Tag Archives: Oil

The Real Green New Deal

At the moment every other political announcement seems to have the word “green” in it.  It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between progressive policies and simple greenwash.

What I recommend is to read the “Real” Green New Deal, put together by a collection of highly respected individuals including, Colin Hines, Tony Juniper and Andrew Simms (plus many more).  It highlights how we need to tackle climate change in conjunction with the economic crisis and peak oil.  It is the first piece of social policy that I have read for a very long time to actually excite me. 

It is from this document that I think you can begin to judge other political parties green commitments in the run-up to the next election.

It is downloadable from:


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Copenhagen and the 2 degree guard-rail, the wrong goal missed

We are constantly told that if we want to avoid “serious” climate change then we have to stick to below two degrees. Have you ever wondered though where this mysterious 2 degree figure came from or who came up with it? In the next couple of weeks at Copenhagen anyone with any grasp on climate change will be trying to beg, borrow and steal their way to an agreement that would result in us (humans) limiting the average global temperatures to below 2 degrees from 1990 levels. Anything above this and we are doomed! It is thus slightly important to explain why even this target is wholly inadequate.

In 2001 the IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) came up with the 2 degrees figure using a very sensible method. Simply, they looked at the bad stuff that was likely to happen because of climate change (species extinction through to run-away climate change – this is when tipping points cause further tipping points (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkUaAltxUpg) and worked out how likely at different temperatures it was to happen. At 2 degrees they figured there was very little chance of runaway climate change occurring. There was however still a significant chance of species extinction (there were then events in between that varied in their likelihood of occurring). They considered this to be a “safe” level to aim for.

This all seems very sensible (what’s a few species in the grand scheme of things?). In the run-up to Copenhagen however, the University of Copenhagen produced a report (http://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/press-releases/files/synthesis-report-web.pdf) authored by many of the original IPCC authors highlighting why, in the light of the latest science since 2001, this 2 degree guardrail is wholly insufficient. Essentially they were saying that they had underestimated the temperature at which these reactions to temperature rise would occur. This is hugely problematic.

According to their latest estimates, sticking to 2 degrees would leave us with a moderate chance of experiencing run-away climate change. I cannot emphasize how scary this is. A moderate chance of plunging our entire species into starvation, mass migration, probable war and potential extinction! Why are we not in a state of emergency? Why have I been blogging about the death of the local pub, when soon we will not be able to grow the crops needed for brewing (let alone to feed ourselves)?

This is IF we meet our 2 degree target. What do you think…will our leaders unite together to make the sort of agreement that is needed to make lasting cuts in carbon emissions? I suggest not. Will our leaders buckle to economic and political pressure rather than scientific reality? I suspect so. What does this mean for us as a species…as a civilized society…a community…a family or even as an individuals?

It means that we are facing very very tough times ahead. How tough depends on how we (as a species) act now! How prepared we are for these tough times depends more on how we act as a community, family and individuals. To tackle this issue we need a collective effort like never before (think WW2 and multiply it…the enemy we face now is far scarier than the threat fascism ever posed to humanity…the millions that Hitler wiped out might look like small numbers if we do not act on climate change).

Think of climate change though not as something that is either happening or not happening but as something that is on a scale. I have no doubt that we will witness the extinction of many more species, but how far down this scale towards run-away climate change we slip is really up to us.

British Green MEP Caroline Lucas recently summed the situation up by stating that if we meet the EU’s most ambitious targets then we will leave ourselves a 50:50 chance of experiencing the worst consequences of climate change.  These are odds I am not willing to accept.

We can act now to limit to the consequences of climate change or we can go down in history as the only species that monitored itself into extinction.


Filed under Climate Change, EU politics

Why I am not a vegetarian!

People often ask whether I am a vegetarian or not.  There is not a simple yes or no answer to this question.  Below is a briefing I wrote during my time at QCEA on the issue.  Hopefully, it provides a little overview of why I try to reduce the amount of meat and dairy I consume. For more information check out the full length briefing paper available at: http://qcea.quaker.org/energysecurity/fact_sheet.htm.  Please note that this articel does not look at issues around animal welfare or human health concerns. Both of which can be used to make convincing arguements around meat and dairy consumption. All of the arguements below require a significant shift and reduction in our consumer patters.  It does not require us to boycot all meat products.

Livestock production and the environment 

Choices we make around meat consumption go far beyond the common misconception that it is simply an ethical decision about killing an animal. Livestock production has severe repercussions in terms of climate change, oil use, water use and deforestation. 

Climate Change 

Livestock production contributes as much as 18% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. That is 64% of all nitrous oxide, 37% of all methane and 9% of all carbon dioxide. To put this into context, the production of a kg of beef generates approximately the same GHG emissions as driving 250 km. There are also a number of hidden GHG emissions in meat production:

  •  Fertilizer and grain production
  • Forest clearing for cattle ranching
  • Extensive use of machinery 

Although a small amount of meat consumption could be justified and might even be beneficial for climate change, the current volume and methods that are used are far from sustainable.

A significant reduction in the industrialized world’s meat and dairy consumption is desperately needed. 

Resource Depletion

 Livestock production is an energy-intensive process that is eating into our natural resources.


In the last ten years an area the size of Greece has been cleared in the Amazon due to cattle ranching and feed crop production. That’s 19,368 km² per year. Brazil has recently stated it hopes to double the size of its cattle industry. The Brazilian government does not see this as contradictory to their commitments to tackle climate change. 


Modern agriculture is dependent on oil to feed our crop production, through fertilizers and machinery, transport of goods and packaging. Without the intensive production of grain, our current farming methods would cease to exist. The future of intensive meat production is linked inextricably to an intensive mode of agriculture based on cheap oil. In an age of peak oil, how much longer can we justify using cheap oil to produce vast quantities of grain and meat? 


Livestock production consumes large quantities of water. For every litre of milk produced, we use 990 litres of water in the production process. This rises to over 15,000 litres for a kg of beef. Intensive farming methods are also responsible for pollution of water sources. Animal waste, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizer and pesticide use and sediment from eroded pastures all find their way into rivers and streams. Both nitrogen and phosphorus excreted by animals increase the chance of there being too many nutrients in water (eutrophication) which can lead to algal blooms. This problem can be exacerbated by the use of nitrogen fertilizers. 

Three things you can do: 

  • Eat less meat and dairy- This one is simple. Unless you’re meat and dairy free already, it wouldn’t hurt to eat a little less.
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables – Good for your health and the environment
  • Eat local and organic produce – Whether you’re a vegetarian, a dedicated carnivore, or somewhere in between, you can help by purchasing local produce in season. 

Three steps for policy makers: 

Individuals need to act to tackle this problem but we also need to see leadership from governments. Leaders should:

  • Commit to a reduction of meat and dairy products in line with GHG emission reductions.
  • Provide a fund for developing countries such as Brazil to ensure that zero deforestation is reached by 2015.
  • Produce a clear education campaign highlighting the full impact of livestock production to enable consumers to make informed decisions.

 All references can be found in the QCEA briefing paper

available at http://www.quaker.org/qcea/


Filed under Climate Change