Friday, March 15, 2019

Another Day of Action

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Blank
A blank sheet of paper on a Monday morning is a challenge, but by Friday, or rather Thursday evening at the latest, it's another episode of the Sustainable Futures Report. Yes, this one is for Friday, 15th March and I'm Anthony Day.
This Week

This week, today in fact, there's another march. Also in this episode Jeremy Leggett puts China's climate mitigation lead in the context of geopolitics. Jem Bendell has published a paper which he thinks puts him at odds with the academic establishment. I look at what he has to say and I hope there will be opportunity to ask him some questions for a future episode. I told you about the Carrington Event just before Christmas. It seems that something very like it happened some 2,600 years ago. Could it happened again? Norway is revising its investment plans and with a month’s experience of being an electric car owner we can tell you that buying an electric vehicle could be the best decision you ever make, or possibly the very worst.
New Material
First of all, news from Patron and mechanical engineer Esteban Villalon and his colleague chemist Guillaume Loiseaux. Together they established Lavoisier Composites in May 2018. The purpose of the company is to design and manufacture components from carbon fibre composites, using offcuts discarded by the French aerospace industry which would otherwise be incinerated. 
Their flagship product is Carbonium, composed of intermediate modulus carbon fibre and high temperature epoxy. Carbonium Gold has been created by intimately marrying carbon and gold. 
As with burr walnut, each piece of Carbonium® Gold reveals a golden grain whose singularity and finesse are unique. Applications include the creation of cases for high-end watches.
The partners claim that compared with equivalent materials on the market, the creation of Carbonium from material which would otherwise be discarded reduces the carbon footprint by 13 kg per kg of material used.
This week Lavoisier Composites was one of the 10 finalists at the JEC World StartUp Booster in Paris. Lavoisier Composites won the accolade with 54% of the votes.
Congratulations!
Marching
By the time you read this another school strike for climate justice could be in progress. Students from all over the world are leaving school to protest.
The UK Student Climate Network is typical.
“We are choosing to rise up and take direct action where older generations have failed,” they say. “We are already facing devastating and irreversible impacts around the world. This is our final chance to fight for our futures, and our ages will not be what stop us. On Friday 15th of February, more than 10’000 students across the UK went on strike to protest lack of government action to combat our climate crisis. Now we’re doing it again: join us on the 15th March to amplify our voices once again.”
What do they want?
We, the students, demand that…

DEMAND 1
The Government declare a climate emergency and prioritise the protection of life on Earth, taking active steps to achieve climate justice.

DEMAND 2
The national curriculum be reformed to address the ecological crisis as an educational priority.

DEMAND 3
The Government communicate the severity of the ecological crisis and the necessity to act now to the general public.

DEMAND 4
The Government recognise that young people have the biggest stake in our future, by incorporating youth views into policy making and bringing the voting age down to 16.”
As Greta Thunberg said, “You don’t have to school strike, it’s your own choice. But why should we be studying for a future that soon may be no more?”
Who is Greta Thunberg? 
She’s a single-minded 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who has been concerned about her future since the age of eight. She convinced her mother to give up flying, which had a significant effect on her mother’s career as an international opera singer. She convinced her father to become vegetarian. Last August she started sitting outside the Swedish Parliament every Friday with a banner demanding action on climate. She says, “The first day, I sat alone from about 8.30am to 3pm – the regular schoolday. And then on the second day, people started joining me. After that, there were people there all the time.”
Since then she’s done a TED Talk, she addressed COP24, the UN climate conference in Katowice and she spoke at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.
There are rumours that she will be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She’s 16.
Greta’s climate strike was inspired by students from the Parkland school in Florida, who walked out of classes in protest against the US gun laws that enabled the massacre on their campus. 
Today, 15th March, students in more than 70 countries will walk out of school to protest about lack of action on climate which threatens their futures.
The key question is whether governments will act. I’ve said before, that governments will only do what politicians think people want. That may not be right or sensible. Changing public opinion is the key, and if these protests continue they will certainly raise public awareness. The task remains to change public opinion.

Best China
I’ve mentioned Jeremy Leggett several times on the Sustainable Futures Report. He is heavily involved in the promotion of solar energy through his company Solarcentury and with the distribution of solar powered lanterns to poor families in Africa through the charity SolarAid. He is a former chairman of Carbon Tracker, he teaches and addresses conferences throughout the world and was the first winner of the first Hillary Laureate for International Leadership in Climate Change. You can find a lot more on his website at  www.jeremyleggett.net
This month he published his review of China’s Vision for Climate Action, which puts the whole thing in a geopolitical context.
It’s a long and detailed presentation and you’ll find a link on the blog. Here are some points that I have picked out.
China is a leader in climate change mitigation. This must partly be due to the fact that it has suffered some of the worst air pollution in the world. As a one party state with a president for life it can move quickly. In 2016 it cut 1.8 million jobs in coal and steel and it cancelled 120 GW of coal-fired generating capacity including plants already under construction. By March 2018 it was able to announce that it had already reached its 2020 Paris Goal. This was set in terms of the amount of CO2 per unit of GDP and it was cut by over 40% in relation to 2005 levels. However, although the CO2 per unit fell, as GDP grew the nation’s carbon emissions also grew in both 2017 and 2018. 
China leads the world in solar installations and all China's new power demand in 2015 was met with wind and solar. Domestic consumers even said they were ready to pay more for renewable power, probably because they saw this as a way to reduce their pollution.
China leads the world not only in solar capacity but also in battery production with a pipeline of 217 GW hours in comparison to 47 in the US and 1.4 in the UK. China has 317 million smart meters and has covered 100% of urban consumers and 70% of rural consumers. It has built smart buildings and an electric highway to charge electric cars. Shenzen has 16,000 electric buses, and that's just one city. The plan is that all buses will be electric by 2020, all trucks by 2025 and all cars by 2030.
Trade disputes with the United States are beginning to affect the Chinese economy and in order to maintain employment and GDP it has had to backtrack on some of its environmental actions. For example the restrictions on coal and steel imposed in 2016 were relaxed in 2018. It is suggested that coal power station building has been restarted. In the north of the country fracking has started and locals complain of polluted water and threats to the environment. The deposits in this area are much deeper than in other countries and heavy explosives are used to start the fracking process. Ironically it appears that British experts are advising the Chinese on fracking. The Russians are building a pipeline to supply gas, another fossil fuel, to China,. It appears that in China, as in the United States, climate protection has to take second place to economic activity. Economic activity is also driven by military activity, both in terms of preparations for conventional defence and in terms of cyber warfare.
China can react quickly to new situations because, as I said, it is a one party state. It is worrying to see the level of control that the government beginning to exercise over its people using the latest technologies. They plan to have facial recognition data stored for every Chinese citizen by 2020 and to use this for all sorts of purposes in including pre-identification of criminals. Already every resident of Beijing is in the database and their behaviour even down to the emotional level is being surveyed. Apparently by 2020 anyone judged to be untrustworthy will be unable to move a step. 
Sounds like the stuff of bad fiction, but there's no doubt that this sort of thing is possible.
Are we all deniers?
Another vision comes from Professor Jem Bendell of Cumbria University. If you look at his video, link on the blog, he seems a very reasonable person and I really don't want to believe in his predictions of social collapse.
“Ah,” says Professor Bendell, “then you too are in denial.”
He's published a paper, and there is a link to that on the blog as well, a paper which was rejected on peer review by the scientific journal that he wanted to publish it in. In the paper he analyses three types of denial. He complains that nobody has done any serious work on preparing for social collapse as the result of climate change. He’s been criticised for putting forward these ideas because he's told it would lead to unjustifiable panic and misery. Needless to say that he disagrees. Having read his paper and watched the video of a talk which he gave last December I'm left with a number of questions. How fast is this social collapse likely to occur and what form will it take? What can we do about it and what is the deep adaptation that he talks about? You may have come across an American professor called Guy McPherson who is associated with near-term human extinction and appears to me to be very depressing person. Jem Bendell seems much more optimistic than that. I've written to him and requested an interview because I would like to explore his ideas in more detail. I'll let you know if I get a response. Although I know that Guy McPherson is always ready to talk to anyone I'm resisting the temptation to ask him for an interview because, as I say, I find him just too depressing.
Carrington Again
Do you remember the Carrington event that I spoke about before Christmas? It was a solar storm.
In a paper published this week in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, researchers reveal that analysis of Greenland ice cores provides evidence of an enormous solar storm around 2,610 years ago - or 660 BC. It is only the third such event reliably documented and they say, “These results indicate that this event was an order of magnitude stronger than any solar event recorded during the instrumental period and comparable with the solar proton event of AD 774/775, the largest solar event known to date.”
The instrumental period is roughly from 1760 to date and therefore includes the Carrington Event which occurred in 1859. This implies that the Carrington Event was not particularly large, even though it caused disruption to the telegraph system and Northern Lights were seen as far south as the Caribbean. The electric lightbulb was not commercialised until 1879, 20 years later, so at the time of the Carrington Event there was no electrical infrastructure or National Grid to be affected by the solar storm, apart from the telegraph wires.
The recent research shows that such events are not uncommon and indeed minor solar storms in more recent years have caused disruption in Canada and in Sweden. Much larger solar flares have occurred, but fortunately they have been ejected from the sun in a direction away from the earth. As far as the next solar storm is concerned it seems that it’s a question not of if, but of when. Ours is a wired society, and every bit of wire would be at risk. The first wave of solar particles would knock out communication satellites and then play havoc with all the pylon lines, telephone towers and anything with an aerial. An extreme storm could presumably wipe out computers and mobile phones. The good news is that while it takes 8 minutes for light to reach us from the sun, charged particles ejected from a solar storm take 17 to 24 hours to arrive, so we have time to prepare.


Not so good news from Norway

You may have been encouraged to learn this week that Norway's $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund is expected to sell off its oil and gas holdings.
Actually that’s only part of the story. While it has $37bn of shares in oil companies such as BP, Shell and France's Total it is only planning to sell off its interests in minor oil companies. It will also restrict investment in new exploration.
Norway is Western Europe's biggest oil and gas producer and its sovereign wealth fund, known officially as the Government Pension Fund, is used to invest the proceeds of the country's oil industry. Norway's finance ministry said oil would still be central to Norway's economy.
"The oil industry will be an important and major industry in Norway for many years to come," it said in a statement.
Norway has the highest number of electric cars per head in the world. Maybe they are trying to make amends.

And Finally…
Riding the Electric Highway
We’ve had an electric car now for just over a month and have learned a lot... As I said at the beginning, an electric car could be your best decision or could be your worst. Let me explain. Most major manufacturers offer electric cars although some of them keep it secret even from their sales forces so it can be difficult to get some of them to sell you one. Provided you can get over that, the advantages of an electric car are that they are clean with no emissions, cheap to run with no road tax in the UK at present, generally high spec in terms of equipment and with good performance. The fuel cost for running an electric car works out at about 3p per mile as opposed to 15p per mile for a petrol or diesel car. This is partly due to the fact that an electric car is about 85% efficient while a conventional car is only about 35% efficient. The actual cost varies because you can charge your car at home overnight on cheaper rates, some public charging points are free and of course if you go for a Tesla, which is one of the most expensive electric cars, all charging at Tesla charging stations is free. On the other hand, charging on the motorway costs about twice what you would pay for electricity at home. For business drivers benefit in kind is lower than the equivalent petrol or diesel models. Electric car performance is good because an electric motor can deliver its maximum torque from rest all the way up to maximum speed. There is no clutch or gearbox to slow things down. The top of the range Tesla can out-accelerate a Formula One car. The fact that there is no gearbox simplifies maintenance, and there is no oil to change, no spark plugs, no radiator or antifreeze, just an electric motor and some batteries, all of which makes maintenance cheap and simple. Total running costs are generally lower than for a petrol or diesel car, although initial purchase costs at the moment are higher. There are some good secondhand deals at present, but technology is rapidly advancing so take good care to understand how last year’s model may be different from the current one.
If you have off-street parking and can charge at home, if you have a regular commute of 50 miles or less (the national average is 35 miles), if you rarely travel more than 100 miles from home, then an electric car could be ideal for you.
If you regularly travel long distances and you don't know from one week or even from one day to the next where you are likely to be, then using an electric car becomes much more problematic. It raises the questions of range anxiety, charging and charge point networks.
Range Anxiety
Range anxiety is the fear that you will not get back to base or to the nearest charging point before you run out of power. If you do run out, the AA cannot turn up with a can full of spare electricity. Your car will have to be put on a lorry and taken to the nearest charging point. Range is a key issue and only the more expensive models have a range of over 300 miles. By comparison my petrol hybrid will do 500 miles on a full tank. The actual range of each model is a sore point. Like mpg, there is an official method of measuring this. But like mpg it frequently bears little relation to reality. For example, the very small car that we have just bought claims a range of 99 miles in the brochure, but we are told that a more realistic range is 70 miles. This may be so, but once charged to 100% it shows a range of only 60 miles. (This is exceptional - most electric cars have a nominal range of at least 160 miles.) The actual range, as with a petrol car, will vary depending on how you drive it and will be affected by use of the heater, the wipers and the lights. It's also affected by the weather. The battery does not work as well on cold days and its capacity declines as it gets old. It will probably do better than the indicated range, but it just doesn’t want to encourage me to risk running out. 
When choosing an electric car look at the claimed range and decide whether 70% of this will be enough for your normal journeys.
Recharging en route
If you travel away from base you may need to recharge your car in order to complete your journey. Many of the brochures claim that you will be able to recharge to 80% within 30 minutes or some models in even as little as 10 minutes. Fine, you think, so I can recharge to 100% in only about 40 minutes. Wrong. The physical characteristics of batteries means that the last 20% charge takes very much longer than the first 80%. So if you're on a long journey bear in mind that a recharge will give you only 80% of 70% of the brochure range..
What’s your point?
Now you need to find a charging point. Not all points are the same and whether you can use them depends on the type of socket that your car is fitted with. There are at least three main types plus Tesla. The plug socket on your car determines whether you can use a rapid, fast or slow charger. If you are planning to charge away from home I strongly recommend that you get a car with rapid charging capability. For one thing. Ecotricity has a near monopoly of all the charging points on motorway service areas in England and almost 100% of these are rapid charging units. You cannot use them unless your car has a rapid charging socket, although a car with such a socket can also use fast and slow chargers, given the right cable, which you have to carry with you. The other factor which you must be aware of is the capacity of the charging unit in your car which determines how fast it can be charged. Some charging points will deliver up to 100 kW and there are plans to introduce a network of units which can deliver 350 kW. If the charger in your car is rated at 22 kW, say, that's all you'll get, regardless of the capacity of the charging point.
Finding a charging point
Where do we find these charging points? An app on your phone will show you where they are, which type of plugs they have and whether they are currently in use or not. In fact there are many apps, but the thing that they have in common is that they may not show the correct plug type, the point may be in use when it is shown as available and in some cases the point may have been out of use for days but nothing has been done. You really do need to plan your journey carefully and have a Plan B in case the point you want to use is not available. 
Accessing a charging point
When you get there you’ll find that the charging point is operated by one of at least six different networks. Some of these points will be pay and go, but most of them need you to have an app on your phone or an RFID card and an account before you can use them. More planning. Some  charging points, particularly in high-demand areas like motorway service areas, will give you no more than 45 minutes. Some charging bays have a maximum stay of an hour, although some offer free parking while you’re charging.
My overall conclusion is that the electric car is here to stay, but it’s certainly not suitable for everyone yet.

Be Prepared!
Some final points if you think you might go electric next time.
  • Insist that the car is 100% charged when you go for a test drive. You can then see the range that the car displays and check how far it differs from the brochure figure.
  • Check the capacity of the charger and the size of the battery and get both figures written into the sales contract.
  • Unless you’re looking for a city runabout, only buy a car which supports rapid charging.
  • Check which cables come with the car. You should get one that allows you to slow charge from a domestic powerpoint. That should be standard, but I’ve heard of some manufacturers asking £500 for this cable. You should also get a cable which links your car to a Type 2 medium/fast charger. Rapid charging points have the cable built in (“tethered”) which plugs directly into your car.
  • Get the salesman to include a free home charging point as part of the deal. You’re going to need one, and it will cost him less than it will cost you. It’s not unreasonable to tell him that you can’t consider an electric car if you can’t charge it at home.
  • Don’t sign a maintenance contract. It won’t need much maintenance and it won’t cost much when it comes because it’s so simple.
  • As I said before, if you’re buying second hand, check how the model you’re buying differs from the current model.
Happy Motoring!

Not Blank
Well, that’s another blank page converted to 4,000 words and 15 pages of text about sustainability.
For this week that’s all for the Sustainable Futures Report.
I’m Anthony Day and thank you for listening. Thank you to my patrons who support the Sustainable Futures Report from $1 per month. It helps me cover the cost of hosting and research. You can join them at patreon.com/sfr.  
If you have comments, ideas or suggestions, please do contact me at mail@anthony-day.com.
And that really is it.

Until next time. 

Friday, March 08, 2019

The Uninhabitable Earth

Find the podcast on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-sustainable-futures-report/id313473372?mt=2, Stitcher, Spotify, SoundCloud or via www,susbiz.biz

Hello and welcome… 

…to the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday, 8 March 2019. I'm Anthony Day and I’d like to welcome listeners from all over the world and especially my patrons whose contributions help me to cover the costs of producing this podcast. Last week I promised you a review of The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells and then I ran out of time, so I'm putting it at the start of this episode. I'm also going to talk about the attention that climate change is getting in Parliament and reactions to the American Green Deal. There’s more on extreme weather, on air pollution and a follow-up from The Lancet on the Planetary Diet.
We live in the Goldilocks zone.
Remember Goldilocks? She found the porridge that was too hot, the porridge that was too cold and the porridge was that was just right. And she gobbled it all up.
We live on a planet which isn't too hot, it isn't too cold, in fact it's just right. And we've mucked it all up. Or if we haven’t, we’re well on the way to doing so.
The Uninhabitable Earth
That, broadly, I think is the message of David Wallace-Wells’s book. It's received mixed reviews. Brian Appleyard of the Sunday Times calls it a catalogue of horrors. In The Times Mark Lynas said it was written in a tone of sustained high alarm and David George Haskell writing in The Guardian complained of many inaccuracies. On the other hand, Fred Pearce in the Washington Post described it as an excellent book. “Climate scientists have presented the data,” he said, “and now it's time to strike a strong public chord.”
Alarmist? 
Let's look in more detail at what the book actually says. Okay, it does use pretty alarmist language. 
Towards the end of the book Wallace-Wells says, 
“The emergent portrait of suffering is, I hope, horrifying. It is also, entirely, elective. If we allow global warming to proceed, and to punish us with all the ferocity we have fed it, it will be because we have chosen that punishment– collectively walking down the path of suicide. If we avert it, it will be because we have chosen to walk a different path, and endure.”
And he starts starts his introduction: 
“It is worse, much worse than you think.”
The second part of the book is headed, “Elements of Chaos.” In this section he covers 12 different threats to the future of humanity, from heatstroke death and hunger to economic collapse and climate conflict. All pretty apocalyptic stuff. Our author's a journalist not a scientist and I have to say that a lot of his quoted sources are not scientific papers. But I also have to say that he's putting over many of the same messages as those of economist Lord Stern in 2006, of George Monbiot in his book Heat in 2007 and Mark Lynas in his book Six Degrees in the same year.
Details
The Uninhabitable Earth is a long and detailed book and there are 66 pages of notes where the author identifies his sources and adds comments. I’ve mentioned the threat from sea level rise in the past. He’s fairly dismissive about it, by comparison with the other threats he describes. Even so, he says in the fullness of time you can forget any beach you’ve ever visited because it will be deep under water. Other chapter headings are self-explanatory - hunger, wildfire, freshwater drain, dying oceans, unbreathable air, economic collapse, climate conflict. 
Waste of Energy
Let me just explore a couple of the facts which he throws out along the way. Apparently the amount of energy used for bitcoin mining is equivalent to the total global output of renewable energy. You’ll find his sources for this in the notes at the back of the book. I must admit that I have made several attempts to get my head round bitcoin mining and similar cryptocurrencies and I'm still struggling. It seems to me that bitcoin mining involves finding a winning code which is worth a lot of money by using brute computer force to try every possible combination. How can a bitcoin created in this way have any intrinsic value? It seems to be conferring a right to some value, like a banknote, but for every banknote that is produced, legitimately or otherwise, each banknote is worth that much less. Well it must be, because global value is constant at any given moment and if you divide that value by a larger number of banknotes each one must be worth slightly less. It’s illegal to produce your own banknotes, but it’s not illegal to produce your own bitcoins. And yet bitcoin mining is creating no value while generating this vast carbon footprint threatening the climate. If we stopped bitcoin mining we could shut down an equivalent fossil fuel based generating capacity. Is this cognitive dissonance, holding two conflicting ideas at the same time? The people who undertake this bitcoin mining must be of a fairly high intellectual calibre. They surely would have little problem in understanding climate science. Do they just prefer to ignore it?
Refugee Crisis
Another another scenario addressed in the book is the refugee crisis caused by areas of the earth becoming uninhabitable either because they are underwater, have become so hot and arid that neither crops nor livestock nor people can live there. We're talking about the displacement of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people, far in excess of the numbers of refugees currently generated by war zones and political instability. Such refugees are likely to be driven back and excluded by those countries more fortunately placed. They will take up arms against the poor.
Trump in Puerto Rico
The book quotes the behaviour of President Trump in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017. Apparently he flew in as the relief efforts were under way. He met a crowd of people and threw rolls of paper towels into the audience. Many of these people had lost their houses, had no power, no water, no sanitation, no food. Was this, seriously, Trump’s personal contribution to the relief effort? I thought this sounded highly unlikely, but I found the video on the Washington Post website - there’s a link on the blog: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/it-totally-belittled-the-moment-many-look-back-in-anger-at-trumps-tossing-of-paper-towels-in-puerto-rico/2018/09/13/8a3647d2-b77e-11e8-a2c5-3187f427e253_story.html?utm_term=.ba02cea8b559 
The hurricane immediately killed 64 people and nearly 3,000 died from the after-effects including the destruction of the island’s infrastructure. Trump called his government’s work after Hurricane Maria an “unsung success”. He called the mayor of San Juan incompetent. “President Trump thinks losing 3,000 lives is a success,” said the mayor of San Juan, who has been highly critical of the limited relief from the US. “Can you imagine what he thinks failure looks like?”
The dispute continues today, 18 months on, over whether US aid is sufficient given that the country still has not recovered from the most violent hurricane ever to strike it.
Puerto Rico, by the way, is an American territory and the inhabitants are American citizens. However they do not have votes in the presidential elections and they do not have voting representatives in Congress because Puerto Rico is not a state.

Is this a hint of things to come?
Answers?
The key questions raised by the book are “How soon will all this happen?” and  “Can we do anything about it?” I think that much of Wallace-Wells’s hyperbole comes from frustration. Frustration that yes, we have the technology to mitigate and slow down climate change and adapt to protect ourselves from its worst consequences. Frustration because we had the technology 15 years ago and more when these dangers became apparent, but not enough is being done to meet the challenge. For him it’s not a science problem, it’s a human problem; a problem with getting people to take all these issues seriously and to do something - no, not just something - to do enough about it.
As a global community we are not really taking these issues seriously. Even though some 198 nations have come together, agreed to limit greenhouse gas emissions and signed the Paris Accord, that is by no means enough. Even if the nations meet their promised targets this will not be enough to prevent global temperatures from exceeding 3°C, while the IPCC urges that the safe ceiling is 1.5°C. The word is that when the nations come together next year for the five-year review of progress towards the Paris targets they will already have fallen short of their promises.
More Books
I’ve been recommended to read ’There is no Planet B’ by Mike Berners-Lee, brother of the guy who invented the Internet - which is said to be a counterpoint to “Uninhabitable Earth” on the grounds that it offers some ways out. It’s on my list. I’m going to need more patrons if I’m going to keep buying these books.
While I'm talking about books I’ll mention that I've been reading It's Not Rocket Science by Ben Miller. Yes that's the Ben Miller of the TV series Armstrong & Miller who also starred in the first series of the BBC's Death In Paradise. He's also a Cambridge physicist and Chapter 7 of his book has one of the best accessible analyses of the causes of climate change that I've seen. He covers the impact of the sun, El Nino, volcanoes, water vapour and clouds, as well as the effect of CO2. He ends his chapter on a note of optimism. He wrote it eight years ago. I have written to him via his publishers to ask what he thinks about the situation now.
Who Cares?
You are probably aware, wherever you may live in the world, that the United Kingdom is approaching Brexit, the point at which it leaves the European Union on 29 March. This has dominated our news and the political agenda for several months now and the House of Commons chamber has been packed for each debate. While Brexit will undoubtedly have a fundamental effect on the UK whether we leave or not, with or without a deal, by comparison with the challenges of climate change its significance is trivial. 
UK Climate
Disappointing then, that for a debate on climate change in the Commons last week very few members of parliament bothered to turn up with only about 10 representing the government. One wonders that if they do not appreciate the full significance climate change whether they understand the full implications of Brexit or of any other political issue for that matter.
The debate was a follow-up to the school pupils’ protest a couple of weeks ago against inaction on climate change which the prime minister described as truancy. Commenting on last year’s IPCC report during the debate, Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith said, “If you look at the trends, we are not heading for that apocalyptic 2 degree rise, we are heading for something that looks more like 3 degrees, the consequences of which we cannot possibly estimate.”
In light of that, he said “the idea of children missing a few hours of geometry or PE to wake our political system up is somehow the wrong thing to do, just seems … absurd”.
Green MP Caroline Lucas said, “Time is quickly running out to limit warming even to the 1.5 or 2 degree aspirations of the IPCC. We face a climate emergency … It calls for unprecedented boldness of vision and a new way of thinking.”
At the end of the day it was just another debate. No decisions were taken, no legislation passed. Nothing was actually done.
US Climate - Green Deal
Across the pond the Americans have a Green New Deal. This appears to be based on the reports of the Green New Deal organisation which is based in the UK but takes a global view. Its members include familiar names such as Tony Juniper, Jeremy Leggett and Caroline Lucas.
A fourteen-page legislative resolution, sponsored by Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey has been introduced to the House of Representatives. It recounts the warnings laid out in last year’s IPCC report and calls for “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” through a ten-year “national mobilization”. Its goals include guaranteeing everyone a job, affordable housing, and high-quality health care. 
It has sparked controversy. The president doesn’t like it. According to Fox News, Patrick Moore, the co-founder of the environmentalist group Greenpeace didn’t like it. He called Ocasio-Cortez a pompous little twit. (Let’s hear it for rational argument!) Actually Greenpeace say that he left them long ago, was not a co-founder and certainly doesn’t speak for them.
In its official response Greenpeace said that the resolution for a Green New Deal was moving the national climate debate to places no one thought possible even a year ago. “We stand behind the effort to create millions of family-sustaining union jobs that protect our nation’s clean air, water and communities while confronting systematic injustices head-on.”
But much of the response to the resolution was scathing, angry and aggressive. Many thought the plan went too far too fast. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - also a Democrat - declined to support it, saying it was going beyond the party’s remit which she stated was simply “about saving the planet”.
President’s View
(you can hear what he actually said on the pod)
The president, at a recent rally of the faithful, just made fun of it. 
After all, this is a man who cannot distinguish between climate and weather and is pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement.

Well that's enough for this week.
I leave you with the news that Australia has just finished its warmest summer on record, that urban air pollution is getting seriously worse, but cooking a Christmas dinner creates more pollution in your kitchen than you’ll experience in central Delhi in India on a bad day, and following the launch of the Planetary Diet The Lancet warns about water shortages: “if current dietary trajectories continue, water use will be pushed to the edge of the defined sustainability boundary by 2050.”
And that’s it.
I'm Anthony Day  and I do this podcast every week because I believe that we are facing a very serious challenge in the form of climate change and not doing nearly enough about it. I believe that we can take action to avoid the worst consequences but recycling plastic bottles, installing solar panels and having a weekly meatless day at the individual level is not going to solve it. We need actions from governments. That's why each week I try and make as many people as possible aware that we can do things differently, they don't need to be worse, but if we sit on our hands and do nothing they could be disastrous. Politicians listen to public opinion. In a small way I’m tryin to educate public opinion.
Thanks for your support!
I am most grateful to my patrons who make a monthly contribution towards the costs of hosting the Sustainable Futures Report and I'd be very grateful if you're not already a patron if you would consider signing up for as little as $1 per month. Apart from that I get no subsidy, support or sponsorship.
Send me your email address if you'd like to be reminded of each new episode. I shall be updating the website over the next few weeks and there will be a link there which will allow you to subscribe, or indeed to unsubscribe.
Thanks again for listening. Thanks for your support.
I'm Anthony Day
That was the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday, 8 March 2019. That means there’ll be another on Friday the 15th.
Till then!






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