Monday, 29 June 2009
Sunday, 28 June 2009
Saturday, 27 June 2009
Peak Oil is the name of the time when the amount of oil that we've already used up is approximately equal to the amount of oil recoverable left in the ground. Many serious commentators believe that point was reached in 2008. After Peak Oil, fossil fuel will steadily become not only less available but also (because of market economics) increasingly expensive. The conventional shape of the Hubbert graph is the symmetrical volcano shape (coloured blue) in the image below.
The story I reproduce below takes into the calculations the fact that the amount of energy it takes to find and extract the remaining reserves is rapidly increasing. In 1930 we got out around 100 barrels of oil for every barrel of oil equivalent of energy that we used to get it out of the ground - a ratio of 100:1. By 1970 that was down to 30:1 and by 2000 it was only 11:1. All the low hanging fruit of easy shallow reserves, that gushed like they did in fifties movies, have probably been discovered. Reserves yet to be exploited take far more energy and difficulty to get the goods to the surface. Because of this, it's mathematically predictable that at some point the amount of energy needed to bring one barrel of oil to the surface will be one barrel of oil equivalent, at which point there will be absolutely no point in doing it any more because there will be little or no gain in doing so.
If one plugs this idea into a Hubbert’s peak graph, one gets a real sense of where we are in exploiting the main fossil fuel reserves of Earth and the resultant graph shape shows that the drop off in production will be much faster, and will arrive much earlier, than the conventional graph suggests. The grey coloured "net Hubbert curve" suggests that productive oil extraction will have fallen by more than 90% by as soon as 2035 -the conventional Hubbert curve did not have oil production falling this far until after 2110! Yikes! Of course the assumptions made by the author may be wrong but the results of his calculations make it seem likely that we have actually used up 73% of the productively recoverable fuel already.
The post: taken from JL's post on the World Changing blog
The More Oil We Use, The More Oil it Takes to Get Oil...
David Murphy at The Oil Drum gave an interesting analysis of the Net Hubbert Curve this week. He bases his predictions on a report from Cutler Cleveland of Boston University about the sharp decline in EROI (energy return on investment) -- in other words, it now requires much more energy to extract energy that we can use. Specifically, the report says, EROI has declined (in the U.S.) from 100:1 in the 1930s to 11:1 as of 2000.
How did we go from spending 1 barrel of oil per 100 to spending the same amount for a mere 11? Well, Murphy explains, as we use more and more of the world's oil reserves, the remaining oil is much more difficult to extract. This we knew. But Murphy takes this equation to the Hubbert Curve to produce an new curve, showing that post-peak oil, we don't actually have half the world's reserves left in net energy. We actually have much less.
Figure 3 shows the results of this analysis. Unlike the original Hubbert curve that shows equal quantities of gross energy resources on the left and right side, the Net Hubbert Curve is skewed so that most resources are on the left. For example, according to the original Hubbert curve, 50% of the energy resource is remaining when production levels reach the peak, but this is quite different for the Net Hubbert curve. Due to declining EROI, by the time peak production is reached, 73% of the net energy available is already used.
The implications of these results are vast, but in general, declining EROI is going to make it very difficult to meet the net energy needs of future society. Although this study may not be very precise, it does imply that if we have reached Peak Oil (and I think we have), that society has already spent quite a bit more than half of the net (or discretionary) oil energy that will ever be available.(JL)
An open letter to President Obama and Members of Congress
This is an irresistible video of a London based American designer who's thinking basically. Just a little wacky, she is pretty engaging as she waxes rhapsodically about the virtues of thinking again about "poop". An almost ignored "resource", she shows how we can generate at least some of our energy needs from it. Although the voice-over sound quality varies at times, there is a cute backing musical soundtrack that adds to it.
The embed code that they supply for the video means that it will dominate the blog area (or may be cut off on the right hand side, depending on which browser you have - as always, Firefox is favourite) so I have tried to post a smaller version below which may or may not work in Internet Explorer, Safari or Chrome. Let me know how it was for you...
Friday, 26 June 2009
Here below is the first paragraph of an article about Monsanto's "Roundup" weedkiller - a very widely used (the most widely used pesticide in the USA) and advertised product that "kills the root as well as the leaves". Glyphosate (click for Wikipedia article) is normally undestood to be the active ingredient. The article goes into concerns about the toxic effects of one of the so-called "inert" filler ingredients.
Glyphosate is represented as being sort of harmless because it is "inactivated on contact with soil" (or at least I remember that's what the adverts used to claim). One reason why environmentalists don't like Roundup is because Monsanto are one of the biggest forces behind the genetic modification of plants (GM crops - otherwise known as Frankenstein foods...) and they have genetically created plans which are "Roundup ready". What this means is that a farmer can plant a crop of these plants and then all they have to do is spray the field with Roundup and every single plant and weed that is not the GM crop will die. This has two problems. Firstly, Roundup may not be as benign as Monsanto paint it, although the research that suggests this is disputed (by Monsanto...). Secondly, and probably more worryingly, is that pollen from the GM crops can fertilise similar crops nearby. If those crops happen to belong to an organic farmer, who saves their seed, then that seed would have the Monsanto genetic material in them and the farmer may lose their organic certification and livelihood.
The GM technology has not got a completely clean bill of health yet. Even more worryingly, the Roundup resistant genes have already somehow spread to many weed species which means eventually that there will be no point in spraying with Roundup because the weeds in the crop will be resistant to the chemical! At that point, the farmer will be back where they started except their crops will have useless GM genes in them that may cause subtle, yet to be seen and researched, effects in the nutrition levels or even toxicity of the food crops. Not a win - win situation!
Here's the first paragraph:
Weed killer kills human cells. Study intensifies debate over 'inert' ingredients.
Used in yards, farms and parks throughout the world, Roundup has long been a top-selling weed killer. But now researchers have found that one of Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. The new findings intensify a debate about so-called “inerts” — the solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other substances that manufacturers add to pesticides. Nearly 4,000 inert ingredients are approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Click here for link to original article
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
This link is to a film called “Home” - it's about the astonishing Earth we live on. It's a big film and will take a long time to download if you don't want to put up with it stopping every few minutes or so - but it's very worth it.
Watch and be amazed at the “flying over” shots
Here's a link to the website of "Home"
Here's a direct link to the movie
Home - watch it in HD if you can!
Here’s just three images
Sunday, 21 June 2009
The book shows ordinary people (non-climate experts!) how to decide what's the best bet for them to safeguard their families even if if they don't understand the claims and counterclaims in the media debate about climate change. It has the spark of genius in it.
Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in this book - just a passionate belief that it might be part of what saves everybody's bacon. Governments and climate scientists are generally pretty firm that there is a big threat. What we need is something that shows the ordinary man-in-the-street how they can make a good sensible decision about what we should do about it. I believe this book is a brilliant example of that.
Using the techniques of risk analysis Greg shows how we can make the best decisions as to what to do when we're not sure of all the facts (or even the facts themselves are not all certain!). His method works for any big decision - not just climate change stuff.
Now you've seen it, please spread the word by any means you can think of. You just might end up being a hero!
I'm sorry that the link to the book etc in this post (and in the side bar) is truncated but my HTML skills aren't up to fixing it yet!
Saturday, 20 June 2009
Here's a link to an article on this subject. please click for article
Friday, 19 June 2009
350.org is promoting an atmospheric concentration target figure of 350 ppm CO2 (parts per million) as safe'ish (or at least not too bad’ish). We are currently at about 387ppm (in March) and rising.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
One of the most popular pieces of "evidence" promoted by people who jump though mind-game hoops not to believe that mankind can be messing up the climate (like a certain Jersey Senator) is "The Great Global Warming Swindle" - a so-called documentary that was made for Channel 4. The DVD of this programme is still sold, and promoted, on many climate change denier websites and this is perhaps the biggest clue that deniers are most probably lying when they claim to be "sceptics" - or to be giving balance to the arguments - or that they claim to believe it is sensible to wait until the final scientific verdict is in (at some indeterminate time in the future).
Deniers must know the truth about what the "Swindle" film really is by now because they have been told a thousand times already that it is full of deliberate lies and crafted deception. The most obvious ones were actually edited out of subsequent showings of the film because they were just too blatantly deceitful! Scientists in it have complained vociferously that their interviews were deliberately edited to make them appear to say exactly the opposite of what they really did say. This sort of black propaganda does not happen by accident. And yet it continues to be promoted as some sort of balanced, reasonable counter-argument to the overwhelmingly accepted scientific position (that climate change is real; it’s happening now; that we are mostly responsible and it ain’t going to be pretty) by people who keep trying to pass themselves off as the voice of reason.
These denier types are in reality like the mythological Greek Sirens, who lured sailors onto the rocks with the beauty of their voices. Deniers are trying to lure the whole planet and all the people on it onto the climate change rocks if people give their pernicious lies and distortions any credence. Are they mad? Are they bad? They certainly are dangerous to know!
The latest “crock of the week” video ends up with Mr Sinclair pointing out that the creators of this diabolical propaganda appear to rely upon the fact that this apparently attractive package can circulate for years, fooling a fresh bunch of naive suckers every day, because "on the Internet nobody knows you're a fraud”. This is because too often “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest” (The Boxer – Simon and Garfunkel). People googling around who want to have their biases confirmed will find this sort of garbage programme and they won’t bother to look into whether it is a credible source or not because it appears to be “scientific”.
Sunday, 14 June 2009
Hot air ballooning used to have an image of strawberries and champagne in the wicker basket, whilst watching the (switch on Noel Coward accent) terribly, terribly English countryside drift by. In just the same way that snowboarding attracts a somewhat different crowd to the "skiing in Klosters" types, so too does one-man hot air ballooning, or "cloudhopping" (click for website).
Once upon a time I got a Private Pilots Licence(group D) for Microlights. I was somewhat surprised to see that it also licenced me to fly hot air balloons, although I didn't ever fly one because no-one ever got me a "round tuit".
I think it will be harder to get people to vote for a sustainable society if there’s no fun in it! Although these things use fossil fuel (propane gas cylinders) to fly and the canopy is made from oil derived polyurethane coated rip stop fabric (near enough the same as paragliders are made of today, and hang gliders used to be made of 35 years ago, when I started flying) I still think there will be a future for "toys" like these "leap a building in a single bound" cloudhoppers.
Don't quote me but I imagine that cylinders of methane gas could substitute for the propane - methane can be generated in one's backyard by anaerobic decomposition of organic waste.
Jersey has been generating methane industrially from sewage waste for many years (and using the gas to generate electricity which partially runs the waste treatment plant). There are smaller domestic size systems which can generate your own gas from food waste, like this one from India.
Here’s a link to a good website on anaerobic digestion.
The balloon seat, harness and supporting structure are mostly made of stainless steel so few problems there, but what about the balloon fabric, I hear you cry. Well, how about this company that recycles, or repurposes, this type of fabric and turns it into neat, lightweight backpacks, gym bags, laptop covers and wallets, among other things. Click for Baumm's website.
Treehugger.com did an article about them (click link here)
Friday, 12 June 2009
One of the biggest “challenges” (hate that word) facing us in the years ahead will be food security. This seemingly innocuous term basically comes down to how will we continue to be able to get enough to eat, seeing as how we have a constantly growing population (6.6 thousand million plus)? The foundations that we base our current agriculture on, that we absolutely rely upon, which include a stable climate and the availability of cheap energy to manufacture artificial fertilisers, are cracking.
There are estimates that, without artificial fertilisers, conventional agricultural methods can only support a global population of around 2 billion tops. As the Americans say – go figure!
Climate change, particularly shifts in temperature zones and rainfall distribution patterns will also have a massive effect. Mostly, not good. The increased CO2 will NOT be a help to growing more food (see my blogpost about the denialist myths about food production and increased CO2).
Perhaps more obviously, the imminent effects of peak Oil (look at this Guardian article for a "sooner than we think" foretaste) will make artificial fertiliser increasingly expensive and eventually unobtainable. Readers will be familiar with the term Peak Oil but there is also the less well known Peak Phosphorus to be concerned about. The main “active ingredients” in artificial fertiliser are N, P and K (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium). Potassium is in plentiful supply and will not be a problem. The fixing of nitrogen to make the nitrate in fertilizer is a highly energy intensive process which depends upon cheap, plentiful, fossil fuel supplies, which of course we have to wean ourselves off anyway as they decline, not to mention their destabilisation of the climate. Phosphorus, to make phosphate, is mostly mined - once we get down to the dregs of our phosphorus reserves there is currently no easily or cheaply available alternative supply to prop up conventional agriculture and some say our dwindling reserves will start to run out by around 2050 and that the “peak” will be around 2030 - see this Times article from last year.
In unveiling the "highly mechanized underbelly" of industrial agriculture, Food, Inc. covers issues ranging from agribusiness's corporate control of the food system, to food safety, and farmer and food-worker exploitation.
According to the Los Angeles Times, "Food, Inc. is more than just a documentary - it's a riveting cautionary tale." Buzz has been many months in the building: Food, Inc. has been showing in film festivals, word-of-mouth screenings, and in government officials' offices around the country
Here’s a good review from the Los Angeles Times. Food, Inc. reveals how a handful of corporations control our nation's food supply while cashing in on the myth that our food comes from idyllic, community-scale farms.
According to food reporter Michael Pollan, "Food, Inc. is the most important and powerful film about our food system in a generation." For months, the documentary has been showing in festivals, word-of-mouth screenings, and in government officials' offices -- including one "uncomfortable" screening with USDA (US Department of Agriculture) head, Tom Vilsack. It will show in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York on Friday, and roll out to fifty-plus cities in the weeks thereafter. Pesticide Action Network is one of 20 social change organizations engaged by the filmmakers to link outraged moviegoers to opportunities for action -- others include United Farm Workers, Humane Society, and Organic Consumers Association. PAN has also contributed a chapter on pesticides and farmworker exposure to the film's companion book, Food, Inc.: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer - And What You Can Do About It. The movie touches on issues ranging from its primary focus on Monsanto and other agribusiness's government influence and control over what we eat, to food safety, and farmer and food-worker exploitation.
The NY Times review was rather hard hitting too… link to NY Times review
Thursday, 11 June 2009
This post is inspired by a comment I put onto Connetable Simon Crowcroft's blog. Many thousands of people (12, 14, 16? I forget - I got quite sunburnt collecting some of their signatures) signed a petition agreeing that Gas place should be a town park with an underground car park.
I am fairly sure that the powers that be have told us that it would be too expensive to decontaminate the land, which has toxic residues beneath it from the old gas works so they reckon that an underground car park is "out of the question". I'm not sure how they can think of other developments on the site - surely it would still need expensive decontamination? They can't use the same excuse twice to different effect depending on what is being proposed, surely? Mind you, this is Jersey....
Given that the peoples' preferred solution looks unlikely, I like “Tony the Prof's” roof garden suggestion (the first comment on Simon's post). A two to three story car park, recessed slightly underground with a humongous, paradisiacal, glorious garden/park/Eden on top could work brilliantly.
Imagine being up on a level with the rooftops of St Helier - cor - what a sight!
Bert the chimney sweep (Dick Van Dyke) in "Mary Poppins" made the smoky rooftops of old London town seem magical - up there in Connetable Crowcroft's Eden one would be isolated from the traffic and the humdrum. Anyone been to Central Park? Looking around at crazy New York city, surrounding the fringes of the park, yet feeling very isolated from it, is a very nice experience.
Maybe we could recreate something like that here? Ok, so this is Jersey, so it would be in miniature but we could make it cuter.
I have excerpted a few paragraphs from a Telegraph article (click link) on roof gardens in London including the gardens that "Tony the Prof" mentioned which are the largest in London at about an acre and half in size - we could almost match that at Gas Place.
"With the air heavy with the scent of jasmine and roses, and the sound of trickling water masking the traffic, I felt thousands of miles, and years, from modern London."
"Laid out in the 1980s in a re-interpretation of the four-fold garden or Chahar Bagh of ancient Islamic architecture, the geometric design revolves around a central fountain fed by four rills that symbolise the celestial rivers flowing with water, honey, milk and wine. Four further fountains are set in the pale granite, with planting in shades of white and blue against green and silver-grey foliage including silver, weeping pears and cylinders of evergreen Ilex aquifolium."
"The central open space, which is sensitively lit for evening functions, is enclosed by high walls cloaked in scented climbers, with potted white oleanders flanking the entrances. Only when I raised my eyes to the sky did the three domes of the V&A, the Natural History Museum and the Brompton Oratory remind me of my bearings."
"Other notable, London roof gardens participating in the scheme include the famous Roof Gardens in Kensington, created above the former Derry & Toms department store in the 1930s and one of London's most surprising horticultural treats.
The place is huge for a roof garden, almost one-and-a-half acres, and divided into three oddly incongruous areas: a Tudor-style Rose Garden, a Woodland Water Garden with Japanese-inspired bridges and bamboos and populated by pink flamingos, and the spectacular Moorish Water Garden with its mature palms, kitsch cloisters and exotic planting. In spite of the fact that the soil is only three feet deep, nearly 500 varieties of trees and shrubs thrive in the highly artificial conditions, aided, no doubt, by the fact that aphids and many other pests are unable to survive at this altitude."
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
Prince Charles and Jonathan Porritt were involved. The St James’s Palace memorandum, signed today (May 28th) by 20 Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry, economics, peace and literature states, amongst a whole lot of other stuff that world carbon emissions must start to decline in only six years if humanity is to stand a chance of preventing dangerous global warming.
The St James’s Palace memorandum was agreed after three days of discussions attended by 60 leading scientists, policymakers and intellectuals. Participants included Steven Chu, the US Energy Secretary and Nobel physics laureate, Wole Solinka, the Nigerian literature laureate, and Wangari Maathai, the first environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Here's a link to a video of the declaration.
Back in January, President Obama gave this address on the economy, energy climate and sustainability (yes, he mentioned the magic word!). What he proposes is a snowball which is relatively small potatoes (I just can't help mixing metaphors!) compared with what we have to do to save everybody's skins but if Obama sets it rolling we just might be able to add "the sustainability extras" to the snowball to get it up to a suitable size as it starts to gather speed and the electorate starts to see that altering the way we do things will not be a disaster but just possibly we might end up in a nicer situation.
Sunday, 7 June 2009
Of course, like some of the most effective, twisted propaganda, there is a fair amount of truth behind this claim - increased CO2 does indeed increase crop yield but only if the other nutrients and growing conditions are suitably balanced - if they are not, then increased CO2 is bad for plant growth. In the controlled conditions of a greenhouse, it can increase yields but, on the contrary, in the uncontrolled outside world the climate changes that increased CO2 will, and are, causing will alter growing conditions so much that global food supplies are highly likely to be very compromised.
Furthermore, I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting that increased acidification of sea water due to increasing levels of CO2, which is happening now, will not prove to be a major problem for plankton and thereby the entire ocean food chain, which may end up going for a Burton... Here's a link to an article from the Telegraph last week, headlined
CO2 levels may cause underwater catastrophe
Just imagine - the famous "seafood diet" joke - if I see food, I eat it - may end up meaning little in a few decades when people ask "what was sea food, Daddy?"...
Here's the latest Climate Crock of the Week video demolishing the propaganda about CO2 as plant food.
The "letter" below is a well written bit of satire taken from Rob Williamson's Greenhouse Neutral Foundation website (click for link). His blog entry (5th June) gives the links to sign the "ban the plastic bag" petition. We Jersey people have made a good at reducing our plastic bag use, but more needs to be done.
Rob Williamson is an Australian who invented a process for recycling polypropylene plastic which won him all sorts of environmental awards. He is just about the same age as me (55). He sold his recycling business and put the proceeds into establishing his Foundation. Good on yer, mate!
You will notice that he has written a book ZERO Greenhouse Emissions – The Day the Lights Went Out – Our Future World which is worth looking at – fortunately, it's not written for the expert so puts climate change, Global Warming and Man's past, present and future into plain language. It also goes into the radically transformative economic effects of climate change which are something that our Council of Ministers seems almost unaware of with their ridiculous business-almost-as-normal "Strategic Plan". This virtually airbrushes out of sight Jersey's much greater than average global responsibility to transition away from what has got to be one of the most extreme consumerist, high “standard of living”, energy and resource guzzling lifestyles in the world.
Our local environmental shadow on the world is huge. If our Ministers realised this, then they would accept that, per person, Jersey residents are fast approaching the most environmentally damaging people in the world. The irony is that we live in a very beautiful, relatively unpolluted "homeland" but, to too many, vision and responsibility stops at the foreshore.
The letter below takes the form of a leaked letter to "Mother Nature", from Government leaders, asking her to back off for a while on the destructive consequences because we haven't cleaned up our climate changing emissions urgently enough. They want to carry on propping up the status quo with their rather short-sighted living one-day-at-a-time method (translation - one political term at a time).
By the way, the excitingly different (funny but serious!) climate change book I helped with (What’s the Worst that Could Happen?) will be published on July 5th and I’ll blog about that nearer the date.
LEAKED GOVERNMENT LETTER
Leaked by a highly reliable government source to Bob Williamson Chair of the Greenhouse Neutral Foundation
HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL – FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
Dear Mother Nature
Would you very much mind delaying your climate change impacts on our species as a result of our commercially driven devastating activities, resulting in but not limited to, the destruction of most other species that inhabit the planet along with us? We are presently experiencing a difficult time to our planned expediential extraction of finite resources on planet Earth.
In a nutshell, we have a short term cash flow crisis due to our rapacious greed and the pursuit of individual global nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). We also presently need to maintain the general public perception that our current unsustainable lifestyles can continue indefinitely.
We would ask that you delay your warming of the planet from our polluting activities for a period of (initially) one to two years – open to our review due to further unexpected commercial circumstances that at this time, we cannot predict. Due to political and commercial pressures during the next 12 months we intend to take no action whatsoever to minimise our environment impact or curb Hothouse Gas pollution. After that time we would seek a commitment from you here, to extend this contract, in terms that will suit our species and the individual commercial circumstance of the industries that run the governments of our respective countries. We would like to point out and make clear to you that at this time we have an 89% backing from those ill informed complacent global citizens /voters who have given their approval by electing us to make this advance to you. They have said it’s our job to lead and we have them on our side LOL.
We offer as an inducement to you, to continue our demonstrated preparedness to blindfold the majority of the global population, to the consequences of our past and present actions. We also offer continuing activities to reduce that which we perceive as a burden on the planet, other species who do not contribute to our global GDP.
We strongly suggest that you use your influence to defer until our further communication, any acts of God that may impact on our financial position as countries; and desist in causing further devastation to the established communities we have constructed for our coastal habitation.
The global insurance industry have kindly sponsored this letter and we have the full backing of the Coal, Oil and Gas industry lobbies along with our other corporate backers who continue to provide their (behind the scenes) support. They assure us and we assure you, that this is in our best vested interests at this time. We can also state openly here that this approach to you is backed up by the majority of the global population that has not a bloody clue, as to what we are all about.
We also notify you here, just for your information, that we are committed to supporting our financial backers and will resist any and all global discussion of a tax on pollution such as the implementation of a Carbon Tax. We know this may fix the contamination of the atmosphere by our supporters that profit from the activity, but we also know that 89%+ of the population don’t, so we have an edge on intelligence or the suppression of it.
We acknowledge this is a long letter and you have other things to do such as melting the polar ice caps and planning a few droughts, so we will accept none responsiveness as your agreement.
Thanks; and by the way we are not negotiating, we are telling you.
Signed for and on behalf of all global politicians elected to make decisions for everyone else.
PS. In closing we will deny we ever wrote this letter, so don’t even think about making it public!