Thursday 13 June 2019

Zero-Carbon: May Screws Up her 'Legacy'

[Foreword - to those C@W readers who have apoplexy at the suggestion CO2 emissions contribute to climate change: the rights and wrongs of that issue have no bearing on what follows.]

The story so far:  a latter-day Childrens Crusade fronted by a cynically manipulated little Swedish girl, coupled with large-scale childish behaviour on the streets of London from grown adults who ought to know better, has made some raucous political music with demands for completely infeasible actions against UK CO2 emissions - specifically, zero CO2 by 2025.  Among several organisations to seize this opportunity, the Commitee on Climate Change (headed by the conflicted and disreputable "Lord Deben") rushed out its proposal for 'Net Zero Carbon by 2050'. 

These recommendations, properly viewed (i.e. politically viewed) were an absolute Godsend for the beleagured Tory government.
  1. Deben immediately defused the 2025 nonsense.  He is the man fronting an enormous report that had loads of pretty respectable input++ from business, industry, real scientists etc; and they all agree 2050 itself is quite stretch.  Deben was actually asked about 2025 on the telly, and he was contemptuously dismissive.  
  2. Consistent with 1 above, net-zero-2050 is notably more demanding (in the form the CCC wrote it) than any other nation has committed thus far.  Plenty of rich political capital can be coined from this.
  3. Nonetheless, 2050 is, well, rather a long way into the future ... a pretty decent entry into the Can-Kicking Championships
  4. Although the Labour Party greatly hoped to be steering the limelight towards itself, the best it could do in response was to replace "by 2050" with "before 2050".  (This is because some of them are seriously bidding for Actual Power, and fondly expect to be the ones to implement it.  And they, too, reckon 2050 is a stretch.)   
All in all, a gift for the distraction-seeking and legacy-craving Theresa May.  Quietly neutralise the jolly annoying Extinction Rebellion, as desired by ordinary people everywhere; and impress the young people by Doing Something Amazing for the planet.

There would have been so many ways to big this up and wow da yoof.  Top of the list would have been to say that the Deben proposals were not ambitious enough, and she was going to do something even more impressive: it wouldn't have been hard to come up with something.  (For 2050, you can say whatever you fancy - everyone else does.)  Nobody's going to vote against it in Parliament, are they?

But no.

Rather grumpily and with stupid caveats** that can be, and immediately are, used to damn her, she says "oh well, alright then".  Why insert a 5-year review?  Parliament can always review and change any legislation it fancies.  And anyway, 5-years-hence is Not Her Problem!  Why allow the buying of carbon credits to count towards the total?  This is so easily portrayed as a nasty little weasel (which indeed it is - international carbon credits are as bent as a nine-bob note); and again, 2050 is a long, long way off!  Details not required!

As every wise parent knows, when the kids have been kicking up for Disney and you've decided to take them, you don't say:  oh alright, bloody Disney it is, but you're not going on Space Mountain, there will be no ice cream, and at half-term I'm going to ask your teachers if you've been working hard, 'cos if you haven't I'm cancelling the tickets

Oh dear.  She ain't gonna enjoy her retirement.


++ We can discuss this another time
** This is said to be Hammond's doing - like so much of what has been baleful over the last three years.  His long-faced 'trillion pounds' objection is just rubbish.  Presumably, like an extensive line of men before him - Osborne, Hollande, Selmayr, Robbins ... the list goes on - he sat her down and told her sternly what she had to do.      


Anonymous said...

Whether the CO2 global warming theory is true or not doesn't really matter. The simple point is that we need to build at least a dozen new nuclear power stations over the next 30 years. Otherwise, there will be power cuts and a massive import bill for gas.

Nuclear power stations today are safe, clean and have a minimal effect on the environment, unlike wind turbines. They are expensive to build, but they last for a long time.

Any suggestion that we can power London in January from batteries is pure fantasy.

Don Cox

Raedwald said...

Whatever the truth of AGW, it's a bad idea anyway to pump trillions of tons of CO2 into the atmos.

As far as electricty generation goes I'm a pragmatist - Best Practice Not Entailing Excessive Cost as we used to say. So low carbon, but not at any cost. And the sooner we start properly counting embedded energy - in buildings, vehicles, stuff - the better. The biggest con of the day is not counting whole-life CO2 cost. Early-replacement of a 10 year old widget that emits 200g of CO2 a year with a widget with a life of 5 years that saves 100g of CO2 a year but costs 3kg of CO2 to make and transport is a con.

I can quite happily live without fresh out of season veg flown in from Kenya, winter flowers flown in from Peru and volcanic water shipped from the pacific islands. I could bear without grumbling a doubling of the cost of leisure flying. I can forego four meat meals a week without hardship and would cheer a carbon sales tax on non-medical domestic use of air conditioning.

I want to choose how to maintain a low carbon footprint though - not to be forced or coerced. And I won't make sacrifices if I see repulsive con tricks such as the Bloomberg Building being foisted on the public - it's NOT the greenest building in London, it's a hideous carbon-guzzling monster that will NEVER in its lifetime repay the embedded hundreds of thousands of tonnes carbon cost of its construction

CityUnslicker said...

I wonder how many of the blog's readers, or even authors, will be around in 2050, it really is a long time away!

E-K said...

I say to any greenist why wait to 2050 ? You can cut your carbon to zero today.

So go ahead. Lead by example.

"But one person doesn't really make any difference" is what I get.

So why do you think a country that can't manage outside the EU will be able to make a difference then ?

E-K said...

To Raedwald's 'whole life' ideas.

I see on TV and hear property developing friends say "My new building is low carbon too !"

Well... not as low carbon as the perfectly nice house you demolished to build it !

andrew said...

I look forward to all new builds being built to passivehaus standards.

In my house, if I put a jumper on, heating is never really needed even if there is snow outside (built into a hillside, fairly constant 14-18 across the year)

Remember jumpers?

Nick Drew said...

Andrew - you've a passivhaus? Really?

Does the stagnant air thing not trouble you?

E-K said...

I'm sure all the farting from the lentils and tofu causes some air flow.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

CO2 is plant food. Commercial greenhouses usually run in excess of 1,000 ppm. It’s a great idea to pump billions of tonnes into the atmosphere. It will re-green sub-Saharan Africa, inter alia.

BlokeInBrum said...

Serious question, if commercial greenhouses are using higher than normal levels of co2 to enhance growth, are they eligible to trade carbon credits? Greening the likes of the Sahara is surely the start of a virtuous spiral?

andrew said...

It is 200 years old
They chopped out a bit of a limestone hill and used the rubble on the flat bit they made to make a house.
3ft stone walls up against a limestone hill. Single glazed, so draughty and with a damp back passage.
But the ambient temp is about 14.
Didnt do heating till 2003-2016 but oh is a bit nesh.

Elby the Beserk said...

CO2 concentrations in Mars and Venus are very similar, and comprise a huge percentage of both planet's atmospheres.

Mars is freezing.
Venus broils.

From which one deduces ... well, fair read, I leave that to you.

Earth is just fine by the way. Everything that happens has happened before and the only measurable effect of extra CO2 is significant greening of the planet.

Elby the Beserk said...

Anonymous Sebastian Weetabix said...
CO2 is plant food. Commercial greenhouses usually run in excess of 1,000 ppm. It’s a great idea to pump billions of tonnes into the atmosphere. It will re-green sub-Saharan Africa, inter alia.

9:36 am

Been happening for some time, Sebastian...

Anonymous said...

CO2 is certainly absorbed by plants. It also contributes to global warming.

I don't think geo-engineering (for instance by adding CO2 to the atmosphere, or iron to the oceans) is a good idea. Unexpected things happen.

Regardless, Britain does need a good stock of nuclear power stations. Enough to provide power for the whole country in dark, windless weeks in January.

Don Cox

DJK said...

Andrew: "Didnt do heating till 2003-2016 but oh is a bit nesh."

Nesh: I've only come across this word once before, in Lorna Sage's excellent "Bad Blood". (I found this book by accident, abandoned in a Newcastle-Edinburgh train, when needed something to read.)

andrew said...

I understand the precise meaning varies.

In derbyshire it seems to mean 'doesnt like being cold / damp / wet'

DJK said...

In 1950s Hanmer (North Wales) nesh seemed to mean slightly nerdy, and needy.

Anonymous said...

Seems to be an opportunity.

Whoever comes up with the battery tech - and it needn't be very efficient at first (some looking at melting salts and metal for example), merely portable and fairly energy dense - will be making money for a good generation or so as the energy from windfarms becomes more usable beyond accounting tricks (we generated 40GW here, used 40GW here, and voila! Just renewables, ignore we dumped must of that 40GW generated onto the Polish grid which promptly filtered it out, and the 40GW used came from a non-renewable based Czech power station, and we've greenwashed ourselves!).

Wrapping an aerogel, with an IR reflective inner coating, around a hot brick would be a start. Not cheap, but with a much greater recharge lifecycle than pretty much anything else out there.

Of course, then you've the logistics...

Anonymous said...

There's no sign of any technology on the horizon that would produce a battery with even a quarter of the energy density of oil.

By far the best battery is a tank full of petrol.

Don Cox

Nick Drew said...

Big, well-insulated tank of hot water, heated at 3a.m. - most practical & cost-effective mass energy storage for the medium term

Modern storage heaters are quite good - but not cheap

Batteries are geting better but have a long way to go

There is also a lot of dirty-secret filthy technology involved with batteries

andrew said...

Disclaimer : I am a minor shareholder.

Basically freeze air to liquid in the day and when needed, let it heat up again and drive a turbine.

I like it because
- cooling things is understood (haber), turbines are understood - So no woo woo
- no rare earths / unobtanium
- it answers the question "solar is great in daytime, but I want to cook dinner at night, how does that work"
- if it catastrophically fails, someone nearby feels a cold draught

Elby the Beserk said...

Anonymous said...
CO2 is certainly absorbed by plants. It also contributes to global warming.

And global freezing as well, as I demonstrated. Venus - mostly CO2. Boiling. Mars. Mostley CO2. Freezing.

Tell ne how that works if CO2 increases temperature?

Think about it. It may contribute a tiny amount. And as we seem to be heading into a GSM, we need all the help we can get. CO2 as temperature dial is about to receive a test. From the real world. Not models.

Getting to the point where Captcah images are so grainy it takes m 7 or 8 goes to get it right. Life's too short. I shall take a forced break until Captcha is useable again for old folk.

Anonymous said...

" it answers the question "solar is great in daytime, but I want to cook dinner at night, how does that work"

That isn't the question. The question is, how to power London in one of those weeks in January when there's no wind, and of course no sunshine.

Two or three large nuclear power stations of a similar size to Hinckley Point can do it without any hesitation. There's no need for storage at all except in transport.

Don Cox

Anonymous said...

@Elby - Venus recieves 400% of the solar irradiance that Mars does, and a dense atmosphere (higher gravity and a curious magnetic effect reducing solar wind ablation protects it, whereas Mars has lost most of its atmosphere) which allows for greater retention of heat.

CO2 has a warming effect on *both* planets, however the density difference means on Mars it is piss weak.

So, sorry, CO2 doesn't drive any global cooling on Mars.

If you want some empirical evidence as to how temperature and atmospheric density works, head up a high mountain. I recommend Mauna Kea, as the view is beautiful from the top and you *really* get to appreciate the difference in temperature (and ability to breath)