Day 1030 of Theresa May’s premiership: No Brexit. But UK Air Quality Improves

Welcome to Day 1030 of Theresa May’s premiership, and still no Brexit in sight.

There’s no Brexit news to report, but as this is a blog about Brexit I’m compelled to write something, anything, about Brexit.

So, here’s your weekly Brexit mashup:

“Prime Minister Theresa May could set a date for her resignation in the coming days, the chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee has said.

The PM said she will step down when her Brexit deal is ratified by Parliament — but some MPs want a fixed date.

Sir Graham Brady said he expects a “clear understanding” of that timetable once she has met the committee, which she will do on Wednesday.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster, he said the 1922 Committee had asked her to give “clarity” about her plans for the future, and she had “offered to come and meet with the executive”.

He continued: “It would be strange for that not to result in a clear understanding [of when she will leave] at the end of the meeting.”

The 1922 Committee is an elected body of Tory MPs that represents backbenchers and oversees the party’s leadership contests.”

Excerpted from BBC: Theresa May could set exit date this week – Sir Graham Brady


‘If you judge a fish by how well it can climb a tree…’

It seems that Theresa May has done a great job of being the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom but has been a disaster when it came to Brexit. Such a conundrum!

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein

The UK economy (in contrast to ‘Project Fear’ projections) is rocketing along. Government debt is falling and deficits are getting smaller, and relations with America went from “back of the line” to “let’s do a trade deal soon as you get Brexit sorted”.

Even relations with the EU seem to have broadened-out a bit as each side reflects on what they mean to each other and how they can keep what ‘works’ in the relationship while discarding what ‘doesn’t work’ for both sides in the post-Brexit era.


And there’s good news on the environmental front. Last week, the UK didn’t burn any coal

That’s right! The country that started the Industrial Revolution around the year 1760 burning millions of tons of coal in industrial-sized burners to produce electricity and heat to fuel a socio-economic miracle, burned none last week.

It looks like more such weeks will be reported in the coming months as the UK completes its phaseout of industrial scale coal-fired electricity generation by 2025. (Although many rural homes in the UK still burn relatively tiny amounts of coal, or wood, or a mixture of coal and wood)

Natural Gas has replaced coal in the UK, and that’s a good thing because the gas burns up to 1,000,000 times cleaner than brown coal (lignite) and up to 10,000 times cleaner than the cleanest grade of black coal (anthracite) and Natural Gas is about 1000 times cleaner than burning home-heating fuel (kerosene).

“Each stage in the life cycle of coal—extraction, transport, processing, and combustion—generates a waste stream and carries multiple hazards for health and the environment. These costs are external to the coal industry and are thus often considered “externalities.” We estimate that the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one‐half of a trillion dollars annually. Many of these so‐called externalities are, moreover, cumulative. Accounting for the damages conservatively doubles to triples the price of electricity from coal per kWh generated, making wind, solar, and other forms of nonfossil fuel power generation, along with investments in efficiency and electricity conservation methods, economically competitive.” — Full Cost Accounting for the Lifecycle of Coal — Harvard Medicine (Report available for download at The New York Academy of Sciences)

So while burning Natural Gas produces plenty of CO2, it produces slightly less than half the CO2 that burning coal produces. And there’s no airborne heavy metals, no soot, no sulphur dioxide to breathe that’s so powerful it can destroy automotive paint finishes, no toxic fly ash long-term storage problem, no damage to aquatic life from water runoff near the massive coal piles. Nitrogen Oxide and other airborne oxides aren’t a factor with Natural Gas either.

If you’re a Briton pat yourself on the back, because the UK is a world leader in the switch to converting from coal to cleaner fuels, and additionally, adding wind and solar capacity to the grid!


Theresa May, Brexit, environment
Image courtesy of BBC

Growing the Economy, While Lowering Emissions!

“A new Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit report confirms that Britain has been the most successful G7 nation over the last 25 years on the combined metric of growing its economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In the 25-years since 1992 when clean air and the corresponding lowering of healthcare spending became an important policy for the United Kingdom, the country grew its per capita GDP by 130% while lowering GHG emissions 33% — proving that a country can simultaneously grow their economy AND lower greenhouse gas emissions.”United Kingdom Leads G7 in the Combined Metric of Economic Growth + Carbon Cuts


Each type of power plant has vastly different water demands

UK, Brexit, Theresa May, environment, clean air, water usage by power plant type
Water usage by power plant type — per megawatt / per hour.

It’s too bad Theresa May didn’t wait until later in the game to become Prime Minister (allowing Brexit to be completed by others) because they would’ve delivered a worthy Brexit within months of the June 23, 2016 referendum, and then Theresa May could’ve ushered-in an era of economic growth + lower emissions and clean air and water in God’s Own Country.

READ: Theresa May’s Environment Speech, January 2018

by John Brian Shannon

COP21 Paris – un Succès!

COP21 Paris: “What was once unthinkable is now unstoppable.” #ClimateChange #ClimateAction — United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon

COP21 Paris: “195 nations have risen to the challenge of climate change.”   — UNFCCC

 

The COP21 Paris 2015 deal attempts to limit global atmospheric temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius and the measures adopted in the agreement included provisions for reviewing progress every five years, and for $100 billion dollars a year in climate finance for developing countries.

COP21 Paris logo
COP21 Paris negotiators have successfully concluded their Paris meeting setting a global warming limit of 2 degrees celsius via a landmark climate change accord. Image courtesy of COP21 Paris

After difficult two week-long COP21 negotiations, representatives of 195 countries of the world reached a unanimous landmark climate change accord in Paris. The historical climate deal for the first time made all the nations of the world to commit to cut greenhouse gas emissions to help reduce disastrous global warming effects. The deal is partly legally… Continue reading COP21 Paris – un Succès!

Can We Afford Another Climate Failure?

Can We Afford Another Climate Failure? | November 7, 2015
Originally published at JohnBrianShannon.com by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Climate scientists say we must decide (at COP 21) to dramatically lower our CO2 emissions or we lose our last opportunity to stop global warming at a scale never before seen.

“How many climate scientists?”

A majority of climate papers agree that global warming is real and a looming concern for planet Earth. Image courtesy of James Powell
A majority of climate papers agree that global warming is a looming concern for everyone on planet Earth. Image courtesy of JamesPowell.org

“Houston, we have a problem.”

The question, “Is there any doubt that global warming could threaten plant and animal life on the planet?” no longer seems relevant due to the astounding amount of quality research done in recent years which proves we do, in fact, have a problem.

One wonders about the other question, “Are our politicians up to the task at hand?”

Don’t lose hope yet! There are some inspiring examples of environmental stewardship in the world

100% Now: Albania, Bhutan, Belize, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iceland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nepal, Norway, Paraguay, Tokelau, and Zambia, are countries that produce virtually 100% of their primary energy generation (electricity) via renewable energy, while Samoa will hit that standard by 2017. (All of these countries produce a minimum of 95% of their electricity via renewable energy, and all of them have plans to meet their 100% target within a few years. As always, easy access to low-interest financing is one way to enable those targets to be met by 2020)

100% by 2021: Costa Rica will hit its renewable energy target by the end of 2021. At present the Costa Rican electricity grid is powered by 94% renewable energy, but many days of the year renewable energy production exceeds 100 percent of demand allowing the country to export surplus electricity.

100% by 2030: Denmark and Scotland and are well on their way to hit 100% clean electricity generation by 2030 — while the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, and Kiribati in the South Pacific expect to become 100% clean energy powered by 2050 including all transportation.

90% Now: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Laos all produce more than 90% of their electricity via renewable energy and have ambitious plans to increase those targets. Limited funding is a factor.

80% Now: Canada produces over 80% of its primary generation from renewable energy (hydro-electric dams and nuclear power stations, with assorted minor solar power and wind power installations) but has, so far, has no plan to convert the remaining 20% of its electricity generation to clean energy.

80% by 2025: Nicaragua has an aggressive renewable energy program to replace its primarily fossil fueled primary energy (electricity) with renewable energy. The country is blessed with radiant sunshine, healthy wind resources and volcanoes (geothermal) all it lacks is the financing to accelerate its planned targets.

80% by 2050: Germany, an advanced country of 82 million people gets almost 40% of its annual electricity from wind, solar and biomass power and has an ambitious tw0-track programme underway called Energiewende that is simultaneously a) shutting down all of Germany’s nuclear power stations by 2022 (completely decommissioning them by 2045) and b) replacing that lost power generation with wind, solar, and biomass power.

By 2050 Germany expects to meet 80% of its electricity via renewable energy, and further plans to curtail energy use by 25% due to additional energy efficiency. The scale and speed of transition to clean energy in Germany is astonishing and enjoys broad support among the public.

See: German Renewable Energy Leaves Coal Behind (JBSNews)

20% by 2020: In the United States, primary energy (power plants that produce electricity or district heating, or both) are the single largest source of CO2 pollution.

Excessive carbon pollution is a contributor to climate change. Primary energy (power plants that produce electricity or district heating, or both) are the single largest source of CO2 pollution in the United States.
Excessive carbon pollution is a contributor to climate change. Primary energy (power plants that produce electricity or district heating, or both) are the single largest source of CO2 pollution in the United States.

And, although a slow starter, the United States has made rapid advances toward a cleaner energy grid. Early legislation such as the Clean Air Act (1970, amended 1990) has now been joined by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

See: How the Clean Air Act Has Saved $22 Trillion in Health-Care Costs (The Atlantic)

It’s notable that the U.S. now spends more than any country in the world on its transition to clean energy and is quickly switching out of coal (good) to natural gas (better) and renewable energy (best).

Climate and Carbon: Renewable energy as a proportion of the total U.S. electricity demand (2015)
Climate and Carbon: Renewable energy as a proportion of total U.S. electricity demand (2015) Image courtesy of IER

China has the second-highest spend on renewable energy globally and breaks global solar and wind power installation records every year. By a wide margin.

See: List of countries by electricity production from renewable sources (Wikipedia)

And yet, all of it together isn’t nearly enough to lower our present carbon emissions to a safe level

Not even close actually, as the carbon bender we’ve been on since 1988 is mind-numbing.

“By the end of this year, more than half of all industrial emissions of carbon dioxide since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution will have been released since 1988 — the year it became widely known that these emissions are warming the climate.”

“The Global Carbon Project (GCP) estimates that in 2014, we will release a record 37 gigatons (GT) of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from burning coal, oil, and natural gas, and manufacturing cement. That’s a 2.5 percent increase over emissions in 2013, itself a record year.”

“This brings the total industrial carbon dioxide emissions since 1751 to an estimated 1480 Gt by the end of this year. And, remarkably, more than half of these emissions, 743 Gt, or 50.2 percent, have released just since 1988.” — , Director of science & policy, Union of Concerned Scientists

See: Global Warming Fact: More than Half of All Industrial CO2 Pollution Has Been Emitted Since 1988 (Union of Concerned Scientists)

Climate and Carbon. More than half of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions have been released since 1988. Image: Union of Concerned Scientists
Climate and Carbon. More than half of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions have been released since 1988. Image: Union of Concerned Scientists

Convinced?

Most people are. Some 80% of North Americans want stronger government and corporate action towards cleaner energy, more efficient buildings and electric vehicles. Which is great.

But in 2014, some $548 billion dollars of subsidies were paid or otherwise granted to the world’s fossil fuel corporations. And they’re in no mood to give it up.

Why would they?

Ever since large-scale coal, and oil and gas extraction began around 1920, fossil fuels have been getting massive subsidies relative to their imprint on the economy.

If the plan at COP 21 is to remove those subsidies from the fossil fuel companies, then there is no point in anybody showing up there. At all. Because as far as plans go, that must surely be voted; “Least likely to succeed since there were rocks.”

If the plan is to legislate ever stricter air quality standards (to the point where it has any real effect on total global emissions) get ready to pay even more subsidies — perhaps double. Yet, if that’s the plan, we might be wise to support it as we don’t have a second Earth to fall back on.

A more effective plan would be to leave fossil fuel subsidies at their present level and begin to match renewable energy subsidies to the fossil fuel subsidy rate, based on the barrel of oil equivalent (BOe) standard and let the market work on a level-playing-field basis

In that way ‘fossil fuel companies’ would morph into ‘energy companies’ — instead of remaining coal-only, oil-only, or natural gas-only companies.

Stand back and watch the CO2 emissions fall through the floor if that ever happens! Standardizing renewable energy subsidies to match coal, oil and natural gas subsidies, means that real and profound change would begin to take place throughout our energy sector.

It should be pointed out that a very good case could still be made for keeping natural gas alive and thriving (with the same subsidy regime) to fuel the transportation sector.

See: Energy Darwinism – The Case for a Level Playing Field (JBS News)

Climate and Carbon. Global fossil fuel subsidies vs. global renewable energy subsidies (2014)
Climate and Carbon. Global fossil fuel subsidies vs. global renewable energy subsidies (2014)

Because of the (over-hyped) variability of renewable energy (the Sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow) a massive shift towards natural gas (hundreds of times cleaner than coal, BTW) or battery storage will be needed to balance electrical demand. Perhaps both.

Natural gas (CNG) cars and trucks are affordable right now and can use the present distribution system as gasoline and diesel vehicles, while battery technology approaches the point of affordable battery systems for cars and trucks.

See: Clean Energy: Renewables & Natural Gas Powered Electricity Grids (JBS News)

Although there is reason for hope at COP 21 in December 2015, the few examples above represent only a handful of nations acting on the scientific warnings about global warming

There are almost 200 other nations that must become convinced of the need to act on climate change this December, and many of them will be negatively affected by sea level rise, drought/heat waves, premature deaths caused by air and water pollution (China 410,000 per year, the U.S. over 200,000 per year, and Europe over 400,000 per year) and desertification.

See: Air Pollution Costs the West Almost $1 Trillion/yr (JBSNews)

Now that we have broad and deep consensus by climate scientists that global warming represents an existential threat to our planet, all that is required is the will to act.

Let’s hope our politicians are bigger than the looming environmental maelstrom our civilization faces.

Climate and Carbon: Rooftop solar installation in Standard, CA the birthplace of California's oil industry. See? There is reason for optimism!
Climate and Carbon: Rooftop solar installation in Standard, California — the birthplace of California’s oil industry! See? There is reason for optimism.

Don’t Miss: Responsible Business Summit Asia 2015

The Responsible Business Summit Asia 2015

Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Summit Asia is the regional prominent meeting place to find out where business leaders and innovators are headed around their sustainability and CSR strategy. #RBSA2015 brings together corporate practitioners from Fortune 500 brands working in corporate sustainability, environment, supply chain and communications.

“Events like RBS Asia bring together not just the NGOs and policy makers, but also businesses like ours to share experiences and best practices to accelerate solutions for a more sustainable future for all of us. As a business in the pursuit of sustainability for nearly half our lifetime, we see this as an exciting opportunity for greater collaboration and partnership to drive sustainable growth and a shared economy” — Interface Inc, President & Chief Executive Officer, Asia Pacific, Rob Coombs Continue reading Don’t Miss: Responsible Business Summit Asia 2015