Emergency, what emergency?

Submitted by thebrentc on Fri, 08/09/2019 - 17:59

Last week the Meteorological Office published the State of the UK Climate Report showing that 10 of the hottest years on record have come in the last 16 (since 2002). As you know the UK Parliament passed unanimously a motion declaring a Climate Emergency. The UK government acted upon the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) headline advice which was:
“The UK should legislate as soon as possible to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The target can be legislated as a 100% reduction in greenhouse gases (GHGs) from 1990 and should cover all sectors of the economy, including international aviation and shipping”.

They did this via an unopposed Statutory Instrument "THE CLIMATE CHANGE ACT 2008 (2050 TARGET AMENDMENT) ORDER 2019" which merely changes the target for emissions reduction from 80% to 100%, i.e. net zero. That's all. So, since the original Climate Change Act excludes International Aviation & Shipping, that's not been changed by this amendment. The CCC said in their advice that they shall write to the government regarding Aviation emissions by the end of this year but until then they remain excluded despite what BEIS Minister Greg Clark says about plans for net zero including them.


With more Methane and less Sulphur in the atmosphere we're on target to breach the 1.5C degree limit of The Paris Accord by 2030. We have a declared emergency then, but little in the way of action or a plan. In fact, since 2015 this government has been responsible for much obstruction, contradiction and dithering resulting in:-

a moratorium on onshore wind power, effectively banning development with its systematic dismantling;
a reduction of almost all solar power support, costing hundreds of jobs and stifling what needs to be a high-growth sector;
scrapping the Zero Carbon Homes standard;
selling-off the Green Investment Bank;
removing support for tidal power;
relentlessly pushing Fracking and Acidisation, perpetuating extraction and use of Fossil Fuel gas;
presiding over a 98% fall in home insulation measures since 2010;
planning for only 30GW of offshore wind power on-stream by 2030, when the CCC say 75GW is needed;
a policy of a 2040 cut off date for new petrol/diesel vehicles, when the CCC say 2030 is necessary;
a cut in electric vehicle plug-in grants;
support for maximising offshore oil & gas exploration and development;
allowing a 3rd runway at Heathrow to go ahead along with many other airport expansion schemes;
no proper decarbonisation plan for the UK's 27m homes.

Nobody ever seems to talk about the "how" of the Paris Accord, where the methods previously agreed were re-confirmed as swapping Fossil Fuels for:- Nuclear Power, Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS), Bio-energy (mostly Biofuels) & Renewables! Apart from renewable energy there are major problems with these false solutions, never mind the continued near absence of demand reduction measures.

Not New Nuclear

With no Nuclear Power campaigners at any major NGO in the UK there's a danger of the reappearance of Nuclear ambivalence. So apart from taking a decade to build; CO2 emissions (not just from mining finite uranium); no safe or adequate waste storage solutions after 50 years; a major accident every decade; rising sea levels at all coastal sites; exorbitant guaranteed "strike prices" for electricity generated and prioritised over Renewables; weapons proliferation; health threats; terrorism targets; huge coolant water usage; there's the mind-blowing monumental cost compared to the Renewables they would displace:-
Nuclear Power is not low carbon:-

With construction taking anything up to 10 years longer than renewable projects the emissions not saved over those years should be taken into account. Nuclear effectively emits 64-102g of CO2 per kilowatt hour of plant capacity just from grid emissions during the wait for projects to come online or be refurbished. See - Evaluation of Nuclear Power as a Proposed Solution to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security by Mark Z Jacobson May 2019 ttps://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/NuclearVsWWS.pdf and PV Magazine 18th April 2019 https://www.pv-magazine.com/2019/04/18/there-is-no-such-thing-as-a-zero-... ;

All plants also emit 4.4-CO2/kWh from the water-vapour and heat they release, contrasting with solar panels and wind turbines which reduce heat or water-vapour fluxes to the air by about 2.2 g-CO2/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 g-CO2e/kWh;

Overall life-cycle emissions for nuclear power mean value is about 66 grams of carbon dioxide for every kWh produced. This compares to about 9g for wind, 32g for solar and 443g for gas. This puts nuclear as the third highest carbon emitter after coal-fired plants and natural gas. See - Sovacool, B.- Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey, Energy Policy, August 2008. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421508001997 ;

Existing Nuclear plants emit indirect carbon dioxide due to the continuous mining and refining of increasingly finite uranium needed to make the fuel. The more reactors built around the globe, the more life-cycle emissions would increase as the quality of uranium used decreased, making it necessary to use more energy to get the uranium out of the ground. https://www.stormsmith.nl/i05.html

The UK government's paint-by-numbers so-called Nuclear Renaissance is floundering with none of the multinational corporations still involved due to the heinous costs. Pretty much none have ever been built without State Aid and the 2 "corporations" left involved are the French & Chinese State controlled EDF & CGN. Post-Brexit of course there will be no EU competition laws to prevent the UK government (that'll be us) funding Nuclear new build etc. , not that that's ever stopped the French government & EDF. C'est la vie, as we won't be allowed to say after 31st October!

However in the last fortnight the UK government announced examining new financing strategy/funding models for Nuclear new build:- https://www.gov.uk/government/news/innovative-funding-models-and-technol... . Basically, the scheme is if you pay an electricity bill you'll be paying extra personally for new Nuclear with an extra Nuclear Tax on your bill!

Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS)

The announcement contained a myriad of consultations and reviews in place of actual climate action except that "the government has committed £170 million towards deploying technologies like carbon capture and hydrogen networks in industrial clusters to support our mission to establish the world’s first net zero industrial cluster by 2040.". Plans were also "announced to make it easier to recycle oil and gas infrastructure for use in CCUS projects, including using some of the 20,000 km of pipelines and depleted oil and gas reservoirs to transport and store carbon dioxide.". Having previously drastically failed to get any takers for money on offer to develop CCS, the government announced "investing £26 million into 9 schemes. One of these, in Cheshire, will soon become the UK’s largest carbon capture project, with the captured carbon dioxide potentially being used to make a range of products, from eye drops to instant noodles.". Still nobody has yet been able to demonstrate this technology is viable or reliable at scale for power stations. Reading more carefully in the Notes of the announcement we find the government are actually only "committing to rolling out carbon capture technology at scale in the 2030s, subject to costs coming down". So maybe not then?

Biofuels & Bioenergy

Companies like Drax are currently devastating swamp and wetland forest in the United States for pelleting into Biomass and have gorged on obscene UK government subsidies to switch to burning it in their power stations, all this false solution in the name of green energy. https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/
Substituting fossil fuel oil with biofuels is also a false and highly destructive prospect. Biofuels cannot be supplied at the large scale required. For example the only proven aviation biofuel technology relies on vegetable oils and the only feedstock that would be economically feasible on a large scale is palm oil, which is one of the main drivers of deforestation worldwide and substituting land for food growing. See: Ernsting, Almuth (2017): Aviation Biofuels: How ICAO and Industry Plans for ‘Sustainable Alternative Aviation Fuels’ Could Lead to Planes Flying on Palm Oil. https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Aviation-biofuels-rep...
Substantial use of biofuels would (both directly and indirectly) drive a massive increase in deforestation and peat drainage and thereby cause vast carbon emissions. It would also lead to land grabbing and human rights violations, including forced eviction and loss of food sovereignty. For a fairly recent (2014) study on the detrimental impact of biofuel consumption in the European Union, see: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/documents/Final%20Report_GL...


So the UK government is not only failing to take the prompt and promised action the science tells us is necessary, its wasting time and our money on false solutions.
Its up to us to act.
In the USA much was made of Trumplethinskin's withdrawal from the Paris Accord but it must be said that US Cities' States and neighbourhoods are bypassing National "government" and making their own plans and organising emissions reduction. There are plenty of carbon reduction websites to look at and then reduce personal emissions but attached is the draft from the new Zero Carbon Britain Report on how you can get your local authority to join increasing numbers who have already passed a Climate Emergency motion. You could also use this to organise in your local neighbourhood and bypass our almost entirely climate slovenly politicians.

Replace the sound of climate breakdown increasing severe Summer rain and hail, with the sound of the penny finally dropping. See you on the streets.