Friday, May 31, 2019

Time to Talk

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Yes it's Friday. 

I'm back to Fridays and this is Anthony Day  with the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday, 31st May 2019. I hope you enjoyed your Bank Holiday weekend and/or half term and are ready to get back to the daily routine. No more public holidays until the end of August, although most of us will probably have a summer break before that.
It’s reported that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has reached 415 ppm for the first time in human history. The last time Earth experienced such a level there were trees at the South Pole.This month researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded  a level of 415.26, which compares with only 300 ppm as recently as 1910.  Even that was higher than it had ever been for 800,000 years. They say, “The alarming hockey stick trajectory of current CO2 ppm increases mean we basically have no idea how bad things could get if we don't stop adding to the problem at such an accelerated rate.”
Bad News
Meanwhile, Director of the US Geological Survey (USGS) James Reilly – a White House-appointed former oil geologist – ordered that scientific assessments only use computer-generated models that track the possible impact of climate change until 2040, according to The New York Times
Previously the USGS modelled effects until the end of the century, the second half of which is likely to see the most dramatic impacts of global warming. Clearly the administration not only dislikes fake news, it dislikes bad news as well.
In other news,
Opinions on climate change diverge in the US, the new Australian government takes climate-related decisions, the Greens advance in Europe and we hear a perspective from Rotterdam. Sea levels are rising, but oil companies deny any liability while some suggest we could ease the climate crisis by working shorter hours. And what about carbon offsets? It seems my scepticism may have been justified.
Met takes Hard Line
But first, following the Extinction Rebellion protest over the Easter, the Metropolitan Police have said that they want to prosecute all 1,300 demonstrators who were arrested. They have vowed that disruption at this level will not be allowed to occur again. This could be seen as a reaction by the police to the fact that the demonstrations took much longer to clear than expected and the total cost of the operation was some £7.5m. The Met’s image was not helped by footage of officers on duty skateboarding and dancing with protesters.
The fact remains that we have a difficult situation, indeed Extension Rebellion calls it a crisis situation. In their view the government is not doing enough to address the climate crisis or even to admit that there is a climate crisis, which is Extinction Rebellion’s first demand. How should citizens be able to influence the actions of the government? In the UK we have a problem that, at least until recently, the electoral system has delivered a ruling party with a substantial majority. This has meant that the Prime Minister and Cabinet have effectively ruled without having to consider public opinion or even to fight to get their legislation through Parliament. It has come to the point where individual citizens have taken the government to court for acting beyond its authority, or for not meeting its legal obligations. For example, after the Brexit referendum the government announced that it would give formal notice to the EU that the UK was leaving under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Gina Miller took the government to court and the judges upheld her contention that the government could not trigger Article 50 without the approval of the members of parliament.
The government lost the action and Article 50 was not triggered until after MPs had voted on it. On the other hand, campaigning legal group Client Earth have prosecuted the British government three times and are about to embark on a fourth action to insist that the government should meet European regulations on air quality. Each time so far Client Earth has won its action and each time the government has failed to comply with the court’s ruling. Effectively they are treating both the court and the people with contempt.
To take legal action against a government is hardly desirable and in any case is extremely expensive and delays are not unknown to the legal system. Faced with this situation Extinction Rebellion decided that the only way to get the government’s attention was to adopt a policy of civil disobedience. The government can ignore the activists or back the police in driving them off the streets. Extension Rebellion supporters have said that for every activist who is jailed there will be others to take their places. We cannot afford confrontation: there must be a dialogue, but it takes two to talk. 
Split Opinions
A report from the Yale Program on Climate Communication suggests that US voters are more widely split on climate change than they are on abortion or gun control. At least it’s clear that climate will be an issue in the 2020 election. Climate was an issue in the recent Australian election, but in a surprise result the environmentally-focused Labor Party failed to win. A major topic of disagreement was the development of a $2 billion coal mine owned by India's Adani Group. The project had been on hold, blocked by the Queensland government. Once the election results became clear Queensland dropped its objections and construction could start within weeks. Commentators suggest that legislators were afraid of a backlash in the forthcoming state elections if they continued to block the mine.
In another election, the elections to the European Parliament, the Greens made gains in most countries. They now have 69 members instead of 50, a significant increase but still a small proportion of the 751 seats.
View from Rotterdam
From time to time I mention the oil market reports from James Spencer of Portland Fuel. At Easter he visited the Netherlands and he writes of a trip to Rotterdam’s Europoort. He says, “To travel the 40km from the mouth of the Rhine (Nieuwe Mass) to the centre of Rotterdam is akin to visiting some kind of industrial wonderland and really has to be seen to be believed – no written description can ever do justice to the sheer scale of the place. Here is Europe’s largest container port, cheek by jowl with oil processing, steel works, power stations and every possible mode of transport going. As you drive inland, sometimes it feels that there are more barges travelling down the Rhine than there are vehicles on the road. Add to that the Freight trains that pass every 5 minutes, more wind turbines than you can shake a stick at, tunnels, bridges and concrete causeways in every direction, and you have one of the most exciting, vibrant industrial areas on the planet.”
He goes on to describe how oil and petrochemicals are at the heart of all this, how the area supports some 400,000 jobs - mostly highly skilled and highly paid - and how Europoort is fundamental to the Netherlands’ economic prosperity.
At the other end of the earth, in Australia, one of the election campaign slogans was “There will be no jobs on a dead planet”. 
We have to decarbonise, but these two extremes demonstrate how incredibly difficult it will be to move away from fossil fuels, while preserving jobs, communities and ongoing economic stability. All of this should have been planned 30 or 40 years ago. Time is much shorter now and effective action will be much more difficult and disruptive. It will take competent, far-sighted and determined politicians to achieve it. I hope we can find some.
Politicians in Australia have clearly failed to step up to that plate. Politicians in the US have turned their backs on the  Paris Agreement and are pretending it will all go away.
Sea Levels Rising
A new report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of sciences of the USA casts doubts on predicted levels of sea level rise by 2100. Previously it was expected that levels would increase by no more than 1m by the end of the century, but the researchers now find that a global total Sea Level Rise exceeding 2m by 2100 lies within the 90% uncertainty bounds for a high emission scenario. This is more than twice the upper value put forward by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in the Fifth Assessment Report. They make the point that the contribution of melting ice-caps to rising sea levels is extremely hard to predict, but they believe that their calculations indicate that adaptation measures should be reviewed and revised to cope with increased risk. As David Attenborough pointed out in his recent documentaries, 600 million people live in coastal communities less than ten metres above sea level. This includes many of the richest and most important cities in the world. 
No Liability
Climate Liability News reports that the oil companies argue that cities cannot sue for climate liability.
Industry trade groups, several law professors, a free-market legal think tank, the U.S. government and 18 states have rallied behind five major oil companies in fighting a major climate liability lawsuit. They filed a flurry of briefs supporting the companies against claims by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland that seek to hold the oil companies accountable for the costs of adapting to sea level rise and other climate impacts. Among other things they argue that the issue is political and that that the courts have no power to rule on political issues. This is similar to the line taken by the US government in the Juliana case. Remember the Juliana case? I haven’t mentioned it for a while, but it’s still going on. It’s a case where a group of young people are suing the government for ruining their life chances by allowing the oil companies to operate in a way which poisons the planet. Juliana is four years older than when the action started. The government is continuing to use all possible legal means to get the action struck out and to prevent it from ever coming to trial.
In the other case Exxon alleges that two state attorneys general are violating its First Amendment right to express its opinion on climate change. Chevron has taken a similar position.
Two things are clear. 
1- San Francisco and Oakland will need to spend billions on flood protection. 
2 - The works will probably be finished long before the case is decided.
What can I do?
What can we do to do our bit to tackle the climate crisis? That’s a constant question, but here are two suggestions: 
Work Less
“The Ecological Limits of Work” published by Autonomy Research suggests that we should drastically cut the working week. Author Philipp Frey draws on previous research showing that every reduction in the working week yields a corresponding reduction in carbon emissions, and that the sustainable level of working hours is very much less than the current 40. In fact his calculations support a working week of less than 10 hours.
Frey says, “I would [thus] argue that the climate crisis calls for an unprecedented decrease in the economic activity that causes GHG emissions, and this confronts us with, [to adapt Paul Lafargue’s phrase,] the ‘necessity to be lazy’. If ecological sustainability requires an overall decrease in material consumption, a vast expansion in terms of leisure time and thus an increase in “time prosperity” would be less of a luxury and more of an urgency.” 
He accepts that cutting the working week alone will not have the desired effect on emissions and must be accompanied by other policies. For example, manufacturing and fossil fuel extraction should give way to employment in service professions and green jobs such as reforestation operations. 
From my reading of the paper I cannot see whether the reduced working week is expected to pay the same income as the current week. If not, no-one will be able to afford to cut their hours. If so, won’t this make production impossibly expensive? It’s an interesting idea. I’ll try and track Philipp Frey down and ask him some questions.
Another publication from Autonomy, “The Shorter Working Week: a powerful tool to drastically reduce carbon emissions” adds to the discussion. Find a link to this on the blog. 
Plant Trees
The second suggestion of what we can do is carbon offsets. They seem to have dropped out of favour recently. Time was that when you booked a flight you were invited to buy some trees to offset the emissions you were going to create. The whole logic of Drax power station’s conversion to biomass burning is based on the theory that all the wood that is consumed is offset by new growth which absorbs an equivalent amount of co2. In the case of Drax, that new growth is in the US where their wood pellets come from, so they are trying again to develop carbon capture and storage to take away and sequester all the co2 which is actually emitted by the burning the wood on site.
I’ve always been sceptical of carbon offsets. After all, it will take years for a tree to absorb the equivalent co2 to the amount that your flight could have emitted in an afternoon. And if you plant trees and you don’t go flying you are actually reducing the global co2 load. But if you plant trees, unless someone looks after them for 100 years they won’t absorb and lock away the expected co2.
Now ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom based in the US presents “An Even More Inconvenient Truth - why carbon credits for forest preservation may be worse than nothing.” Their researchers in Brazil found that plantations intended to act as offsets had either not been planted or had never offset as much carbon as intended. On a global scale a 2016 report found that 85% of offsets had a “low likelihood” of creating real impacts. This is partly because the money charged for the carbon offsets was not enough to manage the planting schemes. 
An alternative approach to planting new trees is to pay developing countries for not cutting down forests. The UN formalised the concept as REDD, or Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The UN supported pilot programs, as did the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Non-governmental organisations and private companies funded hundreds of small-scale offset projects, and a few countries launched “results-based” programmes, which reward preservation without generating offsets.
Unfortunately there is no central authority to deal with the varieties of REDD that now exist. No one has done a comprehensive assessment of how effective these programmes actually are. In some cases investigators found that REDD was simply layered onto existing conservation plans, reducing it to a “logo to attract financing.”
When a tree is destroyed, all the carbon accumulated over its lifetime is released back into the atmosphere. CO2 persists in the atmosphere for about 100 years, so to truly offset carbon emissions the trees that are bought as offsets must live for at least 100 years. Many don’t.
In 2014, FIFA bought a batch of credits to help fulfil a sustainability pledge it made before the World Cup in Brazil. The offsets came from a project launched by the Paiter-SuruĂ­ tribe in the Brazilian state of RondĂ´nia . The project aimed to cut deforestation in highly logged areas along the territory’s borders, and it received funding from USAID. But some members of the tribe, disillusioned by the amount of money going to international groups for logistics management, colluded with loggers and anti-REDD activists to sabotage the project.
The project sold 250,000 credits. It was suspended last year, after the loggers destroyed more trees than all the credits sold.
Similar stories come from Cambodia and other parts of the world.
Let’s not forget that if carbon offset projects worked perfectly and locked up an amount of carbon equivalent to the amount emitted by the organisations buying the offsets we would only be in exactly the same position as we were before. Carbon offsets are too often seen as a cheap “Get out of jail free” card, allowing polluters to pay some money and go on polluting. Trees are one of the best ways of extracting CO2 from the air. We need more trees, we need to halt deforestation and we need industries to re-engineer themselves to stop pollution at source. No-one should be allowed to ease their conscience on the back of the offset myth.
And Finally,
And finally, did you send me a book? Somebody did. It came in the post last week. I think it’s my book and I must have lent it to someone who’s decided to return it. No note. But if it was you, thank you very much. The book by the way is “Enough is Enough, Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources” by Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill. It’s a good read. You can borrow it if you if you like.
Next Week
Next week I’ll be talking about waste, particularly electronic waste, an idea suggested by patron Shane. Two more patrons have recently joined so here’s a shout-out for Gordon Kinnear and Darren Paris. Thank you and thanks to all my patrons for your support. If you’re not yet a patron and would like to be one, just pop across to where you can support the Sustainable Futures Report for as little as $1 per month. Your ideas and comments are aways welcome, either via Patreon or to
Date for your Diary
Before I go, here’s a date for your diary - 26th June. On that date The Climate Coalition and Greener UK are organising a mass lobby of the Westminster parliament to urge the government to act on the climate emergency. I’m hoping to be there. Details at
That’s it for another episode of the Sustainable Futures Report.
I’m Anthony Day.
Thank you for listening. Thank you for your support.
There’ll be another episode next week.


Climate crisis more politically polarizing than abortion for US voters, study finds


Co2 415ppm

Floods in 2009 and 2015 were worst in Cumbria for centuries – study
Climate crisis more politically polarizing than abortion for US voters, study finds

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Running to Catch Up

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I’m Running to Catch Up

The working title for this episode was Grounds for Optimism, because good things are happening on the sustainability front. Not nearly enough and many challenges remain, but credit where credit’s due. 
Hello, it’s Tuesday 21st May 2019, I'm Anthony Day with the latest edition of your Sustainable Futures Report and indeed I’m running to catch up with all the issues and sustainability news which has happened since my last podcast and while I’ve been away. I'm back. I'm on the case. There's plenty to do.
In positive news, 
Extinction Rebellion founder Roger Hallam was cleared by a jury over his King's College protest, the Committee on Climate Change believes that the UK 'can cut emissions to nearly zero' by 2050, Greta Thunberg addressed MPs and the UK Parliament subsequently declared a climate change emergency and on the face of it it’s good news that climate change has been a key issue in the Australian election campaign.
On a more challenging note,
After the Extinction Rebellion London protests Cressida Dick, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, called for stronger penalties for demonstrators, the Committee on Climate change warned that it might be necessary to curb the growth in UK flying while the Environment Agency predicted that flooding caused by the climate crisis could force some UK towns to be abandoned. Earlier this month more than a million people had to be evacuated as Cyclone Fani hit India and Bangladesh with costs of damage estimated at more than $4 billion. There are signs of faster melting in world's largest ice shelf and the British government has had to lend £100m to British Steel, a private company, to help it pay its carbon bill.
Upside Down in Australia
First, things seem to have been turned upside down in Australia. Last weekend voters went to the polls in the full expectation that the Liberal coalition would be thrown out of government and the Labor party led by Bill Shorten would take over. The polls have been predicting this for at least the last six months. This election is important because climate change was a major topic of debate. Australia has its climate problems. As a nation it has one of the largest carbon footprints per head in the world. Much of its prosperity is based on mining and exporting fossil fuels - coal and gas. Bill Shorten recognised that action had to be taken but he was criticised throughout the campaign for not specifying how much all this would cost or how it would be paid for. In the end voters rejected what they saw as negative messages. Against the odds, Scott Morrison’s Liberal coalition held on to power and Bill Shorten resigned as Labor leader. No new green policies in Australia, then. How far will Scott Morrison go the other way?
One of the campaign slogans is worth thinking about: 
There will be no jobs on a dead planet.

ER in Court
For the two weeks over Easter Extinction Rebellion supporters attempted to block roads across London. Over 1,000 of them were arrested, including founder Roger Hallam. He was one of the few who were actually prosecuted, and in his case it was for alleged criminal damage because he wrote slogans on the walls of Kings College urging the institution to divest itself of oil and gas investments. After a three-day trial the jury found that the potential danger from the climate crisis that Hallam was drawing attention to was far greater then the damage caused by writing the slogans. He and his co-defendant were acquitted. 
Extinction Rebellion’s demands are that the government should tell the truth and recognise that there is a climate crisis, take action to counter it and set up a citizen’s assembly to determine the way forward. They have pledged to continue action until these demands are met. Their actions over Easter blocked several roads in London and the costs of policing the action were reported to be £7.5m. 
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick complained that the legislation under which the police could act was out-dated and she called on the government to look at new laws to impose harsher penalties for civil disobedience. Extinction Rebellion has said that until the government accepts its demands it will continue to demonstrate. Cressida Dick says that next time the police will be ready to act much more swiftly and be much quicker to make arrests. Some demonstrators have made it clear that they will not be deterred, even by the prospect of imprisonment. 
Home Secretary Sajid Javid, also a contender in the race to replace Theresa May as prime minister, said, 
“Let me be clear: I totally condemn any protesters who are stepping outside the boundaries of the law. They have no right to cause misery for the millions of people who are trying to lead their daily lives. Unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated.”
Let’s hope that the government will engage in dialogue rather than confrontation. Let’s hope. 
There will be no prime ministers, and no police commissioners on a dead planet.

Going for Zero
Earlier this month a report from the Committee on Climate Change stated that the UK ‘[could] cut emissions to nearly zero' by 2050. The UK has already made good progress, but as we move towards the goal, cuts in emissions will be more expensive and more difficult to find. The report says,
“This is a crucial time in the global effort to tackle climate change. Global average temperature has already risen by 1°C from pre-industrial levels, driving changes in our climate that are apparent increasingly. In the last ten years, pledges to reduce emissions by the countries of the world have reduced the forecast of global warming from above 4°C by the end of the century to around 3°C.  Net-zero in the UK would lead the global effort to further limit the rise to 1.5°C.
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has emphasised the vital importance of limiting further warming to as low a level as possible and the need for deep and rapid emissions reductions in order to do so.
“The CCC’s recommended targets, which cover all sectors of the UK, Scottish and Welsh economies, are achievable with known technologies, alongside improvements in people’s lives, and should be put into law as soon as possible, the Committee says.
“Falls in cost for some of the key zero-carbon technologies mean that achieving net-zero is now possible within the economic cost that Parliament originally accepted when it passed the Climate Change Act in 2008.”
The steps which the committee prescribes include,
  • Quadrupling the supply of low-carbon electricity by 2050,
  • Improving the efficiency of the whole of the UK’s building stock and introducing low-carbon heating 
  • Introducing electric vehicles, which should be the only option from 2035 or earlier, (the present target for the UK government is 2040, although many other countries have chosen earlier dates.)
  • Developing carbon capture and storage technology and low-carbon hydrogen.  The committee says these are a necessity not an option, but such development has not so far been successful on a commercial scale,
  • Stopping biodegradable waste going to landfill, 
  • Phasing-out potent fluorinated gases, (presumably used in refrigerators and air conditioning) 
  • Increasing tree planting
  • Introduce measures to reduce emissions on farms. 
Action needed
The committee notes, however, that these policies must be urgently strengthened and must deliver tangible emissions reductions – current policy is not enough even for existing targets.
Extinction Rebellion’s demand is that the UK should reach net zero by 2025 - completely impossible in the view of the committee. Even the 2050 target will be challenging. 
If the UK is to achieve a net-zero GHG target by 2050 and at acceptable cost the committee believes that clear, stable and well-designed policies across the emitting sectors of the economy must be introduced without delay. Government must set the direction and provide the urgency, and the public will need to be engaged if the transition is to succeed. 
Fair Distribution
The committee makes the point that the costs of the transition to a net-zero economy must be fairly distributed. There must be policy changes as well. For example, the committee urges the government to review its intentions to expand aviation and recommends that the decision to build Heathrow’s third runway should be brought back to Parliament, presumably with the intention to cancel.
The committee describes numerous benefits, apart from emissions reductions, as a result of these changes.
These include, it says, benefits to people’s health from better air quality, less noise thanks to quieter vehicles, more active travel thanks to increased rates of cycling and walking, healthier diets, and increased recreational benefits from changes to land use.
In addition, the UK could receive an industrial boost as it leads the way in low-carbon products and services including electric vehicles, finance and engineering, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen technologies with potential benefits for exports, productivity and jobs.
Clearly the responsibility is laid firmly on the government. Governments throughout the world have similar obligations. For the last three years the UK government has been focussed on Brexit to the exclusion of all else. We cannot wait until that is out of the way for the government to act.
Greta from Sweden
Greta Thunberg, the schoolgirl behind the school strikes on Fridays has been in the news this month. She has been roundly criticised in a number of countries, although nobody has successfully challenged arguments, relying instead on personal abuse. She spoke to Parliament in the UK and was quite scathing about the creative accounting which the UK government has used to claim good progress on emissions reduction. At least after her visit there was a parliamentary debate on climate and it was agreed that there was indeed a climate emergency. This agreement was reached by all parties without a vote, but its conclusion does not commit the government to do anything. There is still a way to go on that. It will be interesting to see how the climate emergency figures in the party manifestos for the next general election, which as you know will take place in 2022, or possibly next month given the current febrile state of UK politics.
Environment Agency Speaks
Also this month Environment Agency Chair, Emma Howard Boyd launching a major, long-term strategy to tackle flooding and coastal change. “We cannot win a war against water by building higher flood defences,” she said, and called for a new approach to ensure communities are resilient to the threat of flooding posed by climate change.
Opening an 8-week consultation on the new strategy, Emma Howard Boyd said that the Environment Agency was preparing for a potential 4°C rise in global temperature and urgent action was needed to tackle more frequent, intense flooding and sea level rise. That’s very interesting because the IPCC has said that we need to limit warming to 1.5℃ to avoid reaching the tipping point towards climate disaster. The Environment Agency clearly doesn't think we're going to make it and so is planning for a 4°C increase.
Ms Howard Boyd went on to say,
“The coastline has never stayed in the same place and there have always been floods, but climate change is increasing and accelerating these threats.
“We can’t win a war against water by building away climate change with infinitely high flood defences. We need to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience in England that help communities better understand their risk and give them more control about how to adapt and respond.”
Resilience 2050
The strategy calls for all infrastructure to be flood resilient by 2050 and the Environment Agency has committed to working with risk management authorities and infrastructure providers to achieve this.
In addition to resilience measures, an average of £1 billion will need to be invested each year in traditional flood and coastal defences and natural flood management. The National Audit Office has previously reported that for every £1 spent on protecting communities, around £9 in property damages and wider impacts is avoided.
“Build back better” means rebuilding flooded properties with greater resilience, like raised power points, flood doors, solid floors and tiled walls that can be easily cleaned.
Moving On
However, in some cases, the scale of flooding or coastal change may be so significant the concept of ‘build back better’ may not be appropriate. This may mean potentially moving communities out of harm’s way in the longer term.
According to the Sun Newspaper, entire towns could be relocated. That’s not exactly what the lady said, more of an extrapolation.
Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said:
Everyone can see climate change accelerating. The UK urgently needs to stay ahead of worsening impacts by adapting. The Environment Agency is doing just that by setting out their flood strategy but we won’t be able to keep up with the pace of change if we don’t reduce emissions to zero. The Committee on Climate Change’s net zero report shows how to do that.
Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission said:
It’s essential that the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy, published this autumn as part of the Spending Review, adopts our recommendation and backs this up with a robust and effective plan for funding and delivery.
Huw Evans, Director General of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said:
A lack of major floods in recent years is no cause for complacency. As well as building defences we need to increase awareness of flood risk and encourage home and business owner to put in place their own measures to protect their properties too.
Lack of major floods? He obviously wasn’t in York on Boxing Day 2015. The Environment Agency is still working on the new flood defences for the city.
Nicolas Aubert, of Willis Towers Watson said:
The financial sector must redouble its efforts to address climate risks and, working with the public sector, support the investment and other interventions needed to deliver national and local resilience, now, and in the decades ahead.
Experts have spoken. Let’s hope the government is listening.
Global Perspective
We don't just get floods and storms in the UK, of course. Fani, a rare summer cyclone in the Bay of Bengal, hit eastern India on May 03. It is one of the strongest cyclones to have hit India in the last 20 years, according to the Indian government’s meteorological department. Storm surges and powerful winds reaching 125 mph blew off roofs, damaged power lines, and uprooted countless trees. And don’t forget reports of Cyclone Idai which brought catastrophe to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and the island of Madagascar back in March. It’s long gone from the news reports of course, but don’t believe that everything is back to normal. It won’t be for months - probably years. Just to put things in perspective…
The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) is a biennial multi-stakeholder forum established by the UN General Assembly to review progress, share knowledge and discuss the latest developments and trends in reducing disaster risk. The latest session took place last week.
Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation Petteri Taalas told the assembly: "We live with the highest concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 3 million years. The four warmest years on record have been in the past four years and the warming trend which has lasted since the start of this century is expected to continue as a result of the increase in greenhouse gas levels. Climate change mitigation is essential, as is climate change adaptation,” he stressed.
“Last year, in the United States alone, there were 14 weather- and climate-related disasters where the devastation cost more than US$1 billion dollars each, with a total of some US$49 billion. Worldwide, more than 35 million people were affected by floods. This year, tropical cyclone Idai left more than 1,000 people dead in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, and only a few weeks later tropical cyclone Kenneth was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall and strike the furthest north in Mozambique since modern records began,” said Mr Taalas.
Stormy Weather
There are continuing signs that weather is becoming more extreme. According to Professor Ian Young of the University of Melbourne the world’s oceans have become more stormy during the past three decades.
The findings add to concerns that as the world gets hotter, extreme events such as storms and floods could become more frequent and more devastating in their impact.
Slight increases in average wave height and wind speed were recorded in oceans across the globe, with the strongest effects in the Southern Ocean. Extreme winds in the Southern Ocean have increased by 1.5 metres per second, or 8%, over the past 30 years, while the highest waves have increased in height by 30 centimetres, or 5%. The strongest winds increased in the equatorial Pacific and Atlantic and the North Atlantic by about 0.6 metres per second.
“Although increases of 5% and 8% might not seem like much, if sustained into the future such changes to our climate will have major impacts,” said Prof Young.
Ice Warning
Meanwhile, an article in Nature Geoscience reveals that melting of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica is speeding up as warmer water melts it from below. The Ross Ice Shelf is a floating mass of ice the size of France. If floating ice melts it has no direct effect on sea levels. Just as, if you have ice in your gin and tonic, when the ice cube melts it doesn’t cause your glass to overflow. However, the sheer bulk of the Ross Ice Shelf acts as a brake on the glaciers flowing off the Antarctic continent into the sea. As this braking effect weakens and the glaciers flow faster they increase sea levels at a faster rate as they flow off the land into the sea.

And In Other News
Private company British Steel has been negotiating with the government for a £100m loan to help it pay off its bill for EU carbon credits. The situation has changed since the British government opted for Brexit. However, the news indicates that by the time you hear this British Steel may be in administration. Clearly it’s got more problems than just the EU-ETS. (Emissions Trading Scheme). Does this mean the company’s furnaces will go cold and its emissions cease?
In London this week BP headquarters have been blockaded by Greenpeace. Activists have installed heavy metal containers outside each entrance to the building. There are two people in each unit locked in for the long haul and kitted out with food, books to read, phones and a portable toilet. Other activists have chained themselves to the top of the units. Says Greenpeace: “ BP can’t continue as if it’s business as usual in this #ClimateEmergency we’re in.” 
BP staff have been told to stay at home.
The blocks were installed on Monday 20th and the company’s AGM takes place on Tuesday 21st. At the time of writing it’s not clear whether the protesters are still in position.
The government has come in for repeated criticism and legal action because of its poor record on atmospheric pollution. It’s introduced the London Low Emission Zone and encouraged local councils to urge drivers in stationary traffic to turn off their engines and to penalise those that don’t. Now an article in The Conversation claims that turning off your engine could have the opposite effect. It all turns on the catalytic converter. This device strips noxious gases from the exhaust stream, but it only works when it’s hot. The argument is that when the engine is turned off the catalyst cools down so that when the engine is restarted it emits much more pollution than it would have done if the engine had been idling. So far only one study has been carried out on one model of car in the US. More research is definitely needed. Or maybe we should all go electric.
The electric car is not quite here yet. Certainly the UK charging infrastructure is fragmented, unstandardised and unreliable. How about the electric taxi? The electric flying taxi. I’ve always been very sceptical about flying cars but this autonomous flying taxi, capable of carrying 5 passengers for 150 km, could be the future. It’s in development at the moment but it looks amazing. Have a look at the video on the website: 

And Finally…
I need your help. I’ve been invited to appear on Radio Sangam next month and chat to presenter Martin Morrison about the climate crisis and other environmental issues for two hours. He’s asked me to suggest 10 songs to play. Have you any ideas? Bear in mind that the station broadcasts principally to the Asian community. Let me know at

And that’s it. Apologies for the break in transmission. I’m aiming to get back to my weekly timetable with the next episode on Friday 31st May. Particular thanks to my Patrons for staying with me. If you’d like to show your support and keep the Sustainable Futures Report ad-free please go to and sponsor me from as little as $1 per month. It all goes towards my hosting and research costs.
I’m Anthony Day.
Thanks for listening
That was the Sustainable Futures Report and there’ll be another next week.

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