Sunday, 10 January 2010

New Year thoughts

Having had a personally very happy Yuletide, now returning to the everyday reality of living, I find myself reflecting on things.

To my mind, the disappointment of Copenhagen has highlighted the disconnection between rhetoric and reality. It has also highlighted the flaws in our paradigm with regard to nations competing economically against each other as well as the way that we have resigned responsibility as individuals to politicians and big business.

While some of the debate at Copenhagen centred around the need for agreement to prevent a 1.5 degrees C rise or a 2 degrees C rise in global mean temperature, Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, in an article in The Environmentalist magazine (7 December 2009: Issue 89) is quoted as saying:
"Moreover it is argued that the mainstream climate change agenda is far removed from the rates of mitigation necessary to stabilise at 550ppmv CO2e (3 degrees C)and even an optimistic interpretation suggests stabilisation much below 650ppmv CO2e (4 degrees C) is improbable."
When you consider that he is one of the UK's leading experts on the subject, this is stark!

Also, the findings of the Aldersgate Group (a coalition of NGOs, businesses, think-tanks and individuals) in their report "Mind the Gap, skills for the transition to a low carbon economy" (http://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/reports) are thought provoking. They report that the UK Government's skills strategy is inadequate to meet the needs for a rapid transition to a low carbon economy. They also point out the example that two of the government’s recent high profile announcements, over carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear power, have come at a time when roughly 30% of British Energy's workforce is due for retirement within 10 years, and when the UK has had no investment in coal-fired power for a generation, creating a considerable skills gap.

This skills gap is happening at a time when demand for engineers for major infrastructure projects (such as offshore wind power generation, flood defences, high speed rail services etc) is increasing, when many nations are attempting to de-carbonise at once, and therefore skilled workers may go elsewhere. In the near future this may be a serious issue.

On the issue of resigning our personal responsibility to businesses and politicians, I have commented here often. However, while we criticise governments for not taking strong action on climate change, it is worth contemplating the environmental cost of our recently passed annual consumption binge.

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