Thursday 14 November 2019

Some truths about the Climate Crisis

Last month I attended a day conference on the Climate Crisis run by the Leeds Trades Council, largely a Trades Union organisation and Labour Party front. (The session of "Working with others" never even mentioned the Liberal Democrats.  I'm not sure they even mentioned the Greens)

Reassuringly the emphasis was not so much on preserving jobs in existing industries as the urgency of action to  avoid a climate catastrophe, even if that means contracting some existing industries.  Rather there was considerable emphasis on  the opportunities to be created in the expanding Green industries.

I picked up the following "facts" which sound sensible to me.

1.  It is a nonsense to think that so-called "carbon capture and storage" techniques (CCS) will enable us to carry on extracting and  burning fossil fuels and capture and bury the carbon to keep it out of harms way.  CCS has never yet been achieved on a large industrial scale, even though several billions have already been spent on pilot schemes.  Even if it is achievable, great lumps of carbon (frozen CO2?) in the ground and ready to leak out at any moment are hardly a friendly legacy to leave for future generations to deal with.

2.  Cutting carbon emissions by 2050 , the current government policy, will be too late. "Experts" (of whom some Tories have had enough) say we need to achieve the target in 12 years at the most (ie by 2031).

3. Gas is a fossil fuel and any achieved from fracking will pump huge amounts of methane (a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2) into the air.  Even if we discover how to stop the resulting earthquakes and poisoning of water supplies which presently result from the procedure there is not now and never will be a case for fracking.

4.  Hydrogen for use as a fuel does not exist in nature but has to be created, usually from water by electrolysis (I remember doing this at school).  This requires more energy than is contained in the resultant hydrogen fuel.*

5.  Much time was spent in discussing the proposed expansion of the Leeds and Bradford airport.  Our conclusion was that LBA should be contracted rather than expanded, and the same goes for London Airport. We look for ward to seeing Boris Johnson, PM or not, lying in the road to stop the bulldozers if anyone is daft enough to go ahead with their third runway.

So far these issues have not featured al that prominently in the election campaign.  The should come second only to Brexit

*  On this it depends how the electricity is generated.  If we can generate all the electricity  we need from wind, tidal and solar power, than that alters the situation.  For the present even electric cars are not super-virtuous  if some of the electricity they consume is from fossil fuels.  Nor from bio-fuels: the production of these takes up valuable farming lands and their use pours  noxious gasses into the air.


  1. The CO2 that is collected should be used not stored. I understand it can be made into bricks for housing and insulation.These products can be permanently recycled.existing industries if they can be redirected to green production can be added to new environment industries. I understand that our geography is not conducive to produce a large amount of gas ,economies of scale comes into play.Using water to produce hydrogen can aggravate water shortages.It is ironic that the floods,if a regular event could assist in this.The energy can be from renewables ON LAND as well as sea. There should be more rapid development of the twin engined planes that do exist. The greater use of heliports should be considered for short haul routes.I have heard that COBALT is becoming scarce for production of electric batteries and they are going to the bottom of the sea to get it.
    Global warming will only loom larger as the years go by. A future Earth will look very different from today. Could this be one reason why Moon and Mars are coming to the fore.Wreck the Earth jump ship and start again. Will we learn from the present ?

    1. Thanks Nigel. You clearly know far more about this than I do. Let's hope the current higher profile given to this issue is maintained, that we all become more aware of the options and more resolved to take action.

  2. So what's your suggestion? We drastically reduce our standard of living in the next decade? I don't think that's a vote-winner.

    1. Yes. Now that the facts are becoming better known, what are you gong to do Sir?

    2. Well, not live like a subsistance-farming medieval peasant, that's for sure.

    3. No need for that. Just take fewer or no flights; travel by public transposon, cycle or walk where practical; if you run a car, make it last; buy fewer clothes and wash them less frequently; eat home-grown fruit and vegetables in season; avoid restaurants with outside heated areas areas; get your house properly insulated; and buy your energy from companies that obtain it as far as possible from renewable sources (eg Ecotricity). Quite a comfortable existence really.

    4. So, never see friends and family who don’t live locally; never go on holiday or see any of the great works of civilisation, unless you’re prepared to spend days travelling overland; have to toil in your allotment or have no fruit or vegetables oh and by the way, forget about eating meat — just like for a medieval peasant, a chicken breast will be a rare treat, looked forward to for weeks and talked about for months afterwards.

      And forget about any ambitions that might involve travelling. You’re going to live and die in the (transition) village where you’re born. Anything else would involve too much travelling.

      If you think that sounds ‘comfortable’, well, I think you’re mad — but then that’s not even the half of it, is it? To reach zero carbon emissions by 2030 will take far more than just buying local and not driving as much, so either you don’t truly understand the magnitude of the sacrifices required, or you’re trying to fool people into thinking it can be done with only massive hardship.

      For example, renewables can’t sustainably cover even all our current electricity needs, and if we all have to switch to electric cars that will be an extra load. So we’re talking electricity rationing, aren’t we? You can run your immersion heater only on your house’s assigned evening, so that’s the one time every fortnight you can have a hot bath.

      I guess it might make the planet last a few years longer… but given life won’t be worth living, what’s the point?

  3. Your grandchildren might have a different take on "the point."

    1. I doubt my grandchildren want to live like subsistance-farming medieval peasants in some post-ambition world.

      If they do I disown them.