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Archive for the 'climate change' category

Reasons to be fearful

This article was first published in New Scientist, 27 July 2013.

DOOM-MONGERS of the climate variety might want to look away now – we apparently have more time to save the planet. A recent study published in Nature Geoscience suggests it will warm more slowly than feared, perhaps buying an extra decade for action.

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Europe’s carbon price is down but not out

This article was first published in New Scientist, 27 June 2013.

THE world’s biggest carbon market, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, is now widely regarded as a basket case.

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Climate cost of Total’s North Sea leak

First published at New Scientist, 30 March 2012.

Coverage of the gas leak at Total’s Elgin platform in the North Sea, off the UK coast, has so far focused on the potential for an explosion, and damage to sea life from hydrogen sulphide contamination – the latter now discounted. But methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, so what about the global warming impact? Here’s what emerged from the back of my envelope.

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Gas: climate panacea or industry propaganda?

First published in the New Scientist 25 February 2012.

I once hitched a lift from New York to London in the private jet of an American gas billionaire.

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Nuclear: why Britain is right and Germany wrong

First published in Energy World, November 2011.

For decades Britain seemed to have cornered the market in bad energy policy, but these days it has some stiff competition from Germany. Which is ironic, really.

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The real Greek tragedy

First published in New Scientist, 12 October 2011.

Greece is going to default, one way or another, that much is clear. The bigger question is whether it will also leave the Euro and what that would mean. What is so far underappreciated is that a Greek exit would have appalling consequences not only for the world economy, but also the climate.

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David MacKay interview

First published in Sustainable Business, 4 June 2011.

My interview with David MacKay has the feel of a university tutorial. Perhaps it’s not surprising, since the chief scientific advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change is a professor of physics at Cambridge. But the impression is reinforced in his cramped office on the sixth floor of DECC, where I negotiate piles of paperwork and shuffle furniture so we both can see his computer screen.

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DECC model highlights inconvenient energy truths

First published in Energy World, 1 June 2011.

For those of us with an anorak in the closet, the government’s new online energy planning tool, the 2050 Pathways Calculator, has provided hours of perplexing fun.

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Why America should thank BP

This article was first published in the The Independent, 1 June 2010

Hollywood loves its villains to have an English accent. After the Deepwater Horizon disaster it was inevitable American commentators would deride BP as British Petroleum and its CEO as Tony Wayward. But even as Gulf Coast residents despair and BP fumbles from one seat-of-the-pants engineering ‘solution’ to another, Americans should realise the company may have done them a huge favour.

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Peak at the polls

Peak oil has come a long way in the last few years: from bug-eyed millennial cult to mainstream consensus, embracing academia, much of the oil industry, and now the US military. There’s a growing consensus global oil production will peak this side of 2020, with many forecasts clustered around the middle the decade and some well within the next parliament. Strange then that even now the mainstream parties’ manifestos contain not a single word on the subject.

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Who’s afraid of the tar sands?

This article was first published in Ecologist on 8 December 2009.

Criticizing the Canadian tar sands used to be so simple. Environmentalists condemned them as a ‘climate crime’, while peak oilers argued they could never fill the gap left by conventional depletion. It turns out neither critique captures the full magnitude of the problem. In the light of the latest science, exploiting the tar sands threatens to damage not only the climate but also the long term fuel supply.

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Can non-conventional oil fill the gap?

A version of this article was published in New Scientist on 3 December 2009.

The oil crisis is not dead, only sleeping, according to an emerging consensus. The price may have collapsed from last year’s all-time high of $147 per barrel to around $75 today, as the recession grinds away at demand for crude, but nobody expects that to last when the economy recovers.

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Global warming: send in the tanks

First published in the Guardian, 18 June 2009.

Forget expensive high tech silver bullets like nuclear fusion and carbon capture and storage, the solution to climate change lies in the humble electric immersion heater that sits in your hot water tank under the stairs.

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Still no UK energy policy

First published in the The Independent on Sunday, 26 April 2009

“All targets and no trousers” seemed to be the gist of the reaction from environmentalists to the Budget this week.

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Electric avenues

First published in the The Independent on Sunday, 29 March 2009

‘The future has not been cancelled,” quipped BP chief executive Tony Hayward in a bullish presentation about the company’s prospects recently.

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Green grid

A version of this article was published in New Scientist on 12 March 2009.

Thomas Edison might have relished the irony. Just as his most famous legacy, the incandescent light bulb, heads for extinction, his other great passion, direct current, is set to boom.

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Letter to the Energy Secretary

Dear Mr Miliband,

Congratulations on your recent appointment to the most important job in government.

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Lump sums

This article was first published in the The Guardian, 5 March 2008

For weeks South Africa has suffered rolling blackouts caused in part by a shortage of coal. Gripped by unusually bitter snowstorms, China recently banned coal exports for the next two months.

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Peak oil “opportunity”

Peak oil is not a threat but an opportunity to force through the policies needed to combat climate change, according to London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

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Peak oil and the seismic silver lining

First published in International Hydrographic & Seismic Search Magazine, February 2008

The launch of International Hydrographic & Seismic Search Magazine raises an interesting question: have the publishers taken leave of their senses?

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Irish energy minister says oil rationing “common sense”

(Podcast) Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has claimed that some form of energy rationing system would be a “common sense approach” to the twin challenges of peak oil and transport carbon emissions.

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Interview with Lord Oxburgh

The former chairman of Shell will issue a stark warning about the world’s oil supply at a conference in Ireland later this week. Lord Oxburgh expects that global oil demand will outstrip supply within twenty years as production hits plateau, and that the oil price may well hit $150 in the long term. He accuses some in the industry of having their heads “almost in the sand” about oil depletion, and concludes “we may be sleepwalking into a problem which is actually going to be very serious and it may be too late to do anything about it by the time we are fully aware”.

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What Stern really got wrong

By David Strahan. First published in Prospect, 16 May 2007

In one sense Stern’s conclusions were entirely predictable. He set out to answer the same brutally simple question posed by Dick Turpin: your money or your life. And now that climate change so clearly has a pistol at the head of our species, there could only be one answer – irrespective of cost.

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Who’s afraid of oil depletion?

By David Strahan. First published in the Ecologist, April 2007.

What is it about climate change campaigners and peak oil – the two words you almost never hear them utter? The idea that global oil production will soon go into terminal decline ought to be a godsend; it makes the kinds of things they have been lobbying for all the more urgent and compelling. Yet most of the big NGOs continue studiously to ignore the idea.

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Why running out of oil could make climate change worse


By David Strahan. Published at the BBC’s Green Room, 30 March 2007.

It is becoming increasingly clear that global oil production will soon go into terminal decline with potentially devastating economic consequences. Although the idea of ‘peak oil’ has traditionally been ridiculed by the industry, now even some of the world’s most senior oilmen concede the case.

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The treacherous traverse of Hubbert’s Peak

By David Strahan. Published as ‘Climate Criminals’ in Summit, Spring 2007.

Mountaineers are a special class of climate criminal. We clearly have a particular moral duty to protect the icy landscapes we enjoy, and most of us like to think of ourselves as environmentally responsible. But the reality is rather different.

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