The New Scientist magazine must be hard up. They’ve already bowed to economic pressure and taken the “king’s shilling” from the oil and gas industry by running Statoil advertisements, at least one made to look like a normal New Scientist article, giving Natural Gas a makeover as desirable as washing powder – all clean and reliable and loved by obsessives everywhere. Now they appear to have lost their power for critical reasoning and sunk to being suckers as billboards for BP spin, taking a front cover foldout for biofuels, with what I think is a completely deceitful portrayal of BP’s business.
Mark Lynas betrayed more of his intellectual influences this week, when he tweeted as @mark_lynas “Colony collapse disorder – honeybees – not quite the environmental story it seemed:
Hmmm. That’s a piece from a new generation of Nordhaus-es, Hannah, writing for the Breakthrough Institute, founded by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, authors of “The Death of Environmentalism“, a document I truly regret wasting the paper to print. As I read it, I started scratching hot red comments in the margins, so many, that in the end the pages were more red than black-and-white.
Hannah’s piece, like her book, “The Beekeeper’s Lament“, is more delicate and considered, I think, but still shreds decades of environmental thought and much science, without any justification in my view.
She writes, “…very quickly, many journalists settled on neonicotinoids — pesticides that are applied to more than 140 different crops — as the likely culprit. It seemed a familiar story of human greed and
shortsightedness. With their callous disregard for nature, big chemical companies and big agriculture were killing the bees — and threatening our own survival. The honey bee’s recent problems have occasioned a similar rush to judgment. Before any studies had been conducted on the causes of CCD, three books and countless articles came out touting pesticides as the malady’s cause. Had I been able to turn a book around quickly, I might have leapt to the same conclusions. But I was late to the party, and as more studies came out and I came to better understand the science, I became less and less convinced that pesticides provided a convincing explanation for beekeepers’ losses…”
Her argument appears to be that pesticides are bad for other pollinators, not bees; but that this makes life harder for the bees, who then have to do all that pollination instead :-
“In steps John Miller, a boundingly energetic and charismatic beekeeper, who tasks himself with the care and the sustainable keeping of honeybees. He is descended from America’s first migratory beekeeper, N.E. Miller, who, at the beginning of the 20th century, transported thousands of hives from one crop to another, working the Idahoan clover in summer and the Californian almonds in winter. Back then beekeepers used to pay farmers to keep a few dozen hives on their land. But now farmers pay beekeepers millions of dollars to have their crops pollinated by upwards of ten thousand hives. With the rise of the monocrop and increasingly efficient pesticides, there are simply not enough natural pollinators to complete the massive task of sexing-up millions of acres of almond groves.”
This kind of writing seems to me like a lot of anti-green writing, where a straw man is set up, only to bow down and worship it. The central framework of fallacy appears to be :-
a. Environmentalists are zealous, and therefore crazy.
b. They believe pesticides are dangerous to bees.
c. They must be wrong, and pesticides can’t be all that bad for bees.
Let’s just read a little around that idea, shall we ? Let’s start with Wikipedia, just to make it easy :-
“For the majority of pesticides that are registered in the United States, EPA only requires a short-term contact toxicity test on adult honeybees. In some cases, the agency also receives short-term oral toxicity tests, which are required in Europe. EPA’s testing requirements do not account for sub-lethal effects to bees or effects on brood or larvae. Their testing requirements are also not designed to determine effects in bees from exposure to systemic pesticides. With Colony Collapse Disorder, whole hive tests in the field are needed in order to determine the effects of a pesticide on bee colonies. To date, there are very few scientifically valid whole hive studies that can be used to determine the effects of pesticides on bee colonies.”
Actually, it’s not just “mad environmentalists” who are concerned about the effect of pesticides on honeybees. Here’s just one scholarly paper :-
“High Levels of Miticides and Agrochemicals in North American Apiaries: Implications for Honey Bee Health”, Mullin et el., 2010.
What has this got to do with Climate Change. I can hear you asking ?
Well, it’s like this – in order to do intensive farming, agricultural chemicals are used on crops. Specialised herbicides, pesticides and fungicides are used on genetically modified crops, along with chemical fertilisers.
In order to convince people to accept Genetically Modified food, they’ve got to be encouraged to believe that pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are really alright.
Hence, pesticides cannot be fingered as a problem for bees, otherwise people might not accept GM crops…
Yes, it’s coming back round to tampering with our food genes. And it’s being sold to us as a cure for Climate Change.
At the bottom of this page there’s a transcript of a snippet from a television programme I was unlucky and incensed enough to have viewed yesterday. Called “The Wonder of Weeds”, it took us through the basic logic of modern-day plant breeding, including the role for genetic modification of plants – without once mentioning the words “life sciences”, “bioengineering”, “biotechnology” or even “genetic modification”.
The GM crops are presented as being the saviour of humanity, without once mentioning why conditions in the world may be damaging crops in new ways in the future, a lot of which will be due to climate change.
There was the usual category error – of confusing science with technology. Let’s repeat that one again. Technology is when you play with the genes of a crucial staple crop like wheat. Science is when you discover, maybe 25 years later, that it has had knock-on effects in the food chain. Oh dear. Too late for remorse – the genetically modified genome is now globally distributed.
The presenter of the programme, Chris Collins, didn’t even spot the cognitive dissonance of his own script. In the first part of the programme he talks about common weeds that are foreign invaders in the UK and cause untold trouble. In the second part of the programme he doesn’t even blink when he talks about modifying crops at the genetic level – not questioning that introducing foreign genes into vital crops might have detrimental, unforeseen impacts – rather like a microscopic version of the imported “plant pariahs”, Buddleia davidii, Rhododendron ponticum and Japanese knotweed. Oh yes, Oxford Ragwort, another introduction to the UK, is not such a hazard, but you can’t guarantee what happens when you get plant invaders.
I find it astonishing that such obvious propaganda on behalf of corporate plans to modify crops for their own private market profit is allowed into BBC television programming.
Climate Change is being used as the Trojan Horse rationale in which to bring GM crops to the UK, and elsewhere, as part of international agricultural development programmes. This is the ideological equivalent of a rogue gene inserted into the DNA of science. I find this an outrage.
I recommend you check the work of GM Freeze to counter this braintwisting manipulation.
And if you want a little bit more of an insider on what Dr Alison Smith, featured in the BBC show, is actually doing with her amazing knowledge of plants – it seems her work encompasses improving the production of alcoholic beverages, not feeding the world. I kid you not :-
“Glucosidase inhibitors: new approaches to malting efficiency : Alison Smith, John Innes Centre : Improving the efficiency with which barley grain is converted into beer and whisky would reduce waste and energy consumption in the brewing industry, as well as ensuring profitability. This project aims to improve the efficiency of malting, the first stage in beer and whisky production, by building on new discoveries about how barley grains convert starch to sugars when they germinate.”
What is the BBSRC ? This is a research programme that’s “infested” with corporate people – whose agenda is money-making, not philanthropy.
And what’s genetic modification of crops got to do with Mark Lynas ? Well, just read his new book, “The God Species“, and you’ll find out.
The plain fact in my view is that we do not need genetically modified crops in Europe. In Africa, they’re too poor to afford the chemicals to use with the GM seeds. And in the not-too-distant future, the price of the chemicals will shoot up because of Peak Oil and Peak Natural Gas, making GM crops inaccessible to those North Americans who currently use it. So this particular technology takes us nowhere forward at all. We need to manage water and the root causes of poverty rather than tamper with genes.
BBC 4 TV
Saturday 25 June 2011
“The Wonder of Weeds”
“Travelling around the UK and meeting experts in botanical history, genetics, pharmaceuticals and wild food, Chris Collins tells the story behind the plants most people call weeds.”
45 minutes 20 seconds
…And the massive irony of all this is that the very crop that has become a monoculture at the expense of weeds, wheat, was once a weed itself…
Plant scientist Professor Nick Harberd of Oxford University has researched the moment a weed became wheat.
Nick : “About half a million years ago, there was spontaneously, in the wild, nothing to do with human beings, a cross-hybridisation, a cross-pollination if you like, between two wild grass species…”
“…So one can imagine that humans were cultivating this wheat [10,000 to 12,000 years ago] in a field and then by chance a weed was growing within that field. And there was again a spontaneous hydridisation event beteen the cultivated wheat and this wild grass that was growing in that imaginary field.”
“The whole process made a plant that was bigger and more vigorous. And as a result of this we ended up with the wheat crop we all grow and feed off today.”
Nick can exactly recreate exactly how wheat and weeds crossbred in a lab today…
47 minutes 40 seconds
Weeds helped us out millenia ago and now scientists in the 21st Century have turned to weeds once again for one of the most important discoveries in plant biology ever.
It could save lives by creating a super wheat.
It all took place here, at the John Innes Institute in Norwich.
Alison : “So come on in Chris. You need to sterilise your feet here…”
Chris : “So this means we’re not bringing in anything nasty from outside…”
Alison : “That’s right. No thrips or viruses or anything else that might come in.”
Dr Alison Smith is head of Metabolic Biology here.
Chris : “This is the first time I’ve ever dressed up to go and see a weed.”
Alison : “We look after our weeds very carefully here.”
Alison’s team have been studying a small common weed called Arabidopsis [thaliana] or Thale Cress, which is now used as the model to map the DNA of all plants on the planet.
Alison : “Well this weed is incredibly easy for us to work on. And all plant scientists almost in the world take information from this weed. And many plant scientists only work on this little weed.”
“The reason why it’s really useful is that like a lot of weeds it goes from seed to seed really quickly, so we can get through lots and lots of generations, and that makes it easy for us to do genetic studies to understand how the weed behaves and what all of its genes are doing.”
“But also, about 20 years ago, plant scientists got together. And at that time they were working on lots and lots of different plants. And they decided, let’s work on one plant together that can become the model from which we can develop our understanding of plants.”
“So about the same time as we were sequencing the human genome, we started to sequence the genome of this little weed. So in 2000 we got the entire gene sequence of this weed, all of the genes are known, the same time as we understood the human genome.”
Chris : “So really then, this small weed is a blueprint for all plants ?”
Alison : “This is the model for all plant life, that’s right.”
But the sequencing of the Arabidopsis genome is not just for the sake of it. Alison and her 600 colleagues are unlocking the secrets of the plant’s success, like its speedy growth rate and its hardiness, and are transfering those abilities to the crops that matter to us, like wheat.
This is one of the most important discoveries in plant biology ever, where one of the humblest weeds could save millions of lives around the world.
Chris : “Now we’ve seen our magic weed and you’ve got this genetic blueprint. How do you take that blueprint and apply it to arable crops like this wheat ?”
Alison : “Well we can start to tackle, using this blueprint, some of the real problems that we have with our crops like disease, for example. Our crops are quite susceptible to some diseases. We’ve been able to breed for that, but we haven’t known what genes we’re breeding for.”
“In Arabidopsis, Arabidopsis gets diseases as well, we can understand exactly how it’s resistant to those diseases. We know what genes it needs. And we can say right, where are those genes in wheat ? Can we make sure that our new wheats have the genes that make them resistant to disease ?”
“Another example would be how the wheat exactly makes its seeds. Obviously, this is the really important bit of wheat. This is what we eat. This is human food. We understand a bit about the process of about how these little seeds are formed, but in Arabidopsis we understand in absolute molecular detail how those seeds are made, and that helps us to understand how we make to make better seeds, bigger seeds, more nutritious seeds in wheat. We can apply that knowlege in wheat.”
Well, I know scientists don’t like to be too dramatic, but I’m going to be, because of simply what I’ve found out. Weeds can play a big role in arable crops like wheat, or even maybe the future of humanity.
Alison : “I think it was the starting point for what has to be a revolution in our crops, a revolution in understanding how they work and making them work better and doing that fast.”
“It’s taken our ancestors, you know, millenia, to get to this point. We can’t afford to take the next step in millenia. We have to take it in tens of years or less. And in order to do that, you’re absolutely right, the information from Arabidopsis has been the key to pushing us forward.”
It’s the resilience of weeds and the insights they give us into helping crops survive that makes them amongst the most useful plants on the planet…
To: Claverton Energy Research Group
From: Jo Abbess
Date: 24 June 2011
Subject: “Don’t believe the spin on thorium being a ‘greener’ nuclear option”
As you are, I’m sure, aware, context is everything.
I was so sure we’d escaped the clutches of the “Thorium Activist Trolls” a few years ago, but no, here they are in resurgence again, and this time they’ve sucked in George Monbiot, Mark Lynas and Stephen Tinsdale, all apparently gullible enough to believe the newly resurrected Generation IV hype campaign.
They should have first done their research on the old Gen IV hype campaign that withered alongside the “Hemp will Save the World, No Really” campaign and the “Biodiesel will Save the World, AND You Can Make it at Home” brigade. Oh, and the Zero Point Energy people.
I was, I admit, quite encouraged by both the Hemp and Biodiesel drives, until I realised they were a deliberate distraction from the Big Picture – how to cope with the necessity of creating an integrated system of truly sustainable energy for the future.
Hemp and Biodiesel became Internet virally transmitted memes around the same time as the Thorium concept, but where did they come from ?
Where does the Thorium meme originate from this time round ? I found some people took to it at The Register, where they spin against Climate Change science a lot – watch the clipped video :-
I would suggest that there are connections between the Thorium campaign and the anti-Climate Change science campaign, and I have some evidence, but I’m too busy to research more in-depth just now, so I’m not going to write it all up yet.
The key issues with all energy options is TIME TO DELIVERY and SCALEABILITY, and I think the option presented by the Thorium fuel cycle fails on both counts.
Yeah, sure, some rich people can devote their life savings to it, and some Departments of Defense (yes, Americans) and their corporate hangers-on can try selling ANOTHER dud technology to China (which is the basis of some Internet energy memes in my view).
Remember Carbon Capture and Storage ? The British Government were very keen on making a Big Thing about CCS – in order to sell it to the miscreant Chinese because (WARNING : CHINA MYTH) China builds 2 !! coal-fired !! power stations a week/day/month !!
THORIUM – A Brief Analysis
TIME TO DELIVERY – 20 to 50 years
SCALEABILITY – unknown
USEFULNESS ASSESSMENT – virtually zero, although it could keep some people on the gravy train, and suck in some Chinese dough
Don’t believe the hype,
PS What other evidence do we have that the Thorium meme is most likely just a propaganda campaign ? Nick Griffin of the British National Party backs it, and the BNP are widely alleged to promote divisiveness…
Thank you, Coal.
Thank you for the asthma, the mercury, the mountain top removal, the birth defects, the mine fatalities, the grossly inefficient electricity networks, the lack of investment in electricity networks, the smog, the heat, and above all, thank you for giving us Glenn Beck, on a platter – this is so much fun to watch !
We are stardust ? Well, not quite. As carbon-based lifeforms we’re actually the offspring of a young sun, composed of the lighter elements, with a low concentration of a few transition metals essential for our health and vitality. Irn Bru, anyone ?
The actual products of exploding old stars that got lodged in the crusty skin of the accreting Earth are often quite toxic to us. Over millions of years, heavy and radioactive elements, being of no use to the ecosystem, have been deposited at the bottom of lakes, seabeds, and ended up lodged in seams of coal, and caverns of petroleum oil and Natural Gas. Uranium ores and other nasties have been overlain by forests and deserts, and only rarely vent, like radon, from Vulcan’s infernal lairs.
And what do humans do ? We dig this stuff up to burn or fission for energy, and when we do it creates toxic waste, that hurts us, and the life around us. Why are we surprised that mercury from the coal power industry is killing fish and harming children ? Why is it a shock that the tailing ponds from mining tar and oil sands are devastating pristine wilderness and waterways ?
It appears that science has now caught up with shale gas extraction technology, and the result is a toxic shock :-
“Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas Pollutes Water Wells : A new study indicates that fracturing the Marcellus Shale for natural gas is contaminating private drinking water wells : By David Biello, Scientific American, May 9, 2011”
This might come as a bit of a nasty blowback for Christopher Booker, who was singing the praises of “gamechanger” shale gas at the weekend :-
“Shale gas could solve the world’s energy problems : It’s anathema to environmentalists, but shale gas is a new fossil-fuel source that could power the world for centuries : By Christopher Booker 7:30PM BST 07 May 2011”
The public propaganda budget for most energy and mining companies is eensy weensy compared to the profits they can make by polluting and stealing.
Are you ready for another American energy myth ? Yes, the country with the energy production “community” that brought you the Gulf of Mexico spill disaster of April 2010, is now threatening groundwater pollution and seismic shocks at a county near you in the United Kingdom.
A glimpse of the public relations that have led up to this can be seen very easily by using an Internet Search Engine using an Internet Browser (like Google running on Google Chrome, for example), using the search term : “shale gas gamechanger”.
That little word “gamechanger” has been soaking through the business, engineering and financial press in relation to “unconventional” gas for at least six months. Everybody digests this word in connection with information touting the magical promise of virtually free gas in the rocks beneath our feet. And then they repeat the concept and this little sales word to others. It’s gone completely viral.
Roger Harrabin of the BBC (thanks, Roger) brings word that the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has recommended a moratorium on shale gas operations until more science is known about the results of the engineering :-
“…”We are aware that there have been reports from US of issues linked to some shale gas projects,” a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) told BBC News. “However, we understand that these are only in a few cases and that Cuadrilla (the firm testing for shale gas in Lancashire) has made it clear that there is no likelihood of environmental damage and that it is applying technical expertise and exercising the utmost care as it takes drilling and testing forward.”…”
So who is this company “Cuadrilla” ?
It is an entity formed from one Australian engineering giant and one American financial giant, seeking to propagate the American way of life of developing “new” energy resources :-
“…Lucas announced that the Riverstone/Carlyle Global Energy and Power Funds, a group of energy-focused private equity funds managed by Riverstone Holdings LLC, has committed to subscribe US$58.0 million for equity in Cuadrilla Resources Holding Ltd, the holding company established by Lucas to hold its investment for unconventional hydrocarbons exploration and development in Europe.”
“Lucas was a founding shareholder in Cuadrilla and has supported the management team since the company’s inception. Lucas’ total investment as of today’s date amounts to A$52.4 million.
Cuadrilla has applied for, and in some cases been granted, exploration licences totalling in excess of 1.5 million acres in the UK, Holland, Spain and Poland. In addition, Cuadrilla has designed, overseen the manufacture of and delivered state of the art cementing and fracture stimulation equipment and is soon to take delivery of a DrillMec HH220 top drive rig.”
So, does this technology actually work safely ?
Nobody really knows, is the short answer.
“…Funded by the Cooperative, the Tyndall report demonstrates how the extraction of shale gas risks seriously contaminating ground and surface waters. In this regard alone, there should be a moratorium on shale gas development until a there is a much more thorough understanding of the extraction process…”
Why do we continue to have American companies imprinting their business models on the UK ? We have to have their “independent” nuclear deterrent, their behemoth nuclear reactor construction companies, their health insurance companies, their failed genetically modified crops, their privatised prison and school and health centre management policies, their tax concepts, their social control policies, even their zeal for state terrorism…sorry…”The War against Terror”. And nobody seeks to question why we have to copycat everything the Americans do, even when it goes badly wrong.
Why can’t we have a War against Error ?
We need a real “regime change” here – we need to say a big no to American energy policy. And that starts with asking a few questions about the way American companies do business.
Here’s just one example of the sort of practice that the people behind Cuadrilla get up to :-
“In 2000, Carlyle entered into a joint venture with Riverstone Holdings, an energy and power focused private equity firm founded by former Goldman Sachs investment bankers. In March 2009, New York State and federal authorities began an investigation into payments made by Carlyle and Riverstone to placement agents allegedly made in exchange for investments from the New York State Common Retirement System, the state’s pension fund. It was alleged that these payments were in fact bribes or kickbacks, made to pension officials who have been under investigation by New York State Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo. In May 2009, Carlyle agreed to pay $20 million in a settlement with Cuomo and accepted changes to its fundraising practices.”
And you trust these people with the right motives when agreeing to finance shale gas exploitation in Europe ?
A. J. Lucas Group is the engineering partner in this enterprise :-
“The Company’s Oil and Gas segment is engaged in the exploration for and commercialization of hydrocarbons in Australia, Canada, United States and Europe. As of June 30, 2010, the Company held 56.95% interest in Cuadrilla Resources Corporation Limited (Cuadrilla).”
Starting with Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, they appear to want to dig up the whole of Lancashire :-
“Mr Cornelius said Cuadrilla would begin the extraction process in early January and would hope to have its first flare – gas burning at the surface – by early February.”
“If successful, the find would be extremely significant given Britain’s dwindling energy resources and our increasing reliance on imported gas. Cuadrilla had previously said the amount of shale gas in the Bowland site could meet as much as 5 to 10 per cent of Britain’s energy resources.”
“Now, after the first samples have been analysed, the suspicion is that the Lancashire fields could hold a lot more.”
“Now one site has been explored, the drilling rig will be moved to another site on the Bowland Shale to assess the size of the gas field overall. If those explorations also prove successful, then Cuadrilla will look to sell the entire operation to a large exploration company, like Shell, to carry out the expensive and time-consuming production process.”
Somebody has to say no to this. That somebody could be you.
What does shale gas “fracking” do to land, peoples and communities ?
Come and find out :-
“GASLAND : Opening 17 January 2011 : Winner – Special Jury Prize – Sundance Film Festival 2010 : Nominated – Grand Jury Prize – Sundance film Festival 2010 : A frightening documentary that follows director Josh Fox as he attempts to uncover the truth about Halliburton-developed procedures for drilling for natural gas (known as hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’). When Fox is offered $100,000 for drilling rights to land he owns in Pennsylvania, his subsequent cross-country investigative odyssey lands him in communities contaminated by chemical waste caused by ‘fracking’ (the residents of one town are able to light their drinking water on fire). Another in a long line of essential environmental documentaries – each of which seems to be more alarming and compelling than the last…”
Come along and watch your own hellish future if you are unlucky enough to sit on top of gas-bearing rock formations :-
17 – 27 Jan, 4 – 6, 11 – 13, 16 – 17, 19, 26 – 27 Feb 2011
A frightening documentary that follows director Josh Fox as he attempts to uncover the truth about Halliburton-developed procedures for drilling for natural gas (known as hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’). When Fox is offered $100,000 for drilling rights to land he owns in Pennsylvania, his subsequent cross-country investigative odyssey lands him in communities contaminated by chemical waste caused by ‘fracking’ (the residents of one town are able to light their drinking water on fire). Director Q&A plus panel discussion : After the premiere on 17 January there will be a discussion panel afterwards comprising the director Josh Fox, along with representatives from The Co-operative and WWF.”…”
Here’s just a few links to peoples groups opposed to the engineering of unconventional gas :-
It’s time our authorities read between the lines and regulated this practice away from Europe.
If we had a sparsely populated continent with lots of unused land, then maybe it might be OK. But with the risks still fully unquantified, we should keep this engineering out of well-populated and ecologically sensitive areas, particularly areas with water courses and farmland.
Green jobs, green energy, greening communities.
Forget Nigel Lawson and his struggle to keep the British energy system in the privatised 1980s by denying the realities of Climate Change.
The lords (and sadly, some of the ladies) of this land want to stay rich from their shares in fossil fuels and mining. They’ll say anything to protect the value of their holdings.
But where’s your new North Sea Oil and Gas, Nigel ? Do you want to bankrupt this country by forcing us to ramp up our imports of energy as the North Sea production falls away ?
The chief executives of the “traditional” energy companies of these islands are just trying to keep themselves in a job when they decry wind power, biogas, marine energy projects.
No, Vincent de Rivaz of EdF, we don’t want expensive, inflexible and toxic Nuclear Power. No, Dorothy Thompson of Drax, we don’t want dirty coal continuing to heat up the world, poison fish and raise coughing kids. No, Rupert Soames of Aggreko, we must maintain the Renewable Energy obligations we have agreed at the European level, and raise the bar even higher, to protect the economy going into an uncertain future, by having homegrown energy.
We need an energy evolution in this country.
And so, what is needed is a social movement – involving ordinary, working people, unions, communities, academics, trained professionals from the engineering trades, local political activists and faith communities.
This is the emergence of Green Power.
Welcome to little Gracie, born at Michaelmas.
By the time this child is five years old, the world should have agreed to control Carbon Dioxide emissions.
Net greenhouse gas emissions to air should have peaked, and be on the decline by the time this child starts school.
It’s up to us to care for our children.
If we don’t take steps to stop the ocean becoming increasingly acidic, we will have destroyed part of the food chain, and people will go hungry in greater numbers than they do now :-
“August 2010 : Scientific American Magazine : Threatening Ocean Life from the Inside Out; August 2010; Scientific American Magazine; by Marah J. Hardt and Carl Safina : …As researchers, we were concerned about the underappreciated effects of changing ocean chemistry on the cells, tissues and organs of marine species. In laboratory experiments at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, Havenhand had demonstrated that such changes could seriously impede the most fundamental strategy of survival: sex. Ocean acidification—a result of too much carbon dioxide reacting with seawater to form carbonic acid—has been dubbed “the other CO2 problem.” As the water becomes more acidic, corals and animals such as clams and mussels have trouble building their skeletons and shells. But even more sinister, the acidity can interfere with basic bodily functions for all marine animals, shelled or not. By disrupting processes as fundamental as growth and reproduction, ocean acidification threatens the animals’ health and even the survival of species. Time is running out to limit acidification before it irreparably harms the food chain on which the world’s oceans—and people—depend.”
And global warming will only make the problem worse :-
Letter : Nature Geoscience 2, 105 – 109 (2009)
Published online: 25 January 2009 : doi:10.1038/ngeo420
“Long-term ocean oxygen depletion in response to carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels”
Gary Shaffer, Steffen Malskær Olsen & Jens Olaf Pepke Pedersen
“Abstract : Ongoing global warming could persist far into the future, because natural processes require decades to hundreds of thousands of years to remove carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning from the atmosphere. Future warming may have large global impacts including ocean oxygen depletion and associated adverse effects on marine life, such as more frequent mortality events, but long, comprehensive simulations of these impacts are currently not available. Here we project global change over the next 100,000 years using a low-resolution Earth system model, and find severe, long-term ocean oxygen depletion, as well as a great expansion of ocean oxygen-minimum zones for scenarios with high emissions or high climate sensitivity. We find that climate feedbacks within the Earth system amplify the strength and duration of global warming, ocean heating and oxygen depletion. Decreased oxygen solubility from surface-layer warming accounts for most of the enhanced oxygen depletion in the upper 500 m of the ocean. Possible weakening of ocean overturning and convection lead to further oxygen depletion, also in the deep ocean. We conclude that substantial reductions in fossil-fuel use over the next few generations are needed if extensive ocean oxygen depletion for thousands of years is to be avoided.”
If you, dear Reader, are a Republican American, and you are demographically “middle class”, and you support the Tea Party movement, you are likely to have been seriously deceived – by Big Energy. Or Big Mining.
Who are these “Big Diggers”, propagandising the naive, well-intentioned, right-wing citizens of the United States of America, so they don’t realise they’re thinking somebody else’s thoughts, shouting somebody else’s slogans, riding somebody else’s train ?
Combustion of Fossil Fuels and Biomass is a major cause of chronic respiratory problems around the world.
Many people seem to know that smoky stoves in the Global South cause lung disease for millions of children in poverty.
But what will happen as more so-called Renewable Energy is built in the United Kingdom ?
This answer from Almuth Ernsting points the way :-
“Forth Energy have put in a planning application for a power station in Dundee which will burn 1 million tonnes of mainly imported wood per year. Altogether, they want to build four power stations in Scotland which will burn a total of 5.3 million tonnes. That’s the equivalent of nearly two-thirds of the UK’s annual wood production. Such a large new demand for wood will, directly and/or indirectly, mean more industrial tree plantations and more logging at the expense of forests, climate and communities. If approved, Forth Energy’s power stations would attract an estimated £300 million in subsidies every year – paid as “Renewable Obligation Certificates” through a levy on electricity bills. Local residents would be affected by more air pollution in a city with already high levels of pollution. There are also serious concerns about the impacts on the Firth of Tay and Eden Estuary,which is a Special Area of Conservation. There has been a large number of objections from residents in Dundee already. To read more background information and to object to the application through our webform, please go to: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/forthsep2010.php”
The solution : stop burning things to make energy ! It’s really, really simple. Use Wind Power, Solar Power, Wave Power, Tidal Power, Geothermal Power…
“The Two Marks” – Mark Delucchi and Mark Jacobson make similar arguments :-
“Protesters condemn ‘dirty oil’ at World Energy Congress : (AFP) : 14 September 2010 : MONTREAL — Hundreds of protesters demonstrated in the streets of Montreal Sunday, calling for an end to “dirty, risky” oil exploration, ahead of a global gathering of energy experts. A dozen protesters covered in molasses staged a “Black Tide Beach Party,” while dozens of others carried banners that read “Too dirty, too risky, go beyond oil.” A blond baby boy smeared in brown sticky molasses wailed in his activist father’s arms, while protesters used megaphones to slam the provincial Quebec government of Jean Charest for inviting oil companies to the five-day World Energy Congress at the sprawling Palais de Congres. Some 5,000 participants from industry, government and academia, were expected to attend the conference, slated to officially open Sunday evening. The event is expected to tackle global energy issues, such as improving access to energy in the world’s poorer regions and the role of new technologies in ensuring a sustainable energy future. Many protesters directed their anger at BP over a devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year. But Julien Vincent, a campaigner for Greenpeace International, said BP was only part of the problem. “British Petroleum is one part of a big industry that’s got an abysmal safety record and an abysmal record in terms of its obligations toward protecting communities,” he told AFP. “You also have oil from Shell dripping out over Nigeria right now. You have oil spills that have taken place in China that have flooded ports,” he added. “The entire industry needs to be told to sit back and listen up.” …”
What happened to all that deepwater crude gusher oil, so visible from space, spreading like a magical sheen on the surface of the waters in the Gulf of Mexico ?
It’s now lying as a 5cm layer of gunk on the sea floor, that’s what. That’s where you’ll find Ground Zero for BP’s careless “blame the cement” spill mess-tastrophe :-
If ever there were an advertisement for the campaigns to end the age of fossil fuels, this, I think, is it.
It’s OK to spill.
That’s the message handed to Royal Dutch Shell in the form of their fine for spilling oil in the Niger Delta – only 10% of their spillage will be counted :-
Environmental fines don’t work – because the oil and gas and coal companies have well-paid and persistent lawyers :-
Money can’t buy you a clean environment. Take note.
We all love the inputs, but what about the outputs ?
Fossil Fuels have been providing an easy life and easy pickings for the citizens and enterprises of the industrialised world for some time.
People love their jet-fuelled lives. One man will move one kilometre from his home to a restaurant in two and a half metric tonnes of steel and glass believing he is admired for his larger-than-car-sized car. He will wear sunshades, and oil-slicked hair (if he has any) and sport a tan from his recent holiday over the ocean. A life of glory and feeling good about himself.
But what about the emissions ? What, indeed, about the environmental devastation at the places the Fossil Fuels (and metal and glass) were mined and refined and manufactured ?
What do we leave behind ?
Shock ! Horror ! Major Climate Change Scientist spotted at Climate Camp…ah, but which one… ? How to distinguish one dressed-down, unwashed individual with dishevelled locks from any another ?
Any sign of Climate Change sceptic-denier Andrew Montford, as affectionately known as “Bishop Hill” ? Can’t make him out, but he might have responded to the banner appeal to “Come On Over for Lunch”. You never know. That might be him chopping potatoes, right in the thick of it.
Banks + Coal = Climate Chaos
People + Information = Social Change
Just say no. No to Coal. And then no to all the other Fossil Fuels.
Of course, Pat Michaels is “right-wing”, but that’s not what I meant.
Some folk will be surprised that I agree with anything that Patrick Michaels says, as he is consistently inaccurate about the Science of Global Warming.
However, he is right that a Carbon Tax is the wrong way to proceed.
Carbon pricing, whether by direct taxation or by a trading scheme, effectively creates a double disincentive for change.
We have a large number of companies and organisations that are highly dependent on the use of Fossil Fuels. Carbon pricing will make these companies and organisations less financially efficient, and they will try anything they can to pass on the costs of Carbon to their consumers and clients, in order to remain profitable.
Carbon Taxation will therefore stimulate cost offsetting, but not Carbon reductions.
Moreover, if companies that make and sell energy are forced to pay for Carbon, they will have less funds available to deCarbonise their businesses; less capital to invest in new lower Carbon technologies.
Carbon Pricing will not alter the patterns of emissions significantly, if at all.
We have to face facts : the economists are largely wrong about environmental taxation. Record fines and levies demanded of Fossil Fuel companies in the last ten years have not stopped the spills, the leaks, the poisonings of waterways; nor have they helped the companies change course and start to develop Renewable Energies.
The pricing of large scale environmental pollution is a failed disincentive.
There are several journalists out there who simply can’t cope with the real risks posed by dangerous Climate Change.
Following a rather reasonable, rational article by Louise Grey, Tom Chivers gave the “loaded dice” metaphor to straighten her up on language :-
“Pakistan floods: Climate change experts say global warming could be the cause : The world weather crisis that is causing floods in Pakistan, wildfires in Russia and landslides in China is evidence that global warming predictions are correct, according to climate change experts. : By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent : Published: 10 Aug 2010 : Almost 14 million people have been affected by the torrential rains in Pakistan, making it a more serious humanitarian disaster than the South Asian tsunami and recent earthquakes in Kashmir and Haiti combined. The disaster was driven by a ‘supercharged jet stream’ that has also caused floods in China and a prolonged heatwave in Russia. It comes after flash floods in France and Eastern Europe killed more than 30 people over the summer. Experts from the United Nations (UN) and universities around the world said the recent “extreme weather events” prove global warming is already happening. Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice-president of the body set up by the UN to monitor global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said the ‘dramatic’ weather patterns are consistent with changes in the climate caused by mankind. “These are events which reproduce and intensify in a climate disturbed by greenhouse gas pollution,” he said. “Extreme events are one of the ways in which climatic changes become dramatically visible.”…”
One of the worst ideas that anybody has ever had is to pull heaps of toxic chemicals out of the ground and spread them over the surface of one of the few countries that will remain habitable after the onset of deep Climate Change.
If the Global Warming doesn’t get you, then the mercury from the Tars Sands tailing ponds sure will !
“Oil sands toxins growing rapidly : Nathan VanderKlippe : Published on Monday, Aug. 09, 2010 : Canada’s oil sands mining operations produce vast and fast-growing quantities of deadly substances, including mercury, heavy metals and arsenic, new data released by Environment Canada shows. The information on pollutants sheds new light on the environmental toll exacted by Canada’s bid to extract oil from bitumen, showing in stark relief how many nasty substances are being laid on the northern Alberta landscape in the process – and how quickly those are growing. In the past four years, the volume of arsenic and lead produced and deposited in tailings ponds by the country’s bitumen mines – run by Syncrude Canada Ltd., Suncor Energy Inc., Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC – has increased by 26 per cent. Quantities of some other substances have increased at even faster rates. The companies also released huge amounts of pollutants into the air last year, including 70,658 tonnes of volatile organic compounds, which can damage the function of human organs and nervous systems, and 111,661 tonnes of sulphur dioxide, a key contributor to acid rain…The numbers “are just ridiculously huge,” said Justin Duncan, a staff lawyer with Ecojustice…”
Unconventional fossil fuels are just such a liability – using up precious freshwater resources and depositing toxic waste just about everywhere.
Shale Gas (or Gas Shale) operations are reported to be polluting underground water tables. Now, that’s a clever thing !
“EPA moves NY drilling hearing, expecting crowds : By MARY ESCH : ALBANY, N.Y. : In anticipation of as many as 8,000 people at a public hearing on natural gas drilling, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it was moving it from Binghamton University to a Syracuse convention center 65 miles north. The hearing is the fourth and last by the EPA around the country to get public comment on its study of hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells. Critics say the technology, which blasts chemical-laced water into the earth, could poison water supplies. The industry says it’s been used safely for decades. The EPA said 300 people have signed up to speak at Thursday’s sessions and 1,200 are expected to attend…Advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, significantly increased yield from shale gas wells and led to the current natural gas boom, starting with the Barnett Shale in Texas. The technology has drawn intense scrutiny since the focus of gas drilling companies has shifted in recent years to the Marcellus Shale, a massive rock formation underlying New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Environmental groups, residents and civic leaders fear potential contamination of watersheds in the densely populated region if fracking isn’t more tightly regulated. Fracking was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005 after an earlier EPA study declared fracking wasn’t a threat to water supplies. That study has since been criticized as flawed. The new EPA study, to be completed in 2013, could lead to new federal regulations. However, the industry says state regulation is sufficient and has worked well…”
It’s been a bad month or so for ignominious ends in unusually hot and sticky conditions : drunk Russians drowning as they try to cool off from a once-in-a-thousand-year heatwave centred on Moscow; hundreds of Chinese swept away; a Darwin award surely going to the man who died whilst participating in the World Sauna Championships, thousands of Pakistanis snatched by flood waters, and then there’s poor Matthew Simmons, leader of the Peak Oilers, bursting his aorta in a private spa :-
“AUGUST 9, 2010 : Without Matt Simmons: Has Peak Oil, Well, Peaked? : By Michael Corkery : Matt Simmons, the maverick investment banker who championed the concept of peak oil, died of a heart attack in a hot tub in Maine. He was 67. Simmons is best known for raising the alarm, in books, in lectures, television interviews and to anyone who would listen, that the world’s oil reserves had peaked. The concept of “peak oil” wasn’t new when Simmons wrote Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy, in 2005. In fact, peak oil was first posited by a geophysicist named M. King Hubbert in the 1950s who predicted that world oil supply would peak in 1995. But Simmons helped to being the theory to the mass media, after traveling to Saudi Arabia in 2003 to research that nation’s secretive data on oil reserves, or the amount of oil able to be pumped out of the ground. His book became an instant classic among conspiracy theorists…”
Hey ! Don’t disrespect the dead ! He made a very valid contribution to the world’s understanding that the Fossil Fuel free ride won’t last forever, and is, in fact, stopping short as I write…
Despite the best early morning wide-eyed televised efforts of Carol Browner this week, the BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill story just will not die :-
“Gulf oil spill: White House accused of spinning report : Scientists say it is ‘just not true’ that the vast majority of oil from the BP spill has gone : Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 5 August 2010”
Use all the dispersants you want (or are just about legally entitled to), but an ecological catastrophe like this will not go away and die quietly, even though a large number of marine animals will be forced to :-
“…to use dispersants…doesn’t make the oil go away, it just puts it from one part of the ecosystem to another…”