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Thinking of my grandchildren spitting on my grave, before eating me out of necessity

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If the idea of the Higgs boson meant an urgent requirement of big business to change its thinking and its profits, would we frequently hear Nigel Lawson on Radio 4 stating that there is much uncertainty about the work at CERN and the scientific consensus gives much room for debate.

We should approach these latest findings with scepticism. The jury remains out and it would be hasty for governments to bring in any restrictions based on the  possibility of any boson.”

This is not a post of facts and evidence, just an emotional one concerning my confusion over our reaction to climate change science.

How can something so possibly devastating for human life be played with as if its just a parlour game for contrarian vent dummies popping out of the silk pockets of CEOs? Why is this the science that is more doubtful than most despite an impressive body of evidence? Instinctually, it seems it is because it is currently the branch of evidence based thinking that most urgently calls for a change in our consumerism and others’ profits.

Is Slavoj Žižek right that it is easier for us to imagine the end of the world than a change in global capitalism?

Are we losing our anticipatory animal instincts that made us what we are? Is anything beyond the immediate just a blurry imagining to be batted away?

I think I’ll be alright; I’ll be gone before it really kicks in. I’ll just have put up all the Guardian posters of the undersea creatures that became extinct during my lifetime; some amateurish blu tacking before the apocalypse. I imagine my heart will have burst on stage during an overly zealous Brian Blessed impersonation (and I imagine Brian Blessed will still be alive, outliving me by many years despite doing the impersonation for so much longer).

As I close my eyes and feel the blood slowing to a standstill, will I hear the thunder and think, “Well, I’ve left a right mess for my son. Will he find the plans I started for that ark?

I don’t know much about climate change. I have read a couple of books by climate change scientists and Greg Craven’s What’s the Worst The Could Happen? I have talked to scientists, both generalists and those in the climate field, and on this limited information, I have decided to believe that something needs to be done.

I am prepared for a world where we must cut down our consumption and look at the costs to our planet. I am sure I may swear when I realise that I forgot to have a hot shower during the allotted time, and maybe I will look back with nostalgia at 24-hour TV and budget flights.

I don’t wish to imagine a future like The Road, but I presume I will have to imagine a world that may not be quite as well-lit and devil-may-care as my first 40 years (I was never really that devil-may-care, but my surroundings were).

I think our problem is the speed we become acclimatised. Life was always like this, wasn’t it? Will we be the last that can be the truly selfish ones?

Excuse me, why did you screw it up for all of us?

Because we liked shiny things and pigging out, bad luck.

Why did I smoke? I used to wake up every morning with a sore throat and think, “Oh no, that’ll be tonsil cancer, it’s curtains for me. You bloody fool, you killed yourself with your foolish Freudian oral fixation. Did you learn nothing from the man himself and his prosthetic jaw?

Then an hour or so later I’d start smoking, all ready to face my imminent death the following day and the next one and the next one, but ambivalent until daylight and groundhog regret.

The slow trudge and barriers thrown up that slowed the acceptance of cancer and cigarettes being linked is frequently used as a case study in what is going on with climate change now. The possible ramifications of being stymied by big business and interest groups are far greater here.

When we are young, we mix up feelings of indestructibility and not giving a jot if we die (though facing it head on may soon change our mind). Maybe we are too young as a species to have come up with the technologies we have. Our minds, or some people’s minds, have created machines and conceits that are too complex for most of us impulsive juveniles. Are we toddlers with hand grenades?

Science requires doubt, but if we wait until all semblances of doubt are gone on the causes of climate change, there may be few us left in that bunker and that small procreative gene pool underground may lead to some lumpen oddities in the next stage of evolution.

In the end, I think of Joel Pett’s cartoo: “What if it’s all a big hoax and we make a better world for nothing?” 

Is a world without the level of joys and comforts some of us have got used to in the last few decades, just not worth existing at all?

Robin Ince is a standup comedian, actor and writer. His latest DVD, Happiness Through Science, can be found here. This article originally appeared on his blog. For news of upcoming tour dates, visit robinince.com.

Further reading:

Climate change: we’ve still got time to save the world… haven’t we?

Are we the zealots of a new religion; an environmental Taliban that is silencing dissent? Not really

How denial works: from geocentrism to tobacco to climate change

Climate change? Let’s talk about…

The Guide to Climate Change 2013

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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