Ed Miliband – Question 7

Q:

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Leading environmental academic Susan Owens has expressed a worry that ‘climate-related policies will be pursued at the expense of other important environmental attributes…. We do need renewable energy but, to put it crudely, we shouldn’t be putting wind farms in wild locations so that we can continue to drive and take cheap flights as much as we want.’ How can we reconcile the potential conflict between competing ‘environmental goods’?

A:

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True, we should worry just as much about the carbon from cars as from power stations, and that’s why the move to electric and fuel-efficient cars is important.

But no matter what else we choose to do, we will need to move to low-carbon power. By 2050, to play our part in international action, we will need to have cut 80 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990.

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10 responses

  1. Mick Jeffs

    I note that Mr Miliband carefully fails to mention air travel in his response

    7 July, 2009 at 7:43 pm

  2. Dr Phillip Bratby

    See my response to question 1. There is no problem with carbon (I assume you mean carbon dioxide). It is a vital constituent of the atmosphere which is essential for all plant life and hence for all animal life. Increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will enhance plant growth and by the laws of physics, cannot, due to the logarithmic IR absorption characteristsic of carbon dioxide, have a significant effect on the atmospheric temperature.

    The most important so-called “greenhouse gas” is water vapour. Maybe you noticed that the recent mini-heatwave was helped along by the high humidity which kept it warm at night. You may also notice that when the air is dry and the sky is clear at night, it cools rapidly, since all that carbon dioxide does not retain the heat. Of course, water vapour condensed into clouds also helps to retain heat at night.

    You can see the effect most clearly in the tropics – the high humidity keeps it hot day and night. You can see the opposite effect in deserts – it gets very hot during the day as there is no water to evaporate and keep things a bit cooler, but at night the heat is radiated away and it gets very cold. Carbon dioxide again has negligible effect, it’s only water vapour that has any effect.

    7 July, 2009 at 8:22 pm

  3. Dr Caroline Bott

    I appreciate that this is essentially a new question, but this seemed to be the best place to put it.

    What is the Minister’s view on capping energy usage? There surely cannot be infinite growth of energy production, is it not time to say that we can manage to produce x amount of electricity and so each household can have a given fraction of x?

    8 July, 2009 at 9:13 am

  4. Dr Phillip Bratby

    Dr Caroline Bott,

    So you’re happy with yet more government interference in how we run our lives? If there were to be a cap on how much electricity I can draw from the grid, then I would install my own gas or oil-fired generator and go off grid. As I am off the gas grid I would also probably end up increasing my use of oil for my central heating. And I would probably burn more wood. As I believe that we should be putting CO2 into the atmosphere to increase plant growth, then a cap on electricity use does not concern me personally. However I fear putting more control of our lives in the hands of politicians and bureacrats is dangerous, and vulnerable people are bound to suffer, as is always the way with government control – the law of unintended consequences.

    If you were to read Prof David MacKay’s book, ‘Sustainable Energy – without the hot air’, you might even change your mind about how much electricity we can produce.

    16 July, 2009 at 6:15 am

    • Dr Caroline Bott

      Dr Bratby –
      Nothing is infinite on this planet. The more electricity we use, the more we have to generate, so we have to build more generation and distribution systems for etc, etc, Making a decision as to what is a reasonable level of electricity usage in terms of standard of living still strikes me as the sensible way to go, not forever adding capacity to run more gadgets. Just because we might, in your opinion, have the ability to generate more electricity, doesn’t mean we should.

      27 July, 2009 at 6:45 pm

  5. Dr Paul Mackey

    I would like to know Mr Milibrand’s view of the Paper “Global warming: Our best guess is likely wrong” published on 14th July 2009 in Nature geoscience, and sub titled “Unknown processes account for much of warming in ancient hot spell”. In this paper the current climate models used to predict changes in climate and therfore to set policy, have been shown to vary considerably from actual measurement. Precisley, the current models do not calculate correctly the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum, or PETM, that occured 55 million years ago. to quote the report’s author – “In a nutshell, theoretical models cannot explain what we observe in the geological record,” said oceanographer Gerald Dickens, a co-author of the study and professor of Earth science at Rice University. “There appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the way temperature and carbon are linked in climate models.”

    Is Mr Miliband really going to destroy our countryside and our economy on teh basis of what have been proven to be incorrect calculations. Maybe he should do his sums again.

    17 July, 2009 at 9:25 am

    • Dr Phillip Bratby

      Dr Mackey, I have to agree wholeheartedly with you. I have also seen that paper and many other papers that discuss the gross limitations of the climate models. All the computer models have arbitrary assumptions in them (such as the effect of feedback from clouds), have not been properly validated against real climate data and are unsafe to use for claculating the likely future of the climate. I too would be interested in Mr Miliband explaining to us why policy is being based on unsafe calculational methods. And as well as destroying our countryside, we are talking of billions of pounds of investment (which the country does not appear to have) in our future energy supplies being based on these unsafe calculational methods.

      17 July, 2009 at 4:00 pm

  6. S Keene

    “Buildings are responsible for almost 50 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption and carbon emissions”; homes, 27% (Communities & local government website). Yet the government is relying on a maze of certificates and uncoordinated grants to reduce this, including getting energy companies to reduce demand for their main products (sic). When will there be a much more positive and coordinated programme to fund home insulation and boiler replacement, as well as a sustained campaign to reduce the cost of proven technology such as solar water heating?

    5 August, 2009 at 7:29 pm

  7. For many years I have been involved in outdoor pursuits, and I recharge my batteries by going to wild places. I am worried that many of these will be damaged by climate change – but I am also concerned that they will be damaged by building wind turbines in inapporpriate places.

    I am also concerned that turibnes do not do the job they are supposed to do – so the destruction will all be for no good purpose anyway.

    So, though I love travelling, I do think it is time we all rethought our lifestyles – and a lot more effort (and taxpayers’ money) went into reducing power consumption rather than thinking that science will always come up with a solution.

    29 August, 2009 at 8:26 am

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