Energy, the Environment, and What We Can Do

Monday, April 9th, 2012

John Baez gave a Google Tech Talk on the issue. The slides include links to more detailed arguments and his home page also links to the Azimuth Project wiki is collecting information and ideas from a larger group of participants.

Sustainable Energy Choices

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Barry Brooks at 'BraveNewClimate' has made a brave effort at summing up the need for nuclear power as part of the CO2-free mix in a brief video, but parts of it still felt to me like “industry propaganda” – to the extent that I might be a bit embarrassed if anyone seeing my earlier references to the BNC site should subsequently come across it.
My first concern is that very little argument is given to support the claim that non-nuclear options won't suffice. No-one is likely to be convinced that just because Denmark has not yet displaced anything close to the major part of their coal use with wind that they may not eventually do so (though I suspect that in fact they won't), and the use of that as an apparent argument will just make the case seem weak and forced. Another point that troubles me is at the conclusion where the video compares the golf ball sized lump of nuclear fuel that is capable of providing enough energy to meet the needs of a typical western human lifetime with the many tons of coal that it would "displace". I suspect that this will seem obviously “unfair” even to those who cannot say why (The only comparison that really matters is with volume of ore rather than volume of fuel).

Of course is hard to tell the full story so briefly, but if it can’t be done well enough then it were better not done at all. The BNC site has a lot of credibility but the video actually undermines it so I actually hope  it doesn’t "go viral".


The Inheritors of What?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

A new book by Eric Kaufmann entitled Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century is reviewed by Phillip Longman in 'Big Questions Online'. An open question, I guess, is whether or not there is an inheritable tendency towards religiosity and, if so, how it is related to fertility within a particular society. But a bigger related question may be:  if the over-breeders can't be stopped, then what kind of earth will there be for them to inherit?

Artificial Leaves from North Carolina

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Thanks to reader Colleen McGuire for pointing out  this interesting development. It does look promising if it can be developed further, although as one of the researchers said, "We do not want to overpromise at this stage, as the devices are still of relatively low efficiency and there is a long way to go before this can become a practical technology." ...more »

Mythical Myths about Sustainability

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Many of these Top 10 Myths about Sustainability are mythical in the sense that they are just elementary misconceptions that don't qualify as myths because they are not widely held by intelligent adults, but "Myth 6: Sustainability means lowering our standard of living" is an exception because it is, I think, widely believed by intelligent adults. ...more »

Yes, There *IS* an Elephant in the Room

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

AlterNet Article by Chris Hedges

Rebuttal by Betsy Hartmann
...more »

David MacKay: Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

In Sustainable Energy - without the hot air UK physicist David MacKay presents plausible back-of-the-envelope estimates of the scales of action needed under various strategies for reduction of global carbon fuel combustion. The numbers he uses are easily checked and his analysis can be re-run with revised parameters if needed. Only when a significant fraction of humanity is capable of actually doing both those things will we have any chance of making the right decisions.

Mythical Myths No 7

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

In "The Myth of the Tragedy of the Commons", Ian Angus claims that the phenomenon commonly called a "tragedy of the commons" is a myth. But he is wrong. Anyone who is aware of the fate of the Atlantic cod fishery must know the tragedy of an unregulated commons, so the phenomenon is surely real. It is real, and Angus has been blinded by his anger at those who have (ab)used the phenomenon into denying the phenomenon itself rather than the arguments by which it has been (falsely) claimed to justify privatization of public assets. ...more »

Don’t Drink the Nuclear Kool-Aid | AlterNet

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Don’t Drink the Nuclear Kool-Aid | AlterNet

Typical knee-jerk anti-nuke article but comments actually worth reading

CO2 Reduction Scenarios (UK example)

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Heavyweight physics prof weighs into climate/energy scrap [printer-friendly] | The Register

Fare-Free Public Transit

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

AlterNet: Environment: Fare-Free Public Transit Could Be Headed to a City Near You (and IMO it could and should be paid for with the revenue from a levy on urban auto traffic like the 'congestion fee' charged in London)

AlterNet: Environment: What to Say to Those Who Think Nuclear Power Will Save Us

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

AlterNet: has reprinted an article from 'Orion' magazine by someone called Rebecca Solnit who claims to be giving advice on: What to Say to Those Who Think Nuclear Power Will Save Us though what she is really arguing is not just that nuclear power is not a panacaea, but that it must be excluded at all costs - and the tone of her argument (as with many on the climate bandwagon) makes it plain that she is more interested in using the threat of global warming to justify the imposition of behavioural constraints than she is on actually doing everything possible to reduce our emissions of CO2. Unfortunately she has nothing new to add to the debate, but some of the exchanges in the comments are more interesting. Much of the discussion on both sides is sufficiently vacuous and polemical as to strain one's faith in democracy, but at least some of it is decent and it is up to the reader to assess which of the commenters appear to have the more credible arguments. Personally, I come down pretty firmly on the side of those who see a substantial increase in nuclear power generation as an essential component of any strategy for the mitigation of our environmental impact. But even with it, and with everything else we can possibly do, we're headed to where snowballs have no chance unless the other big unmentionable, population control, is also pushed hard and fast.

Video Debate on Nuclear Power

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

Peter Bradford, Patrick Moore and Jim Riccio debate the future of nuclear power
and why nuclear power cannot solve the climate crisis.

The actual debate linked to from Nuclear Information and Resource Service - NIRS is quite interesting, but the intro (including the above description) and the powerpoint style summary notes alongside the video are a disgrace. They accurately summarise the points made by Riccio and Bradford but distort or contradict those made by Moore. In fact Bradford was the most credible presenter followed pretty closely by Moore with Riccio being just totally unimpressive. I think I'll cancel my Greenpeace support.

Kudos to Fox News ?

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Thanks to Theodore Labadie who posted the link on the 'Transforming Langara' listserv, but this is not surprising. The interview subject is promoting the purchase of "carbon offsets" and the opportunities for fraud in that are so magnificent that no self-respecting greedy mogul could possibly hold back for long.

BC-Alberta Trade Agreement Scuppers CO2 Reduction in BC

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

This Tyee Article about TILMA shows how its restrictions on differential regulation make it virtually impossible for one province to implement stricter standards (in any area).

AlterNet: EnviroHealth: Renewables Can Turn the Tide on Global Warming

Monday, February 12th, 2007

AlterNet: EnviroHealth: Renewables Can Turn the Tide on Global Warming

Why I Have Not Read 'Heat'

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

According to his publisher's web blurb, George Monbiot has established that "we need a 90% cut in our emissions within 25 years if we are to stop ourselves reaching the point where the "climate feedback" becomes unstoppable", and "for the first time, ... explains how this cut could be achieved. "

My problem is more with the latter than the former (although I am doubtful that the 90% cut can reliably to be shown to be either necessary or sufficient), and arises largely because the blurb reads to me like one for a secret 'get rich quick' scheme whose author will tell me how to make millions doing absolutely nothing in five easy steps (which just happen to be available only in book form).

If Monbiot can't tell me in one page what the essence of his strategy is then he probably can't do it in a book either. But just in case I'm missing out on hearing about the magic bullet that noone else has thought of I'll be going to today's seminar. And I urge anyone else at Langara who cares about the very real threat of global warming to do likewise.

Lights Out!

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Unfortunately I don't think this initiative has had enough publicity in this part of the world for there to be a noticeable dip as seen by BC Hydro but there's nothing wrong with joining in to the extent that we are able.

It's a shame that we are not using air conditioning at this time of year, but perhaps there are some other College-wide systems (other than computers) which could be temporarily shut down. And perhaps with regard to computers we could ask ICS to use those 5 min to test our emergency power supply system.

Of course if we wanted to send the strongest possible correct "signal" then we could start up the air conditioning and every available electric heater etc (arc welders would be good if we have them) earlier that morning then turn them all off at 10:55 and on again at 11:00 for another half hour or so (and off again at random times after that). But I suppose that might be seen as a cynical and dishonest manipulation of the data.

Selling Indulgences

Monday, January 29th, 2007

A couple of colleagues have circulated links to websites offering the opportunity to offset the CO2 created by my energy consumption in return for monetary payment.


Thanks for the links, but all of these people are asking for money and offering little but vague assertions in return. This is not intended to deny the good intentions of either the Native Power people linked to by Al Gore or of the IRES folks and their friends at WestJet, or I guess of any other chap who puts up a website and offers a $60 absolution for the CO2 I spewed on my flight to India last year. But none of these sites offer convincing proof that my $60 payment will somehow suck back all that CO2. So how can I tell that what salves my conscience will indeed undo the effects of my sin?

This business of buying remission reminded me of the mediaeval practice of selling indulgences and a quick Google search confirmed that I was not the first to make that connection: � Selling Indulgences

How Much Renewable Energy Do We Have?

Monday, January 29th, 2007

George Monbiot showed (in November 2005) that, even with extremely generous assumptions about the plausible extent of resource usage, renewable energy sources will not suffice to replace what he believes must be cut from our carbon combustion rate.

But then (in July 2006) he continued to deny what may be the only feasible solution, despite recognizing many errors in previous arguments against it, on the grounds that "To start building a new generation of nuclear power stations before we know what to do with the waste produced by existing plants is grotesquely irresponsible." This while blithely suggesting as an alternative that "With similar levels of investment in energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage, and the exploitation of the vast new offshore wind resources the government has now identified(13), we could cut our carbon emissions as swiftly and as effectively as any atomic power programme could." But the technology of capture and sequestration is far from well established and the wind power he refers to is just what he showed in the article above to be far less than enough to meet his country's needs. He does conclude by mentioning that neither the gas nor the wind resources in North America are proportionately nearly as large as those of the UK.