Links for Week Ending 23rd February

  • The Forward on Climate Rally organised by 350.org attracted 40,000 people on 17 February and received wide publicity. This prompted a lively discussion as to whether direct protests make a difference to potential climate change outcomes or not. I think I fall into the camp of David Roberts at Grist who believes that street activism has a strong part to play in countering climate change. An excellent piece by him arguing against the more wonkish incrementalist approach of the NYT’s Andrew Revkin is here, and a follow-up piece on where the movement should go post the Keystone XL pipeline decision is here. The U.S. climate change movement now appears to have last gained some grass roots activist momentum in the U.S. I wish the same were true in the U.K.
  • Stuart Staniford has an update on “All Liquids” volume output  and OECD consumption trends at his Early Warning blog. Output appears to have been on a bumpy plateau for about a year now.  Not surprisingly, oil prices have been creeping up again. As I always say, if the cornucopian belief in technology is to be proved right, and previously inaccessible hydrocarbons can be easily unlocked, we need to see rising oil volumes and falling prices. We are currently seeing flat volumes and flat to rising prices.
  • Given what is happening in the oil markets, I recommend peak oil observers keep abreast of the work of Michael Kumhof, a senior economic modeller at the IMF. I previously blogged on the IMF’s incorporation of geological constraints into its forecasts here. To get a direct insight into Kumhof’s work, take a look at an easily accessible 20-minute presentation he gave here. A more technical IMF paper covering these issues was published in October 2012 here.
  • Via Barry Ritholtz’s The Big Picture, this article in the English edition of Le Monde diplomatique charts the surge in financial investment into agriculture. The article is a bit messy in its arguments but the key, and I think basically correct, point is that more and more people will be shut out of food markets via price. Everyone should think hard about how they can hedge against this.
  • Another horrible and depressing paper about permafrost thaw from Climate Central. This is one of the ‘known unknowns’ that we are gradually ‘knowing’ a lot more about. And it is not good.

5 responses to “Links for Week Ending 23rd February

  1. I actually got into an interesting discussion (debate?) on a two fronts regarding the Keystone pipeline and the importance of trying to block it. This decision will be an incredibly important one.
    By the way, I finally got around to listening to the BBC report you recommended (Berlin’s Big Gamble). Very interesting, despite the narrator’s negative tone.

  2. I didn’t think the narrator was that negative; generally, the ‘Costing the Earth’ team are very supportive of the sustainability agenda. But being the BBC, they need to bring in opposing voices.

    The German model has a number of hurdles to cross before they lock in those carbon emission reductions permanently, but I hope for all our sakes they succeed. Here in the U.K., we have written emissions targets into law via the Climate Change Act of 2008, which has received cross-party support. The bottom-line goal is for an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 against the 1990 baseline. Given that Germany is a number of years ahead of us in terms of its renewables push, their success will be a key determinant of whether the U.K. hits its own numbers.

    Given that Germany is such a trail-blazer, and a large economy to boot, I will try to get my head around its statistical publications covering emissions and blog on how they are doing regularly!

    I will also put the David Suzuki Foundation Keystone XL campaign that you blogged about on my next weekly links.

    • I believe that Germany “hit the nail on the head” by allowing every person to become an energy provider through a feed-in tariff. Turn every building into a small power plant. The technical challenges of an interconnected grid and energy storage will be figured out.
      And thanks for your help with the Keystone XL campaign!

      • We have a FIT system in place here in the UK. Similarly to Germany, any individual who installs photovoltaic or wind can sell into the grid. The government, however, was caught out over the initial popularity of FIT due to the generous rate. The rate was then reduced substantially to reduce the burden on the government; unlike Germany, government finances are severely strained. The FIT rate is still, however, pretty attractive given the low interest rate environment. The problem with all FIT schemes is that they can’t compete head to head with coal or gas-generated electricity so require some subsidy (of course, coal and gas have an implicit subsidy as no payment is made for the external cost of global warming). In an ideal world, a substantial carbon tax would level the playing field, but even in countries like the UK and Germany where the threat of global warming is recognised across the political spectrum (although the Conservative Party is split, you can still get adopted by your party to run for office while recognising climate change unlike with the Republican Party), a unilateral carbon tax instigated at the national level appears an impossible political sell. FYI, we also now have electricity providers here in the U.K. that only generate electricity from non-carbon sources. You can access them wherever you are in the U.K. (using the fact that electricity is fungible). Check out Good Energy (http://www.goodenergy.co.uk). I don’t know if you have any providers like this in Canada?

      • I actually do not know if we have choices for energy providers. I do know that where I live there is a single provider with a very generous contract from our province. This makes trying to adopt programs like a FiT very difficult.

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