Blog & PodcastDealing with the Climate Crisis

Anthony Day helps you plan a sustainable future with expert guests and reports on green technologies from across a warming world.

Climate Protest

This week’s episode is about the latest IPCC report. You're probably already aware that it's pretty pessimistic. Will the warning be heeded this time? I'll talk also about the effect of the conflict in Ukraine on global energy prices and I’ve followed up the question from Sophie Jarvis about infrared heating.

 

IPCC Sixth Assessment

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has finalised the second part of its Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability with a press launch this week. The whole event was recorded and you’ll find the links on the Sustainable Futures Report website as well as a link to a 3-minute trailer. 

Key Messages

The key messages are that the scientific evidence is unequivocal: 

  1. climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet, 
  2. any further delay in concerted global action will miss the brief, rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future, and
  3. Taking action now can secure our future.

Irreversible

There’s a warning that some changes have already become irreversible. If you weren’t concerned about the climate crisis you wouldn’t be listening to the Sustainable Futures Report so I’m not going to repeat in detail all the potential and present consequences of the climate crisis. You’re pretty well aware of them already. Let me just remind you of three events, out of very many, which bring home the reality of climate change. 

Paraguay Smog

First, pictures this week from Asunción the capital of Paraguay show the city shrouded in thick smoke with motorists driving on headlights as though through a fog at night. It was early afternoon, but neighbouring Argentina has suffered two years of drought and now the land is on fire. The winds that fanned the flames brought choking clouds to Asunción where residents were warned to stay indoors to protect themselves from the ash and the fumes.

Australia Floods

And there’s news this week from Australia. Not about wildfires, but news about floods. Floods which raised the level of one river by more than 14m. Floods which at the time of writing have killed eight people and caused 500,000 to be evacuated.

Europe

You’ll remember that last July floods came to Europe and in one instance 134 people died when the River Ahr in Germany burst its banks. There were floods and deaths in Belgium and the Netherlands as well.

These events are not normal.

Solutions

“This report,” say the IPCC authors, “offers solutions to the world.”

“To avoid mounting loss of life, biodiversity and infrastructure, ambitious, accelerated action is required to adapt to climate change, at the same time as making rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. So far, progress on adaptation is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks, [the new report finds.] These gaps are largest among lower-income populations.” 

Multiple Climate Hazards

“The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F). Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. Risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements.

“Urgent action required to deal with increasing risks. There’s a narrowing window for action.”

What actions?

I looked at the Summary for Policymakers, which has a health warning on the front page.

“The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) provides a high-level summary of the key findings of the Working Group II Report and is approved by the IPCC member governments line by line.” 

Yes, this is the document which is pored over and argued over by politicians with some of the scientists who wrote it. (Not all of them. There were 270 authors.)

In this document actions are grouped into Land and Ocean ecosystems, Urban and Infrastructure, Energy and Cross-sectoral systems. These are further grouped, so Land and Ocean for example includes coastal, forestry, fishery, water security and food security. Each of these is assessed for potential feasibility, and feasibility itself is assessed in terms of economic, technological, social, institutional, environmental and geophysical feasibility. 

The data is then analysed separately to show each activity’s impact on achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Guide for Policymakers

As the title makes clear, this is a guide for policymakers. Even at this summary level it is highly detailed. It is not a statement of policy.

Warning

The report warns that “it is unequivocal that climate change has already disrupted human and natural systems. Past and current development trends (past emissions, development and climate change) have not advanced global climate resilient development. Societal choices and actions implemented in the next decade determine the extent to which medium- and long-term pathways will deliver higher or lower climate resilient development. Importantly climate resilient development prospects are increasingly limited if current greenhouse gas emissions do not rapidly decline, especially if 1.5°C global warming is exceeded in the near term. These prospects are constrained by past development, emissions and climate change, and enabled by inclusive governance, adequate and appropriate human and technological resources, information, capacities and finance.”

Politics

The IPCC and the United Nations do not make policy, they provide the data to allow politicians to make informed decisions. 

Action on climate change is therefore dependent on politics and politicians. In a world where Vladimir Putin has reputedly said that without Russia there is no point in having a planet, as his finger hovers over the nuclear button, it is clear that there is much, much more at stake than the future of Ukraine.

 

UkraineUkraine image from rawpixel id 654520 jpegImage by rawpixel.com

The assault on Ukraine continues. The Sustainable Futures Report is not a political podcast but it would be irresponsible to ignore what is going on in the world around us and unforgivable not to deplore the murderous attacks continuing on innocent civilians. The campaign is likely to have serious consequences for us in the West, though nothing remotely as serious as those for the people in Ukraine.

Energy from Russia

Europe relies on Russia for oil and gas. 60% or more of gas used in Germany comes from Russia, but nevertheless Germany has now confirmed that the recently-completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline designed to bring natural gas directly from Russia to Germany, will not be opened for operation. This is part of the wide range of sanctions implemented against Russia in the last few days.

Cutting off the Gas

Putin could decide to retaliate against European sanctions by reducing or cutting off existing gas supplies. Some say that at present, as long as we don’t have a cold snap before the end of winter, Europe has enough gas in storage to meet demand. Others say that that is recklessly over-optimistic. In any case once the stores have gone we will still need gas and there will be a scramble for supplies from other places like Qatar and the US which will inevitably drive up prices. The UK uses very little gas from Russia, but in the face of a European shortage the UK will face price and supply issues in global markets like any other nation. 

Fracking

There are more calls to lift the ban on fracking so that the UK can enjoy the security of local supplies. Apart from the obvious problem that natural gas is a fossil fuel, it will take years to start production and the price will still be governed by global markets.

Coal and Nuclear

Elsewhere in Europe there are plans to bring coal-fired plants out of retirement and Germany is reviewing the rate at which it is scheduling its nuclear fleet for decommissioning. Using more coal will make net zero more difficult to achieve. Maybe the situation will accelerate the development and installation of more renewables.

Gazprom

In the UK a significant number of businesses buy their gas from Gazprom Energy, registered in London but owned and controlled by Gazprom, the Russian state energy company. It says on the website:

“Gazprom is a reliable supplier of gas to Russian and foreign consumers. The Company owns the world’s largest gas transmission system, the total length of which within the boundaries of Russia reaches 175.2 thousand kilometres. Gazprom sells more than half of its gas to Russian consumers and exports gas to over 30 countries within and beyond the former Soviet Union.”

Let’s not underestimate the power of sanctions in Russian hands.

And Finally,

Infrared Heating V Heat pump

Silver Supporter Sophie Jarvis asks whether infrared heating is a viable and cost-effective alternative to a heat pump. A heat pump is powered by electricity but extracts heat from the air or from the ground so that its energy output is up to four times as great as the electricity used as energy input. As we’ve discussed before, heat pumps can replace gas boilers although they cost significantly more. Installed in a new property, ideally used for underfloor heating, they can be very effective. They are not as good when retrofitted into existing homes because it is not easy to install underfloor heating and larger radiators may be needed as the heat pump works at lower temperatures than a gas boiler. For this reason a separate water heater is usually needed.

Infrared 

infrared nick samoylov aI6ltVad KI unsplashPhoto by 🤘Nick Samoylov on UnsplashInfrared heaters are commonly used as patio heaters or for outside areas at pubs and restaurants. They can be powered by bottled gas, but more and more are now electric. They emit invisible heat rays, although most of them produce some visible red light as well. They are particularly effective out of doors because they do not rely on heating the air as a central heating radiator does. Out of doors, hot air would just blow away. They heat the objects that they shine on, which may be people or it may be furniture. Like with an open fire, if you sit in front of the heat source you feel warm, although your back will be in shadow and will still be cold. Because infrared heaters do not heat the room they are probably better for places where people are sitting, so that they can position themselves in the heat beam.  A room where children are running around is unlikely to feel warm to them. Care must be taken with the positioning of an infrared heater, particularly portable ones, because anything placed too close may catch fire.

Comparison

How do these two heat sources compare? Well it all depends. It depends on how many infrared panels you need as far as capital cost is concerned. Running costs will depend on how many hours per day you use them and whether you remember to switch them off in unoccupied rooms. With infrared panels you’re unlikely to feel as warm as you would in a property with conventional central heating, except in particular locations. 

Insulation

As with any heating, the first step must be to stop heat loss. Thermal curtains, draught strips and seals at the bottom of doors save their cost many times over. Double glazing will keep you warmer, but it will take years for the energy savings to repay the cost. (Fewer years as energy prices rise.)

 

And that’s it for this week.

On Wednesday I’m talking to Sarah Cullen of 18for0. She has a master’s degree in Energy Systems Management and we’ll be discussing 

“Clean Energy - Is it Too Late to Save the World?”

 

I hope you’ll join me then.

I’m Anthony Day.

That was the Sustainable Futures Report.

Bye for now!

 

Sources

IPCC

https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/ 

https://youtu.be/25QlQVnL15M 

https://youtu.be/JpK7eeYRhjQ 

https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6wg2/pdf/IPCC_AR6_WGII_PressConferenceSlides_small.pdf

Fires in Argentina - Smog in Paraguay 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/01/paraguay-wildfires-ash-cloud 

Australia Floods

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-australia-60552110

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-australia-60225482

https://www.9news.com.au/floods

Europe Floods

https://www.deutschland.de/en/topic/environment/catastrophic-flooding-in-germany-rebuilding-in-the-ahr-valley

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-57867773

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-57846200

 

 

 

No thoughts on “Sixth Assessment Report”

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A weekly podcast and blog brought to you by Anthony Day. A selection of stories and interviews aiming to be sustainable, topical and interesting.
And also, I do address conferences.

Anthony Day

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