"Then it is dark; a night where kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains." - John Cheever

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

On Thinning Ice

More environmental doom-mongering, this time from the London Review of Books. It's a review of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment study. High(low?)lights include: in the last 200 yrs, CO2 in atmosphere increased by 35% - a third of which in last 40yrs; an area of reflective sea ice 8 times the size of the UK has been lost in the arctic; melting permafrost releases loads of methane - 23 times better at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2; not only melting ice but expanding water (as it warms) will raise sea levels; up to 37% of terrestrial species could be extinct by 2050; British and Canadia carbon emissions have actually gone up since 97 - most of the reductions are down to the switch to natural gas from coal and oil, that was brought about by Thatcher; worst of all (though hopefully dubious) is the (conspiracy) theory that the US doesn't care because it will emerge relatively unscathed compared to much of the world, and this will strengthen its power base even further.

As if that wasn't enough, there's another scary piece about coal, too.

What can you do? Except resolve never to take an unnecessary domestic flight ever again, as I have just done. And read comics.


john said...

after scanning the first para - at least the writer thinks there are going to *be* zoos for the remaing polar bears to inhabit at the end of this century. fuck, all this stuff is a bit scary.

Tom said...

Have skimmed through about as much of this as I can bear. The sense of helplessness when I read stuff like this is over-whelming. Yet I am still hoping to fly to Australia this year. If liberal north Londoners can't even give up their lifestyles, what hope is there for this planet?

john said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
john said...

can't you get a boat or something? an age of sail type thing would do, failing that some of the big ones are nuclear powered...

phaemon said...

I'm not sure how effective not flying is. The plane uses the same amount of fuel no matter how many people are on it. You would need to have sufficient numbers of people all stopping at once in order to make this effective, and, historically, I don't believe this has ever happened in a "tragedy of the commons" type scenario.

Alternatives are:

A) get the government to pass legislation restricting the number of flights an airline may fly in any one year
B) encourage the development of hydrogen powered aircraft, possibly by gradually increasing the taxes on routes flown by conventional aircraft while imposing none on "green planes"

I like option B myself. As an attractive bonus, the planes would be faster and, secondly, their existance would stimulate demand for hydrogen which would make it cheaper for other industries to switch to also.


Colin said...

Surely a plane will use marginally more fuel the more weight it carries? Will that new airbus be better, because there will be fewer flights overall, or worse, because its bigger and uses more fuel? Someone told me trains aren't much better, because they use less fuel but over a longer time period, but surely they are preferable to planes, e.g. on a london - scotland route? Anyone know?

Hydrogen planes would be great, but I fear that's still a long way off. The more investment in R&D the better though. A pity the military, nasa etc. don't have a stronger motive to research that stuff, because that's where a lot of these innovations come from.

john said...

hydrogen balloons!

Colin said...


phaemon said...

I don't think they use less fuel for less weight. AFAIK, they fill up their tank with enough for the journey, and more to spare, and then dump the excess fuel before landing. This is why you should never live near an airport; you're breathing in all that dumped fuel (Disclaimer: only data I have on this is anecdotal).

Balloons (or Zepplins) sound OK, but they're *slow*!

I was promised my hydrogen planes back in the 1980's and I want them now! ;-)