Jonathan Porritt's lecture, The Scourge of Denialism,at the Science park on 14th December 2010 : Part Two
Steve Chu's idea for Green Revolution
November 2010 elections in USA were very disappointing. Whatever Obama believes about Climate Change, his hands are tied, and the Republicans are determined to undo existing initiatives to combat climate protection. Professor Chu's approach is to promote a whole new approach with Energy conservation and generation at the front - recalling the "Sputnik" moment in 1959 when USA realised that they had been overtaken by the Soviets had overtaken them in Space technology. This stimulated a huge investment in the space race, even though there was also the Vietnam war in the same decade. This culminated in the voyage to the moon and 40 years of leadership in satellite and space station technology. Similar to that, we can witness the Chinese who have established a lead in the Green Technology revolution, the next 'Kondratiev wave' that will bring wealth to the countries that have leadership in innovation and production. This is in effect, a War of Innovation, and America is losing ungracefully.
There are some signs of progress, US side: GE are making an unprecedentedly high level of investment in renewable technologies, and even if the Republicans will deter Obama from direct government incentives, there are many green shoots from private industry, who seem to have got Chu's message. USA has the right climate and vast availability of land in uninhabitable areas such as the Mojave Desert, and major Solar farms are planned.
The USA making good progress with electric car development, notably the Tesla, which was good enough to make Jeremy Clarkson say that if electric cars are going to be this good, he wants one - but high performance specialist cars are not for the mass market, and even small US towns have such low density that range is still an issue. Electric cars are an ideal device for storing surplus daytime power from solar farms or surplus night time electricity from conventional/nuclear because they can soak up a lot of charge, and smart metering can adjust the flow.
However, do not underestimate the Chinese. A remarkable company, Build your Dreams (BYD) who used to be experts only in Battery manufacture have come from nowhere to be a significant producer of electric cars and buses, addressing the needs of the mass market. Who is their major investor? Warren Buffet!
One sided press coverage?
The Emailgate story was a disaster for the movement of climate protection, because even reputable environmental journalists could not resist the temptation to leap onto a tasty story, which expanded sufficiently to discredit the whole movement just before Copenhagen. Disreputable journalists leapt in it eagerly as a single reason to reject the entire theory. When the Emailgate story was finally revealed as very trivial, none of the press publicised this sufficiently, it was by then a non-story, and the attitude of the public had hardened into a direction of scepticism or outright denial. By Cancun, the shadow of Emailgate had lifted and attitudes were improved.
Climate Change Toolkit
Jonathan concluded with Climate Change Toolkit, a list of initiatives that were cause for hope.
- The Climate Change Act - Sign of government holding their course.
- Feed in Tariffs - incentivising thousands of people to get involved with renewable technology.
- CRC - Carbon Reduction Commitment.
- ROCs - (the acronyms are coming at me thick and fast here....) these are Renewable Obligation Certificates, obliging UK generators to source more of their power from renewables.
- The Green Deal - addressing the problem of the millions of houses that are not energy efficient.
- Renewable Heat Initiative - encouragement for people generating heat.
- Green Investment Bank - at the time of the lecture, this seems to be a cherished policy of both the Coalition partners, but seems likely to be dumped by the Treasury which has put up so many obstacles that if it happens, it will be severely limited in scope.
Our society will get to 2050 somehow, but what standard of living will we have and how will this green technology revolution have created jobs? That waits to be seen.... but the actions of politicians and officials whose judgement is affected by the Scourge of Denialism may cause life to be less survivable than if this generation continues to work to protect the climate.
That is the end of the lecture, but there was a very healthy flow of questions afterwards - on another page.
Jonathan's Lecture, Part ONE