Sunday, 18 April 2010

Why is this volcano good for the planet?

With the Icelandic volcano still making the news, no doubt we might hear people regurgitating the old denier lie that one volcano puts out far more CO2 than the whole of humanity does. Here's a very simple, yet striking, graphic that puts the situation into perspective.

This effect of this volcano on international aviation means it’s currently being carbon negative!

Graphic courtesy of



Anonymous said...

Another interesting facet that may help wake people up is the impact of air freight. This is just about the worst time of the year in northern Europe for fresh fruit - the apples pretty much finished, and strawberries not yet in production. Fruit is imported, and much of it by air freight. A similar problem exists with vegetables too - what in former times ws known as the hungry gap.

Review the dependency of food production and distribution on oil, look at the latest information on Peak Oil, and be afraid.

Nick Palmer said...

I think that is how it will happen as the world wakes up to the consequences of passing the peak of oil production.

People will be noticing that the price of other goods are going up, that long haul holidays are no longer cheap but when they are hit by the weekly food bill not only going up in price but also some items no longer being available to make Jamie's latest dinner party recipe, it will really rub it in that something serious is happening.

First the "out of hemisphere" veg would go up, then the more local but still out of season veg and finally basic foodstuffs conventionally grown in season and locally'ish.

Things would get very different within a couple of seasons max and I think we may then get a huge movement demanding an Apollo/Manhattan like project to get us off fossil fuels quick.

During the 70's OPEC "crisis" one almost started then - I think Carter put solar panels on the Whitehouse... - but that was just a relatively temporary political move by the Middle East.

What sort of giant avalanche of action would an actual dearth of fossil fuel energy availability spark off?

Nick Palmer said...

Whatever happened to Jimmy Carter's solar panels?

TonyTheProf said...

Did you see the piece by Alain de Botton (A world without planes).

Everything would, of course, go very slowly. It would take two days to reach Rome, a month before one finally sailed exultantly into Sydney harbour. And yet there would be benefits tied up in this languor.
Those who had known the age of planes would recall the confusion they had felt upon arriving in Mumbai or Rio, Auckland or Montego Bay, only hours after leaving home, their slight sickness and bewilderment lending credence to the old Arabic saying that the soul invariably travels at the speed of a camel.

Heathrow - the museum
This new widespread 'camel pace' would return travellers to a wisdom that their medieval pilgrim ancestors had once known very well. These medieval pilgrims had gone out of their way to make travel as slow as possible, avoiding even the use of boats and horses in favour of their own feet.
They were not being perverse, only aware that if one of our key motives for travelling is to try to put the past behind us, then we often need something very large and time-consuming, like the experience of a month long journey across an ocean or a hike over a mountain range, to establish a sufficient sense of distance.
Whatever the advantages of plentiful and convenient air travel, we may curse it for being too easy, too unnoticeable - and thereby for subverting our sincere attempts at changing ourselves through our journeys.

TonyTheProf said...

Oh, and the subtitles for BBC News MUST be done by computer.

I put them on because I'm deafish.

It had:

"The Volcano in Iceland continues to throw out cash".

Icelandic banks must be doing ok then?

Nick Palmer said...

I most liked the bit about souls travelling at the speed of a camel...

There was an interesting bit of synchronicity in that subtitle error - in the New York Times today they have an article about Iceland in which they have these paragraphs:

"Mr. Skarphedinsson and other Icelandic politicians do not try to conceal their resentment toward the British government for its use of terrorism laws to freeze the Icelandic banks’ assets during the financial crisis in 2008. But if they are feeling any schadenfreude in Britain’s suffering, it has been well concealed, cropping up only in jokes that have been making the rounds here.

One, perhaps told with more glee by Icelanders than by mainland Europeans, has Iceland misunderstanding what Europe was requesting: “We wanted cash,” Europe says, “not ash.”

Another: It was the last wish of the Icelandic economy that its ashes be spread over Europe."

simonsays said...

The problem you face is that labour are total hypocrites. You fly round the world first class and then say that you are interested in saving energy. You go first class by rail because you 'deserve it'. If you want people to start listening, do as you say. Milliband is a No1 hypocrite; flies to Copenhagen with a huge team on business class when he could have gone by rail.

Nick Palmer said...


Your point is rather simplistic. Firstly you seem to have assumed that I support the Labour Party - you are incorrect.

It's pretty rare to see any significant politician of whatever political variety walking or cycling when the cameras are off them. If they're travelling long distances it becomes vanishingly unlikely.

Your viewpoint seems strange. You appear to suggest that anyone who points out that the way we use energy etc must not themselves use any, or be regarded as hypocritical, is silly. While we have a system that uses fossil fuelled energy to move people around it makes sense to use it to change that system. Rather like in judo, one uses the opponent's strength against him.

The point of campaigning is not to change individuals' minds while the vast billions carry on squandering energy regardless. There would be no point if only the committed and the conscientious changed their ways. Planetary physical systems would pay no attention to that. It has to be a global change of behaviour.