‘There is a huge disconnect between what the climate science is telling us and policy’

‘There is a huge disconnect between what the climate science is telling us and policy’

The fact that 200 world leaders agreed at Paris that climate change is a real and pressing problem is by far the most significant outcome of the COP21 summit. Political acceptance may be there but the rest of the document signed by them has no teeth, no enforcement and only voluntary targets. It seems like we are all agreed on the looming presence of Climate Change, yet collectively unable to react to it meaningfully.

It is not about two sides to the debate, it is cognitive disonance, the dualiity is within ourselves; we understand what the science is telling us on one side but don’t like the the reprocussions on the other.  Professor Kevin Anderson

Link to Prof Kevin Anderson’s personal site

There is no doubt we need meaningful action on climate, new long term strategies. We need to see some kind of leadership, a country or union and nations with the will to articulate and implement a powerful response. I see this all of the following as key components of such a vision.

  • Rapid decarbonisation of the economy. Best way to achieve this, as suggested by James Hansen and many others is..
  • Creation of a carbon tarriff, one that is progressive, revenue neutral and uses the market mechanism to accelerate investment into renewable energy production and energy efficiency.
  • This tariff  needs to bring an end to fossil fuel use altogether within decades and send a clear market signal.
  • Creation of a carbon sequestration sector at the heart of the economy. Beyond energy generation we nned to be creating and using new carbon negative technologies and strategies for building, transportation, food production and more.
  • Strategic promotion of farming and land management strategies that sequestrate carbon, eg:  permaculture, agroecology, agrofrestry, biochar production
  • New economic paradigm. A fundamental shift in thinking away from the GDP growth models, resource driven economies to one that meets the needs of peope and planet. This would be typified by strong local economies, especially around food resource management and social care.

  Howcan permaculture design contribute in helping us raise ourselves to meet this challenge?
cardiff permaculture talkI will be presenting some of my ideas and perspectives on this at Cardiff University on March 12th.

Booking required but the event is free.

COP21 Paris was a call to action, so is it time to storm the citadel yet?!

COP21 Paris was a call to action, so is it time to storm the citadel yet?!

Still don’t believe in climate change?

I am not sure exactly when empirical data required belief but if you still don’t have the mental capacity to understand the science of climate change then just try looking out the window. 2015 is the hottest year on record, breaking the previous record of 2014 by a significant amount. As we enjoy our warmest and wettest winter it is important to remind ourselves that these increasingly unstable and energised weather patterns are exactly what has been predicted by the climate science. So, yes this is climate change and it is happening right before our very eyes. Intense rainfall and other irregular weather patterns are going to form a big part of the new normal, welcome to climate changed.

This is of course only the beginning, the time lag between this year’s emissions of greenhouse gasses and their future impact on weather takes from years to decades, so no matter how rapid and urgent the collective global response is, we are set for a bumpy ride in the short to medium term regardless.

Still got a pet theory about how the climate crisis is all made up by anti capitalist crack pots or caused by sunspots or some other natural cycle beyond human interference? …then I am sorry to say your theory has already been debunked. The science is unequivocal and if any of those contrarian ideas did hold water then the oil industry and their funders would be trumpeting them from on high and publishing the data in every tabloid. Fact is, the debate is over and the focus now is on bringing about meaningful responses as rapidly as possible.

To get a clear picture of what we need to know and what needs to happen there is no higher authority than the now retired NASA scientist and the man who first sounded the alarm bells on climate, James Hansen. He makes it perfectly clear that at anything above 350 ppm CO2 the planet receives a net gain of solar energy each year, solar energy is arriving faster than it can escape. The only solution he emphatically argues is to bring atmospheric levels back to that level or lower. From a pre industrial level of 275 ppm we are currently riding high at 400 ppm and the Paris summit on climate at the end of last year has negotiated a planned target of 450ppm, this Hansen asserts is and will be a disaster.

A level beyond 350 ppm is not compatible with the planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.

The paper this quote is taken from is possibly the most important scientific paper of the millennium and one which we must pay attention to. James Hansen NASA

Can we get back to 350ppm? is it even possible? Well the politicians and the oil industry would definitely say not. It is not politicly or economically expedient, they have made us an offer, this is the best we can do they say… problem is, nature does not negotiate.

At Paris the World agreed that we have serious problem and that we have to get off fossil fuels, but the pace of change and political will is too slow and too weak to be of any use; we have merely agreed to carry on changing the atmosphere a little more slowly than before.

Hansen is clear on what we must do and no political or economic argument can the change the physics, we have to cut emissions to zero as soon as possible. The planetary system, the biology of the biosphere is already out of balance, CO2 levels have not been this high for a lt least 1 million years, maybe much longer. Life itself is of course carbon based, on land or sea, soils and ocean accumulate carbon from the atmosphere sucking it down into soils and sediments on the sea beds. So once we reach a carbon neutral global economy then the biosphere will start to reduce overall levels naturally. We can speed this up even with enhanced soil management techniques, reafforestation as well with carbon negative technologies like biochar but no response other than reducing emissions to zero, asap will tip the long term odds in our favour.

A revenue neutral, carbon fee escalating from $10 – $100 a tonne over the next ten years is the Doctor’s prescription

The answer? Well it lies in the market system, the very thing that in many ways got us here in the first place. As long as dumping tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere is free then the remaining coal, gas and oil will get used eventually. Quickly or slowly it matters little, the effect will be the same, it has to stay in the ground. Coal is cheap, a very abundant and ready source of energy so unless something changes it will get used and we will continue to build more coal fired power stations. The economic driver that will turn the investment tide in the right direction is a revenue neutral carbon fee. Polluters need to bare the cost of their pollution in order to receive the correct market signals.

It is not a tax, it is a fee and here is how it works: if say US, EU and China could agree then any carbon extracted from the ground for energy is taxed at the well head or mine and that money redistributed directly to the population of the source country, like a tax credit. This would create both a stick and a carrot, punishing carbon emitters economically and rewarding those who invest in low carbon alternatives. How much per tonne is the next question, here is the rub of the policy that makes it so powerful: it can start small, say $10 a tonne and climbs by $10 year on year until it reaches $100, this would send the clearest signal to the market to switch investment away from the sources of energy that are driving these problems, whilst providing time and resources to enable economies to adapt. The biggest question remaining then is what of those countries like Australia and Canada who are sat on huge carbon reserves and might chose not to play ball? In such cases the carbon tax is imposed on any goods or materials crossing borders into the carbon zone, then that levy is still raised but this time it doesn’t return to the source country but becomes income for the importer, doubling the incentive of the carbon exporting nations to join the scheme. It is an elegant, workable and powerful response that complies with prevalent free market orthodoxy and it needs to begin as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, with such an inevitability on the horizon any investor still backing the carbon age is rapidly going to find themselves caught out on the wrong side of history. Even today a vast amount of pension funds, savings and insurance money is flowing towards continued oil and gas investment, it has after all always been such a safe bet. A carbon fee could and will rapidly change all that and those stocks and holdings in the polluting economy would rapidly become unsaleable.

Check your savings, look at where you money is invested and think very carefully about switching it to an industry with a bright future and that has to be clean tech, clean energy and social investments that will propel us towards a new kind of society and economy. Be under no illusions this is the defining issue of our era, an existential threat that puts any terror threat you care to imagine into sharp perspective, imagine tens of millions of climate refugees in coming decades, or farming collapse, coastal ports and power plants engulfed, this is the future we face with out a carbon fee, so I say bring it on! I am ready, are you?

Hear James Hansen speak for himself, interviewed at the Paris Summit by The Elephant

He tells us we are already at a level of emergency. This is essential listening.

Time to storm the Citadel?

Should we common folk be taking up our pitchforks and lanterns and preparing to storm the gates of power? Our leaders are either insane or dead at the controls as we career into climate catastrophe, leaders whose seemingly  only response is preparing for endless war over the remaining resources. The need for a populist, grass roots movement that galvanises ecological and social concerns into a coherent response to the collapse of globalisation and neo-liberalism has surely never been stronger than it is now. I will be keeping my pitchfork handy and starting to raise a posse because if we don’t see real and meaningful action very soon then it is going to be too late, the people must insist!

Technicians of spaceship earth, this is your captain speaking, your captain is dead
Michael Moorcock (Hawkwind album cover note)

pic by steve jones of medina, gozo, malta

“Flags are flying dollar bills” …is it time to storm the citadel yet? As our world teeters on the edge of insanity – you could be forgiven for thinking our leaders are more than asleep at the wheel but dead at the controls.

IPCUK part one: Albert Bates, Permaculture for Hedgefund managers

amazon image

Biochar explained eloquently

Albert Bates, Eco Villages network pioneer, author of The Biochar Solution and many other accomplishments, speaks on the topic of Permaculture for Hedge fund managers at the IPCUK.

What future would you invest in? Albert offers up a fantastic overview of possibilities from our low carbon future, explores some of the numerous possibilites of Biochar  and talks about the new venture he is Chief Permaculture Officer for,  ECO2.

Our job is re-create a garden planet
Albert Bates

the Permaculture Army is recruiting

The Permaculture Army is recruiting

World stoves, as mentioned in the talk


Great biochar talk

Here is a subject close to my heart… and a fascinating subject with so much potential, biochar. In this excellent TED talk we get a good overview of the subject and some of its potentials. Something we will be discussing in our up and coming permaculture course.


Links for Llanrhaeadr PDC group

Three must watch videos that reference the discussions we had on the 3/6 PDC Weekend in Llanrhaeadr

Returning astronaut often experience a profoud shift in conciousness as a result of lloking back at planet earth from outside, it has been called the overview effect

This is the biochar video, and documents the story of the lost civilization of the Amazonas and how they made the poor forest soils fertile.

I should add that at 49.20 a second, sort documentary starts.. on the subject of biochar. This is well worth watching also, as it explores the potential implications and possibilities of using biochar.

Brilliant video illustrating the potentials of decentralised energy generation, co-generation and integrated energy grids. This is essential watching in getting a basic understating of localised energy and its potentials.

Gasifier stove.. video from Kenya

Anyone who has been at any of my talks will have heard me talking about wood gassification and biochar and areas of huge potential. Here is a refreshing short video of a cooking stove developed to run off rice husks using exactly that technology. The point here being that it allows the utilisation of a low grade food bi product.. rice husks that burns as a clean burn fuel which leaves charcoal as a residue.

Biochar.. and the secrets of Eldorado

With melting polar ice caps, retreating glaciers and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns the need to directly address climate change has never been so important. Does an ancient civilization that once lived in the Amazon jungle hold a possible key to not just addressing carbon capture and storage but also of addressing that of global food security. Please do take the time to watch this extraordinary video if you have not already.

This is a truly remarkable story which surely has the utmost significance in the context of our looming and great challenges of confronting energy security and climate change.

This documentary presents all the evidence you need to demonstrate that there was a huge and advanced civilization in the Amazon 2000 – 500 years ago. Contemporary to the Egyptians the amazon was home to great cites, complex settlement and agricultural practices. Not only does this completely change the way we see the jungleasa a wild and untamed landscape but it also changes the idea of our relationship with the soil itself. Essential watching and a topic that demands further and immediate investigation. Not to be too dramatic, but i cant but help think this is highly significant stuff.

There is an additional bit on the end of this looking at the wider implications and possibilities of biochar from a recent conference. Both are essential watching, and once your appetite is whetted you need to read Biochar solution by Albert Bates.