Sunday, February 25, 2007

tarnished green power

My recent article on green electricity companies strongly recommended Ecotricity and Good Energy. I stand by that absolutely, but in researching the piece there were a couple of things I found that troubled me.

As awareness of climate change increases, many of the most blatant profligate emission industries are coming up with greenwash ‘offset’ projects. I've written before about why carbon offsets are a fraud.

And frankly, there is no way for an airline or an oil company to be sustainable, or indeed do anything other than accelerate climate change. In order to spin out their dwindling legitimacy, corporations in these kinds of industries will do some piece of social good.

Sponsorship of major cultural events is common. Shell sponsor the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, ignoring the impact on wildlife of the carbon emissions from using their products, the impacts of extraction or what happens when it goes wrong and there are spills.

Shell oiled wildlife

Top marks to the people who bluntly illustrated the link by spraying the exhibition with oil.

oil on canvas

But for real biscuit-taking, an ecocidal corporation will do a bit of high profile ecological good. Shell run Shell Springboard, giving cash awards for small businesses with ideas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rio Tinto buy themselves a ‘partnership’ with the British Trust of Conservation Volunteers. Assorted branches of the car industry switch their power source to renewables.

Ecotricity installed and maintain wind turbines at Michelin’s Dundee factory and Ford’s Dagenham plant. This means that diesel Jaguar engines are now made with renewable energy. Ecotricity trumpet this fact without shame or irony.

It’s one thing for Ecotricity to buy the necessary extra energy from non-renewables in order to generate profit for new-build wind farms, with a clear and swift timeframe for weaning off the nukes and fossils. But to lend your good name and eco-credibility in an ongoing way to an industry that is one of the prime causes of climate change – more than a fifth of the UK’s CO2 emissions come from the transport sector – stretches the principle to breaking point. Car plants should be assailed and occupied rather than turbined.

Are Good Energy any better on that front? Their chief executive Juliet Davenport was on last year's panel of judges for the aforementioned Shell Springboard awards. When challenged about it, she said she didn’t think Shell got any real publicity value from it. Yeah right, doing it for fun I suppose.

If you’re a Good Energy customer and a friend of yours signs up with them and mentions you as their recommender, both you and your friend are sent a free bottle of organic wine - from Chile, food miles fans.

All that said, whilst these things are undoubtedly dubious and counter-productive, these are points are nonetheless small diversions from the big issue. Both companies still stand head, shoulders and indeed up to their insteps above the big companies' green electricity tariffs.


Leo Lane said...

You might like to reconsider your supportive attitude to global warming assertions.
The global warming enthusiasts have a slight problem. The globe is currently cooling, despite all the greenhouse gases we are said to be currently creating
This is not news to anyone who has followed the debate, but when reputable scientists give an honest assessment of global warming the alarmists immediately come up with some specious attack on the scientist, such as their having produced reports for mining or oil companies, in the past, and on that basis their work is not trusted. This is backed up with the “overwhelming consensus” argument, which carries no weight in science, but seems to work with the public. The majority of Australians apparently believe the myth of global warming from human activity.

The United Nations, is the darling of the AGW faith. IPCC is the highest authority, to them, on

The UN does, indeed, employ top scientists to produce reports.

UN then publishes a Summary for Policymakers, stated to be based
on the authority of the scientific reports. The summary is not prepared by scientists, but by the UN employed publicists, who present the material so that certainty is given to highly speculative parts of the reports. Global warming from human activity is asserted in the summary, although there is no scientific evidence for it.

A recent case in Queensland, Australia, was brought by conservationists against Xstrata, a large mining company, to oppose an approval for coalmining on the basis that coal produced greenhouse gases, which produced global warming.

The United Nations summary came to the attention of the judge, Greg
Koppenol. It was published after evidence had closed, but he considered it important and relevant, so he called for submissions, from the parties, on it, and took it into account.

The summary had the expected assertions about greenhouse gases being
produced by human activity and global warming increasing. The graphs
included were from scientific reports, and appeared to back up the

By carefully reading the key to one of the graphs, and scrutinizing
the graph itself, the judge found that it showed that global warming
peaked in 1998. It showed that there has been no global warming since 1998, but
there has been some cooling.

The total warming of the globe from 1900 to 2006 is one
half of one degree. The cooling since 1998 is one twentieth of one

With all the fuss about the greenhouse gases we are currently producing, the
globe has not warmed since 1998, and has cooled during the last eight
years. No wonder the greenies want to ditch "global warming", and
switch to the meaningless mantra of "climate change".

The web address of the case is:

Relevant extract from the case :

"[17] Finally, the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change's Summary for Policymakers was released on 2
February 2007.[6] It relevantly concluded that is very likely that
human-induced GHGs are causing global warming, and that most of the
observed increases in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-
20th century are very likely due to the observed increase in
anthropogenic (human-caused) GHG concentrations. However, a close
examination of the global mean temperature chart (Fig SPM-3), which
was said to support that view, reveals that the last 106 years had 3
periods of cooling (1900-1910, 1944-1976, 1998-2006) and 2 periods of
warming (1910-1944, 1976-1998) and that temperatures rose only 0.5°C
from 1900 to 2006. The largest temperature change in the 20th century
was a 0.75°C rise between 1976 and 1998, But the fact that very
similar rises have previously occurred (1852-1878, 0.65°C and 1910-
1944, 0.65°C) was not specifically mentioned or causally explained in
the Summary. Also not mentioned or causally explained is the fact
that temperatures have actually fallen 0.05°C over the last 8 years.

[18] If a comparison is made of temperatures over the last 55 years
(1951-2006), as the IPCC presumably did in reaching its conclusion,
the chart shows that average temperatures increased from 13.85°C
(1951) to 14.45°C (2006)—an increase of 0.6°C. As "most" of that
increase is said by the IPCC to be due to increases in GHGs, it
follows that the temperature increase of concern is about 0.45°C
(0.45°C being 75% of or "most" of 0.6°C ). With all respect, a
temperature increase of only about 0.45°C over 55 years seems a
surprisingly low figure upon which to base the IPCC's concerns about
its inducing many serious changes in the global climate system during
the 21st century."
It will be interesting to watch them deal with the evidence from their own revered icon, the United Nations.
Jock Lenehan

merrick said...

Leo, there have indeed been fluctuations in temperature before modern times (though I note the examples cited are all in the industrial age). There have been temperature fluctuations since the earth formed.

The “overwhelming consensus” argument does in fact carry wieght in science. If, as is the case with anthropogenic climate change, you have over 98% of climatologists in agreement, it carries more weight than someone making something up off the top of their head.

By all means let someone put forward their evidence of what they think is happening and let it be judged accordingly. that's what's happened. they say the earth is heating.

0.5% in a century is not a small rise. Around 2% would see coral reefs killed off. At around 6% we risk losing the ability to support human life.

The World Meteorological Organisation say that the last century is probably the fastest temperature increase of the last millennium.

Antarctic ice cores show that CO2 and methane levels are the highest now for at least 650,000 years.

Now Leo, can we agree that the atmosphere contains carbon dioxide and methane; that those gases affect global temperatures; that adding more of them to the atmosphere increases their effect; and that humans are giving out a net increase in the emission of those gases?

If you agree to those things, you agree that there is anthropogenic climate change. If you disagree with any or all of them, you disagree with some very basic physics.

The IPCC summary may well be written by publicists. That's because it is a summary of a report to be published in a month or so. the report collates data from thousands of climatologists.

The IPCC has had one or two climatologists remove their support following reports. Out of thousands who contributed and support the findings.

When a survey of around 1,000 scientific papers in Science - a peer reviewed journal - finds no scientific paper disagrees with the consensus position, when the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for The Advancement of Science, the American Meteorological Society, the UK's Royal Society and pretty much every other respected body in the field has given clear statements that there is anthropogenic climate change and that the world is heating faster now than for a very long time and we're making it speed up very quickly, I'm inclined to listen.

Read what the IPCC actually say. They are not saying there's global cooling and it's all OK. Quite the opposite. The only doubts are given out by politicians, media and vested interests.

How strong do you want the evidence to be and how great the risk before you'll believe it's worth changing our behaviour?

merrick said...

Oh look. It's a few weeks later and the second report's come out.

Has there been uproar from climatologists complaining that weaselly UN publicists misrepresented the science?

No. It makes it clear that it's all happening. More, for the first time it includes data gathered that proves earlier projections and forecasts were correct.

So, can denialists please stop pretending the scientists are on their side? And can they just shut the fuck up until they've checked whether what they say is true?