6 Jun 2008

SW Climate Plan

The South West Regional Assembly has been working with the Environment Agency, Government Office South West and the South West Regional Development Agency on the development of the South West Climate Change Action Plan.

Photo: Ruscombe fields

The Plan’s principal purpose is to prioritise the actions we must take now, coordinate regional activity to achieve these and identify actions where initial enabling work has to be achieved to unlock future activity. See the draft Plan here.

Unfortunately I was not aware of this consultation until last week and therefore my comments are much briefer than I would have hoped. There is indeed much to welcome in this report like the recognition that groups like Transition Towns can play and the priorities listed in the report. However I don't think it is anything like up to the task of delivery. Here below are three key points I made:

1. Economic Forecasts and Peak Oil: Like the RSS this report is flawed by being based upon a model and prediction of economic growth which has not assessed significant likely changes in factors during the next 20 years. Its perspective needs to be rethought, and additional plans developed that take account of different economic forecasts. One example is the failure to take on board the implications of oil price rises and forecast rises resulting from Peak Oil (ie the point at which oil production rises to its highest point before declining). Expert opinion agrees that it is fast approaching or has been reached yet there is no mention in the report of Peak Oil. The significance of Peak Oil can hardly be over-stated. Oil is the fundamental underpinning of our civilization. When the oil runs out the economic and social dislocation will be unprecedented. We are very concerned that long-term global policymaking on this aspect, perhaps the biggest decision this century, is virtually non-existent. The Swedish government is an exception in that it has already launched a programme to end Sweden's oil dependence by 2020.

2. Aviation emissions: no report looking at CO2 emissions can be taken seriously unless it explicitly calls for an end to Airport expansions. It is extraordinary that this has not been addressed. For the UK, international aviation is responsible for more than 13% of the total climate change impact. To not address this contribution makes no sense. Three years ago the Tyndall Centre calculated that if Britain were to meet its target of cutting greenhouse gases by 60 per cent by 2050, and emissions from aviation were not reduced, all other emissions – from households, businesses, energy generation and cars – would have to go to zero. Flying would take up everything that was available. There should be a target for the reduction in the need to travel, and separate targets for the modal split of each mode. For example work noted in raising awareness of climate change with business must include reducing the need to travel especially by air, with an encouragement to use video conferencing and other technologies to replace face-to-face meetings. Use of trains for domestic travel should be facilitated. See also the recent damning report from the Sustainable Development Commission, published with the Institute for Public Policy Research that highlights airports drain on local economies:

3. Lack of Urgency: while we welcome the ambitions of the SW to 'punch above it's weight' there are still very clear indications that the necessary urgency has not been grasped. While the Government has spoken lots about the need to take action there is very little evidence of actions necessary being taken (eg against the advice of their own advisors they are planning more nuclear power and airport expansions). Similarly this report lacks the urgency needed. We would welcome an Emergency Plan of immediate actions needed. SWRA needs to take a key role in showing not only the target for emissions (at least 80% by 2050 is required) but also in developing and explaining the path to achieve that target.


DennisA said...

How sad that you have fallen for the whole bundle.

Firstly, I think it is disgraceful that an unelected Regional Assembly of appointees should be imposing government policy over local democracy. This is all part of the move to make us a federal region of the EU, in spite of public rejection of Prescott's Assemblies.

Secondly, Tyndall is an offshoot of the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia and they have recently registered Tyndall as a trade mark. Trade marks are for selling things and Tyndall sell mitigation policies to Industry but without any scientific basis for their claims.

They don't really believe it themselves, but there is mega money in global warming and they have been major propagandists in the field. This is from one of their 2004 working papers:

The Social Simulation of the Public Perception of Weather Events and their Effect upon the Development of Belief in Anthropogenic Climate Change
Dennis Bray and Simon Shackley, September 2004. Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

"This paper….. presents a quantitative dynamic simulation model of the social construction of a quasi-reality. By quasi-reality we mean a reality that thus far is defined by expert knowledge and is surrounded by uncertainty.

Global warming (or climate change) is, without elaboration, a much debated and contested issue. Not only is it contested among scientists, but also among all those with vested interests.

We suggest that, in the realm of the public, forces act to maintain or denounce a perceived reality which has already been constructed. That is, an issue introduced by science (or media for that matter) needs continual expression of confirmation if it is to be maintained as an issue.

In this paper, we explore under what conditions belief in global warming or climate change, as identified and defined by experience, science and the media, can be maintained in the public’s perception.

As the science itself is contested, needless to say, so are the potential policy changes. So how then do people make sense or construct a reality of something that they can never experience in its totality (climate) and a reality that has not yet manifest (i.e. climate change)?

Yet people are asked to accept some construction of reality when it comes to accepting or participating in the construction of climate change policy.

To endorse policy change people must ‘believe’ that global warming will become a reality some time in the future.

Only the experience of positive temperature anomalies will be registered as indication of change if the issue is framed as global warming.

Both positive and negative temperature anomalies will be registered in experience as indication of change if the issue is framed as climate change. (Hence cold weather can be blamed on CO2).

We propose that in those countries where climate change has become the predominant popular term for the phenomenon, unseasonably cold temperatures, for example, are also interpreted to reflect climate change/global warming."

The Hadley Centre is one of the major global institutions promoting anthropogenic global warming and a prime mover in IPCC, yet this is what they had to say in a publication dated January 2005, just before the Exeter Conference on Dangerous Climate Change.

Stabilising climate to avoid dangerous climate change — a summary of relevant research at the Hadley Centre:

What constitutes ‘dangerous’ climate change, in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, remains open to debate. (We were already being told that the science was settled).

Once we decide what degree of (for example) temperature rise the world can tolerate, (how would they know?), we then have to estimate what greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere should be limited to, and how quickly they should be allowed to change.

These are very uncertain because we do not know exactly how the climate system responds to greenhouse gases.

The next stage is to calculate what emissions of greenhouse gases would be allowable, in order to keep below the limit of greenhouse gas concentrations. This is even more uncertain, thanks to our imperfect understanding of the carbon cycle (and chemical cycles) and how this feeds back into the climate system.

So much for scientific certainty, with such lack of knowledge on the most fundamental science. In addition, real world observations, as opposed to computer modelling, show that temperatures are not responding to increased carbon dioxide levels, in fact there has been a stable and now falling global temperature since 1998. In spite of attemps to fudge it, it is fact that from the late 40's to the late 80's, temperatures fell, including in the UK.

Interestingly, the hottest spring on record in the 350 year Central England Temperature record, is 1893. Annual temperatures are not rising here.

Diverting all resources to a highly debated project designed to cover up the government's energy failings, is not protecting the planet. It denies developing countries access to technology which would alleviate many of their problems.

Peak oil is another current myth. There are major new fields being discovered currently in the South Atlantic, including around the Falklands, the oil shales in the US alone are calculated to be sufficient to supply that country for 250 years and this does not include the massive Canadian reserves, or indeed the oil and gas reserves around the coast of the US, currently not allowed to be used by the NGO's. There is considerably more oil left in the North Sea than is acknowledged, but taxation restricts the capital investment needed to retrieve it. Oil reserves around the world can be further exploited at the higher prices now prevailing. Yes, oil will remain more expensive, but peak oil hysteria is another factor in current price hikes.

The truth is out there.

Philip Booth said...

Thanks for your comment - first I agree re unelected regional assemblies and have said so repeatedly here - more power to local communities is needed - we are the most centralised western democracy...

..however that aside I do not accept your arguments re climate change - do you really think we can afford not to act if the world's scientists are telling us that we need to? The IPCC maybe flawed but it still makes clear the need for action. I am not prepared to take that risk if there are things we can do to prevent some of the worst effects of climate change.

Lastly to Peak Oil - indeed there is some dispute when it will occur but there is no doubt it will - the shale you mention is energy intensive to remove so will effect climate change even more, new discoveries are barely covering the increases in oil use - read more here: