Wednesday, 17 February 2010
Thankfully we have the brave, clearsighted denialist/"sceptic" movement to save us all from the biggest and longest lasting conspiracy the world has ever seen. The global warming hoax is bigger even than the conspiracy theories that one sees uncovered on JFK assassination websites, sites selflessly dedicated to exposing the "mankind-landed on the moon hoaxes" and spreaders of the previously biggest conspiracy idea - that Grey aliens are in charge of all world governments.
Of course ideas that the whole of global warming science is a hoax are preposterous, bordering on insanity. There's a lot of people who give them credence though... The minor conspiracies mentioned before are imagined by exactly the same type of pseudo-paranoid thinking as the denialists use to achieve their ends, which are the good of them and their cohorts - not the good of all. The current blitzkrieg of propaganda, that they have launched recently, is not just a few internet crazies mouthing off about Climategate, Amazongate etc. Too many ordinary people are getting fooled. This is a dangerous situation for the world to be in.
However, imagine if it all were a hoax, or a big mistake that thousands of very smart people hadn't spotted over the last 50 years or so. Let's look back from the future perspective of our children's world. Imagine that we had gone ahead and weened ourselves off fossil fuels and reduced our greenhouse gas emissions anyway. Peak oil - no problemo... loads of other problems solved...
A Joel Pett cartoon
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
This tiny tax on speculative activities takes from the obscenely rich casino style banking practices - that may or may may not have bankrupted the world’s economy – and uses the money for good purposes. Like Robin Hood.
This is a version of the long mooted Tobin tax - click for wiki link
Taken from the wiki article (adapted slightly by me):
No less a luminary than John Maynard Keynes in 1936 (after the Wall street Crash and Great Depression) proposed that a small transaction tax should be levied on dealings on Wall Street, where he argued that excessive speculation by uninformed financial traders increased volatility. For Keynes, who personally enjoyed speculation to the fullest, the key issue was the proportion of ‘speculators’ in the market, and his concern that, if left unchecked, these types of players would become too dominant. Keynes writes:
"Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the situation is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation."
"The introduction of a substantial government transfer tax on all transactions might prove the most serviceable reform available, with a view to mitigating the predominance of speculation over enterprise in the United States."
The denialist movment has gone to new heights of absurdity and paranoid style thinking with their current propaganda blitz on Climategate, Africagate, AmazonGate, Toyota pedalgate (oops, sorry - that one isn’t down to them but is being blown up out of all proportion by the same type of journalists). Just as the problems Toyota is having with the pedals/brakes doesn’t mean that all the rest of the engineering in their cars – known as probably the most reliable cars in the world – is suspect, so too the various “gates” have absolutely no impact whatsoever on the sound physics and climatology underlying global warming science but the frankly mad insinuations that are being printed almost daily are confusing the public mightily – which, of course, is the whole point of the propaganda.
A nice “reductio ad absurdum” cartoon from Marc Roberts
Saturday, 6 February 2010
A while back I did a post entitled Power kites, Kitegen and oodles of green energy (click this link for post).This was about the astonishingly large amounts of wind energy that can be captured using power kites flown by computer in a figure of eight pattern. These appeal to me because they bridge two of my great loves – flying wings (hang gliders/paragliders) and environmentalism. This “8” flight path is, of course, familiar to anyone who kitesurfs - they won’t be surprised at all about the amazing forces that these airfoils harness, having experienced them first hand. Kilowatts of power are available from these devices.
They are better than conventional wind turbines because, for their size, they “sweep” a much larger area of the sky and also they “sweep” at a higher altitude than a wind turbine of similar size.
A power kite can access the faster moving winds aloft – a 100 square foot kite (which would fold up into a suitcase) can operate in the same, or better, regime of wind flow as a 100 metre tall wind turbine – even better, the conventional horizontal axis wind turbine’s blades obviously spend half of their time in the lower speed winds nearer the ground which induce powerful engineering stresses on the structure that the kite simply does not have.
Here’s a link to Kitegen
Here’s a Youtube video that combines animation with live field tests – these things work! Smaller versions could conceivably power individual houses without having to have a big tower for the turbine to sit on. There are other videos of a 100 sq ft kite generating 10 kw!
From their website: “Kite Gen’s vision is a new type of electric generation plant, based on a renewable source, suitable for any territory, at costs lower than fossil fuel generation plants, in direct competition with today’s conventional production (coal, oil or nuclear), in the GigaWatt class.”
As if that wasn’t revolutionary enough, here is effectively the same idea but in water instead. Minesto.com is a Swedish company, originally an offshoot of Saab, that has developed a concept called “Deep Green”.
It consists of a tethered “wing” which is “flown” underwater in a figure of eight pattern. Unlike the Kitegen concept, which generates power as the kite is pulled out from the base station where the generators are, the Deep Green hydro plane actually incorporates a generator within the “flying” bit itself.
Here’s a promotional video from Minesto showing the concept in an experimental tank.
Because of the power kite like action, the Deep Green generators are moving through the water flow so fast that they do not need gearboxes, as conventionally designed tidal mills do. That cuts down on the cost, weight and maintenance required and the increased flow means that the power obtainable from the Deep Green is much greater - moving water contains far more energy than wind of the same speed as it is around 800 times denser than air.
Even our Jersey States has a special group looking at exploiting the tidal stream resources off our Channel Islands, but what they are looking at is conventional “propellers on the sea bed” type generators. Tidal stream energy is of course reliable and totally predictable. This Deep Green concept is still at the experimental water tank stage but it’s almost entirely a matter of engineering the devices and scaling them up, not a matter of any further invention.
The most significant thing about this idea is that it can operate in much slower or deeper tidal streams than conventional tidal stream generators. There are only relatively few areas around the British Isles which have sufficiently fast tidal flows to render ordinarily designed tidal mills worthwhile – however, even so, the amount of energy in these limited areas is colossal. One of the best of these is around Alderney and this is where investigations are taking place for a commercial company to install generators in the next year or so.
The “Deep Green” concept promises to allow much bigger areas of tidal flow around the British Isles, and also many other places around the world, to be used to harvest reliable abundant renewable energy. Here’s a pic of some of the better areas.
Following a successful demonstration, development of the technology is continuing to the next stage - deployment of a prototype off the coast of Northern Ireland in 2011.
Ideas like this remove one irritating objection that anti-sustainability nit-pickers bring up about most renewables –that they are intermittent and unpredictable.
Thursday, 4 February 2010
Following text borrowed from TriplePundit.com’s Mary Catherine O’Connor
“An enterprising Japanese firm called Oriental has developed a machine that will divert the waste paper in your office and convert it into toilet paper. Right there, on the spot. Feed about 40 sheets of paper into one end of the machine and in about 30 minutes, a roll of toilet paper emerges from the other end.
Sure, the carbon footprints linked to toilet paper purchases might not account for entire chapters of corporate social responsibility reports. But this contraption–which Oriental has inexplicably named the White Goat–is perhaps symbolic of the diffusion of sustainable thinking into the most remote corners of workplace design. Or, depending on how much water and electricity the White Goat eats each day, it could be symbolic of sustainable thinking gone wrong.”
I mostly talk about the big stuff of sustainability, like the changes in economics, that will help most people to bring in the necessary changes in their lives automatically. That’s a slow and boring process but fortunately there are loads of personal voluntary action initiatives out there too and I’ll occasionally give them a mention. A lot of people like to get involved personally.
Here is one such a campaign - 'I do 30' - which encourages those who can to commit to switching from washing laundry at high temperatures to wash at 30 degrees C. Of course, there are washing jobs that occasionally need a higher temperature – for example killing dust mites - but everyday laundry can get by just fine on a lower setting.
The 'I do 30' campaign encourages people across the world to turn down the temperature on their laundry to save CO2.
I think that the chief benefit of ideas like this is not in the ultimate energy savings (also equals money savings…), although every little can help, but in the psychological impact on everything else that one does. If one is making an effort to do things like “I do 30” then other similar actions become that bit easier to attempt (and succeed at!). The snow ball grows! One drop in the ocean doesn’t amount to much but millions of drops moving the same way can form a tsunami of effect.
The ‘I do 30’ campaign was started in Denmark by the bio-innovation company Novozymes, who created enzymes that makes it possible to wash your clothes at lower temperatures.
Obviously it’s in their commercial interests but that doesn’t mean that they are just doing it for cash. Doing well by doing good could be the mantra for sustainable businesses.