Extinction Aversion 1215

Man made climate change has appeared to me for three decades to be sufficiently proven, and it has that cardinal virtue of a scientific hypothesis, you can see the things which it predicts will happen, come to pass before your eyes, like being uncomfortably hot in your Edinburgh flat on Easter Monday.

Direct action of the illegal kind is a very important weapon in the arsenal of protest. It represents a challenge to the state’s monopoly of force. While it may appear non-violent, in fact by imposing your body into a space and blocking it off, that is an assertion of physical force. What the Extinction Rebellion protests showed this week was the reticence of the Metropolitan Police in dealing with nice, middle class and largely white protestors. That reticence is to be welcomed; the fact that it is not extended to other groups is what is to be deplored. The alternative is to argue for everyone to get beaten up by Plod equally, which is not a sensible line to take.

I broadly support the Extinction Rebellion protest. In terms of gatecrashing climate change on to the political agenda, they have had a good and entirely necessary effect. Their use of what was in effect force, certainly did some harm in restricting the movement of people around London, and in some cases will have impacted the ability of struggling people to earn their living. It also disrupted public transport systems which are a good thing. But these are minor items if you accept that climate change is whirling its way to becoming an existential threat – and that is a premise which I do accept. The disruption is outweighed by the intent to do a much greater good, in terms of the justification of the people doing the protesting. Whether it succeeds in prompting real action by government and achieving a balance of good, is a different question. I fear we have to get rid of the Tories first.

I accept that climate change is a worldwide phenomenon and action in individual states of limited utility. But individual states can inspire by example, not least by showing that a switch to a greener economy can lead to a major stimulation of economic growth. I do not pretend to expertise in green economics. What follows are rather some homely policy nostrums which I believe should form a part of a coherent approach to green policy.

1) Home Insulation

The Tory Government has effectively abandoned and cancelled home insulation schemes; in effect nothing whatsoever is happening. Yet the government’s own plan to reach committed emissions targets by 2050 explicitly depends on one third of all savings being achieved by insulation in Britain’s existing stock of over 20 million very poorly insulated homes.

There is the clearest case here for government action. The aim should be to upgrade 4 million homes a year. Full funding should be provided to local authorities and housing associations for their stock. Householders should face a legal obligation to bring home insulation up to high defined standards – with generous means-tested grants available from central government funds, which should meet 100% of the cost for all those in straitened circumstances, and a decreasing percentage thereafter based on income and wealth. Private landlords should be forced to comply and self-fund up to the value of four months’ rent, with grants available for higher costs. Failure to comply should lead to the landlords’ property being confiscated by the local council, with tenancies protected.

Those are the broad outlines of a policy which would provide massive employment and contribute to a major Keynesian boost for an economy crippled by years of austerity, as well as make a major difference to emissions.

2) Ocean Energy

Wind energy has made massive strides, and to a lesser extent solar and hydro. But disappointingly little has been done to harness the restless energy of the seas. Government support for research programmes into utilising wave and current energy is pitifully small, given the potentially vast and reliable energy resource available, to the UK in particular.

On tidal energy, those objecting to the Severn or Wash barrage schemes on the grounds of effect on wildlife habitat are failing spectacularly to see the wood for the trees. Of course biodiversity is massively important, but we are fighting a battle in which some resources will need to be sacrificed. The Severn, Wash and Swansea Bay schemes do not require substantial technological innovation – they are basically just low head hydro – and should be pushed ahead as urgent projects. Simultaneously major research funding should be given to innovation. I suspect the harnessing of currents rather than waves would be the first to fruition.

3) Aviation Fuel Tax

Cheap flights are the opiate of the people. I cannot buy in to the argument that aviation fuel tax is only viable if everybody does it. Planes landing can very easily be taxed on any fuel they have in their fuel tanks brought in from third countries. If hub passengers transiting are reduced in favour of fuel tax free destinations, I cannot see that as a bad thing. An aviation hub is a particularly undesirable thing to become, from any sensible environmental view.

Flying is a major contributor to pollution and there is far too much of it. The tax free fuel status that makes flights cheaper than trains is ludicrous. Aviation fuel should be taxed at the same levels per calorific value as road fuels.

4) Expand Rail Networks

Nationalisation and re-integration is of course the sensible prelude to any development of rail transport. The UK is chronically behind most of the developed, and even much of the developing, world in terms of high speed rail lines. This needs to be rectified as does the chronic over-concentration of transport resource on South East England. HS2 should run on to Aberdeen and Inverness, not just be confined to the southern third of the UK.

On a wider note, with demand for rail transport buoyant, re-establishment of many Beeching axed lines should be undertaken with a view to a simple containerised nationwide freight distribution system as well as passenger transport. Rail is far more energy efficient than road. The preponderance of road transport is simply the result of perverse incentive from government policy.

Light rail and tram systems should be expanded in cities. Here in Edinburgh, the poor planning and execution of the start of a tram system should not put us off. Trams should be a local service, not fast and stopping frequently, but rather akin to buses, as in Manchester. They should not be confused as in Edinburgh with an express airport service, with very few and inaccessible stops.

5) Encourage Micro-Generation: Abolish Nuclear

The UK had an immensely successful programme of encouraging domestic solar generation through feed in tariffs, so the Tories cut it, as they cut the less successful insulation grants. Generous feed-in tariffs for domestic generation should be rebooted, while technologies such as heat pumps and exchangers should be zero rated for VAT (as should bicycles).

By contrast, the massively expensive nuclear power projects should be scrapped immediately. I lived almost all my adult life under the impression nuclear energy involved some fiendishly clever technology, until I realised it generates from bog standard steam turbines, and the nuclear part is simply a ludicrously complicated, incredibly expensive and devastatingly dangerous way to – boil water.

The real attraction to governments of nuclear power is the precise reason governments dislike micro-generation – nuclear power promotes a massively centralised security state, and links in well to weaponisation. It is the most expensive electricity of all, and should be immediately closed down.

The above represent my own thoughts on possible short term policy responses to climate change. I acknowledge quite freely that it is not my area of expertise and is perhaps insufficiently radical, and certainly insufficiently broad and detailed. It has however focused my mind on the great economic stimulus that can be gained from wholesale pursuit of the necessary technologies at the government level.

I have deliberately concentrated on unilateral measures rather than international negotiation, because I am sceptical there is sufficient will for progress on the latter or that governments around the world intend to stick to commitments. I have viewed it from a UK not a Scottish perspective because action is required immediately, and Scotland starts from a much better place anyway.

That I am thinking on this at all is in a way evidence that Extinction Rebellion achieved their aim from their immediate action, though it is those in power they seek to influence, not random bloggers. I am very sceptical of their declared desire to “negotiate with government”. If David Cameron were still in power, he would undoubtedly “hug a swampie” and make all kinds of green noises, then continue shutting down environmental programmes. Those around Theresa May are quite clever enough to recommend such an approach, as a potential Tory rescuing image as the party otherwise crashes to electoral disaster.

I would recommend Extinction Rebellion to keep blocking the roads and stay clear of the politicians. If they could refine their tactics to concentrate more on direct action against the big polluters and their financial backers, and move away from shocking the public through inconvenience, that might be tactically good for a while. But on the whole, I applaud. Vigorously.

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1,215 thoughts on “Extinction Aversion

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  • John Pearson

    These are the reasons why I am personally in favour of Scottish independence from Westminster. The Scottish people have in general a greater understanding of the science which translates to greater public support for the revolutionary policy changes needed. Also a smaller country with control of our resources will be able to demonstrate the ability to exploit those resources and leverage rapid change through technological progress. We have one of the or the densest concentration of brilliant engineers in the world, an ideal situation to catalise the rapid progress needed. What is needed is government support for major projects which will have the best and quickest result. My favourites are 1) Massive re-forestation. This is something which will take time so needs to be started immediately. Major benefits are the absorption of co2 and in future the supply of cheap 0 carbon building materials which can largely replace concrete and steel. 2) carbon capture and storage- scotland is an ideal place to develop this tech at massive scale, initially allowing the low emission use of our fossil fuel supply, then going forward providing a worthwhile carbon sink from the burning of biomass. 3) building insulation, and transition to air heat pump heat sources ( burn the gas at the CCS power station and use the 3-4 to 1 efficiency enhancement of heat pumps). 4) re power our transportation to electricity. We need to electrify all the railways, retrofit all cars and busses with electric motors and install overhead wires on main bus routes to charge busses as they go, greatly reducing the required battery. This will be much cheaper and easier than installing tram rails. 5) carbon tax should be introduced to replace other taxes so the overall tax burden is the same.

  • Hmmm

    Pissing in the wind. Which might provide an energy source too. We dont need to be rid of the tories, we need a change to our entire human existence. But uf this is the first step towards that then i guess more power to the rebels elbows.

  • Jeff

    All good suggestions. They also bring jobs, and more generally, happiness to the people while being ‘good for the environment’.

  • Ian Calderbank

    I think you need to do some more research on Nuclear energy. The problem with today’s technology is we have ended up stuck with the pressurised water reactor which was only intended to be a stepping stone technology. This type of power station is ridiculously inefficient (less than 5% of the fuel is burnt), it also requires huge over engineering to make it safe. Alternative nuclear technologies such as the molten salt reactor could transform nuclear to be the only truly viable alternative to fossil fuels.

    • Peter Janik

      Until Fusion power becomes viable.

      And in the meantime we would have a CO2 free, cheap, scalable, constant energy source.
      Todays operating nuclear power plants are designs from the 1950-ies.

      The fear of nuclear is as unscientific as the denial of AGW.

      • Dave Lawton

        Peter Janik
        April 23, 2019 at 10:56

        “Until Fusion power becomes viable.” Its a fairy tale they have been saying that for years.That mantra has being spouted for the last sixty years,In the meantime LENR is surging ahead and you can LENR units for factory heating.

        • Peter Janik

          You can ignore staying current.
          Fission power plants will eventually be phased out, no matter what.
          But the Gen4 plants are one of the best bets to keep energy affordable, reliable, CO2 free, small ecological footprint and with manageable risk.

    • Mighty Drunken

      Molten salt reactors are often mentioned as a way to improve nuclear power (as is Thorium and other reactors). The truth is that molten salt reactors are still an R&D proposal and will require much more research to become ready for commercial exploitation. The corrosive effects of the high temperature salt is still a problem.
      However we need to reduce our emission now, the sooner the better. There is little political will to fund these proposals to the extent that is needed in a reasonable time frame to tackle climate change. It may be a worthwhile future technology but I doubt it. People need to accept that the reason why nuclear has fallen out of favour is not due to governments suddenly becoming Green. The main reason is that nuclear power has proved too capitally expensive compared to other forms of generation.

      • Peter Janik

        Molten salts have been researched as the medium in thermal solar power plants. The corrosion risk is manageable, what is currently needed are fast iterations to make this a reliable and economic product.

        There are enough investors that want to reduce CO2 and make energy dependable and safe. Not much state funding needed, test sites and reduced red tape is what is currently needed.

        Especially with designs that work with liquid fuel that do not need a pressure vessel.

        • Mighty Drunken

          Molten salt nuclear reactors tend to use fluoride based salts unlike thermal solar plants as they are stable under high neutron flux and temperatures. These salts are more corrosive than the sodium and potassium salts used in solar thermal energy plants.

    • AliB

      And how many years down the line is that- even if we ignore the everlasting problem of what to do with the nuclear waste + the ever rising worry of security.
      Lets get on NOW with the already proven technology and improve on that.

  • squirrel

    “While it may appear non-violent, in fact by imposing your body into a space and blocking it off, that is an assertion of physical force.”

    Craig you are so often a voice of sanity but this is just wrong. It is not ‘violence’ to occupy the space that one’s body is in. It is violence to physically force someone else to move out the space they are in. Whether it is correct or lawful for someone to be in a certain space at a certain time is an entirely separate matter.

    One has no need to be strong or physically imposing to take part in a non-violent direct action, grandmothers can do it just as effectively as younger people.

    • craig Post author

      Can’t agree there Squirrel. Occupying a communal space like a road with the express intent of denying it to others for long periods is a use of force. Justifiable in this instance, but still a use of force. And old ladies can use force too.

      • nevermind

        Can’t agree there Craig, the Queens highway is for all to occupy.
        But I also have an issue with NVDA, especially when it advocates massive participation that inevitably will leave vulnerable people without help or care.

        • SA

          The highway is not for occupation but for transit. There is after all the offence of obstructing the road.

          • nevermind

            SA you can walk as slow as you like and whence you have arrived at B coming from A, you are in your rights to move back to A, respectfully.

          • Charles Bostock

            You’d be singing a different tune if a group of people tried that in front of your door. Protesting at your blogging activities, perhaps.

          • SA

            This is indulging in s bit of sophistry. If a police officer sees that you are wilfully obstructing the free flow of traffic they can ask you to move on or if not can arrest you. The act is that of wilful obstruction and you know it.

      • squirrel

        But no, there is no force involved. Not physical force, which is what violence pertains to.

        The state has been trying to broaden the definition of terrorism to include anyone who threatens the current system. As terrorism is defined as violent acts designed to bring about political change, they have been trying to work around that by criminalising ‘non-violent extremism’.

        Your definition would bring the extinction rebellion protestors at a stroke within the definition of terrorism. I would appeal to you that that does not seem reasonable or desirable.

    • Deb O'Nair

      “While it may appear non-violent, in fact by imposing your body into a space and blocking it off, that is an assertion of physical force.”

      People shouldn’t argue over a badly constructed sentence in which violence is equated with physical force, which in turn is equated with peaceful protest. It’s a linguistic travesty.

      “It is violence to physically force someone else to move out the space they are in.”

      No it’s not. Violence is the use of physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.

  • Tom Coady

    Is it really practical for aircraft to land with enough duty free kerosene to reach the next tax free fuel port? If so I accept the need for international cooperation to collect aviation fuel duties, otherwise it should begin yesterday.

    Regarding the reversal of Beeching, some may be interested to look at this map of UK train lines over time:

    Warning: this map maybe consume much of your time 🙂

  • Dave

    Dear Craig, its an elementary scam promoted by a range of interests for different reasons. I appreciate for some true believers its the new old time religion, but mostly its the global scare to excuse global governance by the 1%.

    Please look in the sky, its the Sun that determines the climate and whatever humans do is irrelevant. Its human vanity to believe what we do that makes the difference once you consider life, the universe and everything.

    Climate change legislation is undermining the environment and shouldn’t be confused with genuine environmentalism and its a scientific rather than political matter, hence why Piers Corbyn from the Left denounces the scam.

    But the elementary reason why its rubbish is because carbon dioxide is essential to life on earth. Humans can’t breathe without it and its the food plants breathe to make them grow, so the more CO2 the merrier.

    • George

      “…. its an elementary scam promoted by a range of interests for different reasons.”

      What reasons?

      “….its the global scare to excuse global governance by the 1%.”

      The 1% are the beneficiaries of corporations which will have their profit making capacity severely curtailed if not destroyed by action on global warming. So how does the “scam” benefit them?

      • David

        “The 1% are the beneficiaries of corporations which will have their profit making capacity severely curtailed if not destroyed by action on global warming. So how does the “scam” benefit them?”

        I don’t have a definitive position myself on global warming although I am, by nature, innately skeptical of anything and everything proposed by governments and the press these days :-). In the case of global warming I have not been able to find easily accessible, conclusive arguments for any particular point of view (and there seem to be many), although I haven’t devoted as much time to investigation as I might have done.

        But I do disagree with the statement above.

        Regulation usually increases profits rather than reducing them. Competition tends to reduces profits. Regulation adds a cost of compliance, of which a significant portion is often a fixed rather than a variable cost. Therefore it impacts smaller businesses to a proportionally greater extent than larger businesses and acts to drive prices up both directly as a result of the increased costs and indirectly as a result of the reduced competition.

        The net result is fourfold:

        – all businesses raise their prices in response to the regulation with the smaller competitiors having to raise prices more as they have fewer widgets across which to distribute the largely fixed cost of compliance

        – smaller competitors consequently struggle, with some being driven out of business

        – larger competitors choose between increasing market share or increasing unit profit. Either way they make more profits in total.

        – consumers pay prices which increase more than the cost of the regulation

        • David

          Oh – and that only addresses your direct point about the impact of regulation on corporate profits. “The 1%” have many other ways to benefit from climate change. Increased taxes leads to more money collected by government and all government monies are subject to corruption. Subsidies to favored individuals and companies, handouts to voters and special interests, etc.

    • DiggerUK

      CO2 & CH4 are promoted as the gangster gases with the greenhouse effect. Because anthropogenic activity clearly shows a link it sounds plausible to blame the worlds deplorable population for these greenhouse gases.

      The truth that nobody talks about is that water vapour, in the form of clouds, is the biggest greenhouse gas. But it is not so easy to say it is the product of deplorable human activity.

      If we could reduce our fossil fuel use to zero, we would not remove the biggest greenhouse gas. As the cycle of water is essential, it is a very welcome greenhouse gas, same as CO2…_

        • Deb O'Nair

          Of course it’s a gas. Elementary physics lessons teach that water can be in one of three states of matter; solid, liquid and gas, i.e. ice, water and steam (which is water vapour)

        • DiggerUK

          @ Drew Anderson, since physics proved water vapour is a gas. It has been accepted as a greenhouse gas since the late 19th century. The scientists who studied the phenomenon were called ‘Geographers’ in those days and it was referred to as “cloudiness”

          Oh yes, I nearly forgot, all of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports have claimed the same.

          Here’s a question for you……how many IPCC reports have there been, and how many conferences to save the world have been held that just keep moving the goalposts for the arrival date of climate Armageddon.
          Do keep up…_

    • Lemon

      “…and whatever humans do is irrelevant.”
      Except that the hole in the ozone layer proves that humans can affect the environment. Humans begin using CFCs and the ozone over the Antarctic begins to disappear. We stop using CFCs and the hole begins to reduce, a direct link between our activities and the environment.

      • Dave

        I haven’t studied that one, but in regard climate, the Sun is a million times bigger than earth, its a giant ball of gas that’s been burning for millions of years and expected to burn for millions more in an ever expanding universe, beyond the imagination really, but sometimes it burns hotter and colder and this determines climate and explains the earlier ice ages.

        Due to Earth position in the solar system, we’re not to close to be too hot like Venus or too cold like Mars and climate is influenced by Moon, oceans, axis of the planet, water vapour, oceans and volcanoes, but not carbon dioxide which is essential, like oxygen, to life on earth.

        • Ian

          Such simplistic denier memes. The world has moved on, the science is incontrovertible and established. You should really make an effort to do some elementary research instead of repeating mindless, vapid excuses for doing nothing, with the inevitable dash of conspiracy theory nonsense thrown in.

          • DiggerUK

            “the science is incontrovertible and established”
            That is not the case, there is little consensus, anyway consensus isn’t a scientific method.
            I find it is generally used as an alternative to telling those you disagree with to ‘shut up’…_

          • James Charles

            “For climate change, there are many scientific organizations that study the climate. These alphabet soup of organizations include NASA, NOAA, JMA, WMO, NSIDC, IPCC, UK Met Office, and others. Click on the names for links to their climate-related sites. There are also climate research organizations associated with universities. These are all legitimate scientific sources.

            If you have to dismiss all of these scientific organizations to reach your opinion, then you are by definition denying the science. If you have to believe that all of these organizations, and all of the climate scientists around the world, and all of the hundred thousand published research papers, and physics, are all somehow part of a global, multigenerational conspiracy to defraud the people, then you are, again, a denier by definition. 

            So if you deny all the above scientific organizations there are a lot of un-scientific web sites out there that pretend to be science. Many of these are run by lobbyists (e.g.., Climate Depot, run by a libertarian political lobbyist, CFACT), or supported by lobbyists (e.g., JoannaNova, WUWT, both of whom have received funding and otherwise substantial support by lobbying organizations like the Heartland Institute), or are actually paid by lobbyists to write Op-Eds and other blog posts that intentionally misrepresent the science.”

          • Antonym

            Nobody denies climate change. Nobody denies ice ages. Nobody deniers the recent Little ice age https://www.britannica.com/science/Little-Ice-Age
            Temperatures obviously increased after that “little” one, glaciers melted a bit etc. – nobody denies that.
            The contentions are how will temperatures proceed into the future and from what. Con sensus says temperatures will move up faster and due to human caused CO2 and CH4. There you will find skepticism – justified.

    • SA

      For Dave and Digger Uzk there is no scientific argument that will convince them of man made climate change. It is a belief, almost a religion so no need to try and convince.

      • jrkrideau

        Exactly. If 98% of the scientists engaged in climate research say climate change is an existential danger, I am sure they will belive the 2% such as Johana Nova. One is not going to shift a belief with such things as facts.

      • Laguerre

        “It is a belief, almost a religion so no need to try and convince.”

        It isn’t really, not like Brexit. The fact that you feel the need to say it indicates that you too have a religious-style belief yourself. In fact it’s almost certain that the climate-change modelling is too simplistic, even if the general line is true. The basic principle of weather is that it is a chaotic system, that is, it is so complicated that it is impossible to model every factor. That’s why weather is impossible to forecast perfectly. Apply that to the field of climate, a slightly different field, but still pertinent, and it’s pretty difficult to get all the variables in the algorithms. CO2 does cause atmospheric heating, but it certainly doesn’t do so at a uniform rate, so who knows if the climate wallahs have got all the factors?

        • Iain Stewart

          Reader’s voice: The “climate wallahs” or do you mean the “climate boffins”? Old chap, what what?

  • Mike

    Sorry Craig, but I think that you (like vast majority of people), have a very wrong conception of nuclear power. True, it is expensive if you look at it from the point of view of a bill presented to you after the construction is complete. The problem is that it is still cheaper than the rest of our energy options, with the exception of hydro power. But even that difference is marginal at best. Solar, for example is going to be AT LEAST 5 times more expensive than nuclear, before we even take energy storage into account (multiplying that by an order of magnitude). “But wait, I have seen in a (insert some article here) that solar now costs $1500(ish) per kW, whereas nuclear can not really go lower than $2000 per kW… You must be mistaken!” Unfortunately not. What the pseudo environmentalists do not tell you is that solar produces power with the best case scenario of less than 20% efficiency when accounted for weather and daily cycles (16% for deserts of Kuwait). That means that for every 1 kW of nominal power output of an installation, you get 0.2kW of useful electrical energy. And that energy is not produced uniformly over the day. You have a peak between 1100 and 1500 hours (typically), where about 85% of it is dumped into your system. You need insanely expensive storage systems to store that. Incidentally, those also reduce your energy efficiency due to power transfer inefficiencies (best case is just above 85% efficiency for a state of the art hydro storage). To cover a 18 hour window of an output of a typical x3 VVER 1200 reactor assembly (x9 K350 turbines) would require about $20bln of investment into the storage alone. Add another $5bln for solar panel costs. And this does not even include any margin for bad weather, winter season, or multiple days of storage. For each extra day, multiply that amount by 2. OR you can have a uniform, roughly equal power output from a typical 3gW nuclear assembly for around $5bln.
    Another problem is pollution. Nuclear power is much cleaner than solar. I am sure you can find multiple studies as to how much waste is produced during solar panel construction and compare it to a nuclear reactor’s life cycle. The ratio is about 4 to 1 in favor of nuclear. As for nuclear waste storage, all of the waste ever produced by nuclear reactors all over the world can be placed on a single football field and be only 3m high. Annually, the world produces around 2000 tons of nuclear waste. Contrary, in 2018 we dumped 250000 tons of cadmium solar power cells to land fills. And this number is expected to grow exponentially.
    In any case, Craig, do not go with the mainstream opinion on this important matter, before you actually know the details and research them for yourself. The anti nuclear movement is similar to climate change denialists. It is largely based on ignorance and just cherry picking facts (like Chernobyl tragedy, which was very much engineered by incompetent orders to remove safety measures), while ignoring many other real problems.

    • DiggerUK

      The main argument for nuclear power is that it is reliable, and works. An essential requirement for power in the modern world. The limitations of wind and solar are obvious.
      The argument that should seal it for the supporters of IPCC dogma is that nuclear doesn’t use fossil fuels. But then a whole army whose lives depend on the extinction myth would have to find alternative employment…_

      • Garth Carthy

        I totally disagree with the expansion of nuclear power for our energy supplies.
        Mike gives us a long screed about the wonderful benefits of nuclear energy but not once does he address the elephant in the room.
        That elephant in the room is what should be obvious to all:

        It is impossible to neutralise the radiation nuclear waste.
        Have the supporters of nuclear power factored in the cost of transporting and maintaining safety and security of nuclear waste?
        Have they considered the likely use of nuclear material by terrorists?
        The nuclear industry is heavily subsidised.

        • Peter Janik

          Generation 4 power plant designs can be optimized to actually consume nuclear waste created in the currently running power plants.

          Have you considered what burden it is to actually ignore the already existing waste and not neuralize it (Gen 4 can reduce it to 5% of actual waste that then needs to be stored for a couple of hundred years. And not multiple millenia as is the case with current waste.

          Building new Gen4 plants will not increase todays waste. Terrorists can use medicinal nuclear material now.

          Here in Germany we have a heavily subsidized solar and wind power generation. No storage and it already adds 25% to power generation costs while supplying only a fraction of energy.

          While it makes sense to use solar on buildings, it makes no sense to seal landscape under a desert of solar panels…..

          • nevermind

            Peter, the subsidies are paid by the consumers and taxpayers and there are many new engineering projects that are exciting for smaller Towns and Cities, compressed air and water just being two of them.
            germany has not got as much wild Atlantic coastline as the British isles have and hence the opportunities are less.
            But they have massive salt stocks that are able to manage enough energy to keep Germany going for three month, minimum.
            And with increasing solar, wind water, waves(soon) the reliance on pressurised reactors will see less need for these storage units, merely strategic reasons will keep them open.


          • Peter Janik

            Energy density and land use are a problem that is not solvable with renewables alone.

        • Mike

          Actually, It is possible to neutralize it. There are 2 active plants for nuclear waste recycling that operate in Russia, 1 in England, 1 in France, 1 in Japan. Another one is about to be opened in China and a 3rd is planned to be operational in Russia by 2030. These plants recycle nuclear fuel cells into useful components for further use in nuclear industry.
          The logic is extremely simple – nuclear reactors use radioactive properties of materials to generate energy. If a substance is radioactive, then it can be used for energy. Older cells are recycled by gathering most of radioactive materials from them to form new power cells. The non radioactive waste is discarded or used in some other way (e.g. depleted uranium kinetic penetrators).
          Yes, all costs are factored in. During a nuclear power plant production all costs for nuclear waste disposal are accounted for beforehand. And generally speaking, it adds pennies. The average cost of waste storage is just between 3% and 4% of the cost of nuclear fuel extraction and preparation. And that in itself is a pocket change. A fuel cell for a VVER1000 reactor costs less than $700k and operates for several years. Generally speaking, this argument is about as valid as arguing that one can not afford a Bugatti Veyron because he/she ordered a pizza with extra salami instead of a regular one.
          Nuclear waste is a very bad weapon for terrorists. Not in terms of “excellent destructive potential” bad, but as in ” you better stick to knives” bad. First of all, you can find much more dangerous compounds by just shopping around. Secondly, you would be placing a huge target sign on yourself because every sufficiently sensitive radiation detector is going to be screaming non stop from several kilometers, pointing to your exact position. Third, not all radiation is dangerous. Most nuclear waste is dangerous only if you are in direct contact with it, i.e. rub it on your skin or ingest it. Then, and only then alpha and beta radiation can harm you. Gamma emitters are not used in energy generation, and it is those that give everyone a scare. Finally, any would be terrorist would be better off just raiding a solar cell production plant for their cadmium reserves. Much more effective than even having refined nuclear fuel.
          Even if we remove subsidies from nuclear industry, it is still going to be an order of magnitude cheaper than solar at the very least. And 4 times cleaner in terms of CO2 emissions to boot, while having at least 100 times less of dangerous materials to handle and utilize. The only reason nuclear is subsidized is not because it is unprofitable, but because it requires a large initial investment, unlike a solar production plant that could be built incrementally. Any large energy and/or national security project is subsidized similarly.

          • Grhm

            Impossible to neutralize?
            The solution is very simple:
            Bury it deep underground and leave it there.
            Under my house, if you like, provided the geology is suitable.

    • Sharp Ears

      What about the disposal of the waste from the reactors? That problem has never been resolved.

      • Peter Janik

        New Generation 4 Nuclear can tackle existing nuclear waste and reduce it to a tens of generations problem.
        Current waste problem is a tens of THOUSANDS of generations problem.

        Even if this is not our primary energy source, we need to process and transmute the current nuclear waste.

        • AliB

          And exactly when will any of these wondrous nuclear generators be actually available to produce any energy? Hinkley C looks to be at least 20 years away, ie 20 years too late.

      • HoBoJo

        With regard to the waste and the risk, you face a trade-off. Move to a proven non-carbon energy source as fast as possible taking on board that there are risks, but knowing the risks have a track record of being managed and are relatively small scale (and far less deadly than hydroelectric power). Or take your time installing massive numbers of renewable generation systems while hoping storage technology will catch up while burning coal, oil and gas.

        As Craig notes, even the most basic, low-tech energy saving (home insulation) is a slow moving dog in terms of implementation taking decades to happen. There is no reason to think the requirement for 50%+ of roofs to have solar panels (to achieve the scale of energy generation required), or wholesale change of domestic heating systems is going to be much faster. It makes much more sense therefore to take the manageable risks of nuclear to avoid the longer term big risk of climate change.

      • Grhm

        The engineering solution to the ‘problem’ of disposing of nuclear waste has been clear for a long time.
        We need to bury it in a geologically stable place and leave it there.
        There is no shortage of suitable locations.
        People say ‘oooh but it remains dangerous for thousands of years!’ without stopping to think that the coal we’re merrily digging up and burning had sat underground undisturbed for *millions* of years.
        The lack of a permanent solution to the disposal of nuclear waste is 100% down to the politics of it and 0% down to the engineering.

    • Muzunga

      Anti-nuclear sentiment is where I and environmentalists part ways. Saying that CO2 is THE ultimate problem and then militating to shut down nukes is completely contradictory. It becomes more “anything to bash the system”.

    • Grhm

      “All of the waste ever produced by nuclear reactors all over the world can be placed on a single football field and be only 3m high.”
      I nominate Saint Mary’s.

    • Grhm

      Hi, Mike.
      Thank you for your illuminating comment. Loads of really useful information there, which I may well use. Please could you provide your source or sources?
      Thank you.

  • Anthony

    “Those around Theresa May are quite clever enough to recommend such an approach, as a potential Tory rescuing image”

    And the media is cynical enough and fanatically anti corbyn enough to go along with it .. promoting Theresa May as a compassionate green goddess.

    • Sharp Ears

      Well. She’s finished with stalking around Snowdonia on those long pins. Back to business today.

      Q Do the plods have to follow behind her and Philip on their jaunts?

    • Sharp Ears

      One of her Welsh troughers extraordinaire has been fined £1,500 for submitting false expenses claims. Obviously the salary + expenses + all the other expenses were not sufficient for his purposes.

      False expense claim Tory MP Chris Davies fined £1,500

      Trust he’s being thrown out.

  • Brian Davey

    As an ecological economist what his article says to me is, sadly, how little Craig understands climate change and the ecological crisis. Just this sentence says lots:

    “I accept that climate change is a worldwide phenomenon and action in individual states of limited utility. But individual states can inspire by example, not least by showing that a switch to a greener economy can lead to a major stimulation of economic growth. I do not pretend to expertise in green economics.”

    Indeed! Although Craig has a well justified reputation in human rights he clearly does not understand green economics at all.

    Economic growth always involves the use of more energy and at the moment almost all this energy is sourced from fossil fuels and gives rise to greenhouse gases. Unless energy extraction and energy consumption can be de-coupled from fossil fuels (and “resource use” more generally) – and there is good reason to believe it cannot be on a sufficient scale– then more ”economic growth” will make if impossible to sufficiently reduce emissions. At the moment the only hope that I have is that depletion of fossil fuels will occur sufficiently to avert the worse kind of climate crisis.

    This is covered towards the end of my book on economics based on teaching that I did at Dublin City University a few years ago. It is now out of print but Craig or anyone else are welcome to download it for free as a pdf http://www.credoeconomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/credo.pdf

    • nevermind

      Brian, Craig did not mention economic growth at all, that is the mantra of a throwaway society we so love and abuse in our me me money grabbing culture.
      Those rich institutions who park their stale money in offshore havens and have the means to invest in new green solutions to our unsustainable existence should be targeted, just as those banks who facilitate this bypassing of exchequers, everywhere. Those who resist should have their monies confiscated for being selfishly ignorant.

      And in here lies the dilemma, all those currently using their wealth we provided them with, to stem the tide of disease and famine, a by- product of unfair trading and contracts we always demand, are also the ones with the means to instigate change towards sustainable living, and not just for themselves.

      • SA

        Both of you hit the nail on the head. Without a change from the capitalist model, the world is doomed one way or another.

      • Brian Davey

        Nevermind – Craig wrote: “….not least by showing that a switch to a greener economy can lead to a major stimulation of economic growth.” seems to be saying that economic growth “is a good thing”.

        Since I am back on the site perhaps I might draw attention to the Occupation of the Scottish Parliament Building in late January and for what purpose it was occuptied – to discuss the climate mitigation approach called “Cap and Share”.

        With cap and share the sale of fossil fuels are banned unless sellers have a permit for the amount of carbon they are therefby putting into the economy. They amount of carbon permitted is limited and that limit is reduced rapidly every year. Fossil fuel suppliers have to buy the limited number of permits and the money thus raised goes to everyone on a per capital basis. That makes iit equitable when fossil fuel prices go up beause the suppliers recoup their permit costs by putting up fuel prices.

        Without policies Cap and Share then other policies like “Home Insulation” would be subject to rebound. Whatever purchasing power people save by lower domestic fuel bills, would get spent on other thintgs – and those other things are likely to involve a different kind of carbon emission. For example, people might blow the saved money on a flight to Spain with all the emissions associated with that. Its been known since the 19 century that energy efficiency actually leads to MORE energy consumption because of this kind of effect…..Thus the good done by policies like home insulation would get undone in another form of carbon emission.


    • jammy codger

      I think maybe Craig’s use of the word growth was unfortunate,I imagine he was referring to green jobs across the country, many easily trainable and the vision of the old green deal, I don’t think he was backing “growth” as a macroeconomic virtue.

  • HoBoJo

    I fear you have been misled. Nuclear is the only practical way to switch to carbon free economy. It’s mostly a matter of arithmetic – something ecowarriors seem to grasp poorly, or are very happy to mislead with – you can never tell which. Nuclear delivers GigaWatts of energy. Solar and Wind is mostly measured in MegaWatts – one thousandth of the scale (and is often described in terms of maximum output, rather than actual energy delivery – typically one fifth or one quarter of the maximum). So a 3GW nuclear facility might be compared on first instance to 1000 3MW wind turbines, but once you factor in the capacity aspect (say 25% load factor), it turns to 4000 3MW turbines – plus storage, and a back up plan for when there’s no wind, and a rewiring of the national grid to cope with the power fluctuations. (For a further sense of scale currently the UK has 9700 wind turbines installed). Now sum the pound notes.

    If you want to stop climate change then, with an affirmative administration and a standardised design, you can switch electric production to nuclear in 10-15 years as France did in the 1970s, and massively cut carbon emissions and cut energy prices. The single most stupid environmental decision of the past century was Germany closing its nuclear power plants and returning to coal.

    • electricity

      You may have missed a few developments

      Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.com T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email [email protected] to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found at https://www.ft.com/tour.

      The previous government passed a law in 2015 ordering a reduction of nuclear’s share of output to 50 per cent by 2025. Mr Macron ditched that commitment on Tuesday, saying he agreed with the objective but that it was “unattainable” before 2035. He rejected the notion that renewables would be held back. Dangling up to €30bn in state subsidies, he promised to triple the generating capacity of onshore wind and a fivefold increase in solar by the end of the next decade. EDF may be a nuclear giant but it is also France’s biggest supplier of renewable energy….” and so on.
      Nuclear power stations are a huge risk for anybody living close (if Japan cannot look after nuclear reactors nobody can) and there is no solution for accumulating nuclear waste. Nuclear power is not the clean energy solution of the future.

      At the same time, the president said France would close 14 reactors by 2035, starting with the two oldest at Fessenheim, on the Rhine

      • HoBoJo

        I’m aware that France is being pushed down the same cul-de-sac as Germany to throw out perfectly good carbon-free energy. If you think climate change is a major existential risk, then the manageable risk from nuclear is an absolute no-brainer – urgent climate change requires nuclear power as the only grid-scale technology in the time available.

        To explain. Take a look at the classic environmentalist use of big but ‘scale-free’ numbers – “triple” onshore wind, “fivefold” increase in solar. So what does this mean? Triple from what to what? Over 10 years? (every time you see this sleight of hand, go and find the base data and see what it actually means because the devil is in the numbers with all the energy estimates).

        Current 2018 onshore wind in France is 15GW capacity which produced of 28.8TWh of energy (ie 3.3GW average actual output over the year). Tripling therefore gives around 10GW of actual output corresponding to 17.4% of French electricity produced from wind power by 2029. (For scale nuclear generated 405TWh or 46GW actual average output over 2018)

        Solar is 10.2GW installed capacity. The load factor for solar is lower than for wind and was 14% in France in 2018 – ie total installed solar produced 1.4GW average actual output (part of the problem with solar is that this is actually 2.8GW during the day and zero at night, so it has to be backed up by other technologies). Fivefold increase would give 51GW nameplate capacity which sounds grand, but actually only 7GW average output by 2029.

        So with all this investment, France’s energy from renewables would reach about a third of electricity requirements by 2029. Thus two thirds of electricity would still need to be being produced from other sources (it’s also not clear if this captures the massive boost to electricity production needed to switch heating and transport).

        This is why I say renewables is slow. Even ‘big’ numbers presented aren’t getting you to carbon free fast enough. It would also be worse if they use the renewable sources to replace nuclear because get zero carbon-reductions unless you’re replacing coal or gas.

        By contrast under the 1974 Messemer plan 24GW of nuclear power came on stream in the decade between 1974 and 1984, with another 21GW being added to 1989 in the last five years of the plan (15 years in total).

        So we have renewables in France going from 4.7GW now to 17GW of deliverable energy in a decade – ie +12GW. By contrast we saw +24GW for the first decade of France’s nuclear programme, and adding another +21GW just five years later as the nuclear switchover reached final fruition.

        You have to plan by the numbers, not by gut feel here.

        And if you want to get rich, you invest in electricity storage like dams and lakes, mega batteries. You fill up with free energy when renewables are running full and have to shed load,. Then you sell back on winter evenings when the wind stops and homes and factories are desperate for energy when you can name your price. The more you can get greens to reduce the baseload, the more money there is to be made in storage.

    • nevermind

      Utterly wrong, this island is brimming with energies from alternative benign means, the largest potential in Europe, we have o0nly politici9ans and vested interests that are denying us these multiple possibilities, time to drop your oil/gas shares.

  • nevermind

    Can’t stop clapping, bravo to an excellent run down of the multiple solutions to an energy dilemma.
    To add, the UK’s lack of energy storage and reserve is worrying, there is no storage anymore, meaning that in any crisis/ long winter, should this ever happen, we are wholly unprepared.

    Tidal energy schemes are a must, but we have to see them as far more than that, especially along the eastern sea board, slightly sinking every year and compounding the sea level rises. A Wash barrier and locksystem for the 150 ship movements per year, built with modern Dutch methods, should have long been on any Governments desk.

    If there is any expertise needed to produce nuclear energy, it should be by means of a molten salt reactor that recycles still very energetic nuclear waste and reduces the dangers associated, whilst at the same time provides expertise and modern know how to others. I know of Chinese attempts to bring this long understood technology to fruition, but sadly our own western Governments are more interested in the byproduct plutonium that dangerous PWR’s produce.

    I was impressed by one sentence from a seven year old who simply said ‘we all have to be part of this change.’
    Councils and public bodies should help by encouraging good examples, themselves doing as they want us to do too. It has to happen on all fronts, step by step.
    Government should assist this with easily accessible schemes, some finance support and innovation.

    Showing us how to ‘do different’ at all levels of representation, civil service, NGOs, and setting examples would be a great start.

    Thanks again for this great article, Craig.

  • michael norton

    Blimey Craig, almost everything you just wrote, I agree.
    Especially the point that the most expensive electricity is that produced by nuclear power and the only justification for nuclear power, is to retain a nuclear workforce, some of whom will be involved in nuclear weapon systems, thus keeping the U.K. at the top table.

    But why should the barely managing be forced to pay for twice as expensive Nuclear Power, when hardly anybody, other than those who profit from it, want it?

  • John2o2o

    “Man made climate change has appeared to me for three decades to be sufficiently proven, and it has that cardinal virtue of a scientific hypothesis, you can see the things which it predicts will happen, come to pass before your eyes, like being uncomfortably hot in your Edinburgh flat on Easter Monday.”

    Well I don’t agree Craig. Being uncomfortably hot in your flat on Easter Monday is evidence of nothing at all. I personally think you have too much faith in what you are being told about this matter.

    Blind faith in authority figures is not wisdom.

    “Climate change” has become a politically loaded phrase in recent years and that in general means that the truth becomes a secondary consideration to that of interested parties motivating public opinion to their cause.

    I personally would like to see the plastic removed from our oceans, moves towards cleaner energy (including nuclear) and a move towards sustainable living. And this includes having a sustainable AND STABLE human population. This means ensuring that more people do not enter this country than leave it. So I am not in favour of freedom of movement and I do not see who it benefits except for developers. The wealthiest man in my region is a housebuilder.

    A couple of years ago via e-mail I challenged the Friends of the Earth over their support for a massive programme of housebuilding in the UK. They admitted to me that human habitation was the most damaging thing that can be inflicted on the environment.

    I now regard them as Friends of the Developer.

    I think that if we are genuine about a concern for the environment in this country then we would do far better by restricting the flow of movement of the human population so that the population is stable rather than supporting this politically motivated “end of the world is nigh” extinction narrative that we are now required to buy into.

    • Bill Thomson

      Regardless of one’s position on climate change, the Extinction protests smack of an Olly Robbins distraction ploy.

      • Mighty Drunken

        “A couple of years ago via e-mail I challenged the Friends of the Earth over their support for a massive programme of housebuilding in the UK. They admitted to me that human habitation was the most damaging thing that can be inflicted on the environment.”

        This is because you misunderstand most of the Green movement. The point of the Green movement is to make humanities future prospects better. Many appear to believe that the point of the Green movement is to do the opposite and make us live in the stone age. Considering the point of the Green movement is to make our lives better, housing people would be a greater good then forcing people to be homeless.

      • jammy codger

        A nice idea, was wondering how Ext Rebel and the BBC Attenborough booked the same slot.

    • James Charles

      “Blind faith in authority figures is not wisdom.”

      Ignoring the science is ‘not wisdom’?

      “For climate change, there are many scientific organizations that study the climate. These alphabet soup of organizations include NASA, NOAA, JMA, WMO, NSIDC, IPCC, UK Met Office, and others. Click on the names for links to their climate-related sites. There are also climate research organizations associated with universities. These are all legitimate scientific sources.

      If you have to dismiss all of these scientific organizations to reach your opinion, then you are by definition denying the science. If you have to believe that all of these organizations, and all of the climate scientists around the world, and all of the hundred thousand published research papers, and physics, are all somehow part of a global, multigenerational conspiracy to defraud the people, then you are, again, a denier by definition. 

      So if you deny all the above scientific organizations there are a lot of un-scientific web sites out there that pretend to be science. Many of these are run by lobbyists (e.g.., Climate Depot, run by a libertarian political lobbyist, CFACT), or supported by lobbyists (e.g., JoannaNova, WUWT, both of whom have received funding and otherwise substantial support by lobbying organizations like the Heartland Institute), or are actually paid by lobbyists to write Op-Eds and other blog posts that intentionally misrepresent the science.”

  • Roger J Wise

    Cressida Dick, tells the protesters to stop your unlawful protest, or go home – yes saving the planet, when people have go to about their daily business, well at least they were afforded the opportunity, which is more than Jean Charles de Menezes received, when he was going about his daily business, but do not forget he did have Mongolian eyes and seven bullets in his head.

    • Bill Thomson

      Who knows what Cressida might have authorised if Charles had been carrying a table leg.

    • nevermind

      It is Cressida Dicks and the protectors of vested interest XR should now focus on. If the police can ignore crime for a whole weekend and divert their manpower, and that of other counties, to police access through London, then it would not matter if they are kept shut in their power bases.
      I agree XR should keep away from politicians until they act and start debating solutions, not bnwhen they barely move their motuth in support. DO NOT STOP NOW, carry on.

    • Ian

      Case is incontrovertible. The science is comprehensive, every day being confirmed and knowledge increased. However many dodgy blogs you read.

      • MArk

        “Case is incontrovertible”.
        Only a non-scientist would make such pronouncements.
        The case as presented is a hypothesis based on an extrapolation of finite data – the time range of which does not lend itself to forming a conclusion. Adams is correct as proven by evidence.

  • glenn_nl

    Very good post. I would like to add that an urgent programme to introduce cycle lanes throughout the country, and to give bicycles the protection and priority needed to encourage their use, should be one of the highest orders of business.

    Road planning leaves cyclists (and often pedestrians) as a very poor afterthought. The best we usually get is putting a few white lines in the road and pretending that’s a cycle path, while cars park in it, there is no impediment to vehicles swinging into it, and which often disappears without trace at difficult junctions.

    Cyclists remove traffic from roads. They do not cause pollution. They save money. They save parking space. They have huge benefits for health. We also need to get away from the macho “Top Gear” culture of aggression, which looks at the car as king, and everything else as a nuisance which has no business being on the road, and treats them with often lethal contempt.

    I can say from personal experience how superior almost every European country is compared with the UK when it comes to cycles – particularly in Holland, where cycle use is vastly higher, despite having weather which is every bit as bad as that in the UK.

    • Charles Bostock

      Of course Holland is a lot flatter than the UK, I suppose that’s an incentive to use bikes.

      But I know it’s difficult to convince any paid up member of the “other countries always do everything better than Britain” brigade.

  • N_

    Man made climate change has appeared to me for three decades to be sufficiently proven, and it has that cardinal virtue of a scientific hypothesis, you can see the things which it predicts will happen, come to pass before your eyes, like being uncomfortably hot in your Edinburgh flat on Easter Monday.

    That it’s hotter than it used to be doesn’t suggest (let alone “prove”) anything whatsoever about the cause.

    As for Extinction Rebellion, I would have thought an assessment would look at their stated three aims, which include handing over environmental policy (and therefore national economic strategy) to a “citizens’ assembly”; at the known links of their leaders; at why they didn’t get kettled in central London right at the beginning; and at their cult-like methods including encouraging impressionable smartphone-carrying young people to be ready to die for big business to “stop climate change”.

    • glenn_nl

      CM didn’t say that being hotter in his flat was – ALONE – irrefutable proof. I understand your preference for that straw man argument, of course.

      And some more baseless slurs about the ER movement, which you like to pretend sprung into existence overnight.

      Question for you – how come you dare to call yourself a Marxist, when in fact you’re a big business apologist, and a homophobic and transphobic bigot just for starters?

      • N_


        My point is right: that it’s hotter than it used to be (not just in Edinburgh but in a large number of other places) doesn’t suggest (let alone “prove”) anything whatsoever about the cause.

        If you want to take apart what Craig wrote, then we should be able to agree that he does not give ANY argument (straw man or otherwise) in favour of his long-term belief, a statement of which he opens with, that climate change is manmade. He does, however, immediately follow his profession of belief with a reference to how what the manmade climate change hypothesis has predicted has happened. Given the fact that the climate has always changed – and we can further note the fact that many people predicted continuing climate change who did not think it was manmade – so what? Put two things together in a sentence like that and the inference is going to be drawn that a connection is intended.

        That Gail Bradbrook of Extinction Rebellion is happy to appear alongside Marjatta van Boeschoten, Steinerite spider and Steinerite banker, is a giveaway, not a “slur”.

        Who do you think the Steiner nuts believe Greta Thunberg is a reincarnation of? Any idea?

        As for your final paragraph, don’t ask me stupid questions. If you want to know something about how big business runs stuff, you could do worse than to start by looking at the business activities of the chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, John Selwyn Gummer (“Lord Deben”), about which I’ve posted. Veolia, Nestlé – they are real big business.

        Mussolini’s definition of fascism was when you can’t put a cigarette paper between the interests of the government and the interests of corporate business. Meanwhile I believe some other mob raised a geometric shape on its banner, sideways-Dagaz “XR” style, that was new to the local market and full of cosmic connotations.

        But enough of this.

        Say the climate change runers with their shared belief in the smelliness of the working class get a “general strike” in favour of their cause. What then?

        • glenn_nl

          Your point is still wrong – nobody is saying that just because it’s hotter that alone is proof. A straw man is your preferred approach, so I fully expect you to carry on making that empty point.

          Is this some kind of intellectual masturbatory exercise for you? You appear to consider yourself a universal expert, so is that what this is about? Being a contrarian, introduce enough whataboutary, to the extent that nobody could rise to your required standard of proof about anything at all, so it puts an extra layer of smugness on your features?

    • N_

      Correction: something is suggested about the absence of kettling. The idea is that “Plod” (a middle class snobbish term for police officers who didn’t attend a Russell Group university and who either traipse about wearing cheap ill-fitting uniforms or who are only a step or two up from that position socially) didn’t kettle or lay into the anti-extinction protestors because the said protestors are “nice” and “white”.

      Well let’s be schientifisch. The police have kettled other demonstrations in London, including in the City, and including using dynamic kettling, where the protestors have also been “nice and white”. Trenton Oldfield is nice and white. He got six months in prison for swimming in front of a posh bastards’ boat.

  • Republicofscotland

    Good point Craig that smaller nations can lead the way, the argument that the likes of China or India isn’t doing enough on climate change, is no excuse for smaller nations not to do anything at all.

    In my opinion Extinction Rebellion aren’t nearly being disruptive as I’d like them to be. They aren’t calling for a rise for a sector in wages or more cash for the poor, they’re in reality trying to wake us all up to the real danger that our grandchildren might be the last generation to enjoy such a stable environment.

    I despair in humanity sometimes, where greed is often the driving force, at the expense of future generations. The political and bureaucratic wheels of government turn far to slowly on this one, and I fear we’ll be too late to make a difference.

    What will history say about us if we fail?

    • Garth Carthy

      I totally agree with you, ROS.
      The Extinction Rebellion protestors should include protesting about inequality, greed and manipulation by the ruling elite in their campaign.
      Surely, all these factors are inter-connected.
      What I can’t understand is the way anthropological climate change deniers so easily dismiss the massive consensus of climate scientific opinion. The point is that we’re not just talking about climate change – we’re talking about pollution, using up non-renewable resources and yes, extinction.

      • Aloha

        “The Extinction Rebellion protestors should include protesting about inequality, greed and manipulation by the ruling elite in their campaign.”
        This is from the RX website:
        4. We demand a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all.

    • Mighty Drunken

      The Conservatives also ditched plans to improve new build insulation requirements. Improved housing regulations do work, even if the retrofit plans did not work out so well.

      • Spencer Eagle

        They abandoned the new build insulation specification because it was impossible to achieve, most new build self certification was being fraudulently passed in any case. New build regulation is all a bit like Dieselgate, they knew the cars could not meet the standard, but with a nod and a wink from the EU and in the spirit a plausible deniability, a way of meeting the emission standards was arrived at.

        • Charles Bostock

          I agree with a lot of that, Spencer.

          Another thing : it’s easy to say glibly that every home should have better insulation installed. But who’s going to do the work (competently)? The workforce capacity is not there.

          It reminds one of the cry “the NHS needs more nurses and doctors urgently!”. It may be so, but they do not exist and cannot be conjured up out of nothing.

        • Mighty Drunken

          “They abandoned the new build insulation specification because it was impossible to achieve”

          How so? Many buildings have been built which exceed these specifications. With current UK house prices, house building is a very profitable enterprise, so there is money there for better materials and training.

          “most new build self certification was being fraudulently passed in any case.”

          Shurely the answer is to improve the certification process. If they are being fraudulently passed now what is the point of any housing regulation?
          The reason for the back down is that they were possible with some work but the house building companies do not want to make the extra effort, it is not “business friendly”. Unfortunately “business friendly” trumps long term prospects in some peoples minds.

  • mog

    I disagree Craig.
    XR and the Greta Thunberg phenomenon are attempts to save capitalism not the planet or human civilisation.
    Like many, it became clear to me over 25 years ago that the continuation of the capitalist system (which necessitates continual economic growth, and therefore greater energy demand) is immiscible with any concerted plan to reduce fossil fuel use. The latter must happen, as climate change is an existential threat now, not in some possible future.
    The attempts over the decades to reconcile corporate capitalism with the findings of ecologists/ climate scientists and the real environmental movements that have grown out of those findings has been a long and winding tale. XR and Thunberg are the latest (perhaps last?) bizarre chapters in that story.
    We’ve had corporate greenwash, pushback, denialism, and the steady encroachment of corporate power into the worlds of environmental NGOs. Campaigns have increasingly taken on the same manipulative propaganda techniques as imperialist drives for power, and it has long been argued that the core values in the green movement have been lost in an attempted compromise.
    There is no workable compromise though. There is no compromise with the laws of thermodynamics. Nuclear, wind, solar, tidal, hydro, biomass, insulation, efficiency savings, none of these things can give us the net energy surplus needed for more economic growth, which in turn is needed to save capitalism from imploding.
    As the hard limits of resource depletion and pollution costs start to bite, the global economy starts to stagnate. This was the underlying driver of 2008 and all that has followed. Capitalism itself is on its last legs, and some within the realms of high finance have realised that their best shot is to try to re-boot it by extending Neoliberal thinking into ‘ecosystem services’, pushing hard for a networked/ smart city infrastructure (5G) and a new financial paradigm. The ‘natural capital’ model is a travesty unfolding before our eyes. The privatisation of every living thing.
    As Monbiot writes of Cory Mornigstar’s ten years of documenting these developments as ‘pure conspiracist moonshine’ he effectively green lights the transition to the NewDealForNature which he has written so much against. People cannot see the manipulation, as they so often struggle to in other contexts (so many of which you have written about so well).
    Greta as a person and the many earnest people involved in XR need to be aware that they, and all of us, are being used and misled into a false ‘solution’ that will not work and will make things much worse (except for the billionaires who stand to gain and who offer that ‘solution’).

    • Dave Lawton

      April 23, 2019 at 12:28

      “I disagree Craig.”

      You are spot on Mog some can see while others are blind.

      • glenn_nl

        Spot on indeed.. Ja, what do these stupid “scientists” with their “educations” and “research”, who have “facts” and their “peer reviewed studies” know, eh? Idiots all – glad you know real truth, you clever. /snark/ /yuk/ /belch/ /fart/

        • mog

          I wrote : climate change is an existential threat now, not in some possible future.
          If you disagree with that then go read about climate science.
          If you agree with that then what do you think of all the research into the Non Profit Industrial Complex, how it is connected to the Greta Thunberg phenomenon and XR, and how it is connected to plans afoot to ‘financialise nature’ ?
          Tim Hayward writes : ‘
          Extinction Rebellion demands that UK government (and others) ‘halt biodiversity loss by 2025′. So what exactly must be done? The organisers also declare that the rebellion shall be apolitical, so who are they expecting to do what needs to be done?’

          Any movement for genuine change to save us from climate induced extinction needs to be political. A ‘citizens’ forum’ as a replacement for the vast world of politics and economics is just woolly nonsense.
          People brush away Morningstar’s work, but they cannot answer to it. She has been researching this for nearly ten years. Is ‘moonshine’ the only response ?

        • Dave Lawton

          April 23, 2019 at 15:45

          Spot on indeed.. Yes I did work for many years at the leading edge of physics..What causes abnormal weather conditions like flooding and heatwaves in February in the UK during the past few years. Climate scientists say that is caused by Global warming which is nonsense. Are you saying I`m wrong and these job created Climate scientists are right.Some of them cannot understand how their measuring instruments work let alone what kind of the anomalies they can produce.

  • Carl

    Those are admirable measures that would certainly send out a powerful message. But they would not obstruct the main perpetrators of climate change – namely the 100 or so companies who have been the source of more than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions in the past generation.

    What is needed above all are government crackdowns on these polluting corporations and their investors. All the politicians know this but the stranglehold of corporate money over policy has never been tighter. So the most vital practical measure to be taken by anybody concerned for human survival is to vote out corrupt, bought and paid for politicians and parties. That includes those who make green PR gestures but are in actuality just as servile to big money polluters as Trump and the Conservative party.

  • Trx

    While I agree with most of your points here, Craig, you’re completely wrong on the topic of nuclear power. It’s by far the safest and cleanest energy generator available (seeing all major accidents so far occurred in weapon-grade plants, not civilian ones) and advocating environment harming, inefficient tide power instead is really wrong. You say UK is well positioned to use it, but it’s in fact even better positioned to use nuclear – thanks to big, compact cities and short transmission distances from shores providing lots of coolant. The fact that Tories managed to royally fuck up expansion of it (like everything they do) is not argument against it, it’s argument against the Tories.

    Also, there is example of Germany. Merkel, as usual, tried to appease loudly complaining minority and tried to stop nuclear power – leading to Germany abusing the power networks of neighboring countries to cover up shortfalls (something UK can’t do), massive increase of burning of toxic brown coal to cover up energy shortages, and disproportionate, regressive financial load placed on the poor to cover up energy price rises. How you can see that and think this Tory-like policy is any good is really startling…

    • nevermind

      TRX, PWR’s are ineffective, wasteful and they leave a dangerous legacy to us all.
      If at the inception of nuclear power, we would have followed a path that includes molten salt reactors as a recycling solution to the still 95% uranium cores that are having to be stored in water tanks, one would at least be able to deal with the high energy waste as it occurs, but the drive for plutonium and ever more powerful bombs soon put an end to the idea.
      PWR’s are a thing of the past, we should be investing into and generating concentrated solar power in the Magreb.

      This 300 billion project able to power Europe and the middle east has now stalled since the oil/gas powers to be decided to fight it out over new oil/gas pipelines, new gas deposits straddling Palestine/Lebanon and the greed for more on the Gholan, sending millions of refuigees into Europe and destabilising the whole of the Magreb, making this peaceful, project impossible at present.

      I very much hope it gets revived in the near future in countries that are able to throw off the yoch of foreign pressure and keep their oil/gas in the ground.

      • Republicofscotland


        I agree, if something goes wrong in a nuclear plant, boy will it go wrong. Craig is correct nuclear used in power plants is just a dangerous way of turning steam turbines.

        Surely in the 21st century we should be moving away from nuclear and towards greener more friendlier types of power generation.

        I should add, that nuclear cost a hell of a lot more on the back end of its use. A prime example is the £100 million pounds its already cost monitoring and maintaining the decommissioned British nuclear subs that are rotting in ports around the UK.

  • Mighty Drunken

    I am glad I am not the only one to notice the Conservatives backwards steps on climate change policy in regard to home insulation. It is possible to build houses which require very little extra heating and cooling by using well known design elements. These measures are required if we are going to reduce our energy consumption and effect on the planet. These measures, even though they cost ~£10,000, save much more over the life of the building.
    Short term gain wins over long term prospects, again.

    Yet strangely the Conservative continue with the Smart meter debacle which has cost billions and has been very badly implemented by Capita.

  • Deepgreenpuddock

    I am just wondering if our plucky young swede Greta Thunberg, paddled from Sweden to Marble Arch via the Baltic and North seas and Thames estuary in a carbon neutral way and in a kayak made in a way that was also carbon neutral.
    No slight intended directed at the delightful Greta but I just wish to highlight the hypocrisy(or maybe better described as dilemma) that all the best intentions pave our many and various ways to damnation.
    I am also compelled to ask if our relatively temporary 20th and 21st century technological mastery over our fates has induced an idea that we can evade our fates, determined by the 2nd law of Thermodynamics rather than our best intentions.
    Am off to re-read Goethe’s Faust.
    Interestingly, an entirely carbon neutral journey was made by an 18th century Inuit man, who paddled his own carbon footprint free canoe from Greenland into Aberdeen harbour, living entirely on what he caught in the sea.
    He died within a week of his arrival in Aberdeen after his prodigious feat , from a common cold.

    • glenn_nl

      I am just wondering if our plucky young swede Greta Thunberg, paddled from Sweden to Marble Arch […]”

      She took the train.

      • Charles Bostock

        She could have cycled, Glenn.

        After all, in the 1930s Paddy Leigh-Fermor walked all the way from London to Constantinople.

  • Michael McNulty

    In the mid-70s the science programme Tomorrow’s World showed the potential of wave power, where large cams made from recycled plastic about the size of an Escort van, generated electricity as they bobbed up and down, even in smooth seas. Fields of these tidal generators would have provided very cheap electricity and also provide large areas where nets can’t reach so fish could breed and recover stocks. And because they have such a low profile, a couple of feet at most, they’re not readily visible. We could have had these all around our coast.

    The energy lobby are likely to blame for this technology not being developed, as so much cheap electricity leaves little room for profits. They accepted wind power because it’s not so productive and it blots many landscapes, giving some a negative opinion about renewables. Such is the corrupting power of money and the venality of politicians. Not developing this useful technology borders on criminal.

    • Paul Barbara

      @ Michael McNulty April 23, 2019 at 12:47
      One problem there – though this would seemingly provide a safe area for fish to breed, the electricity creates electrico-magnetic fields, which drive the fish away.
      A fisherman I know who runs a fishing boat out of Ramsgate said since they put the wind turbines out in the estuary, he has had to go further afield to get a catch, as the fish have gone.
      I had never read or heard about this phenomenon before, or since, he told me, so I suspect the information is deemed ‘unhelpul’ by some, as it must have been noticed.
      Just as high powered electricity cables also adversely impact human beings, I’m sure the same holds true for birds, fish and animals.
      Even the mains wiring in our houses gives off harmful electromagnetic fields, especially if it it is unfiltered (‘dirty’ electricity).

    • Republicofscotland


      Yes that brings back memories Raymond Baxter with his gravelly voice. I was astounded back then with concepts such as the Maglev train and the Hydrogen cell car, which looked like a Vauxhall Vectra to me.

      We were all promised a wonderfully new world gliding Maglev trains (some did come into service) and Hydrogen cars that emitted nothing more than droplets of HO2.

      I wonder how many great (clean energy) inventions are now locked up in the vaults of say Ford or GM, or bought over by large oil firms and quietly locked away never to see the light of day because if they did, profits would fall.

  • Gary

    The Tories, along with their Coalition Partners the LibDems, dismantled what little action had been taken to help us toward a greener, more sustainable future. They steamrollered local government to ensure fracking would start, despite this particular method of mining for gas being unsustainable both environmentally and economically. The only reason that I can think of for doing this is if the politicians in question had some kind of ‘personal stake’ in fracking companies.

    I agree wholeheartedly on nuclear, it’s essentially ‘dirty’ steam power. Solar’s energy source is free whereas nuclear’s source is not and requires decades of cleanup afterwards.

    We ALL know the answers to these questions but the problem is that the political will to take a hit and start doing something ISN’T THERE. Extinction Rebellion have indeed targeted the correct areas and with the correct people. The protestors are ‘too white’ for the police to beat up without feeling they would be brought to book. The target for the shutdown, a TINY area within Britain, was the RIGHT area to target. They could’ve targeted the main street of my home town in Scotland and closed it for a year and got nothing like the publicity they got. Well done, they are, as I type, on Politics Live on BBC1 with all of the ‘top politicians’ of the day.

    They can’t rest on their laurels though. Their next action will have to be bigger, and for longer to ensure they receive even the same publicity. On the next occasion the police will be less disinclined to use violence. On the next protest we will be lucky if it is filmed and broadcast by the BBC. What cannot be seen, cannot cause the viewing public to protest. Over the last ten years or so there has been a dearth of broadcast protests. Since the newspaper vendor was killed during the kettling at a London protest we have not seen the majority of protests on London streets broadcast. The two notable exceptions being the British Board of Deputies ‘Day of Rage’ against Jeremy Corbyn and the blocking of Waterloo Bridge…

    • Paul Barbara

      @ Gary April 23, 2019 at 12:59
      Fracking is the worst of all options. Every fracking well will leak eventually, some much sooner than others. When they leak, there is a risk of contaminating the underground aquifers, which poisons the water indefinitely.
      Given there is already a world-wide shortage of potable water, it is criminal to frack.
      Once again the MSM is not informing the public of the risks involved, as they are controlled/owned by the Corporations.

      • Republicofscotland


        (UCG) Underground Coal Gasification is in my opinion even more frightening, setting fire to seams of coal underground then collecting the gases released, paints a picture of huge burning coalfields undeground burning out of control, which could lead to a land collapse, and other serious events, and all for profit of the few.

        As for fracking I’m sure Blackpol suffered tremors from fracking.

  • Sharp Ears

    I believe it is St George’s Day today.

    The Extinction Rebellion people have assembled near Parliament.

    Extinction Rebellion: Climate protesters march on Parliament
    22 minutes ago

    ’23 April 2019
    Due to the ongoing protests in London today, the Police have put in place barriers in Parliament Square to create a clear route for access (either as a pedestrian or in a vehicle) to the Parliamentary Estate.
    Police will be on hand at the barriers to check passes. In order to prevent delays, visitors who are due to attend events/tours/select committees in Parliament today will be asked to show evidence to prove this.
    However there may still be delays in gaining access to Parliament today so please arrive earlier than planned if at all possible.’

    • Charles Bostock

      Not as far as the Orthodox church is concerned, Sharp Ears. Because it falls in Holy Week (the Orthodox Holy Week) this year, St George’s day will be on the 29th.

    • Sharp Ears

      Today IS St George’s Day. It is also the day on which William Shakespeare was born and died.

      I am English. Are you?

      ‘St George’s Day: England marks saint’s day but churches delay
      23 April 2019 UK
      Manchester’s St George’s parade
      Caption Manchester’s St George’s parade featured knights in white and red regalia

      While some people in England have been celebrating St George’s Day with parades, Morris dancing and flags, others will have to wait a week.

      As the saint’s day falls in Easter week this year, churches have put celebrations on hold.

      Anglicans will mark the patron saint’s day on Monday 29 April, while Catholics will transfer the day to 30 April.

      The day honouring the dragon-slaying saint has been an important festival since the 15th Century.

      In Manchester, the annual St George’s parade was held on bank holiday Monday, with bands, floats, people dressed as knights in armour and scooters riding in formation.’

      BBC. website.

  • J

    Some immediate thoughts:

    Although solid figures are difficult to acquire for obvious reasons, we know that global annual fossil fuel subsidy is between $800 billion and somewhere upwards of $5.3 trillion in recent years with the top five oil producers spending $201 million annually in lobbying. These are simply staggering amounts of money not even taking into account further sums spent by investors and banks, lobbying against governments and the public on the energy issue.

    A portion of the $5 trillion plus quoted above could easily solve many of the technical, political and economic problems we need to overcome. As Craig recognises, a substantial part of the climate action picture resides in the international realm. Half of which lies in addressing removal and storage of carbon already in the atmosphere. While there are some promising technological schemes in development they represent, unfortunately, a literal drop in the ocean (and are probably carbon intensive) compared single most effective remedial measure, immediate global action to stop any further deforestation and massive re-wilding and re-forestation on quite an ambitious scale. These two measures are easily the most effective means of carbon sequestration but require long lead times before their effects begin to kick in and need to begin without delay. Generating the political will to do so is obviously the greater part of the problem.

    The global community could and should pay countries and regions (from Brazil to Indonesia etc) to retain intact rainforest as a matter of urgency while establishing new forest (which has a number of successful precedents) with sensitivity to native species and bio-diversity. Plantations for commercial use have been to shown to be completely ineffective in this regard. A completely transparent global regulatory and enforcement authority tasked with overseeing the implementing both is urgently needed but of course this process should begin at home. Economic benefits accrue in terms of employment, health benefits, and diversification of economies.

    The other elephant in the room (apart from the elephant itself) is of course global militarisation and war. While the US military is one of the worlds single largest polluters in general, global militarisation represents a significant proportion of the worlds carbon footprint and is incompatible with any survivable scenario. Establishing this fact entails obvious difficulties but the success of this argument rests also on establishing the well understood relationship between fossil fuels and war, as well as the carbon and pollution cost of war. In a world where the carbon problem is being addressed successfully and on the scale required, a virtuous cycle of feedback necessarily entails reduced need for military solutions to energy production, from decentralised and distributed, local production of energy to the reduced need for fossil fuels and the geopolitical brinkmanship necessary to support their continued acquisition and extraction.

    Many of the hi-tech industries currently servicing the war industry will have a major role to play in the ‘peace economy,’ developing, providing and implementing the required technical solutions. it really is a win win scenario for the majority of the worlds populations.

  • Rod

    Ocean energy projects such as those advocated by Professor Stephen Salter from Edinburgh University during the 1980’s were likely shut down by ACCORD ( a committee consisting of members of a nuclear lobby). Known as the ‘Duck Wave’ which used the bobbing action of the tides as they ebb and flow it now seems to be viewed again as a viable means to produce energy with the added incentive of eliminating nuclear decommissioning activities when the reactors reach the end of their time.

    With regard to expanding the rail network using HS2 as far as Aberdeen, if Scotland gains its independence it might render the the HS2 project north of the border unviable as far as Scotland is concerned. Westminster would almost certainly insist Scotland paid its proportion from the border to the northern end destination. To slightly reduce the journey time between, say, Aberdeen and London may not be worth the investment. It’s likely a premium fare would be mandatory and financially prohibitive to passengers who were not travelling on expense accounts. To my mind an independent Scotland would be better served by funding local light rail and tramway systems where the majority of the population will benefit. Without knowing the price of an envisaged return fare from Aberdeen to London, HS2 is primarily going to be a businessman’s perk that this nation should think twice about. If any nation really wants to look into hi-speed rail then HS2 is not the answer; it should be looking at the next generation of Maglev transport systems to get ahead of the game.

    I, personally, would rather the UK stay as it is with Scotland as a member, but I can well understand why so many people in Scotland want their independence when I read on this website how the Scottish people have been treated in the past … and they same with the people in the north of Ireland. Moreover, I think we are, to coin a phrase, ‘better together’ not just in the UK but in Europe also.

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