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Scientific Alliance Newsletter

The International Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) is in the middle of the long process of making public its Fifth Assessment Report, a massive compilation of research papers published since the previous report saw the light of day in 2007. The first part covers the physical science and concludes, to no-one’s great surprise, that the Earth is warming and that we are mainly to blame. The report from Working Group II analyses the likely impacts and, for once, talks about some of the positive impacts as well as the negative ones which make the headlines. Finally, we have the part...

The green economy

28.03.2014
For the UK’s renewable energy industry, the big news this week was that “Manufacturing giant Siemens and the UK's Associated British Ports are to invest a total of £310m in UK wind turbine factories, creating 1,000 jobs” (£310m invested in UK wind turbines).Such a development has been on the cards for the last four years and this announcement means that the UK will finally have a purpose-built facility to manufacture turbine blades for off-shore use, with production beginning in two years’ time. For a government which both wants new jobs and remains...
Last week’s climate change talks in Bonn – part of a series of preparatory meetings leading up to the COP20 summit in Lima in December – by all accounts did not go well. The annual Conference of the Parties meetings are still attended by thousands of delegates from around the world, but no longer provide front-page stories. Even the launch of a massive new Assessment Report from the IPCC does not attract the extensive media coverage and splash headlines which were once the norm. The international climate change negotiation round has a life of its own and continues to...
No, I haven’t embraced Maoism; I’m talking about revolutions brought about by science and technology. These may have far-reaching social consequences, but by and large do not involve public self-criticism. But they do have one feature in common with social revolutions: they are often opposed by established intellectual elites. The doctrine of sustainability has at its heart the concept of continuity, that things may develop but along a steady path, so that future generations live in a society which relies on the same key assets and resources as today. While this has a degree...
Wood used to be the fuel of the past, necessary for heating and cooking before the large-scale exploitation of coal, gas and oil, and is still the only source of energy for many of the rural poor in developing countries. More recently, however, it has once again become one of the fuels of the future. The reason, of course, is climate change policy, but does it make sense? There is plenty of ‘spare’ biomass available as a genuinely renewable raw material. For example, only about half of the wheat plant is grain; the remaining straw has some added-value uses such as for...
Parts of the UK and other western European countries affected by this winter’s storms and heavy rain are finally starting the long process of recovery. Flood waters are receding, but even with pumps will take some weeks to clear. Many months will be needed before houses and commercial premises directly affected will be dry and fully habitable again. The task of repairing storm-lashed buildings and infrastructure is now getting under way. Most of the unfortunate people affected were well aware they were in vulnerable areas, but this year’s rains have been unprecedented for many...
The UK is coping with the aftermath of a series of storms from the Atlantic and hoping for some respite from an abnormally wet winter. A coastal stretch of one of the main train lines to the South West was left hanging in mid-air, tens of thousands of homes have been without electricity at various times, flood-prone areas such as the low-lying Somerset levels have been completely inundated and many communities along the Thames west of London have experienced much greater flooding than most residents have ever seen. Apart from rivers overflowing, the saturated earth means the water table is...
The UK government is set to introduce a 5p charge for plastic bags in supermarkets after the 2015 election, following the lead of Wales and Northern Ireland (where a charge is already in place) and Scotland, where charging starts this October (Plastic bag charge to be introduced in England). The Northern Ireland Environment minister claimed that plastic bag use had been reduced by 80% since free bags were withdrawn. In England, this charge will only apply to supermarkets and large shops, leading some to question its usefulness. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, for...
Many countries have committed themselves to making reductions in their emissions of carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases, initially under the terms of the Kyoto protocol. Since the stated aim of the international effort on climate change mitigation is to limit the total global emissions of gases which can raise average temperatures – the likely extent of which is still the subject of intense argument – national figures are only parts of the overall jigsaw puzzle and it is the big picture which counts. One of the criticisms of the current situation is that...

Green biotechnology

31.01.2014
Many EU citizens love to buy the latest electronic gadgets. Social and business life has been transformed by companies cleverly exploiting the potential offered by wireless and 3G phone networks and the availability of large amounts of cheap processing power and storage. When it comes to ICT, technology is good and, despite bad publicity about the tax paid by multinational corporations in countries where they operate, Google and a host of other companies have a positive image. The situation with the biological sciences is much less clear-cut. Pharmaceutical companies have also come in for...

Current Issues

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

 

What's New

Letter published in The Times, 28 October 2013, questioning renewable energy subsidies