Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Waitrose’s package-free shopping is a PR move that will change little

The article in Britain's "Guardian" below  by a cynical Greenie makes some good points.  He is right that popular Greenie strategies are pissing into the wind.   He wants much more radical Greenie "solutions" but knows he will not get them any time soon.  He has some amusing lapses.  He recommends selling avocados in edible coatings.  But who eats the outside of avocados?  Avocados come in an excellent natural packaging of their own

He sees no reason to explain his aversion to plastic packaging.  But there is no obvious reason for it.  The plastic waste that entangles some birds and fish does not come from Britain.  The Brits carefully gather up their waste and make sure it does not go into the sea. The plastic waste that entangles some birds and fish is put there by third-worlders in  Africa and Asia who just chuck their garbage into any nearby river. Without some action about that, anything Brits do is pointless.  It has negligible effect.

He does however touch on one genuine problem.  Reducing plastic packaging increases food waste.  That plastic packaging is there for a purpose.  It increases the shelf-life of the food item and protects it from contamination of various sorts.  Without the packaging the food will go off faster and have to be thrown out.  And people will get more food-borne illnesses.  Is that good?  Greenies tend to get highly critical of food waste but by  reducing packaging they are creating it.  But nobody expects logic from Greenies.  Foot-shooting and panic is their forte.

Waitrose’s experiment in packaging-free shopping is an obvious win for the supermarket chain. Its decision to sell around 200 loose lines to shoppers at its Oxford store – they can now use their own containers to take home rice, pasta, lentils, cleaning products – will be catnip (now dispensed in self-service hoppers, presumably?), to ethical shoppers. The move co-opts the trend for “unpackaged” seen in more radical zero-waste shops and the rise of refillable wine and beer (growler-fills in Waitrose!). It ticks some useful, hip boxes for this rather stuffy middle-class brand.

It is all positive PR and puts Waitrose on par with rival supermarkets who, facing predicted “polluter pay” legislation (more on that later), are suddenly super-keen to prove their green packaging credentials. Market-style loose vegetable aisles are being rolled out at Booths; Asda has removed the plastic wrap from its swedes; Morrisons has unsheathed its cucumbers (for part of the year); and both Iceland and Tesco are trialling schemes to pay customers to recycle plastic bottles (5.5bn worth of which are currently burned or dumped annually). Tesco is even experimenting with collecting and recycling “soft plastics” such as crisp packets, which local authorities generally cannot reprocess.

Waitrose is discounting its unpackaged goods too, a bonus for those of us who shop there (full disclosure: me. I go there and to the Co-op because they are at least employee-owned – all caveats fully acknowledged). Behaviourally, Waitrose appears to be pushing at an open door here, too. A decade ago, when the campaigning group, Wrap, looked at consumer attitudes to unpackaged products, it found that hygiene concerns were less important than the public’s disgust about overpackaging. Ninety per cent of us already happily buy loose fruit and vegetables.

But instead of celebrating this change, it feels to me like another of those fashionable supermarket spasms (trials selling misshapen veg; pushes on unfashionable sustainable fish like mackerel), that will ultimately change little. It will achieve traction with an already self-motivated minority, but then what?

Realistically, how practical is unpackaged for most people? Keeping a bag for life handy at all times is difficult enough (and, such are the unintended consequences that can arise, some worry they have actually increased the total amount of bag-plastic in circulation). But imagine the hassle of planning and carting – by car, inevitably – endless (plastic?) containers to Waitrose. For dry goods, wouldn’t providing heavy-duty, reusable and recyclable paper sacks in-store be more user-friendly? And is any of this a truly sustainable model: driving to Waitrose to refill on frozen fruit because we want to eat strawberries in February? If so, where is the scientific audit, the full life-cycle analysis of all those interlocking energy uses, that proves it?

If you want to reduce Britain’s carbon footprint, surely a far more radical overhaul is needed? One that, for instance, evenly distributes big supermarkets (not local and metro spin-offs), so that, using their economies of scale and logistical might, we all have access to affordable food where we live. Enabling us to shop little and often (using refillables, preferably), without driving. That would go hand-in-hand with a generational schools programme teaching people how to plan meals and shop carefully, to minimise food waste.

Investment in sustainable food packaging, such as Apeel Sciences’ edible coating for avocados, is important, too. Removing plastic is great in immediate pollution terms, but if it leads to increased food waste – Morrisons unpackaged cucumbers have a shelf-life of five rather than seven days – many experts would tell you that, in carbon-footprint terms, food waste causes the greater damage.

That lack of joined-up thinking is most glaring in the recycling market itself where local authorities (or the taxpayer) shoulder 90% of the cost of waste recycling in a system so flawed that two-thirds of all our waste plastic is shipped overseas. Instead of being managed nationally for the greater good, the recycling market fluctuates, driving or curtailing innovation haphazardly and leaving huge technological holes in what can be recycled, where. That is why Costa Coffee is subsidising coffee-cup collections, at £70 a tonne, in an attempt to kickstart the market in recycling coffee cups and their problematic plastic linings.

The government, meanwhile, prevaricates. Plans announced in 2018 to make the food industry pay £1bn each year to recycle the waste packaging it creates (currently councils spend £700m annually on recycling, business just £73m), are out for consultation and years from implementation. It is “too little, too slowly”, said Labour MP Mary Creagh, chair of the environmental audit select committee.


The fact is that our earth has ice in its veins

By David Shelley former lecturer in geology at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury.

Climate change is a defining issue of our time, especially for young people who are persuaded that we are doomed unless urgent action is taken on carbon emissions. Activists, with some success, are demanding climate emergencies be declared around the world, making those demands on the basis that temperatures are at record highs, glaciers and sea ice are melting at unprecedented rates, and sea levels rising dangerously.

A cursory examination of the geological literature shows that the first two assertions are simply not true, and that rising sea levels are par for the course.

To assert that today’s temperatures are record highs is mischief-making of the highest order. Earth has been much hotter (up to 10C hotter) for the vast majority of geological time. Jurassic Park was very hot, and when the dinosaurs suddenly died out 65 million years ago, the succeeding age of mammals was similarly very hot.

The last million years (a mere heartbeat on the geological time-scale) has been atypically cold, with extraordinarily large fluctuations in temperature. This period can be described as a series of 100,000-year-long cycles of dangerously cold ice ages (10C colder than today) and warm interglacials (where we are now). The inter­glacials are relatively short, usually a few thousand years, and we are already 12,000 years or so into this one. The record would suggest we might soon descend into another dangerously cold glaciation.

Geologists know temperatures were higher than they are today during the Holocene maximum, 5000 to 9000 years ago in our current interglacial, and higher (by at least 2 C) in two of the last three interglacial periods. Sea levels are rising, but just 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last glaciation, sea levels were as much as 140m lower than today, and they then rose dramatically as we entered this interglacial. Sea levels were significantly higher than today just a very short time ago.

Sea levels were also significantly higher in the last interglacial 125,000 years ago; Florida Keys, for example, is the remains of a coral reef that grew then.

The really major ice melt was during the transition from the last glaciation to today. Canada was covered entirely by a massive sheet of ice with no vegetation and New Zealand’s South Island lakes were 1km-thick glaciers — so today’s reductions in sea ice and glacier volumes are quite trivial.

This is proved by the modern-day retreat of glaciers which is ­exhuming the remains of forests that existed just a few thousand years ago in Alaska and Europe.

Alarmists assert that despite all that, CO2 is a greenhouse gas and we are pumping large quantities of it into the atmosphere, causing catastrophic warming. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does not know how potent CO2 is as a greenhouse gas, and gives a possible range for climate sensitivity of one to six. If climate sensitivity is low (close to one) then our emissions will never dangerously warm Earth. Climate sensitivity due to CO2 alone is actually just one, but climate scientists add all sorts of uncertain feedback effects to make it higher.

Milankovitch Cycles are the favoured explanation for the recent cycles of ice ages and interglacial periods, thus making the sun the main driver of temperature change. But other factors are certainly involved, because climate is an incredibly complex system, and on the geological time scale, processes such as plate tectonics, volcanism and impacts from extraterrestrial bodies play significant roles.

Let us agree that the sun drove the 10C ups and downs in temperature between glaciations and interglacials, and let us acknowledge that the modern satellite record of temperatures shows global temperatures regularly going up and down by as much as 1C on a timescale of three to 10 years (probably due to oceanic influences such as El Nino). We know, too, that temperatures over the past 9000 years have varied up and down by almost 2C. Not one of those changes can be blamed on our carbon emissions. In the context of these natural changes, why is the small warming of about 1C in the 20th century regarded as extraordinary and alarming?

The IPCC stated quite clearly that: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled nonlinear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” Why is it then that people believe the so-called IPCC projections of future climate change to be valid, when even the IPCC says it can’t make valid predictions?

It is an indictment of our education system that students are convinced today’s climate change is extraordinary when it falls well within the bounds of natural climate change. They should be told, too, that we do not know how potent CO2 is as a greenhouse gas.

All this is not to say that there is nothing to be alarmed about. Humans have changed and often overwhelmed the environment (most living things try to do exactly the same, but are restrained by some form of dynamic equilibrium). If we want our civilisation to survive, it is imperative that we manage finite resources (including fossil fuels) more carefully.

Most politicians talk in terms of a few years’ time, or of caring for our children’s or grandchildren’s generation, but I’d prefer to think we can stay around a little longer than that. Human civilisation as we know it has been around perhaps 10,000 years, so let’s start by making sure we can survive for at least another 10,000 years. And why not a million years or more?

Which means we must stop polluting the oceans, stop overfishing, find more sustainable sources of electricity and control population growth. Given the present reality that large nations such as China dominate global emissions and are increasing them, nations such as Australia and New Zealand need not panic over the use of fossil fuels. Nuclear energy may be a short-term option for Australia, but surviving for another million years will certainly require new solutions and technology.

I suggest to the activists that the clarion call for action should be “managing the environment and sustainability”, not “stopping climate change”.

The very idea that we can stop climate change is barking mad. Climate change is inevitable, as geology has always shown.


One climate crisis disaster happening somewhere in the world every week, UN warns

But where is the eidence that it is due to CO2?  There is none.  Destructive weather has always been common, particularly if you look worldwide

Climate crisis disasters are happening at the rate of one a week, though most draw little international attention and work is urgently needed to prepare developing countries for the profound impacts, the UN has warned.

Catastrophes such as cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique and the drought afflicting India make headlines around the world. But large numbers of “lower impact events” that are causing death, displacement and suffering are occurring much faster than predicted, said Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on disaster risk reduction. “This is not about the future, this is about today.”

This means that adapting to the climate crisis could no longer be seen as a long-term problem, but one that needed investment now, she said. “People need to talk more about adaptation and resilience.”

Estimates put the cost of climate-related disasters at $520bn a year, while the additional cost of building infrastructure that is resistant to the effects of global heating is only about 3%, or $2.7tn in total over the next 20 years.

Mizutori said: “This is not a lot of money [in the context of infrastructure spending], but investors have not been doing enough. Resilience needs to become a commodity that people will pay for.” That would mean normalising the standards for new infrastructure, such as housing, road and rail networks, factories, power and water supply networks, so that they were less vulnerable to the effects of floods, droughts, storms and extreme weather.

Until now, most of the focus of work on the climate crisis has been on “mitigation” – jargon for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and not to be confused with mitigating the effects of the climate crisis. The question of adapting to its effects has taken a distant second place, in part because activists and scientists were concerned for years that people would gain a false complacency that we need not cut emissions as we could adapt to the effects instead, and also because while cutting emissions could be clearly measured, the question of adapting or increasing resilience was harder to pin down.

Mizutori said the time for such arguments had ran out. “We talk about a climate emergency and a climate crisis, but if we cannot confront this [issue of adapting to the effects] we will not survive,” she told the Guardian. “We need to look at the risks of not investing in resilience.”

Many of the lower-impact disasters would be preventable if people had early warnings of severe weather, better infrastructure such as flood defences or access to water in case of drought, and governments had more awareness of which areas were most vulnerable.

Nor is this a problem confined to the developing world, she said, as the recent forest fires in the US and Europe’s latest heatwave had shown. Rich countries also face a challenge to adapt their infrastructure and ways of protecting people from disaster.

“Nature-based solutions”, such as mangrove swamps, forests and wetlands which could form natural barriers to flooding should be a priority, said Mizutori. A further key problem is how to protect people in informal settlements, or slums, which are more vulnerable than planned cities. The most vulnerable people are the poor, women, children, the elderly, the disabled and displaced, and many of these people live in informal settlements without access to basic amenities.

Regulations on building standards must also be updated for the climate crisis and properly enforced, she said. One of the governance issues cited by Mizutori was that while responsibility for the climate crisis and greenhouse gas emissions was usually held in one ministry, such as the economics, environment or energy department, responsibility for infrastructure and people’s protection was held elsewhere in government.

“We need to take a more holistic view of the risks,” she said.


Once again cooling proves warming.  Does cooling ever prove cooling?

In what will go down as one of the weirdest weather events ever caught on film, residents of Guadalajara, Mexico, awoke Sunday to 5 feet of hail and slush.

Video captured the truly jaw-dropping sight of 18-wheelers plowing through frigid slush as high as their doors.

The Washington Post carried pictures of the bizarre event, calling it a “freak summer hailstorm.”

While children across the city doubtless delighted in the unexpected spectacle, environmental alarmists quickly decried it as proof of global warming.

According to The Post, Jalisco Gov. Enrique Alfaro was quick to attribute the frigid precipitation to global warming, saying, “I’ve never seen such scenes in Guadalajara. …Then we ask ourselves if climate change is real. These are never-before-seen natural phenomenons,” he said. “It’s incredible.”

Increasingly, the establishment media have drawn attention to nearly any sort of unexpected weather and attributed it to man-made warming of the planet.

Hurricanes have long been blamed on global warming, yet the data do not bear out that conclusion.

More recently talking heads blamed tornadoes on global warming, despite there being little evidence to support the claim.

And perhaps most incredibly, wildfires started by power lines have been blamed on global warming.

In that last example, however, it’s rarely mentioned that one reason those fires were so devastating is that environmentalists made reducing underbrush more difficult, which in turn provided massive amounts of fuel for the blazes.

As Guadalajarans dig out and the summer heat begins to melt off the remaining hail, the establishment media’s drumbeat of “global warming,” “climate change” and “extreme weather” will continue, despite the fact that it’s essentially blaming a massive blanket of frozen precipitation on temperatures being higher.


Australia: Natural gas producers fear more regulation

Scott Morrison’s tax cuts deal with Centre Alliance has put the government on a collision course with the gas industry.

Australia’s petroleum and gas lobby this morning slammed Centre Alliance’s raft of gas reforms, which it claims to have secured in exchange for supporting the federal government’s full tax cuts bill.

The minor party today said it had secured changes to the gas pricing trigger, new transparency measures for the gas market and a long-term plan to boost domestic gas supply in order to pass the tax cuts package through the senate.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed today that the government had “talked through” gas reforms with Centre Alliance senators Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff, and announcements would be made in due course.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association today said there were no needs for any changes, and wanted more details from the government.

“APPEA needs to hear directly from the Government on the specifics of the proposed gas deal before commenting further,” an APPEA spokesman told The Australian.

“But we see no need for changes to the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism (ADGSM) at this time.

“The ADGSM is up for a review in 2020 and the gas market transparency work will follow on from ACCC recommendations that were recently made public. “The Australian gas market is comprised of multiple gas suppliers competing to win local business.

“AEMO’s 2019 Gas Statement of Opportunities has confirmed that the gas market is well supplied until at least 2023.

“That why it is important that identified gas resources in NSW, Victoria and the NT are able to be developed as soon as possible.”

Centre Alliance says it has achieved changes to the Australian Domestic Gas Mechanism, new transparency measures for the gas market and long-term plans to ensure surplus domestic gas supply.

Senator Patrick says the gas reforms he has negotiated with the government will “cause lower electricity prices” but won’t say if he has a signed commitment for the policies.

“What we’ve done with the Government is negotiated a range of policy measures that they will announce over the next couple of months. And we have a very clear understanding of what those policies are. And we anticipate that they will have a positive effect for consumers on pricing.

“It’ll be good for consumers ... it might be bad for gas companies.”

The Finance Minister today declined to say the government has “horse-traded” with crossbench senators for their support for the full tax cuts package and said Scott Morrison has a long-term commitment to boosting domestic gas supply and bringing energy prices down.

“We’ve been prepared to engage in good faith with those senators about public policy issues that are important to them and they will be decided on their own merits and will be announced when we’re in a position to do so,” Senator Cormann told ABC radio.

“The government has a longstanding policy commitment to bring energy prices down. We have a longstanding policy commitment to boost the domestic supply of gas, in particular in the east coast electricity market.

“We’ve sat down in recent weeks with Centre Alliance, we’ve sat down with Senator Lambie. We’ve talked through these policy issues, we’ve talked through the measures the government has already announced, we’ve talked through the measures the government is developing at present.

“That is just normal parliamentary process engaging in good faith with elected members of parliament.”



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


No comments: