Climate Change

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Barnaby Implores All Australians To Learn To Pull Out

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/06/2024 - 6:28am in

The Opposition’s shadow minister for home and foreign affairs, Barnaby Joyce, has launched a nation wide campaign to encourage all Australians to pull out.

”Trust me, I know the consequences of not pulling out,” said the member for New England. ”Australia, I urge you to pull out of Paris, or whatever your Friday night squeeze is called.”

”We just can’t afford the cost of not pulling out.”

When asked why he was looking to restart the seemingly settled climate wars, the shadow minister for home and foreign affairs said: ”Gotta go to war over something.”

”Look Albo, I know he’s got a new Missus, so he should listen to me when I talk about pulling out.”

”The country needs to get out of Paris and get into Gina, err, Gina’s way of thinking when it comes to emissions.”

”Anyway, enough chit chat, I’ve got to go and see a dog about potentially burying a bone.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

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Science v. Story: Narrative Strategies for Science Communicators – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/06/2024 - 8:00pm in

In Science v. Story: Narrative Strategies for Science Communicators, Emma Frances Bloomfield parses the complexities of conveying scientific knowledge amid rampant misinformation and eroding public trust. Acknowledging the dual power of narrative to inform and divide, Bloomfield’s engaging text shares tools for crafting effective stories and urges inclusive discourse in the face of polarisation, writes Chris Featherman. This blogpost originally appeared … Continued

Gaming the Refs: Watchdogs ‘Captured’ Amid Cuts and Political Pressure – as Lid is Lifted on UK’s ‘Lax’ Regulation Regime

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/06/2024 - 8:42pm in

A new report sounds the alarm on a failure by UK regulators to sanction companies that are flagrantly breaching rules on pollution, workers’ rights and other violations. 

‘Protecting All We Care About’, written by the non-profits Good Jobs First and Unchecked UK, examines the current state of the UK's regulatory system, branding it in dire need of an overhaul in many areas following years of political pressure and cuts. 

It draws upon extensive data from the Violation Tracker UK database, documenting over 100,000 cases of corporate wrongdoing since 2010. Often the same companies come up time and time again, suggesting that they are not learning their lessons. 

At a launch conference on Thursday, speakers highlighted how Amazon ‘fulfilment centres’ or warehouses have had thousands of ambulance call-outs in recent years – but have had just three safety offences recorded against them.

The US consistently enforces regulations more strictly than the UK across all areas, attendees heard, while in the UK, deep funding and staffing cuts to regulatory budgets are having "immense effects on enforcement gaps”. 

For instance, there has been a nearly 90% decline in prosecutions by the Environment Agency since 2010. As of 2021, a farm in England – supposedly regulated by the EA – can expect a visit from an environmental officer only once every 236 years. 

It comes as the UK Finance industry is gearing up to push for further deregulation, even under a Labour Government, amid pleas from executives in the City of London.

Yet the use of bans or “prohibitions” barring City firm directors by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has fallen by 62% since 2013, while the number of individual fines has also collapsed, the report finds. Many FCA investigations end in mere warnings, while over half of decisions don’t carry any monetary penalty. 

Ian Tyler, a non-executive director and former senior banker, told the conference that enforcement by the FCA is “highly selective”, with big firms often facing only fines, while smaller firms and their bosses face more severe consequences, such as criminal prosecution. 

Meanwhile, the Treasury Select Committee which is also meant to hold rogue bosses to account “lacks rigour and knowledge,” with staffers often being secondees from finance firms, he said. 

Other speakers pointed out that “regulatory capture” has worsened in the UK in recent years, with watchdogs sometimes receiving gifts from those they scrutinise, particularly in the water industry. Research by he Liberal Democrats earlier this year found that OfWat bosses have been treated to dinners from disgraced water firms despite public outrage over sewage scandals. 

Officials there received lunches at shows and even an umbrella gifted by firms, seemingly attempting to keep the regulator on side.  

Some regulators in the UK are also expected to be cheerleaders for industry, unlike in the US. The FCA now has to deal with alleged conflicts of interest after the Government passed the 2023 Financial Services and Markets Bill, where ministers gave the FCA a new ‘growth duty’ – a demand for it to promote growth and competitiveness. In other words, to act as an industry cheerleader as well as its regulator. 

“This new obligation to promote market interests presents a conflict with FCA’s mission to ensure financial stability and protect consumers,” the Good Jobs First report suggests. 

Equally, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) which regulates North Sea Oil firms, has a "conflicting" core mission to achieve the maximum recovery of UK petroleum. Environmentalists say that industry-promotion objective stands in "direct conflict" with the UK’s commitment to net zero.

Other issues like the ‘fragmentation’ of watchdogs, such as lack of a single enforcement body for labour rights, was also cited as a significant problem. 

Watchdogs or Lapdogs?

The report from Unchecked UK argues that the UK's regulatory system is "not delivering” – pointing to a huge disconnect between workers, consumers and the environment being abused by firms – while prosecutions or fines for related offences are often non-existent. 

On workers’ rights, there have been 193 convictions for breaches and 349 licences revoked in the labour market since 2008 by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, and there has been a steep decline in licences being revoked since 2021. Yet Anti-Slavery International estimates that over 130,000 people are trapped in slavery in the UK. 

The Low Pay Commission reports that 120,000 cases of minimum wage underpayment benefited from HMRC investigations into non-compliant employers in 2021/2022. Yet there are an estimated 760,000 workers paid less than the minimum wage. 

In housing, OpenDemocracy found that half of local authorities in England and Wales didn't prosecute any private landlords or letting agents between 2019 and 2021, despite more than 314,000 complaints being made in that period. 

Generation Rent states that 250,000 landlords are renting out properties that do not meet the legal Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards as of 2022. But according to the National Audit Office, only 10 English landlords were barred from renting out property between 2016 and 2021.

On consumer rights, customers spent 1.5 billion hours in 2021/2022 dealing with "detriment" arising from disputes with traders, the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy reports. 

The Violation Tracker database shows that the Food Standards Agency has prosecuted only eight meat and dairy producers since 2021, while The Guardian notes that hospital admissions for salmonella, e. coli, and campylobacter infections have reached record levels.

Meanwhile, the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) has prosecuted 17 cases since 2010, with an average fine of £63,000 for water safety compliance, according to Violation Tracker. The fines are likely to be seen as a cost of doing business. Last month, the BBC reported 26 confirmed cases of cryptosporidium due to faecal contamination of water in Brixham, Devon.

Violation Tracker also reveals that airlines have faced total fines of £165,000 for aviation safety violations and £15,000 for one licensing violation since 2010. Yet the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy identifies aviation as the sector with the highest incidence of consumers being wronged. 

On domestic goods, the Office for Product Safety and Standards issued total penalties of £35,894 via the courts for just three cases between 2018 and 2021, according to Violation Tracker UK. 

Yet the Office for Product Safety and Standards has itself found that 63% of electrical products from online marketplaces were "non-compliant," and nearly a quarter were unsafe.

The situation is even more stark when it comes to environmental offences.

Following major cuts under the coalition austerity years, enforcement action by the Environment Agency plunged by 88% between 2010 and 2023.

The Guardian and Point Source have also reported that no warnings or penalties for water pollution by industrial farming were issued between 2018 (when the law was introduced) and 2021. 

Violation Tracker UK also identifies 22 published cases of climate violations under the Greenhouse Gas Trading Scheme Regulations since its introduction in 2012, and 35 enforcement cases against oil and gas companies since 2010, resulting in £4.2 million in fines. 

There have been just nine published enforcement cases of illegal damage to habitats since 2010 against companies, one by National Resource Wales and 8 by Natural England, with only one case receiving a monetary fine. The sanction was a paltry £2,605, according to Violation Tracker UK. 

Helpfully for an incoming Labour Government, when it comes to issues like sewage and environmental pollution, much could be done to enforce laws currently on the statute book – without needing new legislation to be passed.

As Hannah Slaughter, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, told the conference: "It's often taken it for granted that if a law exists, that means that it's happening...It's become clear that this is not always the case."

You can read the full report here. 

Byline Times is relaunching our VoteWatch project to monitor disinformation, dodgy campaigning, and dark money during the 2024 General Election. Get in touch if you have a tip off or any insights: votewatch24@bylinetimes.com

If you have another political story or tip-off, email josiah@bylinetimes.com.

Low-Traffic Neighborhoods Are Reclaiming London’s Streets From Cars

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/06/2024 - 6:00pm in

This is part two of a three-part series about smart ways cities are solving the problems caused by cars. Read part one here

During the peak of morning rush hour, the pretty, tree-lined streets along the edge of London Fields, a public park in the northeast of the British capital city, are a scene of springtime calm. Blackbirds twitter. Pedestrians linger. Tulips bathe in the sun.

But just two blocks away, on the A107 road, known as Mare Street for much of its length, the traffic is almost overwhelming. Queues of towering, red double-decker buses, white transit vans and cars full of disgruntled commuters attack the senses.

That stark contrast is largely down to a controversial but effective urban policy that is reclaiming London’s streets from cars: Low-Traffic Neighborhoods, or LTNs.

Aerial view of London Fields ParkThe London Fields area takes its name from a spacious park with sports and recreation facilities. Credit: Peter Yeung

“The root problem we have is that the road networks are way too oversaturated,” says Jon Burke, who was the cabinet member for transport in Hackney, the borough that is home to London Fields, between 2018 and 2020. “Our neighborhoods were never designed to have through traffic. LTNs are a way of keeping that rat-running out.”

Many cities around the world are trying to make themselves more livable and shift away from cars in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns and with the urgent need to adapt to the climate crisis — from the Superblocks in Barcelona to the 15-minute city in Paris — and one of London’s answers to this conundrum is LTNs.

LTNs are, in practical terms, simple. Street planters or other “filters,” such as metal gates or even just monitoring cameras, are used to block traffic from using residential streets. They are strategically placed in order to keep the flow of cars on main roads and away from people’s homes, where noise and air pollution can have a serious impact. Any breaches can lead to fines, but cyclists, emergency vehicles, waste trucks and Blue Badge holders — people who have disabilities — can pass with their exemptions.

Pedestrians walking through an LTN.Located in northeast London, Hackney links the city center to outer boroughs — so it has long faced traffic issues. Credit: Peter Yeung

Hackney created its first LTN in 1974 in a neighborhood known as De Beauvoir Town following traffic accidents involving children and elderly residents crossing the road. But during the pandemic the borough, which is home to a quarter of a million people spread over about seven square miles, wanted to accelerate its efforts towards having more people- rather than car-led spaces. The mayor of London has set out a goal for 80 percent of all trips in the city to be by foot, bicycle or public transport by 2041.

“Vehicle emissions can blight streets, harming health and contributing to climate change,” said the mayor’s office in a statement. “Creating streets and routes that encourage walking, cycling and public transport use will play a major role in reaching this goal.”

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Hackney has long had high levels of through-traffic due to its position in northeast London, linking the city center to outer boroughs. According to research by Hackney Council, a large proportion of pollution in the borough in 2016 was generated by road traffic — 64 percent of nitrogen dioxide emissions and 25 percent of PM10 (coarse particulate matter) — despite the fact only around 30 percent of residents own cars.

So, Burke pushed ahead with rolling out the LTNs. Today, there are 81 LTNs across Hackney, spanning from the larger examples like London Fields to some that are just a few streets wide. More than 70 percent of the eligible roads in Hackney are now covered, which represents half of Hackney’s total area and the highest of any London borough. In conjunction, Hackney has created more than 40 “Schools Streets” — where vehicles are prohibited from entering during set times in the morning and afternoon.

Map of Hackney’s Low-Traffic Neighborhoods



Elsewhere, LTNs have been called out for mainly benefiting the wealthy. But in Hackney, equality is taken seriously, with all of its LTNs subject to equalities impact assessments. A study published in 2021 found people in Hackney’s new LTNs are “much more likely” to be in the more “deprived” half of the population than in the affluent half. Between 40 and 50 percent of households in Hackney’s LTNs live in social housing.

“I had already planned to do this, but Covid expedited the process,” says Burke. “De Beauvoir was a massive success that we could replicate.”

By the end of 2020, four percent of all Londoners — about 300,000 people — were living in areas covered by the 72 LTNs introduced that year as part of the UK government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, which gave local authorities funding to start LTNs.

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The results have been remarkably positive. According to Hackney Council, traffic has been reduced by 38 percent in its four largest LTNs and by two percent on boundary roads, suggesting that it is not being displaced to other areas — a common criticism of LTNs — but rather that people are switching away from cars. Across all LTNs and surrounding areas, the Council found reductions in nitrogen dioxide levels in 329 of 388 monitoring locations. And a poll of 800 local residents found that one in four people said they have increased the amount of walking, running and cycling they do.

More broadly, a longitudinal study published in March, based on six years of surveys with thousands of people in three outer London boroughs — Enfield, Kingston and Waltham Forest — found people switched from car travel to “active” travel (walking increased by 66.6 minutes and cycling by 21.5 minutes on average). The researchers also estimated that for every £28 t0 £35 ($34 t0 $43) spent on LTNs, there was a public health benefit of £4,800 ($5,987) over a 20-year period. It found that each year 37 deaths and more than 500,000 sick days would be avoided.

“It’s rare that there is a reduction in car use due to policy, but this is one example of that,” says Rachel Aldred, a professor of transport at the University of Westminster and co-author of the study. “It shows traffic is not a thing that just happens. People can do things differently, changing where they shop, how they combine trips.”

A previous study of 10 LTNs by the Centre for London, a think tank, found inside the boundaries, cycle use rose by between 31 percent and 172 percent depending on the LTN, while car traffic fell by between 22 percent and 76 percent. It also found that road injuries halved.

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But despite the wealth of evidence backing the traffic-reducing measures, they have become a controversial and politicized issue. In 2021, campaign group Horrendous Hackney Road Closures took the council to court, but their case was thrown out by the High Court. Some LTNs have been removed after pushback. This was the case in the borough of Ealing, where critics claimed that LTNs unfairly penalized those who rely on cars, that they were implemented without community engagement and that LTNs simply displace traffic onto other roads (despite evidence to the contrary).

“The reality is that LTNs are disruptive but hugely successful,” says Burke, who has received smears and even death threats for his efforts. “It’s as close to a gun rights issue as we have in the UK. The key is to deliver policies in an evidence-led way.”


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The Centre for London report said that local authorities should “engage early with the public” among other recommendations to help boost public approval. According to Hackney Council, it has adapted LTNs following feedback from locals through public consultations and outreach, such as by increasing the number of exemptions. 

Even so, public perceptions of the policy remain mixed in Hackney.

Kathleen Hooper, who was with her granddaughter at a playpark in London Fields, said that the LTNs were an inconvenience for her. “They are closing too many roads,” she said. “They forced it all into one area. Sometimes it’s just quicker to walk.”

But Will Petty, who lives in an LTN known as Hackney Downs, argues that is exactly the point of the policy. “At a stroke overnight, the area became more walkable,” he said. “We have to do something quite drastic about car use across London.”

LTN signs on a London street.“The reality is that LTNs are disruptive but hugely successful,” says Jon Burke. Credit: Peter Yeung

Nonetheless, overall the LTNs have major public support — 47 percent of Londoners support LTNs, and 16 percent oppose them — and the criticisms appear to be mostly unfounded in the long-term, even though experts say further data is needed.

Going forward, such schemes can be “highly applicable” to other towns and cities if applied to local contexts, according to Burke, but they can only be part of the solution: “More demand-side policies are needed to tackle the overloaded main roads.”

Professor Aldred agrees other policies such as zero emissions buses and congestion charges must continue to be developed as well as increasing the breadth of research about LTNs outside of metropolitan areas, where car use is often higher.

“When it comes to the climate emergency, there’s a lot that needs to be done,” says Aldred.

The post Low-Traffic Neighborhoods Are Reclaiming London’s Streets From Cars appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Two Degrees: Guardrail? Or Guide Rail to Disaster?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/06/2024 - 12:31am in
by Kent Peacock

image of water flowing through melted ice

Ice melt at a glacier in Columbia. (Michael Hamments, Unsplash)

The idea that 2⁰C is a safe guardrail against global heating was a guesstimate by an economist almost fifty years ago, and it had a sketchy scientific basis even at that time. In November 2023, a consortium comprised of many of the top glaciologists and climate scientists in the world published a report entitled “The State of the Cryosphere 2023—Two Degrees is Too High.” (See also the review on Carbon Brief.)  The only hope of preventing catastrophic sea-level rise, the authors say, is to cool the planet to a temperature anomaly of not much more than 1⁰C, as soon as possible. In a time of unrelenting bad news for the climate, no one wants to hear a prescription like this. But climate policy must be adjusted—quickly—to reflect this grim reality.

I am a philosopher of science, not a scientist, and certainly not a glaciologist. However, I have done what anyone can do, which is listen to and read what the glaciologists have to say. My aim here is simply to outline some very important things that glaciologists and other earth scientists have been trying for a long time to tell us about ice, and why it matters to anyone who cares whether our fractious species could have any sort of a sustainable future.

What Everyone Needs to Know

My focus is on ice melt and the resulting sea-level rise because policymakers and the public do not widely understand the immediacy of this problem. Here is the key finding of the study published by the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI): “A compelling number of new studies . . . point to a [melt] threshold for both Greenland and parts of Antarctica well below 2°C, committing the planet to between 12–20 meters of sea-level rise if 2°C becomes the new constant Earth temperature.”

This implies that 2°C is not a guardrail beyond which the effects of carbonization would become unacceptable, but a point at which climate catastrophe is guaranteed. This report and other results imply that current climate agreements (based on staying within the 2°C limit and “aspirationally” holding to 1.5°C) are hopelessly inadequate.

image of an iceberg in Greenland, reflected against the water

An iceberg stands tall off of Greenland. For how long? (Grid-Arendal, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This report came out just before COP28 in late 2023. It has received almost no notice or discussion in major media outlets. It was certainly not considered in any decision-making that occurred at COP28.

The result described in this report is not a new idea. In 2013, G. L. Foster and E. J. Rohling published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which they stated, “[O]ur results imply that acceptance of a long-term 2°C warming [CO2 between 400 and 450 ppm] would mean acceptance of likely (68% confidence) long-term sea-level rise by more than 9 m above the present. Future studies may improve this estimate…”

Indeed, future studies have only made the estimate higher. Note that this paper appeared before the Paris Agreement of 2015, which set 2°C as the world’s climate policy goal.

Other scientists warned about catastrophic sea-level rise well before 2015. In 2007, James Hansen stated, “The nonlinearity of the ice sheet problem makes it impossible to accurately predict the sea-level rise change on a specific date. However, as a physicist, I find it almost inconceivable that BAU [business as usual] climate change would not yield a sea level rise change of the order of meters on the century timescale.”

And as far back as 1978, prescient glacier whisperer John H. Mercer made two key predictions:

“If the CO2 greenhouse effect is magnified in high latitudes, as now seems likely, deglaciation of West Antarctica would probably be the first disastrous result of continued fossil fuel consumption.”

“One of the warning signs that a dangerous warming trend is under way in Antarctica will be the breakup of the ice shelves on both coasts of the Antarctic Peninsula, starting with the northernmost and extending gradually southward.”

In 1995 the Larsen A ice shelf, at the tip of the Peninsula, blew apart overnight, and in 2002 Larsen B, a sheet of ice about 200 meters thick and having an area greater than the state of Rhode Island, crumbled in a few weeks. Mercer also correctly predicted that the center of WAIS (the West Antarctic Ice Sheet) would begin to thin.

Mercer’s predictions were not tied to any particular temperature increase. However, note his statement that deglaciation would likely be the first disastrous consequence of our fossil fuel addiction, not something that would conveniently occur long after the terms of office of our present political leadership.

António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, deserves credit for recently warning that seas may rise to “unthinkable” levels and threaten “a mass exodus of entire populations on a biblical scale.” But policymakers have largely ignored the decades-long warnings of scientists about catastrophic sea-level rise.

How Much Could Sea Level Rise?—And How Fast?

There is nothing sacred about our present sea-level rise. Throughout geological history sea-level rises have see-sawed up and down, sensitive to small variations in climate. If all the present ice in the world were to melt, it would raise ocean levels between 65 and 70 meters. Seven would come from Greenland, roughly 58 from Antarctica, a few more from the various mountain glaciers and ice sheets around the world, and some from thermal expansion of sea water in a warming world.

No one thinks that all 70 meters worth of ice could melt anytime soon. But numerous studies show that we are already at carbon dioxide and temperature levels consistent with seas 20 meters or more higher than we have now. As Hansen’s remark indicates, it is difficult to predict precisely how fast or exactly when this much sea-level rise could occur. However, policymakers should grasp that it likely would take the form of a steadily accelerating increase punctuated by abrupt, unpredictable, and irreversible pulses as ice sheets collapse, one by one.

graph showing projected sea level rise from melt in Antarctica, ranging from nearly zero meters in 21000 to nearly 10 meters in 2030

Sea-level rise from Antarctica if current emissions continue. (ICCI)

To understand why this is the case, we have to know something about ice. For our purposes, there are three main kinds of ice in the world: ice on land (icefields, mountain glaciers, land-based ice caps); floating ice (sea ice and ice shelves); and marine ice sheets (also called marine terminating glaciers). The latter kind of ice is the wild card, for reasons everyone needs to understand.

If land-based ice melts, it is simple—sooner or later the water ends up in the sea. Melting is a major mechanism of ice loss in Greenland.

The melting of the second type of ice, sea ice and ice shelves, has at least three major effects on the earth system: Darker open water absorbs much more solar radiation than ice, so that the melting of sea ice, which replaces reflective ice cover with absorptive dark water, is one way in which warming causes more warming. Also, ice shelves buttress the land-based and marine-terminating glaciers behind them, and when the shelves disappear, the glaciers can flow into the sea much faster, which of course does raise sea-level rise. Furthermore, the loss of sea ice and ice shelves will have disastrous effects on marine biota.

Ice Over Flotation, and Why it Matters

To understand the risk posed by grounded marine ice sheets—the third, critical group—we need to understand the important concept of “ice over flotation.”

Imagine a stack of old-fashioned ice blocks in a bathtub containing about a foot of water. The ice sits on the bottom of the tub because it is too heavy to float. This is ice over flotation—more ice than can float in a given footprint and depth of water. The more blocks of ice you add to the stack, the higher the water level will go when it ultimately melts.

Marine ice sheets are like our bathtub in that they contain huge amounts of ice over flotation. Over millennia, snow builds up within a geographical basin and compresses into blue ice, which accumulates faster than it can flow out of the basin. The vast weight of the ice compresses the earth’s crust, making the basin deeper and allowing for even more ice buildup.

image of very high ice cliffs towering over people walking below

Ice, pregnant for calving. (Natalie Robinson, imaggeo)

Grounded marine ice sheets can remain stable for thousands of years so long as the climate remains cold enough and they are protected from the open sea by ice shelves. But if relatively warm sea water gets access to the base of the ice domes, they can collapse catastrophically, possibly even within a few years (though how fast remains a matter of investigation).

If the calving face (the often-turbulent ice cliff where icebergs break off into the sea) eats into the heart of the ice sheet, there are several feedbacks that can cause the collapse to accelerate. (For more detail, see my CACOR talk.) Glaciologists speak of Marine Ice Sheet Instability (MISI)—the deeper into the interior basin the calving front goes, the faster the ice crumbles. Studies of paleoclimate show that on rare occasions the collapse of ice masses can lead to several meters of sea-level rise per century.

Here’s the catch: The chain of events that would trigger such a catastrophe could be set in motion many years before the event itself. And like a slow-motion avalanche, it might be unstoppable beyond a certain point no matter how much we reduce emissions or recycle our beer cans. In an important sense the question, “How long would it take for the predicted 12–20 meters to cash out?” is not relevant. There is absolutely no scope for delay.

Hence, our climate policy should be guided not by the principle of brinkmanship (“how close to the edge can we skate?”), but by the precautionary principle (“we don’t want to go there”). Climate brinkmanship is very similar to nuclear brinkmanship except that we play chicken not with other nations, but with the entire planetary ecosystem. Although current climate policy affects the pretense of sober cost-benefit analysis, it is in fact a form of high-stakes gambling.

What Worries Me

A cynical old saw is, “We have the morals we can afford.” Writers like Naomi Klein believe that solving the climate problem will force us to solve the larger problem of the predatory nature of most human interactions and move humanity to a new level of equity and cooperation.

I would like to think that this is the way it will go. The problem is that as we get closer to stark emergency, it will be harder to respond in ways that are measured and equitable. If there is any hope of saving West Antarctica, it will involve some combination of emissions reduction, fossil fuel replacement, improved land management, direct air capture of carbon, and possibly solar radiation management, applied on an emergency basis and not merely when it is politically and economically convenient.

As the situation becomes more dire, our increasingly desperate responses are likely to become more technocratic, risky, and unilateral. Humanity might squeak through the climate bottleneck, only to be left with a world that is even more inhumane and unjust than the one we have now. We really should listen to what those glaciologists are saying.

Kent Peacock is a professor of philosophy at the University of Lethbridge, in Alberta, Canada.

 

The post Two Degrees: Guardrail? Or Guide Rail to Disaster? appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

LSE Festival 2024 Reading List – Power and Politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/06/2024 - 9:34pm in

LSE Festival 2024 runs from Monday 10 to Saturday 15 June, bringing together academics, writers, journalists and leaders to explore how politics and power shape our world. An exciting range of expert panel events and a festival exhibition Displays of Power will delve into topics from the impact of the elections taking place around the world this year to the reality of where power lies in addressing pressing global challenges.

Ahead of the festival, LSE Review of Books Managing Editor Anna D’Alton shares a reading list on power and politics, covering issues from media freedom and struggles against authoritarianism to climate colonialism and data extractivism.

LSE Festival Power and Politics 2024

What Do We Know and What Should We Do About Fake News? Nick Anstead. SAGE. 2021.

Nick Anstead’s What Do We Know and What Should We Do About Fake News? explores the phenomenon of fake news and possible ways to address it. Given the rise of misinformation and disinformation and its influence in political campaigns of recent years, Matt Bluemink’s review finds the book a touchstone for our times.

Book cover of Cultivating DemocracyCultivating Democracy: Politics and Citizenship in Agrarian India. Mukulika Banerjee. Oxford University Press. 2021.

Cultivating Democracy by Mukulika Banerjee provides a rich and nuanced perspective on the complexities of politics, agrarian life and citizenship in rural India. Read more about the book in an interview with Mukilka Banerjee and a review by Kishor K. Podh.

Nick Anstead and Mukulika Banerjee are panellists in an LSE Festival event, A year of elections: power and politics in 2024 on Monday 10 June.

The Circulation of Anti-Austerity Protest. Bart Cammaerts. Springer. 2018.

In The Circulation of Anti-Austerity Protest, Bart Cammaerts examines how protest circulates in society, drawing on an investigation into the UK anti-austerity movement following the 2008 financial crisis. Cammaerts’s research offers rich insights into how social movements engage with communication technologies and processes, finds Sabrina Wilkinson in her review.

 

Media Freedom coverMedia Freedom. Damian Tambini. Polity. 2021.

Damian Tambini’s Media Freedom reflects on the history of media in the US, the UK and Europe and makes the case for absolute media freedom in order to uphold democracy. This book offers a cogent and practical response to evolving issues surrounding media freedom, writes Alana Smith in her review.

Damian Tambini and Bart Cammaerts will be participate in an LSE Festival event, Authoritarian populism and media freedom taking place on Tuesday 11 June.

Book cover of Carbon Colonialism by Laurie Parsons showing a man in a yellow T0shirt and navy trousers on a wooden boat , holding an oar in a body of water that is full of plastic rubbish.Carbon Colonialism: How Rich Countries Export Climate Breakdown. Laurie Parsons. Manchester University Press. 2023.

In Carbon Colonialism Laurie Parsons spotlights the injustice and power asymmetries of global climate politics and policy which enable the Global North to outsource carbon production and waste disposal to the Global South. Emphasising the cost to developing nations who bear the severest effects of climate breakdown, Parsons makes a convincing case for radical collective action and an overhaul of the legal framework on climate, writes Sneha Biswas.

TThreatening Dystopias coverhreatening Dystopias: The Global Politics of Climate Change Adaptation in Bangladesh. Kasia Paprocki. Cornell University Press. 2021.

Kasia Paprocki, which explores climate change adaptation in the Khulna region of Bangladesh, a place extremely vulnerable to the threats posed by the climate crisis. According to Nikhil Deb’s review, this study deserves wide acclaim for its refreshing take on how the ideologies surrounding climate change and climate victims today reproduce and intensify rural dispossession. 

Kasia Paprocki will chair an LSE Festival Event, Colonial power and climate change on Wednesday 12 June.

The Class Ceiling: Why It Pays to be Privileged. Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison. Bristol University Press. 2019.

The Class Ceiling by Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison offer a unique and encapsulating analysis of class inequality at the top end of the UK labour market. The book is not only compulsory reading for anybody who still believes that the UK is a meritocracy, writes Liam Kennedy, but its mixed-methods approach allows for important, nuanced and often overlooked aspects of social mobility to be understood.

A forthcoming book by Sam Friedman and Aaron Reeves, Born to Rule (Harvard University Press, September 2024), shows how white men from elite backgrounds, who have all too often attended a tiny group of private schools and highly selective universities, remain profoundly overrepresented in the contemporary British elite.

Learn more about this research by visiting the Displays of Power exhibition, in which Friedman and Reeves have an exhibit.

Narrating Democracy in Myanmar coverNarrating Democracy in Myanmar: The Struggle between Activists, Democratic Leaders and Aid Workers. Tamas Wells. Amsterdam University Press. 2021.

In Narrating Democracy in Myanmar, Tamas Wells interviewed foreign aid workers, Burmese democracy activists and NLD political figures to capture the multifaceted ways in which democracy has been conceptualised in Myanmar over the past decade, often outside of a Western liberal democratic paradigm. Read Giulia Garbagni’s review.

Hear from experts about the struggles of activists to uphold democracy in the LSE Festival event Defending democracy: building solidarity with persecuted writers, journalists, and artists will take place.

The event will feature Alpa Shah as a panellist, author of The Incarcerations: BK-16 and the Search for Democracy in India about the imprisonment of 16 human rights defenders without trial for an alleged terrorism plot against Modi’s government.

How cities can transform democracy by ross beveridge and philippe koch showing a hand holding a city with a colourful background and white and blue font.How Cities Can Transform Democracy. Ross Beveridge and Philippe Koch. Polity Press. 2022.

 In How Cities Can Transform Democracy, Ross Beveridge and Philippe Koch position the city as a democratic idea and a space for everyday collective action in the context of increasing urbanisation. The book generates new ways of thinking about the democratic potential of the city, writes Charlotte Cator.

Discover how European cities and their leaders play a critical role in addressing pressing policy challenges from inequality to climate change in an exhibit, “Who is Leading Europe’s cities?” featuring research by LSE Cities in the Displays of Power exhibition.

Data grab by Ulises Mejias and Nick Couldry book coverData Grab: The New Colonialism of Big Tech and How to Fight Back. Ulises A Mejias and Nick Couldry. WH Allen. 2024.

Data Grab by Nick Couldry and Ulises A Mejias explores how Big Tech ushered in an exploitative system of “data colonialism”, whereby elites profit by extracting new “data territories” from the masses. The book argues that conceiving of data exploitation in a continuum with historical colonialism is essential for understanding it and developing strategies on how we can resist it. Read more about the book in an interview with the authors.

Hear from other experts on the topic of technology, data and power at the LSE Festival event AI guardians: who holds power over our data taking place Saturday 15 June.

Note: This list was compiled by Anna D’Alton, Managing Editor of LSE Review of Books.

The post gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Main image credit: Alejandro_Munoz on Shutterstock.

 

Open Letter on Future Made in Australia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/06/2024 - 8:34am in

We are economists, political-economists and policy specialists in related fields, writing to express our support for active measures to strengthen Australia’s manufacturing capabilities and guide investment in critical infrastructure, including measures proposed in the Commonwealth government’s Future Made in Australia policy framework.

Australia faces an historic imperative to strengthen and modernise its capacity to develop and produce a full range of technology-intensive, sustainable, globally marketable manufactured products. Australia’s strategic weakness in manufacturing has been evident for many years. But the need to overcome that weakness is especially pressing given stresses and risks in global supply chains (associated with global health, geopolitical and climate crises), and the overarching need to accelerate the global energy transition (requiring massive inputs of high-value manufactured products for generation, storage, transmission and use of renewable energy, and the electrification of industry, transport and buildings). Meanwhile, mounting climate impacts in Australia and globally confirm the urgent need for investment in climate-resilient infrastructure in energy, transport and water systems.

Recognition of the strategic value of manufacturing and the essential role of government in directing investment and innovation has sparked an historic turn in economic policy around the world. In most industrial countries, outdated ‘comparative advantage’ theories of trade and development – according to which countries should automatically specialize in products predetermined by natural resource endowments – have been abandoned. There is new recognition that competitiveness is deliberately created and shaped, through proactive policy interventions that push both private and public actors to do more than market forces alone could attain.

Historic policy shifts in the U.S. (including the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act) are remaking national manufacturing there. Other countries (including the EU, Canada, Japan and Korea) are implementing powerful measures to expand and modernise manufacturing, especially in sectors tied to the clean energy transformation. China’s pro-active strategies, which have achieved global dominance in many supply chains related to the energy transformation, confirms the value of active policy in shaping sustainable manufacturing and infrastructure.

This historic redirection in policy has sparked predictable, knee-jerk responses from critics in Australia (such as the Productivity Commission), trying to defend outdated laissez-faire thinking. As these critics re-hash decades-old debates about industry policy, other industrial countries are implementing a new vision of economic statecraft for a world that is changing rapidly. The focus of public debate should now be on how Australian workers and communities can best benefit from this global transformation in energy, manufacturing, and infrastructure – and that will require powerful pro-active strategies.

Australia faces a vital choice. Decades of policy neglect for manufacturing, combined with support (including subsidies) for mineral extraction and export, have left Australia with a distorted and unbalanced economy. Among all OECD countries, Australia has the smallest manufacturing base (relative to overall GDP and employment), and is most reliant on net imports of manufactures to meet its own growing needs for manufactured products. This exposes Australia to a wide range of economic, social, environmental and geopolitical risks. Meanwhile, powerful corporate interests keep pressing to extend and expand their ‘extract and export’ business model.

Australia’s over-dependence on raw resource extraction and export undermines prospects for more sustainable, value-adding activities, via numerous channels: diverting capital and labour resources, contributing to exchange rate overvaluation and instability, and distorting fiscal policy settings, regional imbalances, and democratic processes.

If we continued on this path, Australia would miss an historic opportunity to rebuild a sophisticated, technology-intensive, and sustainable manufacturing capability – and participate fully in new global markets for clean energy and manufacturing. We would continue exporting raw minerals (including critical minerals like lithium). But we would squander opportunities to add value to those minerals, and develop a more diversified and sustainable industrial mix. We would remain on the losing end of lopsided trade relations: selling unprocessed resources to buy back more expensive value-added products (like transmission equipment, batteries, and electric vehicles). And our future prosperity would be jeopardised by a failure to seize the economic and industrial opportunities of the global energy transition.

In contrast, by rebuilding and modernizing sustainable manufacturing and infrastructure, linked fundamentally to the energy and climate transition, Australia could create hundreds of thousands of well-paying industrial jobs, support regional economies, and contribute significantly to decarbonisation in Australia and globally.

For these reasons, we strongly support active strategies to modernise and strengthen Australia’s manufacturing and renewable energy industries and infrastructure, with a particular focus on products related to the energy transformation. The Future Made in Australia proposals represent an important recognition of the strategic importance of manufacturing, and open up hopeful opportunities to develop and realise this mission. The recent Commonwealth budget makes a critical downpayment on this strategy, with measures targeted at several key sectors (including renewable hydrogen, critical minerals processing, and battery and solar manufacturing).

Key next steps in a full national strategy should include place-based innovation clusters, massive investments in vocational and technical skills, support for other sustainable manufacturing activities (from green metals to wind power equipment to electric vehicles), the active use of public procurement to nurture domestic production, and other measures to support sustainability and a circular economy. This overarching effort to develop a sustainable manufacturing capability must operate in tandem with strong and consistent policies to reduce fossil fuel production, use and emissions over time. And the strategy must feature strong labour, environmental and social conditionalities to ensure that the revival of manufacturing strengthens workers’ rights, Indigenous rights, women’s participation and equality, and environmental protection. These conditionalities – in essence, ‘sticks’, to go along with ‘carrots’ – are essential to advance the public interest and ensure the benefits of a Future Made in Australia are broadly shared. Finally, the strategy must also reach offshore to support just and socially responsive decarbonisation and climate-resilient trajectories for our Pacific neighbours.

Using the full suite of policy levers available to government, a Future Made in Australia strategy could rebuild a strong, sustainable manufacturing sector, with spill-over benefits that spread throughout the economy and society. We strongly support this important shift in emphasis and vision. We firmly believe that sustainable manufacturing must play a vital and strategic role in Australia’s economy. We look forward to contributing to the further development, expansion and implementation of this strategy.

Signed,

  1. Prof. Jane Andrew, University of Sydney Business School
  2. Prof. Marian Baird AO, The University of Sydney
  3. Josh Bornstein, Maurice Blackburn
  4. Prof. Mark Bray, University of Newcastle
  5. Dr Chris Briggs, University of Technology Sydney
  6. Dr. Gareth Bryant, University of Sydney
  7. Tim Buckley, Climate Energy Finance
  8. Prof. Lynne Chester, University of Sydney
  9. Dr. John Clegg, University of Sydney
  10. Prof. Amy Cohen, UNSW Sydney Faculty of Law & Justice
  11. Prof. Louise Crabtree-Hayes, Western Sydney University
  12. Adjunct A/Prof. Lisa Denny, University of Tasmania
  13. Dr. Geoff Dow, University of Queensland
  14. Prof. Bradon Ellem, University of Sydney
  15. Dr. John Falzon, The Australian National University
  16. Dr. Frances Flanagan, University of Technology Sydney
  17. Prof. Chris Gibson, University of Wollongong
  18. Prof. Katherine Gibson, Western Sydney University
  19. Prof. Roy Green, University of Technology Sydney
  20. Dr. Sidsel Grimstad, Griffith University
  21. Prof. Carl Grodach, Monash University
  22. A/Prof. Stephen Healy, Western Sydney University
  23. Prof. John Howe, University of Melbourne
  24. Prof. Llewelyn Hughes, Australian National University
  25. Dr. Elizabeth Humphrys, University of Technology Sydney
  26. Prof. Kurt Iveson, University of Sydney
  27. Dr. Evan Jones, University of Sydney
  28. A/Prof. Anne Junor, UNSW Canberra
  29. Dr. Svenja Keele, Monash University
  30. Prof. Steve Keen, Economist
  31. Prof. Martijn Konings, University of Sydney
  32. Dr. Declan Kuch, Western Sydney University
  33. Prof. Russel Lansbury, University of Sydney Business School
  34. Dr. Melinda Laundon, Queensland University of Technology
  35. Dr. Emma Lees, University of Sydney
  36. Prof. Nick McGuigan, Monash University
  37. Prof. Abby Mellick Lopes, University of Technology Sydney
  38. Prof. Shelley Marshall, RMIT University
  39. A/Prof. Kirsten Martinus, University of Western Australia
  40. Prof. John Mathews, Macquarie University
  41. Dr Paul Mazzola, University of Wollongong
  42. Prof. Paula McDonald, Queensland University of Technology
  43. A/Prof. Joanne McNeil, Griffith University
  44. A/Prof. Alex Millmow, Federation University
  45. Prof. Richard Mitchell, Monash University
  46. Prof. Johanna Macneil, RMIT University
  47. Dr. David Morawetz, Boston University
  48. Prof. Bronwen Morgan, UNSW Sydney
  49. Dr. Terri Mylett, Western Sydney University
  50. A/Prof. Anitra Nelson, University of Melbourne
  51. A/Prof. Anastasios Panagiotelis, University of Sydney
  52. Dr. Claire Parfitt, University of Sydney
  53. Prof. Neil Perry, Western Sydney University
  54. Dr. David Primrose, University of Sydney
  55. Prof. Bill Pritchard, University of Sydney
  56. Dr. Stephane Le Queux, James Cook University
  57. Dr. Patricia Ranald, University of Sydney
  58. A/Prof. Stuart Rosewarne, University of Sydney
  59. Dr. Darren Sharp, Monash University
  60. Cooper Sheather, University of Sydney
  61. Dr Christopher Sheil, UNSW
  62. Prof. Eric Sidoti, Western Sydney University
  63. A/Prof. Ben Spies-Butcher, Macquarie University
  64. Dr. Jim Stanford, Centre For Future Work
  65. Prof. Frank Stilwell, University of Sydney
  66. Dr. Anna Sturman, University of Sydney
  67. Dr. Farzana Aman Tani ma, University of Wollongong
  68. A/Prof. Amanda Tattersall, University of Sydney
  69. Dr. Tim Thornton, School of Political Economy
  70. Prof. Elizabeth Thurbon, UNSW Sydney
  71. Dr. Emma To, University of Sydney/University of Technology Sydney
  72. Dr. Philip Toner, University of Sydney
  73. Dr. Erin Twyford, University of Wollongong
  74. Dr. Sophie Webber, University of Sydney
  75. Dr. Lee White, University of Sydney
  76. Lance Worrall, Industry Development Specialist, Adelaide
  77. A/Prof. Chris F. Wright, University of Sydney

Link for academics, researchers and policy experts to sign on

The post Open Letter on Future Made in Australia appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

How Climate Change Went From a Hot Political Issue to a Tool to ‘Divide and Polarise’ the Public in Just Five Years

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/05/2024 - 6:45pm in

The 2019 General Election was arguably the first climate election in the UK. Unlike any before it, climate was a doorstep issue – polling consistently as one of the top three issues voters cared about.

Channel 4 hosted the first ever climate debate. There was a veritable arms race on tree planting. And the Opposition produced a manifesto which viewed the entire economy through the lens of climate change. 

If it wasn't for “Get Brexit Done”, the fact that climate featured so prominently in the 2019 election would have been one of the enduring talking points of the campaign. 

Just two years prior, during the 2017 General Election, climate was almost entirely absent from mainstream electoral politics.

The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas had to wander around Westminster with party activists waving a giant green question mark, asking: where is the environment in this election?

In 2015, then Labour Leader Ed Miliband – today the chief flag bearer for climate for the Opposition – did not carve a word about it into his infamous Ed Stone.

Ed Miliband unveiled Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth during the 2015 General Election. Photo: PA/Alamy

Why did the climate emergency suddenly take root in the electorate’s concerns in 2019?

The increase in interest coincided with the arrival of a wave of street activism from school strikers and Extinction Rebellion, along with more middle-brow interventions from the likes of David Attenborough, with figures such as Greta Thunberg and actress Emma Thompson knitting the two camps together into a broad-based coalition.

The re-emergence of the Greens probably did not hurt. Committed activists pushing Labour into developing a Green New Deal also played their part.

There was also cross-party political consensus. The campaign behind the landmark Climate Change Act of 2008 successfully built a cross-party coalition of parliamentary support, while also establishing a fully independent Climate Change Committee which helped prevent the issue from being turned into a political football.

A departing Theresa May tried to revive a tarnished legacy by passing the legislation for hitting net zero by 2050; while the incoming Boris Johnson leapt upon the upcoming UN climate talks in Glasgow with zeal, believing they could be for his premiership what the 2012 Olympics were for his London Mayoralty. 

The contrast five years later could hardly be more stark.

Today, Government ministers spout known conspiracy theories about 15-minute cities, with the Prime Minister himself delivering set-piece speeches about slowing down on net zero.

As we head into the 2024 General Election, support for climate action among all demographics of the public has stayed strong. But the political consensus is in real peril. For the first time, there has been a serious and sincere attempt to divide and polarise the public on climate change.

Boris Johnson at the World Leaders Summit at the 26th United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change in Glasgow in November 2021. Photo: Xinhua/Alamy

What went wrong?

The increasing influence of right-wing broadcasters is one reason. As is the worsening misinformation and radicalisation online. Polarisation has become an established feature of public life since Brexit. No doubt searching for the 'next Brexit’, some MPs formed the Net Zero Scrutiny Group as their newest hobby horse.

More sharks began to circle following the Uxbridge by-election last year, which was framed as a quasi-referendum on the expansion of a clean air zone into outer London. Labour failed to take the seat, and this was read as proof that the public despised green policy.

Soon after, Rishi Sunak reached for the anti-net zero lever in the hopes of reviving his fortunes. His polling continued to plummet, while Labour's London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, was re-elected for an unprecedented third term on his biggest yet vote share, with no notable anti-ULEZ vote in either inner or outer London. 

More people supported ULEZ than opposed it, even outer Londoners. Meanwhile, polling on low traffic neighbourhoods – another 'culture war’ flashpoint – shows support for the scheme has gone up year on year. Climate leadership is not the vote loser its opponents like to portray it as.

The danger for the climate movement, however, is assuming that this public support will endure forever. 

Following this year's election, it is possible that a defeated Conservative Party will turn to a more right-wing and populist leader. Equally possible is that Reform might continue to build momentum as a pressure group with similar effectiveness as UKIP.

For decades, progressives have guarded against reactionary forces which are primarily anti-immigration in nature. It is becoming increasingly plausible that the next serious right-wing threat in the UK will coalesce around anti-green politics (not that the two are incompatible) and that its advocates will become more convincing. 

What contemporary climate deniers have correctly recognised is that the low-hanging fruit on the path to decarbonisation has been picked. We have, for example, kicked out coal from our increasingly clean energy mix, and we have days when wind alone is delivering the majority of our electricity.

Increasingly, however, the path to decarbonisation will travel through the way we live our lives. The people who fly most will have to fly less. Road miles must be slashed. We will have to change the things we eat. This will provide more fertile soil for the politics of grievance, whether real or imagined.  

The good news is that climate policy can bring people together. If Labour forms the next government, even the watered-down version of its £28 billion pledge will likely amount to the boldest climate action pursued by a UK government.

But the risk is that, without good public engagement and equitable policy-making which puts the burden of decarbonisation on the broadest shoulders, opponents to climate action might succeed in building a meaningful constituency among the public.

The antidote to this is not to shy away from climate, but to celebrate the success of climate policy, and to communicate the good that it is doing in people’s lives today. 

An early litmus test will come in the form of lifting the ban on onshore wind, as Labour has promised to do. The de facto ban came into place in the mid-2010s, bowing to pressure from Conservative backbenchers.

In reality, it was never actually unpopular, not even among those living near potential sites. Unlocking this clean energy would slash carbon, while bringing down bills and strengthening energy security – things which would bring together voters from across the political spectrum.

Still, a minority will protest, and they will be seized upon by those who want this unrepresentative group to have a distorting effect on the debate – confecting a much wider culture war. At this point, the next government will need to hold its nerve, and trust that the true popularity of the policy will win the day. 

The next general election after this year is due to be held in 2029, 10 years after the first time climate was a key issue in a national campaign. It will either out-perform 2019 as a high watermark for climate, with the main parties promising to go further and faster in a world rapidly transitioning to a low-carbon economy, or it will be 2019’s evil twin.

We must all be awake to the danger of insurgent, populist forces successfully polarising the public over the climate emergency. The next five years will determine which path we take at this crossroads.

Nine ‘Dismal’ Government Failings on the Environment Exposed by Green Group

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/05/2024 - 7:39pm in

The Government’s recent record on tackling nature loss and climate change has been “dismal”, Friends of the Earth has said, with the UK’s national and international climate targets “veering dangerously off track” under the Conservatives’ watch. 

“Amid an escalating climate and nature emergency and deep cost of living crisis, this General Election will be the most pivotal for people and the planet since the Second World War,”  a spokesperson for the leading green group said, as General Election campaigning enters its first full week. 

Campaigners have flagged ten “key failings” of the Conservative Government on environmental and climate issues. Climate issues have so far featured little in the General Election debate, though there are still 37 days to go. 

The criticisms come as the climate-focused MP Watch Network launched its election campaign, with a new video targeting Wycombe Conservative MP Steve Baker.

Jessica Townsend, campaign leader of the non-partisan group, said: “Our aim is to clean up parliament at the next election and to finally get rid of the pollution of climate misinformation...We need to make policies that follow the scientific evidence. Yet at this dangerous time, some in Westminster are playing politics on the issue. Frankly, it beggars belief.” 

“Our intention is to let constituents know if they have a climate denying MP, so they can vote accordingly," she added. The group is focusing on well-known climate policy critics Conservatives Steve Baker, Jacob Rees Mogg, and Craig Mackinlay, as well as Esther McVey, Mark Jenkinson, Andrea Jenkins, Liz Truss and Suella Braverman. Baker organised the Net Zero push-back among Conservatives, while Labour MP Graham Stringer also counts among their ranks.

"In effect the whole Government has become a 'delayist' group," Townsend of MP Watch said.

UK Green Policy Failures

1. Flagship climate action plan ruled unlawful – twice

The Government’s climate action plan to ensure that legally-binding “carbon budgets” are met has been found to be unlawful twice, following legal challenges by Friends of the Earth and legal campaigners ClientEarth and Good Law Project. 

In May, the High Court ordered the outgoing Conservative secretary of state, Claire Coutinho, to draw up a revised climate action plan within 12 months – to make sure the UK stays within its maximum greenhouse emissions allowed by law, and its international pledge to cut emissions by at least 68% by 2030, both of which are currently off track.

The Climate Change Committee has warned that there are only credible plans in place to account for even a fifth of the emissions cuts needed to meet Britain’s sixth carbon budget, which starts in nine years. 

And analysis by Friends of the Earth, published last year, revealed that the UK’s international target to cut our emissions by more than two thirds by 2030 – a pledge repeatedly made by Rishi Sunak – is veering dangerously off track.

2. First new coal mine in decades approved

The Government gave the go-ahead to a huge new coal mine in Cumbria (December 2022), a decision branded “absolutely indefensible” by then chair of the Climate Change Committee, Lord Deben. A legal challenge by Friends of the Earth over the decision is due to take place in July.

3. New oil and gas licences awarded

The Government has awarded dozens of new fossil fuel licences in the North Sea, and approved the Rosebank oil field, with the prime minister vowing to “max out” UK oil and gas. This is despite warnings from the world’s leading scientists that there can be no new fossil fuel development if global climate targets are to be met. 

However, the Government’s flagship legislation to introduce annual rounds of new licenses for fossil fuel giants in the North Sea fell due to the General Election being called. 

4. Cheap clean energy blocked

The Government has refused to lift unnecessary planning restrictions on onshore wind, despite it being one of the cheapest sources of electricity, essential for meeting our climate targets and highly popular with the public.

5. Ban on new petrol and diesel cars delayed

As part of a speech last September, Sunak announced a series of rollbacks on climate commitments, including delaying a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by five years. 

6. Sewage filled rivers and seas

Sewage was pumped directly into England’s seas for 440,446 hours last year, according to FoE research. Over a quarter of these spills occurred within 3km of bathing sites. 2023 was the worst year on record for sewage spills, according to Government data. 

7. Plans to require landlords to insulate private-rented sector homes scrapped

The Government had promised to introduce regulations to require landlords to bring homes up to a decent energy efficiency standard by 2028. But in a September 2023 announcement Rishi Sunak scrapped the plans, despite fuel poverty levels being high among renters and the health impacts of damp, mouldy homes being more widely recognised.

8. Presided over massive cuts in bus services

Analysis by Leeds University has found that bus services in England outside of London have seen a staggering decline since the Conservatives came to power, with provision plummeting across England (except London) and by more than 60% in 80 local authority areas.

9. ​Nature in poor shape

The Office for Environmental Protection produced an annual progress report which concluded earlier this year that only 3 out of 10 indicators for “thriving plants and wildlife” have seen progress. 

The watchdog also gave a damning assessment of the Government’s progress towards its 2027 target to restore England’s rivers, lakes and seas this month. In a worst-case scenario, it predicted that just 21% of England’s water courses would be in a good ecological state by the deadline – far below its target of 77%.

FoE is calling on all parties to commit to “urgently ramping up their green ambition to meet crucial climate commitments” and ensure everyone benefits from the transition to a zero-carbon economy.

The group’s general election coordinator, Jamie Peters, said: “Instead of seizing the huge opportunities that developing a green economy will bring, the Government has continued to champion fossil fuels, failed to properly invest in clean energy and insulation, allowed our rivers to be swamped by sewage and attempted to turn climate change into yet another culture war issue.

“Despite everything going on in the world, voters across the political spectrum want strong green policies and action to tackle the climate and nature crisis.

“Every party should commit to developing the green economy and putting the health of the planet at the heart of their manifestos.”

Byline Times is relaunching our VoteWatch project to monitor disinformation, dodgy campaigning and dark money during the General Election. Get in touch if you have a tip off or any insights: votewatch24@bylinetimes.com

If you have a political story or tip-off, email josiah@bylinetimes.com.

Government Accused of Investing in Hydrogen Infrastructure That ‘Doesn’t Work, Makes no Sense and Isn’t a Green Solution’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/05/2024 - 9:01pm in

A controversial Conservative super donor is one of the main backers of a growing Westminster lobbying effort to get the government to back hydrogen energy as the solution to climate change

The hydrogen lobby has increasingly become one of the major forces in Westminster, with OpenDemocracy last year revealing that the gas industry paid a PR firm £200,000 to set up a new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on hydrogen, to lobby the government to back natural gas derived ‘blue hydrogen’ projects. 

A former leading lobbyist for the hydrogen sector claimed in 2021 that the oil and gas industry has made false claims about blue hydrogen to win over politicians and access huge government subsidies. Last month the government allocated more than £2 billion in subsidies for hydrogen projects.

Lobbyist-funded ‘hydrogen zones’ have become a common feature at party conferences while industry figures push for the technology on panels, and emails from one hydrogen lobbying firm recently revealed that the group is targeting Labour, in expectation of Keir Starmer becoming the next Prime Minister.

The emails were sent by Beyond 2050, one of the main PR firms pushing for hydrogen use in the UK.

Another major player is Atmos, which boasts on its website of its clients and staff meeting Starmer and even the King at recent events. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer behind the wheel of a hydrogen-powered bus during a visit to Tyseley Energy Park, Birmingham in January 2022. Photo: PA Images / Alamy

Byline Times has dug into the background of both firms and found they are totally or partially owned by Valebond Consultants, a company run by Joseph Bamford. 

Mr Bamford is the scion of the billionaire Bamford family, which primarily made its money from manufacturing construction equipment under the JCB brand, but has begun to move into the Hydrogen sector.

Mr Bamford is listed as a director of at least eight different Hydrogen transport, energy or investment companies which have benefitted from tens of millions in government subsidies, grants and funding to scale their Hydrogen technologies. 

The Bamford family has long-standing links to the Conservative Party, largely through Mr Bamford's father, Anthony, who was appointed a Conservative Lord by David Cameron in 2013, and retired from the House in March.

The family has donated at least £10.4 million directly, or through their company, to the ruling party.

Earlier this month, The Guardian found evidence that JCB had continued to build and supply equipment for the Russian market long after it claimed it had stopped exports in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

“What we can see is that there's been a massive push for hydrogen in all kinds of sectors, including ones where it doesn't really make sense,” says Sarah Biermann Becker, a senior investigator at non-profit Global Witness who has investigated the hydrogen lobby. 

“It went from nobody talking about hydrogen 10 years ago to all kinds of policymakers and politicians suddenly floating hydrogen in all these sectors, where we have alternatives.”

Three types of hydrogen can be used as energy – grey hydrogen, blue Hydrogen and green Hydrogen. 

Grey hydrogen is produced by removing the hydrogen from the methane found in natural gas and releasing the carbon emissions created in the process.   

Blue hydrogen follows the same route but with the promise from its producers to use as yet unrealised carbon capture technology to ensure no carbon emissions are released from the production.

It’s these two technologies that Becker says are of the most interest to oil and gas companies. “They have very clear interests in hydrogen because they can present it as a green solution, when actually it's another lifeline to keeping natural gas production going,” she explains.

Green hydrogen's production is carbon neutral as it relies on electrolysis to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. 

In theory, if the power used for the electrolysis process came solely from renewables the entire production line could be carbon neutral. But it can cost twice, or three times as much, as blue hydrogen and its production is currently inefficient and needs more energy to be put in than the energy value of the hydrogen it creates.

“For most of the sectors it’s being proposed for, like domestic heating, it makes absolutely no sense, because it doesn’t actually contribute to reducing carbon emissions when used in heating – compared to the alternatives – because of how hydrogen is produced,” says Becker.

“The danger is that the government invests in new infrastructure for a technology that doesn't work, that not only doesn't work in terms of reducing emissions, but it's also more expensive in many ways.”

Atmos and Beyond 2050 did not respond to requests for comment.

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