Polar Bear Facepalm: USA #climate politics

Reasons not to bother paying attention to Paris #94.


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Upcoming Event: “Gas Networks in Britain” #Manchester 22nd April

Tyndall Manchester would like to invite you to attend the next talk in our seminar series ‘Past and Prospective Developments in Gas Networks in Britain’ by Professor Peter Pearson, from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London on Wednesday 22nd April (room C1, George Begg Building, Sackville Street) at 4.00pm.


Past and Prospective Developments in Gas Networks in Britain

Professor Peter Pearson, Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College, London (biography attached)

Projections of low carbon pathways to the UK’s 2050 climate change target suggest a need to go from dependence on natural gas as a heating fuel, to electric heat pumps, biomass boilers, etc. and to undertake gas decarbonisation (via CCS and/or injection of biogas, and conversion of low pressure networks to supply hydrogen). Consequently, the low-pressure gas mains networks might need decommissioning by 2050. At the same time, the international exploitation of shale gas has led to pressures to enhance the short to medium term presence of gas in the energy system. Against this context of a contested transition away from natural gas, the presentation examines developments in British gas networks, from their origin in the early 19th century to their prospects in the 21st. It explores innovation and transformation in the industry, from its original plant-based distributed operation to a system based on local, national and ultimately international networks. It examines what insights or lessons for the future might be gleaned from these past experiences.


Please RSVP, or contact Amrita with any queries- tyndall@manchester.ac.uk

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Explaining #climate change in a #Manchester pub – of duvets, sailing ships and coal

Last night I got to do a ten minute “what is my research about” spiel at “PhD in the Pub.” It was followed by a slightly-less-than-20-minute q and a session (because I ‘donated’ some time from that to having folks confer before we began asking questions).

My spiel covered –

“meet someone you don’t know”
“explaining climate change – of Keeling curves and duvets”
“sailing ships and sociotechnical transitions”
“it’s a howdunnit, not a whodunnit or a whydunnit”

The q and a covered technology transfer, polar bears, vasectomies, bureaucracies,  feminism and much more.

Would love to know what you all  think.  If you are reading this on facebook, please comment on the blog (as well).

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Upcoming Event: “Migratory Birds – poetry and perceptions of climate change Weds 25th March

Poetry and Perceptions of Climate Change 
A panel of literary scholars and climate change and bird species experts will address the following questions: 
  • How does poetry represent birds and our relationship to them and how might it change the way that we relate to the natural world? 
  • What impact is climate change going to have on migratory bird species in the North-West and beyond? 
  • What will be lost in terms of the impact on the natural and built environment and in terms of our imaginative and spiritual connection to the world of birds? 
 Contact clara.dawson@manchester.ac.uk for enquiries 
3-5pm • Samuel Alexander Building • A113 
Carola Luther (Carcanet Press), Dr Stuart Marsden (Manchester Metropolitan University), Professor Michael O’Neill (Durham University), Dr Mark Sandy (Durham University), Dr Michael Traut(Manchester University), Ralph Underhill (Public Interest Research Centre). 
Wine Reception 
5-6pm • Samuel Alexander Builing • North Foyer 
Poetry Reading 
6-7.30pm • Samuel Alexander Building • SG1 
On the theme of birds with Professor Michael O’Neill (Durham University) and Carola Luther(Carcanet Press), introduced by RSPB. 
All are welcome; no booking required 
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Upcoming Event: Mon 16th March (tonight!) PhD in the Pub – #climate change and the coal industry

Tonight MCFly editor Marc Hudson will be describing his PhD research as part of “PhD in the Pub“.

It’s free (though he [I!] may make you buy him a pint…

7.30pm at The Church Inn, 84 Higher Cambridge Street. [website]

Posted in Signs of the Pending Ecological Debacle, University of Manchester, Upcoming Events | 1 Comment

Human emissions level off… So, no need to worry about #climate change?

Marc Hudson tries to put the “global human-caused carbon emissions not going up” news into context.

I don’t know if there are people out there who, on hearing from the International Energy Agency that for the first time outside of a recession, the amount of carbon dioxide we’ve tipped into the atmosphere (from burning fossil fuels for transport, electricity, heating) has ‘stalled’ and thought “our climate worries are over!”

Probably there are. Humans have limited cognitive capacity, and are always looking for rationalisations to allow them to keep doing what they’ve been doing.  And climate change leads itself both to rationalisations and misunderstanding of scales and speeds.

Great+Acceleration+2015+igbp+src+low+resLet’s take human emissions.  They’ve been growing dramatically over the last few decades, especially since the Great Acceleration of the 1950s, when everything started to grow dramatically.  In 1988 the scientific warnings of the previous 15 years or so burst onto the public stage. Since then our emissions have gone up and up pretty relentlessly, in a global perspective.  We built new infrastructure, we didn’t create and/or export the low carbon technologies for energy production, and that’s basically all that matters. Every year we pumped more carbon into the atmosphere than the previous year, unless there was a global recession (which means less economic activity, less energy use, less coal/oil/gas being burned).

But human emissions – a relatively small part of overall emissions from ‘natural’ causeskeelingcurvelions breathe out c02, trees die and decompose etc –  are only of interest, I would argue, because they increase the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.   That is currently at the 400 parts per million (ppm) mark, up from 280 in 1780.  The possible ‘safe’ level is 350 ppm, thus the name for the organisation 350.org.

If you want to stop worrying about climate change, you can’t just look at human emissions, you have to look at concentrations.  And a ‘flat’ level of human emissions – especially at 2013-4 levels doesn’t lead to a stable amount of atmospheric C02.  It leads to increases, because the amount we produce is higher than what the planet absorbs from the atmosphere into a) vegetation (plants draw C02 out of the atmosphere and use it as building blocks for their growth, which is a pretty neat trick) and b) the oceans (but the oceans can only absorb so much, and the act of absorbing C02 is making the water more acidic (actually, “less alkaline”), with devastating consequences for anything that makes shells out of calcium, and anything that eats anything that makes shells out of calcium, and anything that…. well, it’s a web. You get the picture, I hope. Btw, those “carbon sinks” are weakening.

Higher atmospheric concentrations of C02 leads to more energy being trapped in the atmosphere (if you’re in bed under two thick duvets, you are going to get warmer than under 1 thick duvet. The analogy isn’t perfect, but it’ll do for now.)  And higher temperatures mean more extreme weather events, higher global temperatures (especially and sooner at the poles), and very probably more crop failures “etc”.

Look, if people want to grasp at straws, they will.  Death row inmates always hope for the last minute phone call from the governor granting clemency.  It usually doesn’t come.  People turn away from climate change not because those silly environmentalists have got their “messaging wrong” (If one more person says ‘MLK said “I have a dream” not “I have a nightmare’ I am going to explode).  People turn away because climate change is a terrifying and imminent nemesis about which we can no longer do very much. If we’d started properly in 1988 we’d have had some chance, perhaps even a quite good one.  Now?  Um….   If you need to believe that one year’s flat emissions is a harbinger of salvation, you go right ahead.

The metaphor:

The car has been accelerating towards the cliff for some time now. No matter what the pleas of the passengers, the driver has had his foot clamped down on the accelerator. Really the car should be slowing, giving itself time to turn. Faster and faster the car goes. But wait, “good news”!! For whatever reason (the fuel mix, the hand that a passenger has put out the window in order to change the car’s aerodynamics, something else), now the car isn’t going faster. It’s merely heading towards the cliff at the same fearsome speed it was going at a minute ago. So that’s much better…

Posted in Campaign Update, education, Energy, inspire, Signs of the Pending Ecological Debacle, Unsolicited advice | Leave a comment

Photo Competition on “Sustainability, Infrastructures and Social Change” #Manchester £100 first prize

Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI) Photography Competition 2015

sciphotocompetition‘Sustainability, Infrastructures and Social Change’

We invite photographers to submit a maximum of 3 images per person on the Competition topic,‘Sustainability, Infrastructures and Social Change’ This competition opens on the 1st February 2015 and will close on the 30th April 2015 with the winners being announced later in the month and winning entries posted to the SCI website.

1st Prize – £100 2nd Prize – £75 3rd Prize – £50 2 x Runner Ups – £25

As well as a cash prize, all five winners will receive a copy of their image reproduced onto canvas courtesy of the SCI and copies of these will also hang in the offices of the Sustainable Consumption Institute at the University of Manchester. (Please note all submitted images will be reproduced with the owners’ consent under the ‘Attribution NonCommercial-ShareAlike’ Creative Commons license).

In order to guide your choice of image please read the following notes:

The SCI’s focus is loosely organised around three key research themes which form the parameters of this particular photo competition. Namely, these are:

1. Everyday practices What is distinctive about our approach to consumption is that we look beyond individual choice towards the social organisation of ordinary and habitual everyday practices, and how they relate to changing infrastructures, policy and power.

2. Innovation

The SCI also seeks to identify, understand and advance the prospects for accelerating social and technological innovation in the area of sustainability.

3. Visions and Politics

Our focus is on how cultural understandings are produced and on the effects that they have on the patterns of everyday practices and innovation processes. We are interested in specific visions and politics around, for example, waste; accounting for the ebb and flow of interest in specific issues such as climate change; and in how longer standing cultural institutions (neoliberalism, egalitarianism, deep ecology) are reproduced through the framings of sustainability problems and solutions.

The challenge for photographers is to capture an image that reflects in some way one or more of the SCI’s research themes in a novel and perhaps provocative way.

All submissions to be uploaded to the SCI Flickr account at:


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