Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

Conning the public

August 9, 2017

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Iain Conn is the Chief Executive of Centrica, the parent company of British Gas. Before joining the company, he was the Chief Executive of British Petroleum. In 2017, his salary increased by 40% to just over £4m a year. He also received a £1.4m recruitment award when he was head-hunted from BP in 2015. British Gas recently announced they are putting electricity prices up by 12.5%.

The £4m Conn receives each year matches the number of households in Britain who are deemed to be in fuel poverty (where more than 10% of income is spent on fuel costs). Recently the government changed the official definition of fuel poverty, to include only families who have fuel costs that are above average, and whose fuel consumption would take them below the poverty line. However, in the real world, over 4m households (15% of the country) cannot afford to heat their homes. Whatever statistical method used, it is safe to assume that Iain Conn is not in fuel poverty.

The glaringly obvious message from all of this (well, to this blogger at least) is that the energy companies need to be taken back into public ownership. We have an illusion of choice – the idea that we can simply switch energy providers, when there is a cartel operating against our interests which hike up prices in response to each other. Better to have democratic control over energy, and for everyone to afford to heat their homes.

Nationalisation need not cost us anything. Why should fat cats like Iain Conn get any compensation – they have already robbed the British public of millions of pounds? Compensation should only be on the basis of need, not greed.

Nationalising energy companies would also allow the government to plan based on long-term needs, and to help save our environment. New Scientist recently estimated that the growth in renewables has, unfortunately stalled, as the ending of government subsidies is “strangling investment”. We may struggle to even meet 10% of energy consumption with renewables, under the so-called “free market”.

Capitalism is only interested in the bottom line, short-term profits at the expense of our futures. In order to prevent climate change going over 2°C, which could potentially be catastrophic, we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground, stop fracking and invest all our energy and resources in making renewable energy work. To do this, the energy companies would need to forget about profits for shareholders. Under this grossly unfair and unequal economic system, that isn’t realistic. We need socialism.

I am a member of the Socialist Party in Britain, which is part of a growing, worldwide movement for socialist ideas, the Committee for a Workers’ International. If you agree, please join us. Together we can change the world.

 

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Hot Air (updated)

December 30, 2015

Trains trundle to and fro, tired travellers
Stuffed sardines stifle in squalor
First-class fat cats with fatter wallets
Relax, remote from the raucous riff-raff.

Six hundred hypocritical half-wits howl hot
Air against applications; altercations arise –
Irate imprecations, impossible implications.
Wind turbines? Not In My Back Yard!

Motorway madness means mollycoddling motorists
Belching bellicose blasts, bloated backbenchers
Pork on Parliamentary privilege,
Gigantic guffs of hot air.

Cameron points accusingly
Crotch-deep in flood water,
Après moi la deluge – a modern Canute
Eclipsed by climate change.

If only Nature could be given wings
And the Earth’s glacial warming
Measured in a five-year term.

On the distant banks of the Thames
No cuts to flood defences here.
The barrier bursts open,
Foetid algal slurry laps
Around hems of designer suits,
Ruining pairs of Jimmy Choos.

Maybe, the message might just prick
Empty balloons of pomposity and privilege.

Or we could just take power ourselves.
We would not have to suffer
Yet more hot air.

Whaling

December 29, 2015

Computers can’t read handwriting
They’re no good at that at all.
A five year old can outsmart the brainiest chip
When it comes to deciphering a simple slip
Of paper. For all its technological prowess
Squiggles and scrawls do not process.
A Pentium wouldn’t know a sonnet from a sestina
If it slapped it in its face (metaphorically speaking).

Satellites collect data, from all ahttp://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/18681/20151209/mariner.htmcross the globe.
Model our climate, predict weather
But we don’t know what happened before,
In previous centuries, of yore.
But in museums, there moulders forgotten lore.

Mariners kept logs to tell them, if they were heading nor-nor-west.
Latitude and longitude, in the days before GPS.
So that’s where human brains and eyes come in
To decipher a ship’s scribe’s scribblings
As their boat listed violently in an Arctic storm.
They didn’t know they too were recording precious data
To unravel El Nino’s mysteries, to save future polar bears.

We can use the computers we have in our heads
To understand where we come from
To right wrongs we have done to this planethttp://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/18681/20151209/mariner.htmhttp://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/18681/20151209/mariner.htm
Maybe some good will come of whaling after all.
Co-operation, not profit must be our goal
To stop global warming from swallowing us whole.

 

To participate in the project to extrapolate our data about the world’s climate back 150 years – click on this link: http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/18681/20151209/mariner.htm

What do we do as oil begins to run out?

March 16, 2014

When I was at school, I remember being told that the Earth only had about 30 years of oil and gas left. The question was what were we going to do when supplies began to run out. Well, now that is happening, a process dubbed “Peak Oil”, where supply can no longer meet demand.

In this post, I haven’t begun to consider the potential loss of the by-products of oil: plastics, fertilisers, drugs, etc. – that is a topic for another discussion. I am concentrating simply on where our energy will come from.

There is a question mark over peak oil, as countries and oil companies do not publish accurate figures. They argue that exploration is expensive and new fields may be found – however, it is in their interests not to panic the stock markets and investors. Strong signs are, however, that we have reached the peak of oil production, as we have had to put more and more resources into getting back the same amount of energy.

Energy companies are turning to what has been called “extreme energy” – fracking (hydraulic fracturing) or UCG (Underground Coal Gasification). In the UK, the government is also turning towards nuclear energy. There is still relatively little effort going into the development of renewable resources, and this tends to be relatively small scale and in private hands. “Extreme energy” is very inefficient, with a low energy yield. It involves tens of thousands of tanker trips, there is a risk of groundwater contamination with carcinogenic compounds, the process involves seismic shocks. It exacerbates the greenhouse effect – 1kg of methane (CH4) has the same effect as 21kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) on our climate.

Another extreme energy is Underground Coal Gasification (UCG), a process to extract energy from coal, where it cannot be conventionally mined. There is plenty of coal, enough to meet hundreds of years of the world’s energy needs – if we don’t mind the risks of catastrophic underground fires which cannot be extinguished The town of Centralia, for example, had to be deserted due to deadly carbon monoxide emissions after a fire in a rubbish heap set fire to a coal seam. This happened in 1963, and the fire is still raging.

UCG involves heating coal in a controlled manner underground, harvesting the gases produced, and the vacant space is intended to capture CO2 emissions underground. However this is inherently extremely dangerous. It is likely to cause collapse of rocks above the coal seam, there is the risk of earthquakes, and what happens if – through the natural movements of rock, the man-made reservoirs of underground carbon emissions are suddenly released? The technology required is completely untested.

So is the alternative to turn to nuclear power?

Nuclear power stations tend to be sited near the coast, due to their demand for water as a coolant. With global warming and more extremes of weather – this is inherently risky, with the potential for more Fukushimas. There is also the problem of nuclear waste. At present, there is no safe way to dispose of high-level radioactive waste with half-lives in the order of tens, hundreds or millions of thousands of years. You can bury this underground, but at some stage it will resurface, due to plate tectonics, seismic effects or vulcanism.

It is also questionable how much nuclear power would contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, once CO2 emissions from mining and processing yellowcake (Uranium ore) are taken into consideration. Thorium is more common than Uranium  and produces less waste, with no risk of a meltdown (it needs to be bombarded with neutrons to work as a nuclear fuel, and the design of a thorium reactor is inherently much safer). However, apart from a few pilot plants in India, this technology is again untried and untested.

Why? Thorium is of no use in making bombs! However, it is still energy-intensive to mine, there are technical difficulties which still need to be overcome and there remains the problem of nuclear waste.

So why don’t we change our reliance on oil or nuclear and move to renewables?

Goverments across the world are corrupt. The neo-liberal concerns of David Cameron, Ed Milliband, Barack Obama, et al are driven by demands from lobbyists of big business. There is no voice of ordinary people in Parliament. We are not properly informed of the dangers. In the US, landowners were simply bought out to release land for fracking. However, when farm animals’ fur starts falling out, they find that they can now set fire to their tap water and they begin to become ill, people soon start to think again . . .

But nuclear fusion could solve the world’s energy crisis, couldn’t it?

In theory, yes. However, there are still many technical obstacles to overcome and the technology remains decades away.

So what happens next?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (representing an international consensus of the scientific community) project a rise in temperature by 2100 of  4°C. However, this heating is worst at the North Pole – where the temperature is increasing twice as fast, partly due to the albedo effect. Already there has been a massive decline in sea ice (observed by satellites over last 40 years).

The best computer model we have is provided by the Met Office – see a video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h88WF4wOqwI

According to the IPCC, it is possible, in the best-case scenario, to limit global warming to 2°C. However, this would depend on an unprecedented, multinational effort to switch to renewable energy, very quickly. I would argue that this is impossible under capitalism. We have had 120 years to solve the problem since the principle behind global warming was discovered and 40 years of satellite data showing the effects of burning petrochemicals. International summits so far have been useless. Countries have sought to blame each other and minimise their own responsibility. US and China (the biggest greenhouse emitters) opted out of the Kyoto Treaty altogether.

So what can we do?

We urgently need to move away from an economy in which the need to make a profit over-rides all other concerns. We need democratic input from the bottom, with a real say by ordinary people in how things should be run and where resources should go. This would allow long-term, environmental consequences to be taken into account, whereas at the moment the need for short-term profit is the only consideration for companies as they seek to exploit the last of our oil.

We must urgently invest in renewable energy – tried and tested, simple technology, which is far safer than nuclear or oil. Of course, this will require the production of greenhouse gases in the meantime, as solar panels don’t build themselves – but there is the idea of a “solar breeder”, a factory powered by solar energy, which produces solar panels. There is the potential for wind power, hydrothermal, tidal power and wave power. The technology behind the latter, Salter’s duck, a pendulum driven by the waves which powers a generator was invented in the 1970s and could be highly efficient.

Why hasn’t this been done before?

Simply put, the vested interests of multinational companies in making a profit. Where legislation got in the way, governments were simply bought off – George Bush and Dick Cheney introduced the “Halliburton loophole”, for example, making fracking exempt from legislation that protected groundwater.

So we need to get rid of the government?

Yes. We need a socialist, planned economy. However, there is the potential for a mass movement of people, angry at what is being done to the environment, angry at growing inequality and falling living standards for the vast majority of the world’s population, angry at the exploitation of workers and governments’ repression of our democratic right to protest, in order to build that alternative model.

I am a member of the Socialist Party in the UK, which is building movements in 50 countries around the world to make real change happen and overthrow the rotten system of capitalism, which can no longer meet our needs. Join us here – http://www.socialistworld.net

Water and oil do not mix

March 4, 2014

Seed,

Life-giver.

Slaker of thirst.

Clear, fresh spring.

Without you, we are nothing.

On tap. A right for all humanity.

Not a packaged commodity

Bottled and marketed,

Stock to be floated,

Sold out

Down

The

River

Of Oil,

Black gold.

Harbinger of doom.

We can ill-afford our chemical

Romance. We cannot stomach toxic

Petrochemical soup, polluting aquifers.

Heating our homes, but heating the planet.

We must get control over our addiction,

Take our power from the sun, not

Wage wars over pipelines.

We need to take

Control.

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You can read some more of my poetry in ‘Little Red Poetry’. All proceeds go to build a new party for ordinary people, against cuts and privatisation. Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Copies are also available from Left Books

Lies, damn lies, greenwash and statistics

January 28, 2014

David Cameron commented on the recent British floods by saying that “he thought they were probably due to global warming”. While a single incidence of flooding is not in itself evidence of climate change, extreme weather events are becoming more and more common – the flooding in the UK has been linked to a cold snap across the Atlantic and a shift in the jet-stream, which has brought the stormiest month to Britain since 1969. It seems that meteorological records are being broken routinely, and there is evidence that the planet’s climate is changing.

While Cameron’s remarks are infinitely more helpful than the homophobia and ignorance of the UKIP councillor David Silvester, who blamed the floods on homosexuality, this rhetoric is not matched in terms of Conservative party policy. Why are the Tories pursuing fracking and nuclear power so aggressively? Why can’t the money being used to buy more nuclear power stations and give tax breaks to companies pursuing fracking instead be invested in developing renewable energy?

Of course, the reason is lobbying of politicians by energy companies with vested interests in keeping the status quo, of making as much profit as possible from the remaining fossil fuel resources, without regard for the long-term necessity to stop global warming. We need to get rid of career politicians and elect people who will stand up for our interests. In Britain, Labour, Lib Dems and Tories are all wedded to the system of capitalism. New Labour are no different; papers have been released showing collusion between Blair and Thatcher to keep the Conservative’s neo-liberal, privatisation agenda alive and well throughout Blair’s tenure. There is no sign that Milliband offers anything different.

The evidence for human-induced global warming is overwhelming. We have known of the principle behind global warming since 1896, when the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first put forward the science behind the theory. The warning from our own solar system, of the danger of runaway global warming is stark – look at the uninhabitable surface of Venus. Capitalism has had 100 years to do something about this, yet in the face of the over-riding desire to create profit for a few, the result has been over-exploitation of the world’s natural resources. What little is being done, is far too late to make any difference now. The best case scenario, if we managed to convert to a 100% carbon neutral economy, is a 2°C rise in global temperatures by 2100. This would still be catastrophic, displacing millions of people and destroying ecosystems.

A more likely scenario, put forward by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which represents the scientific consensus, is that our world will warm by 4°C by the turn of the next century. However, this still entails a sea-change in policy and a willingness for global co-operation which is unprecedented. With every international conference – Kyoto, Copenhagen, Rio – the result has been a fudge, with countries seeking to shift the blame onto others and mitigate their own responsibility, rather then looking to actually address the problem.

So what is the solution? We need co-operation on an international scale. We need to put the control of the economy in the hands of workers, not politicians. We need to end the rule of profit, and replace this with democratic decision making worldwide, so that decisions can be made in the interests of the many, not the few. We need to elect leaders who are accountable to us, not big business.

The CWI (Committee for a Workers International) has organisations in around 50 countries worldwide. We have just recently elected representatives in the Canary Islands, Spain, as part of the United Left, and Kshama Sawant as Socialist Alternative in Seattle. We are standing Donal O’Cofaigh as a candidate on an anti-fracking position in Ireland. We are offering an alternative to corruption, sleaze and politicians squabbling and dithering over vital issues like the environment. We are growing as a political force and around the world, protesters are calling for change. However, leadership from traditional parties and right-wing trade unions is woefully lacking and time is short – we must build the socialist alternative.

In Britain, we are looking to stand as TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) in as many seats across the country in the forthcoming local elections to offer voters a democratic, socialist alternative to this market-driven madness. If you agree with us, please support our campaign, and consider standing yourself as a candidate.

Medley

September 3, 2013

We’re fracking, we’re fracking – I’m gonna frack it with you.
Going underground, going underground,
I’m goin’ deeper underground.
Underground, overground, wombling free,
Like an atom bomb, about to oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, explode.

Two minutes to midnight – the hands that threaten doom.
One, two, three o’ clock, four o’clock, rock!
You – shook me all night long!
Sharia don’t like it – rockin’ the Casbah, rock the Casbah.
What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

And I’m a heatseeker, gonna burn up your town.
I’ve got a fever of 103,
Ooooh, I’m on fire.
Frack, baby, frack, show me you’re real.
Dirty deeds, and they’re done dirt cheap.

Get up, stand up! Stand up for your rights.
Excuse me Mr Officer, murderer,
Don’t stop me now! I’m having such a good time.
Come and do the jailhouse rock with me. Let’s rock!
I stand in front of you, I’ll take the force of the blow.
Protection.

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You can help support the Socialist Party by buying a short book of my poems, ‘Little Red Poetry’: Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Hot Air

December 6, 2011

This idea came to me on the climate change demo in London a couple of years ago (a little ironic as this was in December and the weather was completely freezing, but of course we shouldn’t confuse weather with climate) . I thought of it as a cartoon – with Hot Air emanating from the Houses of Parliament, as the Thames slowly submerges the politicians from below – if only!

 

Hot Air

 

Trains trundle to and fro; tired travellers.

Stuffed sardines stifle in squalor.

First-class fat cats with fatter wallets

Relax, remote from the raucous riff-raff.

 

Six hundred hypocritical half-wits howl hot

Air against applications; altercations arise –

Irate imprecations, impossible implications.

Wind turbines? Not In My Back Yard!

 

Motorway madness means mollycoddling motorists

Belching bellicose blasts, bloated back-benchers

Pork on parliamentary privilege,

Gigantic guffs of hot air.

 

If only Nature could be given wings

And the Earth’s glacial warming

Measured in a five-year term.

 

When the Barrier bursts open

And foetid, algal slurry laps

Around the hems of designer suits,

Ruining pairs of Jimmy Choos,

Then, maybe, they might begin to realise.

 

Or we could take power for ourselves.

We would not have to suffer

Yet more hot air.

 


 

You can read some more of my poetry in ‘Little Red Poetry’. All proceeds go to build a new party for ordinary people, against cuts and privatisation. Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Copies are also available from Left Books