Protests are kicking off all around the World. In Lebanon, Chile, Iraq, Hong Kong, Spain, Ecuador, Bolivia,
Pakistan and Russia and in many other places there have been anti
government demonstrations. The school strikes and extinction rebellion
movements touched nearly every country on Earth, with their demands for
action to be taken over the ecological and climate crisis. Most of the
media reporting covers each demonstration as a separate story and the
focus is usually to magnify visually photogenic dress or on any
violence, however tiny this is in relation to the total event. Serious
analysis of what impels all these many millions of people to take to the
streets and what links all the various actions seems very inadequate.
The BBC in a rather bland and disjointed article did try and make a few linkages about people’s frustration over inequality and government corruption, and mentioning in a rather disconnected way the climatic and ecological emergency. Will Bunch, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, gave some good historical background on Chile and the malign influence of American foreign policy, and how both countries now have such dangerously high levels of inequality as a direct result of a toxic economic ideology.
Continues at https://www.richardpriestley.co.uk/protests/
at 2.30 exploring Bishops Meadow and surrounding in Hereford. Meet at 53 Mill Street (Collette and Richard Priestley)
Easy walking with a very informative guide. Please bring cake or other edibles for tea on your return to Mill Street.
A suggested donation is £3 per head.
7.30 pm, at De Koffie Pot in Hereford.
Everything needs to change to reverse climatic and ecological breakdown. So let’s think big. Richard Priestley presents some ideas about how tens of trillions of pounds/dollars/Euros might be raised and spent globally to maximize human wellbeing and ecological restoration. 20th to 27th September the ‘Schools Strike for Climate’ are planning a week of Global action and asking us adults to participate, and Extinction Rebellion are planning something big for October. Richard would love feedback on the ideas he’ll be presenting, and to hear what local groups are planning for the Autumn, and how we can collaborate to achieve maximum effect.
Many countries are now setting themselves the goal of moving from petrol and diesel powered transportation systems to very much cleaner technologies. The UK, like many countries has set itself the goal of banning sales of new fossil fuelled vehicles by 2040. Norway plans to do so by 2025. Many people still don’t seem to realize that we already have most of the technologies we’ll need to run a modern global economy purely on renewable forms of energy. Renewably generated electricity, supplied via the grid, via batteries or via hydrogen fuel cells will be the basis of most methods of transport.
For over a hundred years trains and trams have used electricity via either overhead cables or live rails. There is a strong case to keep electrifying railway lines. An emerging alternative, particularly suitable for quiet rural railway lines, where the high cost of electrification might not be justified, are hydrogen fuel cell trains. Alstom is already marketing the Coradia iLint, and Siemens are now partnering with Ballard to make something similar. There are lots of advantages to getting people and freight off the roads and on to rails. Steel wheels on steel rails generate much less friction than rubber tyres on tarmac, meaning greater energy efficiency and less pollution. The longer thinner shape of trains means less air resistance, again aiding efficiency.
We will of course still need buses, trucks and cars. There are many possible fuel options. Oslo has a fleet of 135 buses powered on biomethane made from food waste and sewage. I’ve blogged about methanol fuel cells, and a whole range of innovative and experimental ships, planes, and solar panel clad roads and cars, which are all promising but not yet in common usage. Battery electric vehicles are getting massive media coverage due to Elon Musk and Tesla, and are beginning to sell in large numbers. Last year in Norway over half of all new cars sold were either battery electric or petrol/electric hybrids, but sadly in most other countries the proportion is very much smaller. In terms of volume of sales, China is a long way ahead of any other market for battery electric or hybrid cars and buses.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the other main technology to be moving from the experimental stage to the mass production stage. (earlier blogs from me in 2015 and 2017) The Scottish government has recently helped Aberdeen double its fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses from ten to twenty. Cologne in Germany has just ordered thirty, and dozens of cities are ordering a few. Ballard, the Canadian hydrogen fuel cell specialist has now teamed up with some Chinese companies to build a fleet of 500 hydrogen fuel cell light trucks and the refuelling infrastructure to support their roll out in Shanghai. Meanwhile the Nikola company has secured 8,000 pre-orders for its huge hydrogen fuel cell trucks, and will start production next year in Arizona. At the other end of the spectrum is Riversimple, who are due to build their first twenty tiny hydrogen fuel cell cars later this year, and which our local car club may be in a position to trial. Exciting times!
The days of petrol and diesel are numbered. It is too early to say which technology will dominate in the post fossil fuel economy. Both hydrogen and batteries are in essence ways of storing surplus wind and solar electricity and it is this aspect of how best to store energy cheaply and at vast scale which may be the main determinate of which fuel is used where. There will undoubtedly be a role for many technologies in various settings. I’ll explore more on this next week.
Local activist and environmental blogger Richard Priestley presents a talk entitled: ‘Sustainable Transport, Local & Global?’ on Wednesday 10th May, 7.30pm at De Koffie Pot, Left Bank, Hereford. This is part of Left Bank’s regular Politics, Ethic’s and Ecology evenings most Wednesdays.
What might ‘optimal transport’ look like? Do some people suffer from excessive mobility and others from too little? Can global trade be sustainable? What are the latest technological innovations towards zero emissions vehicles and transport infrastructure? Individually and collectively, what can we do in Hereford? Richard Priestley will give a talk, show slides and take questions. He has recently written about the Cities and Cars here.
I’ve just posted a blog ‘A strange moment in UK Politics’ and over previous weeks a number of blogs about exponential growth of solar power and of innovation of zero emission transport technologies. www.richardpriestley.co.uk
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For those of you on Twitter, I’ve recently become an avid Tweeter @richard_global_
For those of you in Hereford, I’m giving a talk 7.30, Weds 8th March at De Koffee Pot. (Happy to do the same or similar talk at other locations) ‘Trump, the Carbon Bubble & possibilities of a better future’
Feedback and promotion welcomed as ever.
Planning permission has been granted for a new cruise ship terminal in Greenwich. Ships moored in port run their diesel generators to provide power, and this creates terrible air pollution. Yesterday the Radio 4 programme ‘Costing the Earth’ investigated the situation. The answer is simple. Connect the ships to shore based electricity supply so they don’t need to run their generators. This requires some additional investment, but when planning a new port like Greenwich’s cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf providing such infrastructure should clearly have been a condition of the planning approval. Los Angeles was the first port in the world to build such a system, back in 2004. By now it ought to be standard practice. Radio 4’s Tom Heap interviewed lots of people in making the programme, but nobody from either local or national government, or the developers, were prepared to talk to him. As ever governments and commercial developers drag their feet, hounded by community groups, health professionals and environmental activists.
London has long had air pollution problems, dating back centuries. I was born not long after the Great Smog of 1952 and one of my earliest memories is of my family replacing open coal fires with gas ones as a result of the 1956 Clean Air Act. By the 1960’s pollution from cars was a big issue. On the 1971 ‘O’ level English paper, one of the questions was ‘Should the car be banned?’ I argued that it should. The many disadvantages, including local air pollution, climate change, accidents and communities divided by roads outweighed the benefits. This, I recall, became the policy of the Ecology Party, first called the People Party, (later, the Green Party) when it was formed in 1972-73. Since that time the evidence of the damage to human health has grown very much more detailed.
Air pollution from various forms of fossil fuels has long been a problem, for London, and for all big cities. As an issue it has periodically risen up and slid down the media agenda. Now at long last the Cleantech Revolution means that we can still have the many benefits of modern city life, but with radically reduced pollution. Technically much is possible. What is needed is for governments to understand this and take action. Tragically they seldom do, unless forced to do so by the valiant efforts of campaigners and activists, with the support of wonderful organisations like the activist lawyers of Client Earth and insightful radio programmes like ‘Costing the Earth’.
When future historians look back at 2016, what will they see as the most significant change?
In Marrakech, Morocco, the COP22 climate change talks are underway. The evidence for climate change is utterly overwhelming. Atmospheric CO2 has passed the milestone of 400ppm. Each year sees the global average temperature rise. Glaciers and permafrost are melting, sea levels are rising. Urgent action is required.
As I write this Donald Trump has just won the American Presidency. He has described Climate Change as a hoax. I can think of no better parallel than when the Nazi’s described any science they didn’t like as ‘Jewish Science’. Dismissing hard science based on careful study of empirical evidence is a very dangerous path to take. Donald Trump genuinely is a loose cannon.
Globally air pollution is re-emerging as a critical issue. This week Delhi has been described as a ‘gas chamber’ and the High Court in London has condemned our government for inaction in reducing air pollution.
The solutions to both climate change and to air pollution are a rapid transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to one based on renewables. Much of the Cleantech innovation is happening in USA.
What effect a Trump victory will have on any of this is hard to tell, but it is very likely that global leadership on these critical issues will move elsewhere.
Meanwhile real world events unfold. Sotheby’s have plenty of multi-million dollar homes for sale in Miami Beach. Sea level rise, plus the region’s porous geology and the increasing likelihood of storms and hurricanes make it almost inevitable that these properties will become utterly worthless before long, but exactly when, nobody knows. Trump may be dismissive of climate science, but he is keenly aware of property prices. Atmospheric gases and geological processes of change are completely oblivious to property prices or to the egos of politicians, yet they may dominate the news events of the Trump presidency.
We live in interesting times!
This blog was originally posted at RichardPriestley.co.uk