- The most eminent US scientist and head of Nasa, Dr James Hansen, has said that we have passed the tipping point for Arctic and Greenland ice loss. This has dramatic implications for the possible accelaration of the rate of climate change
- He says we now need to stabilise levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere below 350 parts per million (ppm) – lower than they are today (ca. 387 ppm)
- He says to have any chance of doing this, the first thing we need is a moratorium on new coal fired plants that do not have carbon capture and storage
We discuss all this with Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, who was a reviewer on the IPCC’s 2001 Report; and with Richard Hawkins of the Public Interest Research Centre, who is preparing a UK edition of Climate Equity’s Climate Code Red report for publication.
We consider whether our programme needs to change its name from The Two Degrees Show to The 350 Show in the light of the latest scientific findings…
We launch our new series by revisiting some of the results and implications of last year’s IPCC Report as well as looking at the recent observations from the Arctic. Our guides this week are two scientists who have acted as expert reviewers for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Joanna Haigh, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Imperial College London and Dr Stuart Parkinson, Exectuive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility.
- None of the IPCC scenarios keep us within a 2C global average temperature rise (compared to pre-industrial times) which has been defined by the EU as a dangerous level that must not be exceeded
- The climate computer models used by the IPCC have been underestimating Arctic ice loss – recent observations suggest that there is now a 50% chance that the north pole may be ice-free this summer
In the words of IPCC Chair, Rajendra Pachauri (November 2007): “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two or three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”
Caroline Lucas MEP talks us through the new package of targets and policies on climate change that have just been announced by the European Union. There are new targets on CO2 emissions, renewable energy, energy efficiency and biofuels. We also discuss the effectiveness of EU climate action on aviation, road transport, emissions trading, decentralised energy and, er, lightbulbs!
The Mayor of London has just launched a trail-blazing Climate Change Action Plan which gives London a target of a 60% reduction in CO2 by 2025. The Two Degrees Show spoke to Mark Watts, the Mayor’s senior advisor on energy to find out how this will be achieved.
Almost every week a new Transition Town emerges in the UK – a new neighbourhood committing itself to engaging the community in plan for a future without oil. In the process they are imagining a world that it is cleaner, has an enhanced sense of community, is more local, where people are fitter and healthier, and there is a stronger connection to the land. This programme features an interview with the Transition Town founder, Rob Hopkins – who set the ball rolling three years ago.
Continuing our look at solutions…
In a coal- or gas-powered electricity plant in the UK a staggering 60% of the energy is wasted as heat. In a decentralised model you can use that heat to warm people’s homes using a technology called Combined Heat and Power.
CHP is a proven, market-ready technology (unlike hydrogen or “clean coal”) that is already widely used in Europe. Denmark, for example, generate 50% of their electricity in this way. George Monbiot unconvincingly dismisses CHP in his book “Heat”, whereas The Tyndall Centre have made an important feature of it in their future energy scenarios and it forms a central part of London’s trailblazing plans to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2025 which were unveiled today (see: here).
For this programme I interviewed Jim Footner of Greenpeace. Unfortunately there was a technical problem with the recording which rendered it unbroadcastable. So instead what you’ll hear is a useful introduction to decentralised energy in the form of the soundtrack to the Greenpeace film “What are we waiting for” which was produced by Memory Box films and narrated by Clive Anderson.
Afterwards, I attempt an assessment and run past some of the main points that came out of the discussion with Jim. At the very least, the UK should institute a law (simillar to the one they have in Denmark) that forbids any new build fossil fuelled electricity plants without heat capture (whether in the UK or abroad with UK support).
- What are we waiting for? – youtube film link
- Decentralising Power – An Energy Revolution for the 21st Century
- Powering London Into the 21st Century (Greenpeace/GLA, 2006)
- Scotland (Greenpeace/WWF Scotland, 2006)
- Energy Revolution – A Sustainable World Energy Outlook (Greenpeace/EREC, January 2007)
- What are we waiting for? – youtube film link
CARBON RATIONING – Your questions answered
“The urgency with which we must make the transition to a low-carbon pathway leaves no option but to instigate a radical and immediate programme of demand management.” – Living Within A Carbon Budget (Tyndall Centre, 2006)
In five years time, we could all have an equal carbon allowance to buy our electricity and fuel with. This would help us play our part as an industrial nation in bringing global carbon dioxide emissions down rapidly to a relatively safe level. In a follow-up to last weeks interview with Mayer Hillman, Phil England puts some of your concerns and questions about carbon rationing (or tradeable energy quotas) to Richard Starkey of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
- How does Mayer Hillman’s scheme differ from David Fleming’?
- How does personal carbon trading compare to a carbon tax?
- Would the scheme make people more carbon conscious?
- Would the scheme allow the rich to continue their energy profligate lifestyles?
- Is there a danger that the scheme could be weakened by allowing carbon offsetting?
- How costly would the scheme be to set up and run?
- Would the scheme encourage a black market?
- How could energy used in the manufacture of products (embedded energy) be accounted for?
- Under the part of the scheme that relates to corporations would buy-out clauses such as the problematic Clean Development Mechanism be included which would render the scheme ineffective?
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions or comments: Alex Smith (Radio Ecoshock, Canada), Naomi Fowler (freelance radio producer), Tam Dougan (Network for Alternative Technology and Technoloy Assessment), Mark Aitken (producer of ResonanceFM’s I Can Hear The Grass Grow), Brian Ross (Stop Stansted Expansion), Roger Levett (Levett-Therivel Sustainability Consultants), Jonathan Essex (Sustainable Redhill).
Continuing our look at solutions, we have the great pleasure of presenting an interview with Mayer Hillman who came up with the concept of carbon rationing back in 1990. Mayer is a much admired policy strategist whose proposal has been snowballing in popularity to the point where Environment Minister David Milliband is now seriously championing the idea. His book “How We Can Save the Planet” (published by Penguin) is a layman’s guide to the idea of carbon rationing. It will finally be published in North America in April as “The Suicidal Planet: How to Prevent Global Climate atastrophe.”
Mayer is acutely aware that our business-as-usual attitude is propelling us towards disaster and that we need to act radically and with great speed. He reminds us of some harsh, uncomfortable truths and presents a compelling solution to our predicament.
Last week Craig Sams (Soil Association Chair and co-founder of Whole Earth Foods and Green & Blacks chocolate) told us how he thinks a worldwide transition to organic farming could help us reduce carbon in the atmosphere by half the amount that we need to in order to stabilise climate change. This week we speak to two independent experts to examine these claims:
- Peter Smith, Professor of Soils & Global Change, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen; and lead author on the UN IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report chapter on agriculture’s role in climate change mitigation
- Phil Metcalfe – organics expert at ADAS who co-authored “Energy use in organic farming systems” (DEFRA, 2000)
At the end of the programme we make our own assessment of the evidence and issues. We would be interested to know if you agree or disagree.
Soil Association Chair, Craig Sams, has been making some extraordinary claims. He calculates that a worldwide transition to organic farming could help us reduce carbon in the atmosphere by half the amount that we need to in order to stabilise climate change. Sams – who is also the founder of Whole Earth Foods and Green & Blacks Chocolate – sees carbon pricing as a way of making this transition possible.
Next week we hope to get a couple of independent experts to examine these claims and their implications.