Sunday, December 16, 2007

unite for subjugation

They were so setting us up for an invasion of Iran because, like Iraq, it has a lot of oil and a government unfriendly to the West.

As early as last year, the Daily Telegraph was running maps showing the range of missiles from Iran and how they could hit the UK. Saddam's 45 minutes, anyone?

The only thing that could stop the looming invasion would be a sudden disappearance of our thirst for oil. Or else somebody with a power greater than the USA, who, we should remember, possess the largest arsenal of weaponry ever assembled. Neither sounds likely, does it?

Over and over the Americans talked of Iran's secret plans to make nuclear weapons and how stopping them was a matter of urgency. As recently as October, Vice President Dick Cheney was on his hind legs angling for invasion to avert Iran's feverish efforts to build nuclear weapons.

"Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions," Cheney said in a speech Sunday to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

He said Iran's efforts to pursue technology that would allow it to build a nuclear weapon are obvious and that "the regime continues to practice delay and deceit in an obvious effort to buy time."

Then this month, the greater power stepped in.

A National Intelligence Estimate report - a pooling of the knowledge and opinions of all America's security services - said that Iran stopped its weapons programme in 2003, and would be unable to make nuclear weapons until 2010-2015, quite possible not until after then. Even if they wanted to, which it may not as Iran 'is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging'.

It's a total U-turn for the USA, completely at odds with the extension of the oil empire. Overnight, it has squashed the drive to invade.

What was behind this? Who could be the puppeteer pulling such massive strings? Who could overrule Iran and the Americans at a stroke? Who is it who needs to heal international rifts so he can pave the way for a single world government of evil totalitarian shapeshifting lizards? Who - already noted as 'the only international artist to at the celebrations when East and West Germany were re-unified' - is now off to Tehran, the first Western musician to do so since the Islamic revolution of 1979 that banned all Western pop music?

Friday, December 07, 2007

asking the wrong question

You know, that speech of Claire Fauset's from the Global Energy Summit that I quoted in the last post is brilliant and seems like it won't be appearing online anywhere. So it wants reproducing in full somewhere, and that place is here.

There's been a lot of interesting discussion today but a lot of the time we are asking the wrong questions.

We are at a time of great change. How we act now is crucial to our future. Generations before us did not know enough about climate change. Those coming after us won't be able to prevent it. So the decisions we make now as a society are critical.

Unfortunately the dominant institution of our time, the corporation, puts profits above all other concerns. If we are going to avoid dangerous climate change, we need to make decisions that aren't only in the interest of shareholders who are a tiny minority of the world's population.

As we heard from Professor Ralph Sims this morning, almost everyone is saying 2 degrees above pre industrial temperatures as the safe upper limit for increase of global average temperatures. Beyond that the biosphere becomes the largest emitter, with carbon released from decaying peat bogs and forests, ice cap melting reflecting back fewer of the suns rays and so on. Beyond two degrees we no longer have any control and become merely spectators and victims.

Given this surprising degree of unanimity, the question is surely how do we stay below a 2 degree increase? We are looking at at least a 60% cut globally in the next 20-30 years to give us a good chance. If this is going to be equitable and everyone on earth has an equal right to emit, then that means a cut in the UK of around 90%. If we aim for any less than this then all our efforts will be in vain, then we are already over the cliff. There is no point hitting emission reductions that don't meet this target.

We aren't going to achieve this simply by replacing one source of energy with another. Anyone who thinks biofuels or biomass can replace fossil fuels is seriously misunderstanding what fossil fuels are. They are millions of years of solar energy in concentrated form. The biosphere cannot possibly produce enough energy to replace fossil fuels.

Any technology that can't be developed, deployed and on stream in the 20-30 year time frame is of no use to us. The companies discussing and developing them know this and many of the proposed technologies are being used as decoys to avoid more drastic action on climate change that tackles the real issue, which is levels of consumption, and to protect the corporate licence to operate. Of course oil companies invest in biofuels. It gives them the legitimacy to keep drilling oil which we critically need to keep in the ground.

Billions of dollars and huge amounts of human time and energy are going into researching technologies that are not going to help us. We have ways of living a comfortable low carbon lifestyle with the technologies we have right now. We could use this money and energy to start that transition off today.

For Green Business, sustainability doesn't mean what the majority of people would take it to mean. Rather than meaning that we use resources in a way that doesn't impact on the ability of others to use them in the future, it means to ability to maintain profitability in a changing society.

The legal structure of corporations means that they must be committed to profit above all other concerns, even if those concerns are our survival. Given two ways to make the same money they will choose the one that means the least murder, blatant theft and environmental devastation. And then pat themselves on the back for being so responsible. But if there is any conflict between responsibility and profit, profit will win every time.

Economic growth requires the increased consumption of mostly finite resources. It is by definition unsustainable. Everything we consume takes energy to produce. It is hypocritical to talk of increasing emissions in China when a great deal of this consumption is to produce products for export to the rich West. We are essentially outsourcing our carbon emissions.

Our levels of consumption will inevitably hit crisis point, and are already doing so in many ways.

You can see this in the way that even renewable resources are running out fisheries, forests, food, fresh water. We are facing peak supply of oil and gas, and we have an enormous problem with waste, the earth can't cope with the amount of carbon dioxide we are dumping into our atmosphere not to mention landfill, nuclear waste and all the rest.

The root cause of this is excessive consumption that is necessary only to feed economic growth.

We have to talk about more than replacing energy sources and energy efficiency and talk about energy descent. We need to talk about using minimal amounts of energy. Of reducing consumption.

A green capitalist approach is asking the wrong question. Instead of saying how do we continue to grow the economy while living on the limited resources left on this planet, it should be asking – why are we putting economic growth above survival in the first place?

Monday, December 03, 2007

survival vs profit

I picked up that leaflet a couple of weeks ago at the London Business School Global Energy Summit 2007.

The day opened with a stark speech from Professor Ralph Sims. He's a Lead Author on the world's definitive statements on climate change, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Assessment Reports.

He made clear what pretty much everybody knows. If we have global temperature increase of more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, we risk runaway climate change. The IPCC say it, the UN and EU overtly accept it, and governments around the world find ways to fiddle their figures to make it appear like they're aiming for it.

Professor Sims talked of the drastic cuts in emissions this would require. Indeed, some new research suggests it means zero emissions by 2050.

In the afternoon, there was a panel discussion about Corporate Green vs Corporate Greed. A guy from PepsiCo called Martyn Seal told us earnestly how they were being incredibly bold because they can't wait for regulation to take the lead, how they were now using some renewable energy, aiming to get it up to 20% for their UK use. 'And that's a real target,' he explained.

Oh well, that's OK then. Nobody ever misses a real target. More, they have 'an aspiration' to, maybe, one day, use 100% renewable electricity.

As if they wanted to be sure that we didn't believe a word from the corporate sector, he was followed by GE's Adrian Haworth. He proudly clicked us through his Powerpoint, showing us GE's initiative called - I shit you not - Ecomagination. It even has a sunflower logo.

Under this scheme, GE's projected carbon emissions won't increase by as much as they otherwise would have. He was really proud of this.

All through it I had two thoughts going round my head. One was throttling these fuckers, the other was something the panel's token radical, Claire Fauset from Corporate Watch had said.

The legal structure of corporations means that they must be committed to profit above all other concerns, even if those concerns are our survival. Given two ways to make the same money they will choose the one that means the least murder, blatant theft and environmental devastation. And then pat themselves on the back for being so responsible. But if there is any conflict between responsibility and profit, profit will win every time.

Even if the loser is survival!

Rather like Heathrow Airport, the UK's worst emitting site, parading itself as green because of the way a new terminal will be built, so these guys were knowingly tinkering round the edges and then patting themselves on the back, and expecting us to join in.

I put it to them that Pepsi, for example, use huge amounts of aluminium in their drink cans and crisp packets. Aluminium smelters emit fluoromethanes, gases with a climate impact literally thousands of times greater than CO2. What are they doing about reducing that, or, as they can't, reducing their sales? Why only 20% renewable electricity and just a vague 'aspiration' for more when 100% green tariffs are available right now?

And as for GE, they make aircraft engines! They still make fucking incandescent light bulbs! How can they be proud of a projected increase in carbon emissions?

They know the science as well as we do. They were there earlier when Professor Sims had walked them though it. Less than a 60% global cut in 30 years is not enough. To do these minor projects - even if we take them at face value as heartfelt rather than as just PR - is like a driver telling you they won't drive you over a cliff at 70mph, they'll slow down and drive you over at 50mph instead.

The only way those companies could act responsibly is by a drastic reduction in their operations, with a commensurate reduction in their profits.

To which they replied that they couldn't do that, because it would mean a reduction in profits.