Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Great reviews of "What's the Worst That Could Happen"

Here are links to a couple of reviews of Greg's book. As I've been plugging it so much, I'm glad to see that independent reviewers share my (biased - I lent a hand with it - damnit!) view that there is something very special about this book. The New Scientist one speaks for itself but the Climate Sight blog is from a well respected and followed "starting out" climatologist.

New Scientist review

Climate sight blog


Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Greg Craven on TV

This is a link to a TV show with Greg Craven, author of "What's the Worst That Could Happen" explaining the basic idea behind the book (on his local TV station).


Friday, 24 July 2009

Wattsup demolished by Climate Crock of the Week is a major meeting place for climate deniers. Click here for Watts' blog. It superficially appears to be a scientific blog but its main raison d’etre is that the author, one Anthony Watts, runs a campaign to show that measured global warming is false because many of the USA’s temperature monitoring stations on land (that are some of those used to measure global temperature trends) are placed in poor locations or have had the temperatures they record affected by subsequent development near them.

The factors that Watts and his team of volunteer sleuths look for are areas of hot tarmac, sites near air conditioning outlets, concrete areas nearby, new commercial development, climate scientists standing nearby aiming hair dryers at the thermometers (Ok, I made that last one up!).

To be fair, there are many poorly sited weather stations that are affected by the factors that Watts trumpets triumphantly but, like so many of the straw man arguments used by climate science deniers (click here for a definition of this well known logical fallacy propaganda technique) to insinuate apparent errors in climate science, they have virtually no effect on the measured global temperature trend, which is still upwards. A difference which makes no difference is no difference.

Firstly, this “station siting problem” effect is known about by climate science and already allowed for in the analysis, so claiming it is still a problem, discovered by Watts’ fearless denier vigilantes, in order to fool the denialist suckers, is a classic straw man. Secondly, climate science does not rely on only one method of measuring global temperatures. They use balloon measurements and satellite measurements too. Also, they take into account many other less direct measurements, such as ocean temperatures etc.



This climate denial crock of the week video devastatingly demolishes Watts’ position by showing that the temperature trend measured by the 70 odd (out of 1200’ish) stations that Watts admits are in “good” locations matches almost identically the trend from the much larger number of stations spotlighted by Wattsupwiththat, and his team of sleuths, as being in “bad” locations. If his straw man theory had any merit there would have been a marked difference in the two graphs from the two records of “good” versus “bad”. Game over Mr Watts!

P.S. The American neocon “think-tank” lobbyist organisation Heartland, as is very often the case, has a paw in this denier garbage. Click here for their website


Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Plastic bags - going, going - not quite gone yet

Plastic bag use has almost halved in the UK!

Nationwide (and even Jerseywide!) rejection of the bags, which take up to 1,000 years to decompose and clog drains and pollute oceans, followed a government challenge to retailers to voluntarily halve bag use by June 2009.

It began in 2007 with a few traders in the small town of Modbury in Devon refusing to give out plastic bags. But recently their small green revolution reached a national milestone: British shoppers have nearly halved the number of single-use bags they get through.

Figures from Wrap, the government's waste and resources programme, show that whereas 870m single-use plastic bags were handed out in the UK in May 2006, the figure for May 2009 was down to 450m – a 48% reduction.

That is quite a large shift in public behaviour. I always argue that, although the total amount of waste avoided by not using poly-bags is not that huge in relation to the mountains of other stuff that people use once and chuck away, initiatives like this have a much larger effect on the way people think and feel about the subject. Once people are used to not throwing away bags, and that they have to supply their own method of carrying purchases, I am sure that it plants a growing seed that has far greater effects on their perceptions of, and willingness to "do", sustainable behaviour than the raw tonnage of plastic waste avoided would seem to suggest.

In short, I think projects like this start a snowball, or avalanche effect, and make further environmentally friendly purchasing and behaviour decisions more likely to spread at an ever increasing speed.

click for link to an article with more about the fall in bag use


Saturday, 18 July 2009

Irritating climate change “skeptics”

For all the deniers out there... a breed so confident in their beliefs that they are willing to risk everybody’s future because of their overinflated egos and poor judgement.


Tea bags, muck and magic, Bounty and polyester

I am revisiting the subject of this post from May - worms tea bags and tissues - because I have a little more to add.

Most people who aspire to live more sustainable lives recycle, reuse or compost as much of their "waste" as they can and after starting on garden waste some end up composting their kitchen waste too. A while ago I became concerned about composting tea bags because I discovered that they are not "pure" paper but contain a percentage of plastic. Not a lot of people know that. Just about all tea bags have a polyester additive in the paper so they can be heat sealed in manufacture. When they are composted they leave behind a faint polyester skeleton which is particularly obvious in wormeries where it can build up over a year or so to make almost impenetrable (for the worms) layers. I haven't seen any other web site that mentions composting (even CAT - Centre for Alternative Technology - the last time I looked) that seems aware of this plastic contamination from tea bags because they all apparently recommend composting them whole. Since I found out, I tear the bag (when cooled) and tip the leaves into the compost and throw the bag into the bin.

I noticed a while ago that Co-op facial tissues, in addition to wood pulp, have a "wet strength additive". Apparently most, if not all, products like this have these additives, which are a form of resin. I phoned up the Co-op's freephone number to find out what this substance does when the tissue is composted and although I didn't find out exactly what it breaks down to, because I never got direct access to their technical guys, their customer service people, specifically Natalie, did say CO2, water and "biomass".

"Tough" kitchen rolls like Bounty A.K.A Plenty presumably contain either more of this "wet strength" additive or a different one. I am investigating whether this type of paper can be composted safely and will post again when I get a firm answer


Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Polyculture and agribusiness

Agriculture in future will be different to today's agribusiness with its enormous dependence on fossil fuel created artificial fertiliser and pesticides etc. Peak oil will force a change whether existing systems like it or not.

Most of this high energy/high carbon footprint fossil fuel dependency is because the dominant model of farming is currently monoculture where one crop species is grown in large fields. Pests, when they find such a field, tend to run riot thus farmers "need" to attack them with the heavy artillery of pesticides and fungicides to control them to avoid losing the whole crop. This simple cartoon shows how "polyculture" avoids many of those problems. As usual, if you find the image too small to read, click on it to see the original larger picture.


Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Me being less than kind to a critic

I got a comment on this post I did in June Sex, Lies and Videotape (ok, no sex- sorry) which put forward a couple of the classic ideas that global warming deniers are using to fool people. The commenter was referring to my use of the “Simon and Garfunkel” quote to illustrate that deniers, and those who are fooled by their idiotic, irresponsible rubbish, are wearing blinkers to shut out what they don’t want to see or hear. This is what they wrote in their comment:

a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest” also applies to the Climate Change believers too!
Fact is, there's no such thing as 'normal' weather or climate, we just happen to be in a reasonably stable period, but if things are changing it could be due to natural cycles we just don't understand yet”

This annoyed me greatly that someone could just so blithely ignore everything else that might conflict with their wishful thinking and then so confidently spout bullshit. I did a long reply and I think it is justified to re-use it as a post. I have added to the original a little.

This is my answer to “anonymous’s” comment:


No, it really doesn't apply to the Climate Change "believers" too. With this one comment you display your complete ignorance of the reality of the situation.

A huge mistake that critics like you tend to make is to believe that everybody's opinion, in “debates” like this, is of equal value. It is not. There is a fundamental difference between the opinion of the man in the pub who believes something because he once read a half understood article or saw a half-remembered documentary on TV such as that out and out garbage "The Great Global warming Swindle" that seemed pretty convincing to him and, on the other hand, the opinion of people who stake their position based upon tens of thousands of man years of work by climate scientists publishing peer reviewed scientific papers, building on what is known and predicting most likely outcomes based on this. It's like asking a four year old and a NASA scientist what the Moon is made of, then, because of your particular prejudices, which make you want to believe that the Moon is made of green cheese, you go with the answer of the four year old. Clearly, if you are gambling with eveybody’s future (which you are if you cling to your beliefs) it should be wisest to believe the NASA scientist rather than the four year old or the propagandists.

What to believe should not be a matter solely of whatever you want to believe. It's not even a matter of democratically counting up who believes what and going with the majority - that is mere politics. It is a matter of assessing whose viewpoint is credible or not and then making a risk assessment of who it would be safest to listen to. Big clue: it's not the irresponsible idiots who claim there is nothing to worry about!

You wrote: "Fact is, there's no such thing as 'normal' weather or climate, we just happen to be in a reasonably stable period, but if things are changing it could be due to natural cycles we just don't understand yet"

Do you honestly think that climate scientists don't know about the normal state of the climate? - about the many other "normal" states of the climate that have existed over the millennia and the savage climate instability and disruption and mass extinction of species that sometimes occurs when one normal state of the climate changes to another? And yet you and your ilk want to risk everybody's neck because you don’t want to believe in the science or the risk analysis? You lot are mad, bad or dangerous to know!

The change of the climate from one "normal" state to another has happened many times in the past, often with catastrophic consequences for most of the life on earth at the time. But… the factors which set off these "flips" back then built up over a long period of time. What scares many climate scientists, and knowledgeable people, rigid is the certain knowledge that the rate we have been pouring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, deforesting and changing land use, and massively increasing the number of ruminant cattle (which generate lots of methane) is far, far, far, faster than anything that natural cycles ever did. We're not talking weeks or months but in terms of a decade or three. It may take a long time for a supertanker to change its direction because it’s big and heavy but Earth is considerably bigger and heavier and human induced climate change does not happen overnight but is certainly happening at an "unnaturally fast" rate. Because of this inertia, we already have a couple of decades of emissions "in the climate bank" that have yet to change supertanker Earth's direction. Similarly, any changes to green house emissions that we set in motion now will take a long time before they affect the momentum of the supertanker. This is why it is hyper-stupid to "wait until the science is settled" as some deniers/delayers call for. By the time we know for sure, it will be much too late to stop things.

The propaganda "it’s normal for the climate to change"and the "inadequately understood natural cycles" ideas are framed in a poisonously misleading way. They are deliberately used by deniers to fool ordinary people because they seem plausible. They invite you to jump to the false logical conclusion that, if the climate is changing, it must be due to natural causes. You have been sucked in. Climate scientists are generally far more knowledgeable about climate than the average person (duhhh!). The major natural cycles are well understood and black propaganda, such that the observed global warming (which even the contrarian scientists admit is happening) is down to cycles in the sun, has also been demolished, not least in several of the other videos in the "crock of the week" series on this blog if you could have been bothered to look, instead of reflexively shooting from the hip.

The root of the apparent plausibility of this particular piece of propaganda is based upon the following slippery idea which you will have no doubt seen on the websites you favour - "the Earth is so huge, and we humans are so small, that we cannot possibly be having an effect on it, therefore if we see anything happening it must be due to natural cycles". It is laughably ridiculous, as anyone with basic mathematical knowledge should realise if they divide up the surface area of earth between the 6.6 billion inhabitants to find out how much "land" each person has as their “share”.

To save you the time, the answer is a square 150 metres on a side, or about 2.25 hectares. This is the space within which all the crops you eat have to be grown; all your food animals have to be grazed in; all the food plants to make the feed supplement have to be grown; all the trees and plants, that create our share of the oxygen that we need to breathe have to grow in; all the materials to make your car, your house, your share of the roads and the buildings you work in, your share of the factories that make the consumer goods that you use - all these materials have to be extracted from your 150 metres square patch.

Further, all the pollution and habitat destruction and erosion that you are responsible for when you buy consumer products and services all has to happen to your small patch. All the exhaust gases from your car and central heating... etc etc and finally all the waste material that you throw away and the waste material generated in goods manufacture all has to find a final resting place in your patch.

Think about these figures – they are easy to check with a calculator. They should be taught in all schools so that people can get a sense of proportion of just how crowded Earth really is. All you have to do is research what the surface area of Earth is. 70% of this is ocean so work out 30% of this area then divide it by 6.5 billion people – simples!

When you have done this, never ever again believe anyone if they tell you that humans have an insignificant effect on our planet and that we cannot be altering the climate at an unprecedented rate.


Thursday, 9 July 2009

Prince Charles - "Facing the Future" - the Richard Dimbleby Lecture

The Richard Dimbleby lecture given by Prince Charles, and shown last night, was a fabulous no holds barred exposition of the total environmental message.

To those of us in the forefront of the environmental movement, there was nothing very new but it's rather unusual to hear what you might call the Full Green Monty put forward so clearly. Normally, environmental ideas get diluted by the time-span or space that the media allow us to put them forward so the public only get a partial view of the complex whole.

The environmental message often gets overlooked by those of a "business-as-usual" view because they tend to ignore what seems to be a not particularly relevant (to them) message because it's all divided up into small chunks and they never seem to integrate all the differing aspects into one whole picture. The full message as put forward last night should now be seen as so huge that it cannot be ignored. Prince Charles laid out the whole elephant-in-the-room situation that we face in our present and future. No-one should turn a blind eye now.

I urge everyone to watch this - at 48 minutes long, it is a masterpiece. The only problem is that I don't think overseas blog readers will be able to access the BBC iPlayer programme.


Monday, 6 July 2009

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

The book that saves the earth is published tomorrow (Tuesday, July 7th). WHAT'S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN by Greg Craven, assisted by the Manpollo crew (of which I am one), is launched upon an unsuspecting world. It's for non-expert ordinary people everywhere who are just a bit unsure over who to believe in the great global warming shouting match. Few trust governments fully these days so, even if they are just about all telling us the following - that climate change is happening; that it's likely to be an increasingly dangerous problem unless we do A LOT very quickly to head it off and that we need to start fixing the problem now - there's plenty of people who are still doubtful and somehow believe they are being conned. This is because the two sides in the shouting match are not evenly balanced numerically or in terms of credibility, although the way the media portrays it, you wouldn't know this.

The book allows "ordinary Joes" to make up their mind what is the best decision to make to safeguard their - and their family's - future. No-one needs to take a degree in science or be a climate expert to use this book - its basic idea is to use simple techniques of risk assessment to show what the best bet is. It sets out the simple pros and cons of believing either side of the argument and the consequences of either taking action or doing nothing. It uses a simple, but very powerful, decision grid to achieve this. As a side effect, it also shows how the same grid is a very useful way for everybody to make difficult decisions on many of life's problems, where all the facts are not clear and the answers are not obvious. I'll do another post in a couple of days, with plenty of links, but for the time being just click on this image of the front cover.

What's the Worst That Could Happen?

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Climate crock of the week - deniers never seem to give up

This "crock" expose is about the view that climate science is mostly based on computer models and that we can't rely on them because they are nowhere near perfect - the proponents of this view (including a certain female Senator in our beloved States of Jersey) believe we should just carry on and not believe all the global warming "hysteria" and we'll all be just fine. Obviously, they feel lucky. It's just a shame that if too many are fooled by this irresponsible point of view, then the consequences will drag us all down along with them. They have a right to gamble with their own lives and futures, and maybe even those of their own children (dubious, ethically) but they have a responsibility not to put the rest of humanity who don't agree with them, including the vast majority of the relevant scientists in the field, at risk.


Water Water was everywhere, now there's not enough to drink

Well, not just yet. However, the "water footprint" of what we eat and manufacture, move and buy will be very significant in future. A paper (from Professor Arjen Y. Hoekstra of the Twente Water Centre at the University of Twente in the Netherlands)
(click for water footprint paper)
tabulates the calculated water footprint of various things we eat - not good news for beef or chocolate eaters! If the graphic is a bit blurred, just click on it and a sharper image should open up. Share/Save/Bookmark

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Peak Oil - How it all ends

I couldn't resist copying and stealing this short video from Mark at "A View from the West" (who originally stole it from who knows where). It is a short cartoon showing the period from when we discovered oil until a very, very short time into the future. This'll be just a couple of years and I pity the fool who hasn't realised by then that, if they still have an iota of faith in the apparent views and beliefs of our Council of Ministers, then they will be, to put it mildly, barking up the wrong tree. We are lions, lead by donkeys.

More info available at the Oil Drum website and also Peak Oil News