France bans marches and protest meetings at the upcoming UN summit on climate change

Independent on Sunday, 29 Nov 2015:

John Lichfield’s eulogy about Paris should not obscure the regrettable decision by President Hollande to ban all marches and protest meetings at the upcoming UN summit on climate change (Paris declares itself battered–but still afloat Nov 22) I thought the idea was that life should go on as normal; certainly that was the message surrounding the friendly football match between England and France; so why cancel the democratic part of a summit that is likely to determine the future of human civilisation?

And why have French climate activists been placed under house arrest ?

Perhaps the French security forces have not changed much since 1985, when  the French Secret Service blew up  Greenpeace’s  boat, The  Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour, killing a Portugese photographer in the process. People should ask themselves who represents the greater threat to democracy, and to the planet.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Clean energy technology that could be made even more sustainable

Financial Times, 22 November 2015:

Sir, Matt Ridley, rather surprisingly, proposes that kerosene has proved beneficial to health (Letters, November 18). According to the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, kerosene is flammable and explosive above 37 degrees. It is an irritant to skin and eyes, and accidental ingestion is a common cause of fatalities in children. In India and Africa it is widely used as a fuel for heating and illumination in villages that lack electricity, but it is a major cause of indoor air pollution and won’t run an electrical appliance.

A far better solution is to charge a battery using solar power during the day, which will provide sufficient power to run LED lighting and a computer during the hours of darkness. Earlier this year, Jeremy Leggett, founder of two such companies, SolarAid and Solarcentury, won the Gothenburg award for bringing this type of clean energy to more than 9m people.

The technology could be made even more sustainable if compressed air were used instead of a battery, but this requires a major research effort to improve the efficiency of the systems currently available. Three years ago I funded a pilot project in the engineering department at the University of Southampton, but our subsequent application to the Department of Energy & Climate Change was rejected. This epitomises society’s dilemma.

There is no shortage of ideas and initiatives that could solve the problem of climate change, but as long as dissident scientists like Lord Ridley insist that the burning of fossil fuels is good for health, the harder it will be to persuade politicians to commit the necessary resources.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire


What if the City of London is flooded?

Independent, 20 November 2015:

The Chief Executive of Oil and Gas UK claims that the industry has “never been in receipt of government subsidy” (letter, 18 November). Well, that might be true of direct subsidies, but the fossil fuel industry has been using the atmosphere as a free dumping ground for its waste products for over 200 years, and it is society that is paying for the consequences.

Earlier this year the IMF calculated this cost at $5.3 trillion annually, of which one quarter is attributable to the effects of climate change on agriculture, and the rest to the medical costs of outdoor air pollution. Even this figure, however, does not capture the enormity of what is likely to happen with unchecked global warming.

For example, the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is already showing signs of irreversible decline, and when that dissolves sea levels will rise by 20 feet. Greenland will add another 23 feet. So how does the City of London, or the New York Stock Exchange compute the financial costs of burning fossil fuels when they are both 13 metres under water.

The problem was best expressed by Tim Wirth, Under secretary of State for Global Affairs under President Clinton,  when he stated: “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.”

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Tackling climate change should be the UK’s top energy priority

The Guardian, 19 November 2015:

It is hardly surprising that the chief executive of Oil and Gas UK argues against fossil fuel disinvestment, but substituting one fossil fuel with another is not going to solve climate change (Letters, 18 November). This approach was tried by car manufacturers who promoted diesel instead of petrol as a means of reducing carbon emissions, but failed to admit that the technology needed to control other pollutants from diesel engines would inevitably compromise fuel efficiency. The same applies to the replacement of coal with shale gas. It seems attractive until you consider that fugitive emissions of methane tend to cancel out any benefit to the climate.

In any event the industry has been advocating gas instead of coal for 30 years, so if this represents a bridge to the promised land of renewable energy, it is leading us in the wrong direction.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire


BBC spinning the latest news on climate change

Independent, 10 November 2015 (phrase in bold omitted):

It is quite extraordinary how the BBC is choosing to spin the latest news on climate change (“Halfway to climate disaster”, 10 November). The BBC’s science correspondent informed viewers that we are  half way to 2 degrees of warming, the temperature level that is widely regarded as “safe” .

No reputable scientist thinks 2 degrees C is safe. Warming of 1.5  will flood low-lying areas. Two degrees is the point at which climate change becomes irreversible.

The carbon budget to keep temperature increases below 2 degrees C will be exhausted by 2040 at current emission rates. After that climate change will fuel its own progress through positive feed-back systems, notably methane releases from permafrost and the Arctic sea-bed, so the process becomes irreversible and mankind will lose control of the process.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire