Monday, November 28, 2011

Germany once again has global ambitions

German Environment Minister Röttgen asks for CO2 limit for every individual on earth according to an article in the online version of the German magazine "Der Spiegel". It quotes Röttgen's remarks he made in an interview with it. He says:

"It is sensible and necessary to introduce a global competitive order (meaning: to regulate competition) to protect the climate. The final goal is, a per head budget of green house gases for every person on earth (meaning: everybody gets the same budget).

Es ist vernünftig und geboten, eine globale Wettbewerbsordnung zum Schutz des Klimas einzuführen." Das Endziel sei "ein Pro-Kopf-Budget für die Emission von Treibhausgasen, das für jeden Menschen auf der Welt gilt."

He expresses his scepticism regarding a success in Durban: "In many countries of the world community the willingness is shrinking to accept binding targets to protect the climate - while at the same time climate change is advancing. The gap is widening and I am concerned about this."

Die Erfolgsaussichten der Konferenz in Durban bewertete Röttgen skeptisch: "In vielen Ländern der Weltgemeinschaft sinkt die Bereitschaft, verpflichtende Vorgaben für den Klimaschutz zu akzeptieren - gleichzeitig schreitet derKlimawandel voran. Die Schere geht weiter auseinander, und das macht mir Sorgen."

Spiegel writes that Röttgen is criticising the German minister of economic affairs Mr. Rössler (FDP) because Röttgen could not find an agreement regarding binding regulations for energy efficiency. "There is indeed a dissent" the minister says, adding: "I stick to it, that we have to set binding targets in which steps energy efficiency has to increase."

Im Streit um die Umsetzung der Energiewende in Deutschland kritisierte Röttgen Bundeswirtschaftsminister Philipp Rösler (FDP), mit dem er sich zuletzt nicht auf verbindliche Regeln für die Energieeffizienz einigen konnte. "Da gibt es tatsächlich einen Dissens", sagte Röttgen und fügte hinzu: "Ich bleibe dabei, dass wir uns verbindliche Ziele setzen müssen, in welchen Schritten die Energieeffizienz steigen soll."


Green energy could trigger 'catastrophic' blackouts

'Unstable' renewable energy sources increase the risk of 'supra-regional' electricity blackouts with multi-billion pound consequences, insurance giant Allianz has warned.

Solar panels and wind turbines are a "volatile" source of power with fluctuations in the electricity supply risking "grid instabilities" and triggering wide-scale blackouts.

Ageing infrastructure and increasingly cross-border electricity networks have heightened the likelihood of a devastating collapse of power supplies lasting months and covering several continents, according to the joint report by Allianz and the Chief Risk Officer Forum.

In eastern Germany, turbines in strong wind can produce more than all German coal and gas plants put together, while the need to switch off turbines in high winds causes a drop-off in electricity of 12GW - equal to two nuclear power plants. Outages are likely if there is too little demand or storage capacity to accommodate the jumps in supply.

Leading risk analysts modelled a worst-case scenario in which transformers are knocked out in the United States, causing outages to cascade through the grid into Canada, Russia and Scandanavia.

Credit cards and cash machines would stop immediately, and petrol pumps and refineries would shut-down within six hours. Back-up generators powering hospitals, stock exchanges, emergency services and sewerage plants could run out of fuel within days.

Industry would grind to a halt, cooling equipment would fail and homes would go without food supplies, water or heating, leaving families spending winter around open fires. Allianz predict it would take a year to get the transformers back online. The cost to insurers would top one trillion dollars and chronic power shortages would continue for up to a decade.

"Blackouts during the last ten years in Europe and Northern America have demonstrated an increasing likelihood of supra-national blackouts with accompanying large economic losses," the analysts wrote.

"Traditional scenarios only assume black-outs for a few days and losses seem to be moderate, but if we are considering longer lasting blackouts... the impacts on society and economy might be significant," the report said.

Outages could also be trigged by cyber attacks, terrorist action, natural disasters or solar storms - eruptions of charged particles from the surface of the sun which can distort magnetic fields and destroy electricity transmission lines. One such storm knocked out power for six million Canadians in 1989, with the next forecast for 2012.

Half of new electricity capacity worldwide comes from renewable sources such as wind farms, solar panels and biomass plants - up from just 8pc in 2009.

The report said privatisation of electricity networks had split power generating companies from distributors, removing incentives to invest in and maintain infrastructure - a problem exaccerbated by placing windfarms in remote areas. EU nations need to spend £20-25bn on new grid infrastructure by 2016.

The report highlighted how the failure of back-up generators at the Fukushima plant after the Japanese earthquake caused a Chernobyl-scale radiation leak and closed down 11pc of Japan's power supply, leaving factories idle and shrinking GDP by 3pc.

A blackout in the US and Canada in 2003, when the failure of one Ohio generating plant knocked out more than 100 others, left 50 million people without power for four days and cost £3-5bn.


British PM's green guru reveals his doubts over global warming

Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister’s director of strategy and ‘green guru’, is the latest person to admit to doubts about climate change. ‘I’m not sure I believe in it,’ he announced at a meeting of the Energy Department, prompting one aide to blurt out: ‘Did I just hear that correctly?’

According to one witness, Hilton, 41, the man who coined the slogan ‘Vote Blue and Go Green’ and changed the Tory symbol from a Stalinist style torch to an eco friendly tree, said: ‘Climate change arguments are highly complex. ‘My focus has always been more on using green issues to improve the quality of life.’

Hilton famously persuaded David Cameron to go to the Arctic with a pack of huskies to prove that he was determined to combat global warming in his early days as Tory leader. Now, however, Hilton as become a big fan of former Chancellor Nigel Lawson, a vocal critic of the global warming lobby.

Hilton’s new doubts chime with the Prime Minister’s decision to tone down his previous emphasis on environmental measures to concentrate on stimulating economic growth.

Earlier this year Hilton was said to be secretly plotting with London Mayor Boris Johnson to force the Prime Minister to drop his opposition to plans for a £40 billion airport in the Thames estuary.

The provocative move followed reports that Hilton was on the brink of walking out of No 10 because he thinks Mr Cameron was ‘losing his nerve’.

Mr Cameron believes Tory rival Mr Johnson’s plan for the airport, dubbed ‘Boris Island’, is a non-starter. The disclosure that Hilton had thrown his weight behind the idea was a big boost to Mr Johnson – and a snub to Mr Cameron.

Friends of Mr Cameron were convinced Mr Johnson was trying to exploit policy differences in a campaign to succeed him as Tory leader.


Why that 'eco-friendly' wood-burning stove could actually be harming the environment

The growing trend for fitting rustic wood-burning stoves is causing serious damage to the environment according to a United Nations report. Sales of the stoves, which emit harmful black carbon similar to diesel fumes from cars, have risen in recent years as homeowners seek a cosy alternative to gas-effect fires or a cheaper way to heat their properties.

Many believe the stoves to be eco-friendly as wood is a replenishable resource with some manufacturers going so far as to label their products carbon-neutral.

However the report, funded by the Swedish government, found that emissions from burning wood to be a major factor in 'climate forcing'.

While most of the damage was found to come from developing countries where wood is used in brick kilms and cooking stoves, Europe and North America are currently emitting 300,000 tons of black carbon every year.

The report predicted that as transport technology improves, burning wood will soon overtake diesel cars as the primary source of black carbon in the developed world.

Scientists now believe that by cutting back on black carbon and methane emissions, the rate of global warming could be reduced by up to 0.4C between now and 2040.

By fitting newer technologies such as pellet stoves and boilers the impact of black carbon emissions from the developed world could be almost halved.

The report predicted that as technology improves, burning wood will soon overtake diesel cars as the primary source of black carbon

Joseph Alcamo, chief scientist at the UN Environmental Programme told the Daily Telegraph: 'Whilst it is nice to burn wood in the evening and while it is better for the planet than burning coal, the reality is that it produces black carbon.

'Rather than feel guilty about it we suggest that there are alternatives that provide the same comforts as wood-burning stoves without producing the particle pollution.'

The smoke from wood-burning stoves is also believed to pose a more immediate threat to human health and has been compared to breathing in emissions from a car exhaust, research has shown. Inhaling the invisible particles in the smoke can lead to fatal heart disease and cancer, toxicology experts warn.


Europe plan to 'green' public buildings to cost Britain £50bn

Taxpayers will have to pay billions of pounds a year equipping council houses, town halls, hospitals and other public buildings with the latest green technology, under new proposals by the European Commission.

Local authorities and other public bodies, already struggling with spending cuts, will be obliged to fit schools, swimming pools and libraries, with state-of-the-art insulation, boilers, generators and windows.

Councils say the plan as it affects them alone would cost taxpayers up to £50bn.

The draft Energy Efficiency Directive states public bodies should "lead by example" and "purchase only products, services and buildings with high energy efficiency performance".

Public bodies will also be obliged to refurbish 3% of their properties to the high energy-efficient specification each year, under the plans.

Local authorities say the proposals – set to take effect in just over two years – may force them to make even deeper cuts to core services, such as rubbish collection and care for the elderly. It is understood ministers also strongly oppose the directive.

Disquiet in government over more EU regulations come just weeks after David Cameron, talked openly of repatriating power back from Europe. The prime minister is facing a wave of anti-Brussels from a new wave of eurosceptic MPs.

The Local Government Association (LGA) believes that complying with the legislation will cost councils nearly £50 billion over the next 33 years.

But the full annual cost to the taxpayer could run into billions when properties owned by the NHS, Ministry of Defence and other parts of the public sector are included.

David Parsons, chairman of the Improvement Programme Board at the LGA, this weekend wrote to ministers at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and two other Whitehall departments to raise his concerns about the directive.

"If realised as intended in the European Commission proposal, local authorities would be required to meet very significant costs which could not be funded via local taxation," the letter reads.

Member state governments would be obliged to ensure the new rules were strictly enforced.

There should be "legal and regulatory provisions, and administrative practices, regarding public purchasing and annual budgeting and accounting, with a view to ensuring that individual public bodies are not deterred from making efficiency-improving investments" the draft directive reads.

Many public buildings are more than 100 years old and would be expensive to equip to state-of-the-art energy efficient standards.

"The cost of refitting a Victorian town hall, Whitehall department or older council housing – it could be enormous," said a local government official who has examined the draft legislation.

"These plans will only put councils under even more financial pressure at a time that they really don't need it."

The directive is also opposed by the National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents 1,200 housing associations. The NHF fears that the directive could worsen the shortage of homes for Britain's poorest people.

"A sector that has little room in its investment capacity might lead to the sale of housing association stock in order to pay for the refurbishment obligation," the NHF said in a document sent to the government.

The directive has already had one reading in the European Parliament and is set to be discussed by the EU's energy council within the next few days.

A government spokesman said: "Better energy efficiency in the public sector can reduce expensive energy bills and help the environment. But any new rules should be proportionate and sensible. The overall goal should be to save taxpayers' money."

Eurosceptic Tory MPs are calling for "repatriation" of immigration, human rights and employment laws back from Brussels. Cameron said last month: "We do not agree about every aspect of European policy by any means."

However, there is deep division within the coalition over the government's stance towards to Europe. Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, has called Tories who want to claw back powers from Brussels as "extremists".

"Being shoved to the margins [of Europe], or retreating there voluntarily, would be economic suicide – a sure-fire way to hurt British businesses and lose jobs."


BBC sought advice from global warming scientists on economy, drama, music... and even game shows

Britain’s leading green activist research centre spent £15,000 on seminars for top BBC executives in an apparent bid to block climate change sceptics from the airwaves, a vast new cache of leaked ‘Climategate’ emails has revealed.

The emails – part of a trove of more than 5,200 messages that appear to have been stolen from computers at the University of East Anglia – shed light for the first time on an incestuous web of interlocking relationships between BBC journalists and the university’s scientists, which goes back more than a decade.

They show that University staff vetted BBC scripts, used their contacts at the Corporation to stop sceptics being interviewed and were consulted about how the broadcaster should alter its programme output.

Like the first ‘Climategate’ leaks two years ago, they were placed last week on a Russian server by an anonymous source.

Again like their predecessors, they have emerged just before a United Nations climate summit, which is to start this week in Durban.

BBC insiders say the close links between the Corporation and the UEA’s two climate science departments, the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, have had a significant impact on its coverage.

‘Following their lead has meant the whole thrust and tone of BBC reporting has been that the science is settled, and that there is no need for debate,’ one journalist said. ‘If you disagree, you’re branded a loony.’

In 2007, the BBC issued a formal editorial policy document, stating that ‘the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus’ – the view that the world faces catastrophe because of man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

The document says the policy was decided after ‘a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts’ – including those from UEA.

The ‘Climategate 2’ emails disclose that in private some of those same scientists have had doubts about aspects of the global warming case.

For example, Professor Phil Jones, the head of the CRU, admitted there was no evidence that the snows of Kilimanjaro were melting because of climate change, and he and his colleagues agreed there were serious problems with the famous ‘hockey stick’ graph – the depiction of global temperatures that suggests they were broadly level for 1,000 years until they started to rise with industrialisation.

But although there is now more scientific debate than ever about influences on climate other than CO2, prompted by the fact that the world has not warmed for 15 years, a report from the BBC Trust this year compared climate change sceptics to the conspiracy theorists who blame America for 9/11, and said Britain’s main sceptic think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, should be given no air time.

The man at the centre of the BBC-UEA web is Roger Harrabin, the Corporation’s ‘environment analyst’, who reports for a range of programmes on radio and TV.

Last week The Mail on Sunday revealed that in 1996, he and his friend, Professor Joe Smith of the Open University, set up an informal two-man band to organise environment seminars for BBC executives.

Known as the Cambridge Media Environment Programme (CMEP), it operated until 2009, and over three years (2002 to 2005) received £15,000 from the Tyndall Centre. Mr Harrabin did not derive personal financial benefit, although Prof Smith was paid.

Yesterday Mike Hulme, UEA’s Professor of Climate Change, who set up the centre in 2000 and was its director until 2007, said he planned to fund CMEP from Tyndall’s outset, as an ‘integral part of our outreach and communication strategy’.

Mr Harrabin was also appointed to the Tyndall advisory board – an unpaid position he held for five years until 2005.

The Climategate 2 emails suggest Prof Hulme expected something in return – the slanting of BBC coverage to exclude global warming sceptics.

On February 25, 2002, the climate change sceptic Philip Stott, a London University professor, debated the subject with John Houghton of the Met Office on the Today programme.

This prompted an angry email to colleagues from Prof Hulme. ‘Did anyone hear Stott vs Houghton on Today, Radio 4, this morning?’ he wrote. ‘Woeful stuff really. This is one reason why Tyndall is sponsoring the Cambridge Media Environment Programme, to starve this type of reporting at source.’

Last night Prof Hulme denied he was trying to deny space to sceptics, saying: ‘What I wanted to “starve” at source was “this type of reporting” – in which the important and complex issues raised by climate change are reduced to an argument between two voices representing different positions on climate science, as though there is one right and one wrong answer to climate change.’

Far from wanting to narrow it, he said, he had tried to widen debate about the issue for years.

This was not the only time there was talk of sceptics being shut out. On December 7, 2004, the BBC’s then-environment correspondent Alex Kirby wrote to Prof Jones.

He had, he said, succeeded in blocking one sceptic from the BBC, claiming his work was ‘pure stream of consciousness rubbish’. But to his regret, he had been unable to stop a group of scientists who said there were flaws in the hockey-stick graph being featured.

‘I can well understand your unhappiness at our running the other piece,’ he wrote. ‘But we are constantly being savaged by the loonies for not giving them any coverage at all... and being the objective impartial (ho ho) BBC that we are, there is an expectation in some quarters that we will every now and then let them say something. I hope though that the weight of our coverage makes it clear that we think they are talking through their hats.’

Prof Jones commented: ‘I thought you exercised some caution with crackpots.’ Mr Kirby replied: ‘Oh Phil, what can I say...I hope you’ll still talk to me despite this.’

Yesterday Mr Kirby explained his joke, saying that editors often asked him to include sceptic views in his stories, in order to provide balance. ‘I felt then and I feel now that it’s not our job to inject artificial balance into an unbalanced reality,’ he said.

He believed scientists such as Prof Jones had got the subject ‘mainly right’, while those who rejected their conclusions were often not worth hearing.

In November 2008, in an email to his UEA colleague Claire Reeves, Prof Jones expressed his satisfaction that ‘the reporting of climate stories within the media (especially the BBC) is generally one-sided, ie the counter argument is rarely made’.

But alas, there was ‘still a vociferous and small majority [sic] of climate change sceptics... who engage the public/govt/media through web sites’.

He suggested UEA should set up a project to curb their influence, writing: ‘Issues to be addressed include: should a vociferous minority be able to bully mainstream scientists? Should mainstream climate scientists have to change the way they have worked for generations?’

Mr Harrabin shared his UEA contacts throughout the BBC. For example, in October 2003 Vicki Barker, a presenter on the World Service, wrote asking to visit Prof Hulme, saying: ‘My colleague Roger Harrabin suggested I contact you. I am about to spend several months attempting to answer the following question for senior BBC managers: If we were to reinvent economics coverage from scratch, TODAY, incorporating what we now know (or think we know) about global environmental and economic trends, what would it look like?’

She said she had noticed ‘environmental undertow’ that was ‘beginning to tug at economies around the world... I have wondered if current newsgathering practices and priorities are conveying these phenomena as effectively as they could be. Is this a question you and some of your colleagues feel like pondering?’

The same year, BBC1 broadcast a series on the British countryside presented by Alan Titchmarsh. The last programme presented a deeply pessimistic view of future global warming and before it was transmitted its producer, Dan Tapster, asked Prof Hulme to vet the script. ‘I’d be grateful if you could send me your hourly/daily rate as a script consultant so that I can budget your time,’ he wrote. Prof Hulme said he remembered going through the script, adding that he was not being paid, and was ‘certainly not an official adviser’.

Mr Harrabin knew that if he was seen to be too closely associated with green campaigners – in earlier years CMEP had accepted funding from activist organisation WWF – the impartiality he was supposed to demonstrate as a BBC reporter could be jeopardised.

In July 2004, in an email to Prof Hulme that asked him to continue funding CMEP seminars, Prof Smith explained: ‘The only change I anticipate is that we won’t be asking WWF to support the seminars: Roger particularly feels the association could be compromising to the “neutral” reputation should anyone look at it closely.’

Prof Smith told Prof Hulme that the seminars’ purpose was to influence BBC output.

He spoke of finding ways of getting environmental issues into ‘mainstream’ stories ‘by stealth’, adding: ‘It’s very important in my view that research feeds directly back into decision-maker conversations (policy and above all media). I hope and think that the seminars have laid the ground for this within the BBC... There is senior BBC buy in-for the approach I want to pursue.’

Yesterday he said he had always ensured there was a range of views at the seminar, while by using the phrase ‘by stealth’ he simply meant that ‘sustainability stories are elements of mainstream stories, but the complexity and uncertainty inherent in them make them difficult to report in isolation’.

In September 2001, another email reveals, Mr Harrabin and Prof Smith wrote to Prof Hulme, asking what the BBC should do to mark a climate summit the following year.

They said his suggestions would be ‘circulated among relevant BBC decision-makers’, while instead of confining himself to news and current affairs, he should also feel free to recommend ideas for ‘drama, music, game shows’.

Labour MP Graham Stringer last night said he would be writing this week to BBC director-general Mark Thompson to demand an investigation into the Corporation’s relationship with UEA. ‘The new leaked emails show that the UEA scientists at the Tyndall Centre and the CRU acted more like campaigners than academics, and that they succeeded in an attempt to influence the output of the BBC,’ Mr Stringer said.

Conservative MP David Davis said: ‘Using research money to evangelise one point of view and suppress another defies everything I ever learnt about the scientific method. These emails go to the heart of the BBC’s professed impartiality... its actions must be investigated.’

But the BBC insisted its relationship with UEA had never been ‘unhealthily close’, saying it was always impartial. A BBC spokesman said: ‘We would reject the claim that the Tyndall Centre influenced BBC editorial policy.’

As for Mr Harrabin’s place on the Tyndall board and the advice he gave, he said: ‘The idea was for him to look out for potential stories for the BBC and to offer academics a media perspective on climate change and policy. We do not believe that com-promised impartiality.’

Mr Harrabin added: ‘It was right that the BBC decided not to give sceptics parity on climate change,’ saying there was a ‘cross-party consensus.’ But he said he had maintained they should still be given some air time.



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