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Climate Change & Global Warming


How important is Global Warming to you in the Grand Scheme of Things?  

246 members have voted

  1. 1. How important is Global Warming to you in the Grand Scheme of Things?

    • Give me a break, I've enough on my plate
      17
    • I suppose there's something in it, but it's for the Politicians/Corporations/Those in power to sort out
      4
    • Yes I think it is important and I try to do my bit.
      79
    • If we don't stop it, the Planet dies in a few years, it's as simple as that.
      34
    • I think it is all hype and not half as bad as they make out
      108
    • I don't know what to think
      17

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If the world does go moomin's up I fear it'll slide into another "Dark Age" along with whatever climatic cataclysm goes with that! Back to ye olde days of fervent religious diatribe ... :roll:

 

If you haven't, read 'A Canticle for Leibowitz', by Walter M. Miller, set in just such a place. But, alas, you're probably right. We humans are very good at fighting over ... well, anything or nothing.

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^ Just like the flawed science "climate change" propoganda is being ignored, as it should.   Minimising pollution is admirable and worthy of support, but getting all hysterical about the worst apocaly

This guy went to Princeton University and Harvard Law School for goodness sake! Please tell me he knew the Paris Climate Agreement was named after the location the meeting took place and had nothing t

Anyone else getting a little fed up with being told that we have to "cut this, and cut that" when in truth, the one thing that we MUST cut is the global population.  Anything else is just "fiddling wh

[...] everything I hear about biofuels suggests they're just a pipedream. [...]

 

A plant producing diesel from wood chippings is being built in Sweden as we speak. It utilises branches and wood disgarded from producing timber for houses etc. That would normally be left to rot and fertilize the forests. Now it is used to produce fuel and then used to fertilize the forests.

 

It was all a bit over my head, but they had a working prototype plant and a full scale facility was being built in a forest in north Sweden.

 

Bioethanol (E85) is used by thousands of cars (15 000 in Sweden alone) and it is apparantly easy and cheap to convert a normal car from petrol to biotheanol. Apparantly it also improves the engine's performance. There are currently about 10 gas-stations providing it in England and about 400 in Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Holland and Germany. A new providor opens every week according to this Swedish site http://www.fleksifuel.no/

However it is more expensive to produce and distribute so taxes have to be modified to make it cheaper than petrol.

 

Also any car can drive on a mix of 5% ethanol and 95% petrol which reduces the emissions somewhat.

 

So biofuel is not a pipedream. Some countries are making a big effort on making it happen (Sweden), while others are lagging more behind than they should (Norway, UK).

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I think the pipe dream part of biofuels comes from the amount of decent land you would need to set to growing fuel to be able to replace ALL petrol / diesel consumption. ...
It's even worse when we risk a look at Brazil, Central America, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and others and how much of natural woodland was burnt down there over the last decade just to create new plantations of cane sugar and oil palms to satisfy our actual European demand for bio fuel. There is only one word to describe the development over there: horrible.

We can't - by no ways - produce enough bio fuel within Europe and so we are once again exporting our probs to these countries which risk their future for us and some shortsighted profit.

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Sorry, I wasn't at all clear in my earlier post when I said that biofuels are a pipedream. What I meant was not that they weren't being developed, but that in terms of meeting demand they simply aren't feasible.

 

In George Monbiot's recent book: "Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning", he discusses how supplying all our cars, buses and lorries with biofuels would require 25.9 million hectares of arable land to grow them (in the UK we currently have 5.7 million hectares). Even if we used up all of our potential cropland for growing biofuels, we wouldn't even meet a quarter of the demand.

 

This gets a lot worse. The European biofuels directive rules that 5.75% of our transport fuel should come from renewable sources by 2010; the European Commission is planning to increase this to 20% by 2020 (the US is pursuing similar policies). This target alone would require almost all of our cropland, meaning that the biofuels would have to be grown in other countries. This would have a huge environmental cost as the carbon released from clearing forests vastly outweighs any potential gains. Monbiot also argues (convincingly, I think) that there would be a huge human cost. As the world market responds to money, and people in the developed world have more purchasing power, if land were used to grow biofuels rather than crops, the price of food could rise such that hundreds of millions would be pushed into starvation (there is a sinister parallel here with the meat and dairy industries).

 

In contrast, switching from cars to coaches is estimated to reduce the CO2 you would otherwise have produced by 88% (this assumes the coach has 40 passengers). Utilizing waste products as biofuels is fine in itself, but intentionally growing them will only exacerbate global warming (and possibly perpetuate a humanitarian crisis into the bargain).

 

I would strongly recommend reading Monbiot's book. It really does expose a lot of the spin you hear from politicians and the media. The information given here is all from the chapter on transport.

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Notwithstanding that my knowledge of which crops in particular are most suitable for biofuel production, and whether Shetland/Scotland/U.K are particulary suitable for the production of such crops is limited. It has to be said that the EU stance on encouraging biofuel use and their stance on supporting agriculture are in conflict with each other.

 

It's an open secret that the EU would be quite happy if all Scottish agriculture, perhaps with the exception of a few select tracts of land from Aberdeenshire and south down the east coast, were to cease immediately. I am not familar with the stance as regards England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but I don't think it would be too far off the mark to assume a similar attiude exist there to agriculture activity on land there which is comparable to the majority of Scotland's. This is a situation the UK Government and Scottish Parliament are complicit in aiding.

 

Much of Shetland's arable land is now under grass and being used, up to a point, for grazing, which is just adding to an oversupply of meat and depressing the price the producer receives for it. there is a significant amount of formerly arable land throughout the rest of the UK in a similar situation. The EU and UK Governments strongly discourage most arable production, particularly in the Highlands and Islands, and even penalise anyone who returns arable land which has been under grass for some time back in to production.

 

There are plenty of people in Shetland, and I daresay the same applies to a lot of the rest of the UK as well, who are occupiers of dormant arable land, who would, if the climate allowed the production of suitable crop, and a market were available, paying a viable price. Would, be only to happy to produce cops for biofuel production, profit margins would not need to be all that high for it to be a far more attractive option for the land in question, than the grazing it currently is, which ends up in an oversupplied market yielding a price which provides only a marginally profitable return.

 

Supplying the entire nation's fuel needs from biofuel is almost certainly a pipe dream, which would have negative effects if pursued. But with a hectarage of utilisable arable sitting doing nothing unless further depressing an already oversupplied meat market, it would go some small way towards at least supplying a percentage of fuel needs and creating a more bouyant meat trade, to encourage that dormant arable back in to production for biofuel crops. Instead of doing so, both EU and UK Governments are doing everything within their power to maintain the status quo, and if possible further reduce the productive arable hectarage in some areas.

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supplying all our cars, buses and lorries with biofuels would require 25.9 million hectares of arable land to grow them (in the UK we currently have 5.7 million hectares). Even if we used up all of our potential cropland for growing biofuels, we wouldn't even meet a quarter of the demand.

 

George Monbiot's numbers are interesting. Does "our cars, buses and lorries" mean the UK's? I would say that using all arable land for the production of biofuels isn't a case even worth discussing. Nobody is suggesting that. My impression is that timber trade isn't a big thing in the UK. However it is a big industry with long traditions in Scandinavia and other countries. Where it is a sustainable industry using renewable resources. Also I have seen that most statistics involving arable land does not include forests. Does the numbers include forests?

 

George Monbiot's numbers are also an example of one of the classic ways of persuading people that trying to lessen our dependancy on fossil fuels is unrealistic. Adding up the demand for fuel for all cars, buses and lorries and then comparing it to a hypothetical estimated potential for one alternative fuel. It is an easy way of discouraging the general public. "Changing things isn't realistic so we'd better go along as we have done"

 

I don't think it is the objective to run everything on say E85. We get rid of cars with an unnecesary fuel consuption and engine volume (two examples: sports cars and Range Rovers in London), run some cars on electricity, some on E85, some on biodiesel and so on. That's the point. We use all available options and work to find more.

 

Putting more money into research, putting high taxes on cars with high emissions and reducing taxes on cars with little or no emissions is highly needed. But if the general public don't see possible solutions as viable then politicians can't do that.

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Yeah, biofuels sound great in theory, but as pointed out they take up a LOT of land which could be producing food. Given the apparent capability of the human race for over-consuming everything in sight, we could well end up being able to drive but not to eat, not a very clever solution.

 

Also I've been reading recently how in Brazil, often held up as a shining example of pioneering biofuel use, they're now cutting down virgin forest to plant fuel crops, just like they used to for the cattle ranches in recent years. Not quite so shining an example.

 

A start might be to prohibit (not just tax) some of the entirely unnecessary fuel use that goes on at the moment - like buying "locally produced" food at a supermarket which has been transported several hundred miles to their central warehouse, then several hundred miles back again. Or the lorryloads of beef cattle sent to graze their last few weeks in Scotland just so the supermarket can charge a premium for "Scots" beef. Clearing that sort of wasteful traffic might unclog some of the roads a bit, too, so that people with more efficient vehicles can actually keep them moving & not sit in traffic jams.

 

Fred Flintstone's car seemed to be very fuel efficient :)

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Wouldn't there be a bigger saving in fuel use from local farms providing the meat than from importing the meat in trucks and growing biodiesel locally....

 

Of course, and it's not that long ago that Shetland was largely self sufficent in beef. That only stopped when the then slaughterer decided to leave the meat trade, and wasn't replaced by another local one. Why that was the case is anyone's guess, facilities no doubt played a factor, so did EU Heath & Safety Regs, the nature of the work, profit margins etc etc. *If* anything comes of the idea recently mooted to build a new slaughterhouse in Shetland, it will at least provide an opportunity for local beef to supply the local tade again. Personally I have several reservations about the slaughterhouse proposals, but it's a good idea and still early days, so time will tell.

 

The main point being, as regards this discussion though, is that Shetland could be largely self-sufficent in beef utilising little if any more arable land then currently is used for the beef cattle production which are currently shipped south half grown for growing on. More or less the same surplus arable would be available for bio-fuel cropping regardless of whether beef cattle are sold "store" for growing on or retained to finished slaughter condition/weight locally.

 

Lamb is a whole other matter, Shetland's lamb production far exceeds local demand, there is also the problem of producing a lamb of adequate condition/weight in our short growing season. Essentially an average lamb has four months to grow from birth to a slaughter/condition weight in Shetland, which isn't enough in the vast majority of cases. Only a very few attrain that state and are only available from the end of August until November at the latest. The available methods both for ensuring a year round local supply and for bringing the remainder of the crop to a suitable slaughter condition/weight are all high investment in every sense of the word. For the former the only realistic method would be to construct a cold store capable of storing all the lamb which had attatined slaughter weight/condition during the autumn to store the carcases to supply the local market for the remaining nine months of the year. The construction and operating costs of such a facility would push the cost to the consumer of the meat stored within well in excess of the cost of imported meat. Likewise, to bring lamb to a suitable slaughter condition/weight which had not naturally done so by the autumn (and that is the vast majority) requires either a significant amount of expensive supplementary feed in the field (if they only need to gain a little more), or to be housed and fed for a longer period. Either of these options are expensive in feed cost, labour, and in the latter also construction and maintennce costs, which again pushes the production costs to such a point it is difficult in most cases for a producer to make any more than a nomimal profit on the venture, if that, when the finished product is sold competetively against imported meat.

 

When you look around the countryside at the abandoned arable the vast majority of the hectarage is supporting sheep, not cattle. Given that cattle production "as is" in Shetlnd could very quickly and easily be modified to mosty if not totaly supply the local market with minimal need if any to bring the reducndant arable back in to production, it becomes more of less a sheep only issue. Shetland proiduces a quantity of lamb which far exceeds local consumption, and our climate makes it difficult to create a butcher ready product from it. Therfor if a crop Shetland can grow is suitable for bio-fuel production, and an outlet exists for it which pays more than can be earned from sheep in the current depressed sheep meat market, the abandoned arable on which sheep is currently grazing is all available to grow that crop on, and in doing so would just be removing lamb from an already oversupplied market.

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George Monbiot's numbers are interesting. Does "our cars, buses and lorries" mean the UK's? I would say that using all arable land for the production of biofuels isn't a case even worth discussing. Nobody is suggesting that. My impression is that timber trade isn't a big thing in the UK. However it is a big industry with long traditions in Scandinavia and other countries. Where it is a sustainable industry using renewable resources. Also I have seen that most statistics involving arable land does not include forests. Does the numbers include forests?

 

Hi Freyr, thanks for your questions. Yes, I was referring to road transport in the UK only. Here's the relevant extract from Monbiot's book:

 

Road transport in the United Kingdom consumes 37.8 million tonnes of petroleum products a year. The most productive oil crop which can be grown in this country is rape. The average yield is between 3 and 3.5 tonnes per hectare. One tonne of rapeseed produces 415 tonnes of biodiesel. So every hectare of arable land could provide 1.45 tonnes of transport fuel. This means that running our cars, buses and lorries on biodiesel would require 25.9 million hectares.

 

According to the report Monbiot cites, the UK has 17 million hectares of agricultural land, of which 5.7 million hectares is arable land:

 

http://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/publications/auk/2003/chapter3.pdf

 

I see what you mean; since trees don't need to be grown on as high-quality land, there may be considerable scope for them to be used as biofuels.

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Here's the relevant extract from Monbiot's book:

 

Road transport in the United Kingdom consumes 37.8 million tonnes of petroleum products a year. The most productive oil crop which can be grown in this country is rape. The average yield is between 3 and 3.5 tonnes per hectare. One tonne of rapeseed produces 415 tonnes of biodiesel. So every hectare of arable land could provide 1.45 tonnes of transport fuel. This means that running our cars, buses and lorries on biodiesel would require 25.9 million hectares.

 

According to the report Monbiot cites, the UK has 17 million hectares of agricultural land, of which 5.7 million hectares is arable land:

 

http://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/publications/auk/2003/chapter3.pdf

Thank you for the answers :)

I still have problems accepting Monbiots calculation. It assumes that if all vehicels were to run on biodiesel they would consume the same as when run on petroleum. Would they actually consume more? It seems to look past the fact that most cars would need a conversion. Would this mean a replacement of older inefficient cars? It also assumes that the UK is an island cut off from the rest of the world. But the one thing that really makes this calculation irrelevant is that it assumes running cars on rape based biodiesel is the sole solution.

 

Biodiesel is just one solution which is to be used alongside others. Electric cars, gas powered cars, fuel cell cars, E85 powered cars, hybrid cars, lowered engine volume, a reduction in unneccesery driving and more collective transport are some of the options we could implement alongside biodiesel. Each one of these could be singled out in a similar way to convince people that they have no hope of solving any problems. But they are all intended to be used togeather.

 

The kind or retoric used is one we see more and more as most people have less interest and time to take in depth looks on current political issues. Everybody knows we have to have motor vehicle transport and everybody knows we have to use most arable land for food production. Then just present a simple calculation showing that alternative fuels mean giving up one or the other. It's then easy to conclude for oneself that alternative fuels are a pipedream.

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The kind or retoric used is one we see more and more as most people have less interest and time to take in depth looks on current political issues. Everybody knows we have to have motor vehicle transport and everybody knows we have to use most arable land for food production. Then just present a simple calculation showing that alternative fuels mean giving up one or the other. It's then easy to conclude for oneself that alternative fuels are a pipedream.

Freyr, I'm afraid that this leads to a complete misunderstanding of Monbiot. His approach was at no time to produce something like a "killer phrase" to stop all the discussion about bio fuels etc. It was just the other way round: He (and others) produced such calculations to bring some over enthusiastic discussions back to the ground.

 

Let's stick to the UK figures for a moment: There are 17 millions of agricultural land, of which less than 6% are arable land. That's roughly a ration of 1:3 but the most relevant question is: How much of the arable land is suitable for rape production? Well, over here with better soil and climate conditions there are roughly some 50%. Taking this (optimistic figure) would cut down the UK ratio to 1:6.

 

Now there are areas within Europe with a better ratio, but areas with a worse situation, too. We don't need to discuss the details - the message is a clear one: If we would like to cover all our fuel demand by bio fuel based on the most productive crop, we would need a Europe that is about five to six times bigger than it actually is - in other words: The maximum contribution of bio fuel under forseeable conditions here in Europe will be limited somewhere in the range of +/- 15%.

 

That's what we have to face and to accept, or we have to export that problem. To my opinion we have unfortunately started to export the problem instead of accepting the limited value of bio fuel (as fas as the use for transport is concerned) and looking into alternatives.

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That is my point as well, but in a different angle. :) Biodiesel is not the sole saviour. And it's not intended to be. It can only be a part of the solution.

 

I have only read the quotes so I can't know what Monbiot wants. But presenting numbers like that is still irresponsible as they serve no realistic purpose. They convince people of the irrelevance of alternative fuel solutions on false grounds. If the numbers had included some estimate of how large a portion of the UK' fuels consuption could be met by other means then they would be relevant.

 

As we live in a democracy it is important to get the public to believe in alternative fuels. Numbers like that gives the impressin that biofuels are a piedream and that they can never be a solution as it is just physically impossible to produce enough of it. It also serves to ridicule those working for biofuels as they come across as unable to understand basic statistics and clculus.

 

What the public needs to know is that biofuels are one solition intended to work alongside others. What the benefits and drawbacks of it are. How much of a solution it realisticly is and how much research and funding is needed to improve it.

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I don’t think I’m doing Mr Monbiot justice here at all. The impression I get from reading his book is that he does consider all the available options, and how they may fit into an overall scheme. I’ll try to put his point about biofuels into context. The main gist of the chapter on transport (by my reading) is as follows:

 

Biofuels

 

Should only be employed on a small scale, as at present. Setting higher targets will lead to a massive surge in imports of both palm oil (for biodiesel) from Malaysia and Indonesia, and sugar cane (for ethanol) from rainforest land in Brazil. This report by Friends of the Earth highlights the negative impacts of palm oil production:

 

http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/burning_palm_oil_fuels_cli_23082006.html

 

Improved fuel efficiency and hybrid vehicles

 

The Toyota Prius (the 'greenest' car currently on the mass market) achieves a saving of 31% in terms of carbon emissions. In 2001, Toyota unveiled its Earth-friendly ES3 Concept Car (claimed to be twice as efficient as the Prius), but this appears to have since been abandoned. Similarly, the Rocky Mountain Institute in the US published a design for a new hybrid car which could save at least 70-80% of the fuel used by other models, and this has yet to materialize. The implication is that buyers (and therefore car manufacturers) simply aren’t that interested in serious fuel economies. While the majority of manufacturers' revenue continues to be made from selling sports utility vehicles, I don't think this is likely to change much.

 

Hydrogen fuel cells

 

Cars powered using hydrogen fuel cells are hampered by technical problems (storage, energy requirements). Their development is therefore predicted to be too slow to significantly reduce either carbon emissions or oil imports over the next 25 years.

 

Fully electric cars

 

These could use batteries provided by a network of filling stations. As the battery runs down, you pull into a station, pay a fee and swap it for another one (batteries run out every 100-300 miles). The stations could charge their batteries from electricity provided by renewable energy (e.g. offshore windfarms could be used to charge the batteries when the wind is blowing strongly and demand is low).

 

Public transport

 

Switching from car to coach is estimated to reduce the carbon emissions by roughly 88% (the reduction is 86% when switching from car to train). These figures assume that the car is of average size, containing the national mean of 1.56 people, that the train is a modern electric model with 70% of its seats occupied, and that the coach has 40 passengers. The transport analyst Lynn Sloman has estimated (based on studies conducted in Australia, three English towns, and a rural area in mid-Wales) that 40% of car journeys could already be made by bicycle, on foot or by public transport. Another 40% could be made by other means if public transport of cycling provision were improved, while roughly 20% of journeys cannot be swapped. Here Monbiot outlines a scheme proposed by the economist Alan Storkey to radically improve our coach system:

 

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2006/12/05/life-coaching/#more-1034

 

On this basis then, I believe the solution to our domestic transport emissions should come mainly from an improved coach system. When the practicalities of biofuels are considered, it becomes clear they can only make a very marginal contribution. There is scope for ‘eco-cars’ and indeed I believe these will be needed, particularly for those living in remote regions or who need a car for other reasons.

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