Saturday, 28 July 2007

On The Edge - Climate Change is NOT the real crisis!

After much new research I've finally concluded the debate surrounding climate change or so-called Global Warming is NOT the real crisis!
So, what is the real crisis and challenges facing the human race in the future?
Read on!!
Climate change – The past & present
The average temperature of the Earth has increased about 0.6°C since the late-19th century, and about 0.4°F (0.2 to 0.3°C) over the past 25 years.
Human activity has indeed been accelerating and increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; mostly carbon dioxide (CO2) from combustion of coal, oil, and gas, and a few other trace gases. There is no scientific debate on this point – it is real, it is factual.
The Earth's atmosphere currently consists of 79% nitrogen, 20.7% oxygen and in round figures, 0.03% carbon dioxide.
Prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution around 300 years ago levels of carbon dioxide were about 280 parts per million by volume (ppm). But now as never before, human deforestation that’s been occurring over the past 8,000 years, and the recent burning of fossil fuels has raised atmospheric CO2 to over 380 ppm in the last century, well above pre-industrialised levels.
The concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere today has not been exceeded in the last 420,000 years - and most likely not in the last 20 million years.
By the end of the 21st century, we could expect to see carbon dioxide concentrations anywhere from 490 to 1260 ppm or up to 350% above the pre-industrial concentrations of CO2.
Current projections of global temperatures by the end of this century are forecast to increase by 5.8°C. This is substantial.
The current exacerbated acceleration of global warming apparently created by the vast increase of greenhouse gases indicates that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the bogeyman! 1997 was the warmest year since records began. In northern Europe and the Far East, 2007 could end up being the wettest on record.
The Earth is indeed getting warmer and climatic change is occurring.
Although complex, my guess is that as the polar ice caps melt (especially the Greenland ice sheet) and liberates vast streams of cold air and fresh water into both the North Atlantic - and the Pacific Ocean via the Bering Sea, it's creating vast amounts of precipitation in the troposphere driven by warmer air from the tropics. This phenonomon could well be responsible for changing the path of the jet stream which, in fact, up until late July of 2007 was more than 1,200 miles south of where it normally should have been at that time of year. Whatever the cause of the displaced jet stream, the effects of this displacement resulted in the worst floods in the UK since records began, including extremely high tempratures in Central and Southern Europe.
This melting ice could even be changing the path of the Gulf Stream as cold icy fresh water streams into the North Atlantic. Next year could be a completely different weather pattern. We'll just have to wait and see.
But how unusual are these climatic changes?
What I’m about to discuss will no doubt please the Global Warming sceptics - well, at least for the first few paragraphs!

The Ice Ages
During the last 2 million years the Earth has experienced over 60 glacial advances and retreats or ‘warming’ periods. However, during these ‘warmer’ periods between Ice Ages, had you’d been around then you’d be sharing your environment with Hippo’s, Crocodiles, Mammoths and the odd Sabre Tooth tiger!
In the last 700,000 years eight major Ice Ages have occurred. The last major Ice Age started some 115,000 years ago, and although there were minor warming periods, the peak of our last Ice Age occurred around 21,000 years ago – a time also when Cro-Magnon man probably finally succeeded Neanderthal man and modern man started to emerge.
Each glacial advance (or Ice Age) tied up huge volumes of water in continental ice sheets 1500 to 3000 meters thick, resulting in temporary sea level drops of 100 metres or more over the entire surface of the Earth. During interglacial times, such as at present, drowned coastlines were common.
But let’s go back almost 2 million years ago to the start of Pleistocene period that ended around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago - which also coincides with end of the last Ice Age.
The polar ice that covered a large portion of the northern hemisphere up to a kilometre thick was melting – but quite slowly. Sea levels were much lower than today and in fact, if you were around then you could have walked from Dover to Calais – or even from East Anglia to Denmark over a vast land known as Doggerland that’s now covered by the North Sea.
We currently live in the Holocene period. That is the last 10,000 years of the Earth's history -- the time since the end of the last major glacial epoch, or "ice age."
Since then, there have been small-scale climate shifts -- notably the "Little Ice Age" between about 1200 and 1700 A.D. -- but in general, the Holocene has been a relatively warm period in-between ice ages. Our modern climate represents a very short, warm period between glacial advances.
The Causes of Ice Ages
Many theories have been put forward why the Earth experiences long periods of Ice Ages and then warming periods.
1) Volcanic activity that pours out vast amounts of gases and dust.
2) Changes in energy from the sun and sunspot cycles (which has recently been dismissed).
3) The Earth's distance from the Sun – which although is elliptical is nevertheless constant.
4) And my favourite theory is called the Milankovitch cycle (or procession of the Equinoxes)
This is where the Earth's axis completes one full cycle of procession approximately every 26,000 years. At the same time, just like a wobbling gyroscope, the elliptical orbit rotates more slowly leading to a 21,000-year cycle between the seasons and the orbit. In addition, the angle between Earth's rotational axis changes from 21.5 degrees to 24.5 degrees and back again on a 41,000-year cycle.
Presently, this angle (or tilt) is 23.44 degrees which provides the four seasons we know so well. If the Earth's plane was perpendicular to its orbit around the Sun our climate would be without seasons and much different than it is now.
Even though we're no doubt exacerbating global warming, resulting in adverse climatic changes and increasing sea levels – climate change will happen regardless of what we humans do….!!
If you’re rather tired of hearing about the climate change debate that by itself may cause turmoil and devastation such as rising sea levels and adverse weather conditions, there are two vital and serious factors our politicians are neither addressing nor debating.

The End of Oil
The vast increase in CO2 emissions over the past 300 years coincides precisely with the Industrial Revolution and the vast usage of fossil fuels.
The Energy Timeline
6,000 years ago - mankind harnessed the power of animals and agriculture was created.
7th Century – Peat was extensively used as a heating and cooking fuel.
14th Century – As forests in Europe became depleted as large quantities of wood was used to build dwellings, ships and charcoal powered iron smelting - coal first became an alternative energy source.
1712 – Thomas Newcomen invented the world's first successful atmospheric steam engine. It allowed miners to extract coal from greater depths. Flooding was a major problem, limiting the depth at which coal could be mined. Newcomen's engine did the work of 40 horses! This was the real start of our modern Industrial Revolution.
1751 – Whale oil was first exploited en-masse from fleets based in Newport, Rhode Island, USA) and became the Worlds’ primary energy source. Everyone used whale oil lamps to light their homes – only the wealthy used gas manufactured from coal.
1851 – Titusville, PA, USA – Charles Tripp discovered oil – and produced kerosene. Before internal-combustion engines were invented in the mid 19th century, gasoline was sold in small bottles as a treatment against lice and their eggs.
1878 – Edison invented the incandescent lamp.
1879 - Karl Benz was granted a patent for his internal combustion engine.
Oil – has been used ever since and its discovery in 1851 and its usage in many different forms is totally responsible for our current modern society and the exponential increase in the World’s population.
But Oil is a finite resource and the end of Oil will most likely occur during your children and grandchildren’s lifetime.
Since oil was discovered we’ve used 875 billion barrels (a barrel = 35 Imperial gallons).
From just 1970 to 2005 we’ve used 868 billion barrels of oil.
Our current daily consumption of Oil and other fuels is mind-boggling.
Currently, the world is consuming 86 million barrels of oil a DAY (or 1,000 barrels a second). This equates to 5,500 Olympic swimming pools of oil a DAY – in other words we’re draining an Olympic swimming pool every 15 seconds – and the vast majority of oil is delivered by over 3,500 oil tankers plying the open seas at any one time.
And it won't stop there. Oil consumption will rise to 113 million barrels by 2030.
This is the amount of energy resources the World is using a DAY ...yes, a DAY!!
86 million barrels of oil (Oil consumption will rise to 113 million barrels by 2030)
240 billion cubic feet of natural gas
14 million tonnes of coal
500,000 pounds of uranium
As a footnote, the UK consumes 2.7% of the world's oil and 3.2% of its gas. By contrast, the US which accounts for just 4% of world population, consumes 26% of the world's oil per annum.
So, how long will our current oil reserves last?
A well-known politician once said:
"As we know, there are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns.
That is to say we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know - we don't know".

Peak Oil
In 1956 Shell geologist M King Hubbert made a mathematical model to predict what would happen to US petroleum production. The Hubbert Curve shows that at the beginning production from any oil field rises sharply, then reaches a plateau before falling into a terminal decline. His prediction that US production would peak in 1969 was ridiculed by those who claimed it could increase indefinitely. Just as Hubbert predicted, US oil production peaked in 1970 and has been in decline ever since.
World oil production probably peaked in 2003 – however, some estimates have put peak production somewhere between 2010 and 2015. Decline will be rapid, and some experts predict we may run dry of the black stuff shortly after that - probably well before 2050. Tar sands and other more difficult sources won't help to delay the inevitable. The economic repercussions will be incalculable!
For instance, Russia’s oil reserves will be exhausted by 2030.
Suggested reading:

There are two types of oil. Proven and Undiscovered.
Current estimates of ‘Proven’ oil reserves suggest there remains 1.7 trillion barrels of oil – half of which are situated in the Middle East.
At the current rate of usage, "Proven" oil reserves will only provide about 40 years of consumption. However, this doesn’t take into account increasing usage of oil or disruptions caused by war.
Undiscovered or ‘Unproven’ reserves are very speculative indeed. Geologists have mapped the whole world, including almost every metre of the seabed.
The race is on to discover more oil beneath the world’s oceans.
In 1990, for example, US deepwater oil production was negligible, accounting for less than 2 percent of overall domestic supply. Now, deepwater production accounts for more than a fifth of US oil supplies. By 2030, that figure is expected to reach close to 40 percent - that's if new reserves and easily extracted sources are discovered!
As the polar ice melts there is race to discover new oil reserves and the Arctic may hold the key. However, from an environmental point of view if an oil spill resulted in the Arctic the consequences would be unthinkable.
We can only hope the Antarctic will remain untouched.
Now comes the final 'double whammy'
........the increasing World Population!
If you’d been around at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 the population of the UK was just over 1 million people. By 2074 it’s estimated the UK population will be around 71 million.
Up until the Industrial Revolution the World’s population was fairly constant.

Here is what the World Population has been increasing by over the past 1,000+ years.
950 - 250 million
1600 - 500 million
1802 - 1 billion
1928 - 2 billion
1974 - 4 billion
2007 - 6.7 billion
2028 - 8 billion (estimated)

The world’s population is currently approaching 6.7 billion people and is increasing at the rate of 85 million a year.
In fact, the world's population has tripled in the past 75 years, and has doubled in 38 years up to the year 1999.
By 2050 the world’s population will be 9.4 billion. By the end of this century the world's population maybe around 12 billion!
Now, I say 'maybe'.

The Future
Unlike progressive energy usage that took us from peat and wood to coal to whale oil to the sweet black stuff we drill for today - that’s perpetuated our modern society, we’ve yet to find the next energy ‘magic bullet’ that will sustain our increasing population.
By the end of this Century world population could exceed 12 billion - an unthinkable and unsustainable number. I say, ‘could’ but with decreasing oil reserves and our quest to find the next ‘energy magic bullet’, we may be looking at mass human starvation as our ability to grow crops for bio-fuels (currently the only viable alternative) takes away the very food we need feed billions.
The Optimum Population Trust believes that Earth may not be able to support more than half its present numbers in the next century, and that the UK's sustainable population level in the 22nd century may be as low as 30 million.
Notwithstanding climate change that will affect millions, as oil starts to dwindle and oil wells start to run dry sometime during this Century the consequences will be dire.
We cannot rely on wind-power, tidal and wave power or even geothermal energy, and I regret to say that our only salvation in the short term will be to build coal-fired and nuclear power stations. Sadly, wind power or burning a lump of coal won’t fly a plane across the Atlantic!! And the current recycling of rubbish into bio-fuel (when it happens!) won’t help much either.
Apart from the obvious vast Economic turmoil that will result, the world’s ability to maintain a population of such enormity will be naturally decreased as our ability to produce cheap and easy to find energy we’ve enjoyed for the past 150 years - ends.
If we are to avoid mass human starvation, disaster and war, the whole of Humanity needs to make some pretty hard decisions – not in 5, 10 or 20 years, but RIGHT NOW!
The idea of 'Zero Growth' urgently needs revisiting.
As James Lovelock wrote in his book The Revenge of Gaia – if humanity doesn't address the problems as illustrated above - the Planet will do it for us, as it’s done for millions of years.
For the sake of all our grandchildren and future generations, I urge you to spread my message and hope our politicians and world leaders will take note.
Incidentally, the World population has been increasing by 147 human beings for each minute you've been reading the above!

P. Meyer
Editor, Rip-Off Britain

2007 Copyright - P.Meyer

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Global Warming - The Big Carbon Con?

After 10 years complaining about high and often rip-off prices in the UK - I've entered a NEW era of Worldwide concern that goes far beyond simply Rip-Off Britain - it's a clear case of Rip-Off World!!

It has much to do with Global Warming and 'misguided' World Government policies surrounding this awesome subject.

I have been closely analysing the question of Global Warming, Carbon Emissions and Energy Supply & Usage for some years now, and have come to the stark conclusion that our attempt to significantly reduce carbon emissions in the UK is, in reality, a futile exercise. Climate change, due to the burning of fossil fuels (especially OIL & COAL) over the past 400 years, is now undeniable. Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth should convince any sane person of the reality - regardless of past ice ages and so-called warming periods.

Whilst the UK produces a mere 2% of the World's carbon emissions, the USA produces around 30% in annual carbon emissions, and China which is building a new coal-powered station every WEEK, is now producing well over 15% and growing, in annual carbon emissions. It appears to me that everyone is missing the fact that climate change, which I'm certain will be traumatic for so many reasons, will NOT turn out to be our greatest challenge!

By far, our greatest challenge(s) will be the security of an energy supply in the VERY near future, and the ever increasing World Population 'created' solely by OIL has been the main catalyst in creating and maintaining our modern civilisation over the past 140 years.

At the rate of 86 million barrels of oil being currently used EVERY DAY in the World (equal to the volume of 5,700 Olympic sized swimming pools), we actually reached peak oil production in late 2003 (hence Iraq?). This fast dwindling resource will not only become quite scare within the next 15 to 20 years (or earlier if war or conflict should interrupt supplies), but easily extracted OIL and GAS will be just about exhausted by 2050/60 - or much earlier if China and India continues to grow at their current rate of GDP.

If runaway climate change triggers the irreversible melting (in our lifetime) of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and drives hundreds of millions of people from their homes, the global temperature rise must be confined to 2C above pre-industrial levels. To accomplish this would require a 60% cut in total global climate emissions by 2030, which means a 90% cut in the rich world.

The United States accounts for 5% of World Population, yet they consume over a quarter of the worlds oil each year and contribute more than 30% in CO2 emissions. China, which accounts for almost 17% (a 6th) of World population, will be using over 21,000,000 barrels of oil a DAY by 2025. In addition, China is building ONE coal-fired power station a week and is a major contributor to CO2 emissions.

Even if 'so-called' carbon-offset schemes were carried out in developing countries and every poor nation on the planet became carbon-free, we would still have to cut most of the carbon we produce at home. Buying and selling carbon- offsets is like pushing the food around on your plate to create the impression that you have eaten it! Building massive wind-powered farms and other renewal energy projects is all very well and good in the short term - but when the OIL finally runs out electricity generated from renewables, limited biofuel production or hydrogen cells will NOT power or fly aircraft, and unless some inexpensive fuel system is found to power road and rail vehicles, civilisation AS WE KNOW IT - will probably come to an abrupt and messy end.

What really annoys me is that the UK and the EU heavily promotes Home Insulation material, Solar panels, Wind Turbines, Heat Pumps and their accessories are subjected to 5% Value Added Tax. Low energy fluorescent light bulbs are 7 to 8 times more expensive than traditional incandescent light bulbs but can save up 75% in electrical energy, with each low energy light bulb saving £7 worth of electricity a year - and they last 12 times as long as traditional light bulbs.

As the Government state in their literature, “If a million of us replace 3 light bulbs in our houses with energy efficient ones, it would be like taking 100,000 cars off the road.”

If the Government is serious about helping to combat Global Warming, why is it that in 2004 the Chancellor Gordon Brown, despite being urged by Greenpeace to reduce VAT on low energy light bulbs to the lower rate of 5% VAT, the VAT rate remains at 17.5%? In light of the high cost of low-energy light bulbs, especially for low-income families who still should be replacing anywhere up to TEN low energy light bulbs - how can we trust the Government’s sincerity in combating Global Warming?

By the way - try finding low-energy light bulbs (lamps) for sale on in the USA - you'll be hard pressed!

Not content with annihilating to extinction almost every living creature, plant and forest on the planet, man's selfish actions over the past c.400 years in creating Global Warming and Climate Change will undoubtedly be a severe problem in the 21st century, especially for those living in low lying coastal areas. The eventual depletion of oil sometime this century, and the increasing World population that will increase from 6.6 million today, 10 billion in 2035 and 12 billion by the end of this century – will be a far greater catastrophe for the human race than Global Warming!

Since the World ceased using whale oil in the 1850’s (that almost decimated these fine mammals) and started using kerosene, along with coal gas that became cheaper, to light our homes, and the later introduction of the internal combustion engine, our consumption of oil has been totally responsible for the growth in population, our economy and our wealth.

Unless someone comes up with the 'next' cheap method of producing a plentiful and 'usable' energy source, wind power and related generated electricity in the future will NOT, as I've stated, fly planes, and will not efficiently motorise vehicles, drive tractors, produce or deliver food! We can't feed 6.6 billion now - so how are we supposed to feed 12 billion by 2,100 AD?

With CO2 levels at the highest in 650,000 years, when the oil dries up perhaps the Planet will start to repair itself - as it has undoubtedly done for millions of years. Ok, so you're saying there's loads of coal left! You're right! There's enough for the next 300 to 500 years! But how will it be mined and how will coal-fired power stations be built without OIL to power the construction of such a magnitude needed to supply the needs of 12 billion human beings??

Perhaps we should follow France and build nuclear - could I be wrong? And what about geothermal energy? That source of energy, if we can harness it, will last as long as the Earth! Perhaps living in Iceland or New Zealand are the future places to be.

Although I believe it totally futile, I'll continue to recycle my rubbish, replace my incandescent light bulbs with low-energy light bulbs, won't fill the kettle up, always use the shower instead of baths, ride my motorbike instead of using the car, won't fly and will spend my next holiday in the UK - and if ever the price comes down I'll install solar heating. Why? Because it seems to be the 'right thing to do'.

I wonder what my Grandchildren will think about all this in 50 or 75 years time? When do I tell them, or when will they realise, that both me and their close ancestors may have perpetrated the eventual extinction of mankind?

Thank goodness I won't be around!

Paul Meyer,

Editor, Rip-Off Britain