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Scientific Alliance Newsletter

The Green Party may be something of a sideshow as far as the current UK election is concerned, but we should never underestimate the importance of green policies across (most of) the political spectrum. We take for granted – and, indeed, mainly welcome – measures to improve air and water quality and to save energy. By and large, we like the results: a better quality of life and lower bills. But when policies begin to cost real money and push up the cost of living, many people are not so sure. This is one reason we hear grumbles about targets for renewable energy. The effect of...
The Oxford online dictionary defines pollution as the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has harmful of poisonous effects. This sounds pretty straightforward, but it actually deserves a bit of unravelling. For a start, ‘the environment’ is a widely-used term which comes laden with emotional baggage. We talk of a ‘pristine’ or ‘unspoiled’ environment and of the harm which may come to it, particularly via human action. The inference is that ‘the environment’ is something which exists separately from humanity...
Adam Smith coined the phrase ‘the invisible hand’ in the late 18th Century to describe the working of the competitive free market. By and large, the sort of capitalist market economy which Smith would have recognised has served humanity pretty well. Not that it is without its problems but, in the same way as democracy can be considered ‘the worst form of government, apart from all the others’, regulated free markets do seem to be the least bad way to run economies at present. Thomas Piketty has become feted for pointing out the seeming inevitability of rising...
It’s still over eight months before the next climate summit – COP21 – will be held in Paris. These are annual events, but some are more significant than others; in this case, negotiators have deemed it time for a further major push, and the organisers have put on record their commitment to coming up with a binding international agreement committing all nations to take action. In the month’s leading up to each of these events, it is normal for there to be a spate of news stories focussing attention on the need for action, to heighten awareness and raise expectations...
Readers of the Guardian last Saturday would have opened their paper to find the headline Roundup weedkiller ‘probably’ causes cancer, says WHO study. Roundup is the trade name used by Monsanto for glyphosate, a very widely used, broad action herbicide. It is now no longer covered by patent, so is also supplied by a range of different manufacturers, but the direct association with Monsanto is too good to miss for anti-pesticide campaigners. If such a commonly-used chemical as glyphosate, found in many a garden shed across Europe, really was a significant cancer risk, this would...

Carbon accounting

20.03.2015
December’s Paris climate summit (COP21) is being billed as a crucial step on the path towards reducing global carbon dioxide emissions. The organisers have stated their intention to come to “a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.” That is something which has never been achieved before in the two decades of UNFCCC negotiations, despite the partial agreement enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol and the high hopes invested in the failed Copenhagen summit (COP15) just over five years ago. As Oscar Wilde might have said, to fail to reach...
That’s the title of a report published this week by Cambridge Econometrics. Commissioned by the European Climate foundation, this follows Fuelling Europe’s Future, published in September last year. Both studies look at the projected effects of moving to a lower-carbon, more efficient vehicle fleet between now and 2030. The conclusions are, as expected, very positive. Motorists would save on fuel, demand for imported oil would reduce, jobs would be created and air pollution (a continuing problem in cities) would be reduced. However, if you subscribe to the view that he who pays...
This week, the Royal Society made public the submission it had made to the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health as a contribution towards the group’s current hearings on Population Dynamics in the Post-2015 World. This gives an interesting opportunity to look at this contentious issue. The world’s population is at an all-time high and is set to continue growing, albeit at a slower rate than in the recent past, for at least the next few decades. Latest projections from the UN (World Population to 2300) are for a peak of 9.2 billion...
The answer is definitely yes according to a new report from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, commissioned by an organisation called Agora Energiewende. The report – Current and future costs of photovoltaics – suggests that “In a few years, solar energy plants will deliver the most inexpensive power available in many parts of the world.“ The first health warning is that Agora Energiewende presents itself on its web-page like this: “Our central question is: How do we manage the clean energy transition? Agora Energiewende will prepare the...
This week, BP has published its latest Energy Outlook 2035, which analyses likely global energy use in twenty years’ time. Also this week, a further element of the EU Ecodesign Directive brings in mandatory energy efficient standards for domestic ovens, cookers and cooker hoods (EU introduces new rule to make cooking greener). Further standards will be introduced and existing ones tightened over the coming years. They now apply to a range of appliances, but this time there has been no repeat of the media furore over the banning of the highest-powered vacuum cleaners. The change...

Current Issues

To see UK electricity demand
and the contribution from
wind, see www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk

 

What's New

The Scientific Alliance has published a new report on wind energy, jointly with the Adam Smith Insitute:  Wind Power Reassessed: A review of the UK wind resource for electricity generation.