Here and there. Now and then

Note: Reflecting on what matters to me most, I feel increasingly conscious that the only issue I care about deeply is Climate Change. In my mind, all other issues pale in comparison to the devastation to which we – you, reader and me – are condemning future generations because of our indifference and wilful ignorance.

But even so, I find it hard to know how to act…

On the one hand… 

It has been a beautiful April day.

On the other hand… 

Today, Sea Ice Extent in the Arctic is lower than it has ever been on this date since satellite measurements began in 1979. (Link)

Arctic Sea Ice Extent for March to May from every year since 1979.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent for March to May from every year since 1979.

On the one hand… 

I strongly support the aims of Climate protesters in London. I share their profound frustration.

On the other hand… 

I feel the protesters are not being honest about the impact of the actions they advocate.

For example, I think if their wishes were granted, we would all be obliged to use much less energy and I only know two ways to do that.

  • The first method is to increase the price of energy – famously not a route to popularity.
  • The second method is to ration energy which has not been attempted in the UK (that I can recall) since the 1974 Oil Crisis.

One could use some combination of these two methods, but I don’t know of any fundamentally different ways.

We are all in favour of ‘Saving the Planet’, but higher energy costs or rationing would be wildly unpopular. This would increase the cost of almost all products and services.

I would vote for climate action and an impoverishment of my life and my future in a heartbeat. But I am well off.

Unless other people are convinced, and until we find a way to address this problem which is acceptable to those who will be most hurt in the short term – poorer people –  it will never actually happen. And all I care about is that it actually happens.

On the one hand… 

I strongly support the goal of a zero-carbon economy.

On the other hand… 

If the existing carbon-intensive economy reduces in scope too fast, then we will lack the resources to create the new economy.

On the one hand… 

David Attenborough spoke movingly on television this week about ‘Climate Change: the facts.

David Attenborough

David Attenborough

I watched his programme and while it’s not the story I would have told, it seemed to me to be a pretty straightforward and a fair presentation.

On the other hand… 

Not every one thought it fair. Here are specific comments (1, 2) or follow these links for torrents more similar stuff (Link#1, Link#2, Link#3). I disagree with these people, and their specific points are broadly irrelevant. But their votes are worth just as much as mine.

On the one hand… 

I am trying hard to lower the amount of energy I personally use.

I am measuring the energy use of appliances, reading my meters once a week and switching things off.

My aim is to reduce the electrical power being used by an average of more than 200 watts.

Over one year this will reduce my carbon dioxide emissions by around 0.35 tonnes. (Link).

On the other hand… 

Last year I was invited to give a keynote talk at a conference in New Zealand. I was honoured and said ‘Yes’.

This will cause an additional 7.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide to be emitted. (Link)

CO2 flight to New Zealand

Andrea Sella has written about this issue and perhaps we are at the end of the era of hypermobility.

On the one hand… 

I felt sad when I saw Notre Dame in flames.

On the other hand… 

I feel sad about droughts and floods and wild fires and destroyed livelihoods and brothers and sisters in poverty around the world.

If billions of euros can be found ‘in an instant’ for Notre Dame, why can’t we address these much more serious and urgent problems as dynamically?

And on this Easter day, I think:

What would Jesus do? 


4 Responses to “Here and there. Now and then”

  1. edhui Says:

    So easy. Jesus was pre fossil fuels, so had a pretty much carbon neutral starting point. But he was able to bring extra supernatural energy into our frame of reference (walking on water and unlimited food production without fuel etc) so he was actually carbon negative. So in answer to your question, Jesus would have led by example, but would also have been confident of success because he had the necessary contacts to solve the entire problem by supernatural intervention if necessary.

    Looking forward to cruising to the North Pole one summer?

  2. edhui Says:

    To be a little more serious, I agree with you that the problem is not just what we do technically, it’s how we get to the point that we’re doing it. That has to be done democratically, and to do that we need informed leadership. Perhaps that’s the most difficult problem!
    With that, we need to identify the societal luxuries that the earth just can’t afford. It might be hypermobility, or it may just be things like first class air travel where passengers pay exorbitant amounts for a few hours’ comfort and a huge extra fuel burn. To my mind, one of the first signs that we mean business is probably improved planning consent for renewable energy solutions- a society that has wrecked the earth building nodding donkeys over swathes of other countries or polluting the seas with huge oil spills doesn’t have the moral authority to say to the rest of the world that we will continue to spew more CO2 than we need to because we think wind farms aren’t pretty, or our grade II listed buildings can’t have visible solar panels. In other words, I think we need grab ALL the easy wins first, and in that climate of actual action, we might be able to persuade voters and politicians to tackle the more difficult decisions.

  3. Jenny Says:

    If everyone made a small effort, it would make a huge difference. I remember when it was difficult for charities to raise money, some people didn’t have any spare cash. Then along came the National Lottery. Suddenly there was loads of money for charities, (even after a “profit” has been taken,) which has made a big difference to many needy people. But the small amount of money spent by people on lottery tickets was always there. In the same way the small changes we can make to the energy we use can have a big difference if we all just save a little bit.
    What would Jesus do? – He changes people’s hearts, I’ve seen it. 😉

    • edhui Says:

      I was thinking about small efforts this morning, and what I could give up if I had to, without too much sacrifice. I thought maybe tea and coffee, as that would save a lot of kettle boiling- imagine the whole country not using kettles anymore. But then I thought all the heat I was generating was just adding to the house heating- if I didn’t use the kettle, the house thermostat would click on earlier. So there I was thinking about a sacrifice, that would probably do a lot to worsen the quality of my life, that wouldn’t make a jot of difference to climate change. That’s why we need people like Michael, who can apply metrology to the nature of the sacrifice, so that we concentrate on the biggest wins as soon as possible. It’s not the size of the change that matters- it’s the intelligence of them. What would Jesus do? Nothing different to what he did, in a pre industrial society. He didn’t contribute to global warming but he could fly without using fossil fuels. He could feed entire populations with bread and fish without wheat monoculture or ecosystem disruption. A real hero, I’m sure.

      We should have a unit of Perceived Sacrifice / Achieved Warming Reduction. The depodesta, perhaps.

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