, descriptions of its projects here.
A little more information about MyClimate

Quote from Tufts University Report:

"Despite the high price of their offsets, myclimate’s high project standards, its transparency and good calculator makes it an excellent choice for offsetting air travel emissions."
From Report By REEP:

MyClimate (Switzerland), an NGO founded in 2002 as a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Switzerland), offers offsets for air travel and advisory services on carbon management, project development, and environmental communication.

Its target
markets include individuals, travel agencies, and companies. Projects meet CDM criteria and follow Gold Standard guidelines; however, the projects are too small to meet the transaction costs necessary to register under CDM.

MyClimate invests only in renewable energy or energy efficiency projects in developing countries, but specifically states that it does not support forestry sinks projects due to the risk that the carbon might be released back into the atmosphere in the long term. Projects include solar power water heaters in Eritrea and Costa Rica, biomass in India, and methane to sewage in South Africa. Local sustainable development and strict additionality rules are claimed to be foremost priorities for MyClimate. A ‘team of experts’ from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is responsible for verifying the projects.

The cost to the customer is EUR 7 / 1000 km for shorthaul flights and EUR 4.5/ 1000 km for long-haul flights, roughly yielding EUR 23/tCO2e.
UK Environmental Audit Committe launch enquiry into offseting.

Who has written on this before (other green blogs): WorldChanging, Grist, Treehugger

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Muddy messages lead to first big conflict.

On a couple of ocassions i have pointed out the risks of using excuses to achieve positive gains in reducing emissions or getting climate friendly policies taken up.

Common strategic allies of climate change mitigation include, energy security and peak oil. The fact that these concerns don't always align is illustrated perfectly by Barack Obama's new backing for the coal to liquids industry.

Here is the quote:

"Illinois basin coal has more untapped energy potential than the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined. Senator Obama believes it is crucial that we invest in technologies to use these resources to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

If climate mitigation continues to be incidental in the US and is simply a result of energy security goals then this sort of conflict can be expected to arise again and again. Climate change is the worlds greatest challenge so we all need to make this clear, however unatractive this may be, there is now point selling an easy message if it lays you bare to this sort of risk.

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Self Flagellation and Carbon Offsets

I just read a post on the Low Carbon Kid blog about certification of carbon offsets.

The fact that it approached what is a very valuable project from a very negative angle prompted me to leave the following comments. I have been thinking about offsets for some time, here are my current thoughts. This will be controversial. But i`m not into popularity contests, there is serious work to be done in tackling climate change!

Responses wellcome.

Carbon offsets. A grey issue where businesses are saying, ohh this is great, a great way to save the environment and make money...then just making money, and where environmentalists get all het up and anti-capitalist.

A dose of rationality anyone?

Surely the rational response to a flexible system for taking responsibility for your emissions is to make sure the emissions really are offset i.e to regulate not to bitch about people not getting it?

What exactly are we meant to get? If i am volunteering to pay so that clean energy can be subsidised over coal or energy efficient measure can be put in place then what is wrong with that?

Regulations can rule out land use offsets (preferably) or demand insurance to guarantee permanence. If a good energy efficient project is done to a high standard then the uncertainty should be relatively low...therefore you can buy 50% more offset and know that it is very likely that you are at least carbon neutral and probably carbon negative!

To describe offsetting from a different angle. You could offset your own emissions. Chose your budget, then if you seem to be getting near that limit you spend enough money to ensure you will stay bellow the limit. Perhaps to much driving leads to a few hundred pounds in loft insulation.

Now if you live in a new house then saving might be costly but perhaps your neighbour has a draughty house, wouldn't it make sense to buy them the insulation or draft stripping and save more energy for less cost? Perhaps even CFL's?

Make this bigger, why not go wherever the price of mitigation is cheapest, as long as the scheme is verifiable and fair to the people affected then why is it wrong?

Is environmentalism about self-flagellation or progress?

Quite frankly, if people verifiably offset there emissions then YES they are not climate criminals by flying! They are not harming the climate so what right do you as a climate activist have to criticise them?
Rant over, i have never been entirely in line with what you say but i have been at a stage where i wouldn't fly because i was uncertain of the issues. That is over, i`m clear now, there was no reason for this other then social mores within the environmental movement. I don't have plans to fly anywhere but would feel quite happy to do so as long as i take my responsibility for the climate seriously and verify a good climate offset project.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A modecome of progress on climate change in Asia.

The ASEAN nations have just (15 Jan, 2007) signed the Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security. Much like progress throughout the rest of the world, this can be seen as progress and commitment to improving energy infrastructure but not as a serious assault on the worlds ever escalating emissions. Patterns of growth in energy consumption and deforestation are so extreme that an ad hoc assemblage of --even well thought out--policies and measures are never going to lead to the dramatic reductions in emissions required, only a mitigation of accelerating trends.

I don't think that the world can seriously be considered to be fighting climate change at the current time. Without a global framework--most plausibly Contraction and Convergence--and tough targets that are based on the science, policies will continue to be commensurate with what is comfortable and advantageous for competition, not what is required.

This, like so many other international agreements, can therefore only be viewed as progress in the sense that those involved are building capacity and gaining experience. Given the tremendously time constrained nature of the climate challenge this incremental ism is not an encouraging behaviour to be coming from our national leaders. We need radical change, we need to learn as we act, putting a toe in the water is often fine, in our situation however, the spectre of a rapidly destabilising climate is advancing on us at such speed that we better swim soon if we are to save a significant proportion of our biodiversity, our political systems and of course our economies.

WE, the Heads of State/Government of the Member Countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, People's Republic of China, Republic of India, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand, on the occasion of the Second East Asia Summit on 15 January 2007 in Cebu, Philippines;

RECOGNISING the limited global reserve of fossil energy, the unstable world prices of fuel oil, the worsening problems of environment and health, and the urgent need to address global warming and climate change;

RECOGNISING that our energy needs are growing rapidly, and will necessitate large-scale investments in the coming decades;

ACKNOWLEDGING that fossil fuels underpin our economies, and will be an enduring reality for our lifetimes;

RECOGNISING that renewable energy and nuclear power will represent an increasing share of global supply;

ACKNOWLEDGING the need to strengthen renewable energy development such as in biofuels, and to promote open trade, facilitation and cooperation in the sector and related industries;

HIGHLIGHTING the fundamental need of countries in East Asia for reliable, adequate and affordable energy supplies which are essential for strong and sustainable economic growth and competitiveness;

CONSIDERING further that the First East Asia Summit had agreed to enhance cooperation by promoting energy security;

RECOGNISING the need to pursue energy policies and strategies best suited to each country's national circumstances, which will lead to sustainable development;

NOTING that biofuel and hydropower resources are renewable and as such harnessing these resources is an important aspect of our national energy policies;

REAFFIRMING our collective commitment to ensuring energy security for our region;


To work closely together towards the following goals:

  1. Improve the efficiency and environmental performance of fossil fuel use;
    Reduce dependence on conventional fuels through intensified energy efficiency and conservation programmes, hydropower, expansion of renewable energy systems and biofuel production/utilisation, and for interested parties, civilian nuclear power;

  2. Encourage the open and competitive regional and international markets geared towards providing affordable energy at all economic levels;

  3. Mitigate greenhouse gas emission through effective policies and measures, thus contributing to global climate change abatement; and

  4. Pursue and encourage investment on energy resource and infrastructure development through greater private sector involvement.

And to achieve these goals, through the following measures:

  • Encourage the use of biofuels and work towards freer trade on biofuels and a standard on biofuels used in engines and motor vehicles;
    Take concrete action toward improving efficiency and conservation, while enhancing international cooperation through intensified energy efficiency and conservation programmes;

  • Set individual goals and formulate action plans voluntarily for improving energy efficiency; Increase capacity and reduce costs of renewable and alternate energy sources through innovative financing schemes;

  • Encourage collective efforts in intensifying the search for new and renewable energy resources and technologies, including research and development in biofuels;

  • Ensure availability of stable energy supply through investments in regional energy infrastructure such as the ASEAN Power Grid and the Trans ASEAN Gas Pipeline;
    Encourage recycling of oil revenues and profits for equity investments and long term, affordable loan facilities for developing countries in the region;

  • Explore possible modes of strategic fuel stockpiling such as individual programmes, multi-country and/or regional voluntary and commercial arrangements;

  • Promote clean use of coal and development of clean coal technologies and international environmental cooperation towards mitigating global climate change;

  • Pursue regional or bilateral cooperation through research and development, sharing of best practices, and financing of energy products; and Assist less developed countries in enhancing national capacity building in achieving the above goals.The necessary follow-up actions to ensure implementation of the above measures, including appropriate reporting, will be undertaken through existing ASEAN mechanisms in close consultations among EAS participants.

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    Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    Lloyds of London: Get Serious On Climate Change

     The insurance giant Lloyds of London has just published a report presenting an overview of opinions in the business community and beyond about climate change.

    As with several other inusrance companies--Munich Re being the best example--Lloyds has really started to grasps the stakes involved when it comes to climate change and have been doing more in the corporate boardrooms than Greenpeace could do in a century.

    This latest report is a collection of views from its forum on climate change, risk 360.
    “In the decades ahead, climate change will come to dominate everything in our lives; everything we do... Even if we act now to drastically curb emissions, things are going to be bad. If we do nothing, they will be far, far worse.”
    The 'scientific view' in the report also explicitly supports Contraction and Convergence as the only framework currently in existance that is both in some degree equitable and yet simple enough to be implemented. I`m gald this point is being made to business leaders by scientists, yet i think the discription of C&C is somewhat ham fisted. C&C states that people have rights to emissions, not nations, and that everyone has an equal right. It also states that the framework will aim to win, the cap is therefore set by scientific consensus not negotiation. The negotiations occours on the rate of convergence, which is de facto done on a country by country basis. Carbon quotas within a given country would give nations a mechanism to implement this process and make it more equtable.

    "The best hope is a system called contraction and convergence, which works on the
    premise that everyone on the planet has the right to produce the same amount of greenhouse gas. A level is set for the planet and it is divided by the number of people, so that each country knows how much it can emit per head of population. The overall level is then brought down by agreement."

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    Monday, January 08, 2007

    Climate Change News: Roundup of Climate Blog Stories (#1)

    Updates of the climate change blogosphere are going to be posted to climate change news.

    Roundup of Climate Change Blog Stories (#1)

    These roundups feature some of my favourite stories, most of which will also appear in the sidebar under the Top Climate Blog Stories headder.


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    Report of the Week: Livestock's Long Shadow

    This week's report of the week (large pdf) focuses on the role of livestock in key environmental challenges. The production of beef is found to be one of the most nutrient and carbon intensive industries on the planet aswell as being a significant driver of deforestation.

    "Overall, livestock activities contribute to an estimated 18% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emmissions from five major sectors of greenhouse gas reporting:energy, industry, waste, landuse change and forestry (LULUCF) and agriculture."
    By far the largest numbers are due to LULUCF activities such as deforestation to expand ranchland.

    Report summary:
    "This report aims to assess the full impact of the livestock sector on environmental problems, along with potential technical and policy approaches to mitigation. The assessment is based on the most recent and complete data available, taking into account direct impacts, along with the impacts of feed crop agriculture required for livestock production.

    The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.

    Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency. Major reductions in impact could be achieved at reasonable cost."

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    Saturday, January 06, 2007

    Climate Change: Week in Review

    I have just started using Google Reader. Very nice app. One of the advantages of this is that i can read rss feeds and then select the articles from my reading that I would like to share.

    If you look on the right hand side of the page you will find a column of 10 stories, just bellow the embedded Prophets of Hope video. This is updated daily, sometimes more than that.

    My preference is for big policy stories of global importance, UK stories and examples of activism from around the world.

    This week my picks are...

    1. 2007 looks like a scorcher, due to the Climate Change and the El Nino: This has been a pretty huge story, i chose to provide this link as AP quote Phil Thornhill of Campaign against Climate Change...Go Phil! Only one point on this: El Nino is a redistributive phenomena to the best of my knowledge, the albedo doesn't change so what is being talked about must be atmospheric temperatures, with less heat being subducted by the oceans. This is my presumption, correct me if i`m wrong.

    2.Protests against Coal Build; you may have heard of recent protests in the US,
    and growing political opposition there. Here in the UK we had the Camp for Climate Action
    where the UK's largst coal fired power station was targeted to highlight its fossil like nature.
    Now, in a heartening sign, a group of religious organisations in Sri Lankas' largest city, Columbo, have came together to fight the building of two new coal fired power stations.

    3. Prototypical Energy Types of the Future. Trehugger takes a look at what it sees to be some of the futures key technologies. Wind, Solar, Tidal, Hydrogen and Biofuels. Comments: Wind is huge and ahead of solar in development but solar surely has the largest potential in the long run, the modular manufacturing and high rate of improvement bode extremely well...investment is at a similar level to wind despite the vastly differing manufacturing capacities at present. Tidal is not likely to be as large a resource as either of these in my opinion but still has tremendous potential in areas of high tidal range, such as the UK. Hydrogen may or may not be the future, at present, particularly Post-Tesla all the components for a electrically run road transport sector seem to be in place, but, with further developments of both car design and hydrogen production it may be the best option. Think reforming using gas with ccs, Amory Lovins supports this approach and i`m loathed to argue with a genius experimental physicist who is so widely respected and so clearly reasoned.
    Biofuels make my head hurt. I believe this is because of two primary reasons,
    to much is asked of them, they will never replace petrol at current rates of consumption. Secondly, they can be hugely detrimental to the environment and society, there are many examples of this and without these issues being adequately addressed it will be all to easy to see biofuels as a threat rather than a useful part of a rational response to climate change.

    4. Carbon Offsets and poverty reduction? There have been several interesting development in the voluntary carbon offset industry this year. The two key themes would seem to be rapid expansion and increased circumspection. The idea of high and low quality offsets has been increasingly discussed. If a company is going to be green then they are being conned and made to look irresponsible if they buy credits that cannot be clearly verified and which damage wildlife and the lives of indigenous peoples. Support for certification is therefore growing. This article highlights one scheme that is promoting treddle pumps over diesel engines. I don't know the details, as with many technological fixes, leakage and permanence aren't really the issues but additionality may be difficult to determine. I`ve decided that I like carbon offsets and equally that I dislike the way they have been slandered by parts of the green movement. The issues are complex, i believe the concept is sound and that you have to take car but that there is great value in the industry. Carbon offsetting is empowering it can make a real difference and it can be a powerful force for good.

    5. The Times have picked up on a story that I posted here months ago! Don't know where they got there info but they where slow, weren't they? A biodesil power plant in the UK has been canceled because they realised what a murky world they where entering in trying to but a product so frequently produced on areas of cleared reforest...hardly good for there PR. Biofuelwatch for more on these issues.

    6.TreeHugger highlights The Helium Report, basically a website for the presents of millionaires.
    Not to surprisingly these are large, high carbon products. Is mankind doomed to using
    conspicuous consumption to define status? Need we move beyond materialism, or just beyond
    high carbon materialism? Just a question to ponder.

    7. Call to Responsibility. China Dialogues' most recent article is a call for consumers to take the environment seriously, to make an assessment of there own impacts and then make amends.

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