The long cool wet summer persists

In England and Wales, we did not need the news to tell us that this has been the wettest summer for a hundred years and one of the summers with the least direct sunshine. We can blame the wet and colder than usual weather on the jet stream, which positioned itself further southerly than normal, causing those of us that like to sit in the sun, barbeque or just play cricket to look for indoor pursuits of leisure. What we do not know is why the jet stream decided to position itself further south. Continue reading

Fireworks for the Blind

I started this blog as a good way of trying to trawl for ideas about the environment and to provide a fertilisation device for my own ideas about the environment. I could think of no better way. Writing has a permanence that does not exist in speech which most dissolves into air, leaving perhaps a seed which may flourish and grow as it is written. It matters not who does the writing, but who does the reading and the effect that the reading of the writing has on other minds. Continue reading

What is all the fuss about – carbon dioxide emissions by source – a very simple guide

It is very hard to be accurate because no one has a measuring stick that is large enough, by the planet earth is in a constant state of emitting carbon dioxide – from natural combustion, volcanoes, respiration of animals, land disturbance and by simple release from the oceans (which also absorb carbon dioxide). Mankind (or would it be more correct to say humanity) is responsible for somewhere between 3% and 5% of annual worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.

Why then, should we be worried about anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide which most scientists hold to blame for the rapid recent global warming and their expected future global warming? Continue reading

Tacky Prince Harry

There has been a lot of fuss about Prince Harry, a wealthy 28 year old who is third in line for the throne of England and many other countries, going to Las Vegas and getting naked and getting snapped being naked. Apparently what goes in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas but travels round the internet and newspapers of the world. I am not concerned about this story except for one aspect of it, which has barely been reported. It seems that Harry did not have to pay a bill of about $30,000 for staying at the hotel. He was given a freebie by the hotel owner.  Now that, to me, is far more tacky than anything that may have gone on in the privacy of the hotel room.  Heirs to the throne should not be beholden to or scrounge off hoteliers and casino operators, especially when the heir has at least £28 million in his own right. I mean, how much more tacky can you get?

Professor Robert Watson and Cassandra

Targets are a hit and miss affair and governmental and international targets more than most. The problem is that once a target is set the underlying reason for the target is forgotten and the target becomes a means in itself. Continue reading

Fighting Climate Change

To fight climate change we must understand climate change completely. To understand climate change completely we must be cleverer than we are at present because we understand almost nothing completely. To understand climate change incompletely we must simply be as we are now. There are degrees of incomplete knowledge; our incomplete knowledge of climate change is sufficient to enable us to fight it. To fight climate change incompletely we must try to fight and then then hope that what we try will succeed. Fighting climate change does not secure a victory; it merely gives us a possibility of victory. If we do not succeed in fighting climate change we shall perish. If we succeed in fighting climate change we have a chance of not perishing. It is probably as simple as that.

Sounds We Hear

We are surrounded by music which we do not hear and to which we do not listen. We are surrounded by the noise of the city and the noise of the countryside, wherever we live. We hear white noise when we fly and grey noise when we sleep. We listen to nothing, not even ourselves or our desires or our wants because we have been taught to control ourselves as we live in order to live at peace with others. We need to co-ordinate our words with what we hear, our sounds with our music. We need to listen to the music and not the sounds.

Energy Prices Start to Rise

Just in time for the winter weather Scottish and Southern Energy will be raising their prices of domestic gas and electricity by about 9% from the 15th October 2012. More than five million customers will have to pay more for gas and electricity and in these days where inflation depending on what you spend is around 3% and where wage inflation is virtually non-existent, these energy prices rises will make it hard for many people to pay their energy bills. Come 2013 the average dual fuel customer will be paying nearly £1300 a year just to keep warm, was in hot water cook and keep the lights on and the appliances in power. Continue reading

Arctic Ice Diminishes

One measure of the warming of the planet is the extent of Arctic sea ice. Parts of the plant warm at varying rates while some parts of it cool. That is the complexity of global warming and within all the data and statistics you can bring almost every interpretation that you want, and every interpretation may at first sight seem justified or accurate. However subject tom all these qualifications, I like to keep a close watch on the extent of the Arctic sea ice in summer.

The extent of the arctic summer sea ice is important because the less ice that exists in the Arctic the more warming of the region must inevitably follow. This is because radiation, which when it strikes a surface excites the molecules of that surface to rub together creating friction, which is heat. When radiation strikes a white surface much of the radiation bounces back into space. This is called the albedo effect. When radiation strikes a dark surface it is absorbed as heat, which is why at Genersys we make our solar thermal panels black (or blue black) to absorb heat, and this is why all solar thermal panels are black or blue black and none are while.

It stands to reason that the more radiation the sea absorbs the warmer that sea becomes and the warmer that sea becomes the less ice can form on it.

When the extent of sea ice is measure it is taken by convention not to be the contiguous area of the ice bound Arctic but that part of the Arctic that has more than 15% ice. This year the extent of Arctic Sea ice, as measured by radar from satellites, look like breaking the 2007 record for the lowest extent, and then by some margin.

This is highly persuasive evidence that global warming is happening and that the warming is rapid. It is not conclusive evidence. Perhaps it might be conclusive when the Arctic is ice free in summer – defined by the same 15% definition.

The ice melt will be disastrous in the long term for the planet. It will hasten global warming for two reasons; the first I have already referred to is the loss of albedo. The second reason is that as the ice melts methane trapped in ice and in the soils of the surrounding tundra and taiga will melt as the knock on effect of an ice free Arctic is felt. There is already evidence of methane bubbling under the arctic and in the surrounding land and methane will hasten global warming.

In the short term many nations will prosper as a result of the ice melt; Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway will all be able to exploit minerals and fuel found under the Arctic. The United States is trying to claim some of the Arctic through its ownership of Alaska but without ratifying the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea does not have a place at the negotiating table. At the moment the USA is too important to ratify this convention.  Expect ratification as more ice melts. China is cosy-ing up to Iceland who may have some Arctic territorial claim.

If the Arctic becomes ice free it opens up the North West passage to shipping. Canada claims that the sea route is wholly within Canadian waters and the rest of the world claim that the sea route is an international waterway. The distinction is important because if Canada’s claims are upheld expect the ruthless exploitation of the sea way at the expense of the environment. Such exploitation would be entirely consistent with Canada’s record of failing to protect the environment and its aboriginal people where such protection gets in the way of self-enrichment.

Norway has a reasonable record on environmental protection, as does Denmark. As far as Russia is concerned its own environmental record is as poor as that of Canada.

Whatever you may think of global warming, the nations that have Arctic claims believe in it, and are positioning themselves to pluck the first fruits of global warming, before those fruits turn to ashes in our mouths.

Mental Health Advocates and Legal Privilege

I do not frequent the criminal courts very often and I frequent the criminal law even less often, but I was struck by a legal oddity when the police arrested Ms Jackie Powell, a mental health advocate on suspicion of preventing the burial of a body without lawful excuse. Ms Powell is the mental health advocate for a notorious serial killer of children, Ian Brady, but her role is not a role does not attract legal privilege, so anything that her “client” tells her is not protected, or so it is thought by the state of the law at present.

However, Continue reading