Tag: Climate change

Here’s another message I have sent to the Today programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4. For readers unfamiliar with the programme, it is the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs programme. But the substance of this message is an all-too-frequent problem with their coverage. Unlike my last complaint, I just sent this one in as feedback. I didn’t feel it merited a formal complaint. If I get a reply I will post it below, as before. Regarding the item on npower’s report on energy prices, I was disappointed that the questioning seemed to ignore or underplay the urgency of decarbonising our energy supply. You rarely question the assumption that we must close the fiscal deficit, which is an economic construct and a subject much debated by economists. Yet you are happy to entertain the idea of ignoring our carbon deficit, which is a scientific fact beyond debate with 97% of…

Read More Ignoring the carbon deficit

The BBC broadcast a report today by Roger Harrabin entitled “has global warming stalled?“. You can follow the link to listen to the piece. I don’t often submit formal complaints, but I think the framing of the issue is so important that I submitted the following to the BBC complaints department. I have two specific complaints in relation to your Today programme piece on climate science broadcast on the 17th May. The first is that the report used misleading language about recent developments in the science. My second complaint is that the report gave undue attention to a marginal opinion. Roger Harrabin’s report contained some interesting interviews, but the presentation was entirely misleading. On my first, I believe it is misleading to suggest that the scientific establishment agrees that “global warming appears to have stalled” as he did in the opening segment. The media, including Radio 4, covered a Met…

Read More My complaint to the BBC

I joked a couple of days ago that I should set-up a Young Greens for the Environment grouping in the Green Party. I wasn’t being facetious, because I think there is a lack of environmentalism (or perhaps even a current of anti-environment thought) within the Young Greens (the organisation, distinct from the many Greens who are under 30). By all reports, Young Greens were out in force at this weekend’s party conference, along with older members who have joined in recent years in search of a left-of-Labour party with realistic electoral prospects. Their scalp was a change to the party’s philosophical basis, removing clauses like this: Life on Earth is under immense pressure. It is human activity, more than anything else, which is threatening the well-being of the environment on which we depend. Conventional politics has failed us because its values are fundamentally flawed. And replacing them with clauses like…

Read More Young Greens for the environment

I have noticed a lot of young people enthusiastically supporting the Government’s proposals to radically cut down planning regulations. They join in attacks on groups like the National Trust and Friends of the Earth, calling them wealthy NIMBYs who are protecting their own over-inflated house prices. They buy into the suggestion that the planning system has held back house building, harming a growing proportion of the current generation of young people who are now “jilted”, priced out of home ownership. Is this right? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe the Government’s proposals are bad for young people, and bad for intergenerational justice. Is planning the problem? There can be no doubt that planning regulations are a drag on housing development, adding both the cost of the buildings themselves and the process of putting them up. But that’s like saying that the minimum wage and gender equality laws are a…

Read More Young people should be wary of the Government’s planning bonfire

As another flurry of snow hits the office windows here at City Hall, we’ve put the finishing touches to a video by Darren Johnson investigating the future of insulation in London (and the reasons why over a million homes are still bleedin’ cold!)

Read More How are we going to insulate London?

Two parallel worlds are starting to rub up against each other – open data enthusiasts and local activist groups. As Sam Smith has pointed out, embedding the power of open data in other worlds such as local activism has barely begun. Maps are one medium where I’ve been trying to bring these worlds together. Stepping into the ring In the left corner we have people like Rob Hopkins, who has just written a great summary of Transition Town groups mapping wild food, local groups and visions of the future. This wonderful work makes use of relatively open tools like Google Maps, but (so far as I can see) they make absolutely no use of open data, and keep all of their data in their own separate mapping systems. In the right corner we have open data crowds like OpenStreetMap, and after some prodding from me the Greater London Authority and…

Read More Matchmaking open data geeks and local mappers

My latest experimentation in environmental maps has been launched on the Peckham Power web site. It grabs the set of energy generators in London (updated every hour from OpenStreetMap) and plots low/zero carbon generators on the map with icons and information to tell you what sort of technology each one uses. The idea is to, eventually, impress people who didn’t realise just how much of this exists in London already. In developing the code that creates the clickable points, I realised that the OpenStreetMap tagging schema doesn’t cope with the many different types of technologies very well. So I am currently taking a detailed proposal through the wiki process to rationalise and expand the “power=generator” feature – comments welcome! It will go to a vote in a couple of weeks. As Oliver Kühn has pointed out, data contributors aren’t always aware of the needs of data consumers. The very sparse…

Read More Low carbon power in Open Street Map

It’s unhappily easy for our earnest efforts to fall on deaf ears, especially if (like me) you’re a bit of an egg-head. It would be lovely if people listened attentively to our reasoned arguments, but any academic psychologist could tell you it ain’t so. The Bad Science movement has roundly bashed the media for dangerously misrepresenting science. Ben Goldacre angrily lays blame at the feet of humanities graduates (like me?) who write and make editorial decisions about scientific subjects without any understanding of the subject or even getting the basics of the scientific method. Just recently we have seen climate scientists have their names dragged through the mud by, er, journalists and editors who obviously don’t realise how much of a non-scandal “Climate Gate” really was. So do we fight back with Goldacre-style condescension, taking the arguments to pieces and shouting at humanities graduates like me? That probably won’t get…

Read More Don’t be such a scientist

I came across a shocking statistic today: environmental taxes are decreasing in the UK! The total revenue has risen slower than inflation between 1999 and 2008; from around £32.6bn in 1999 to £38.5bn in 2008. If it had grown with inflation over that period it would have stood at £41.4bn in 2008. As a percentage of GDP over that period it fell from 3.5% to 2.7%. As a percentage of the total taxes and social contributions in the UK, it has also fallen behind. In 99 it peaked at 9.7% of total tax revenue, then fell to 7.2% in 2008. Environmental taxes made up a lower share of our economy and tax revenue than at any time since 1993, when the ONS records begin. So much for shifting the tax burden from income to environmental damage!

Read More Eco taxes going down in the UK!

If you read beyond the squeals of indignation from the latest TaxPayers Alliance “research” you find an interesting conclusion. The taxes we pay on measures aimed principally at reducing carbon dioxide emissions are much lower than the cost of those emissions to the economy. So we should be putting more tax on carbon dioxide, and perhaps less on good stuff like work! The TPA, better known for their corporate tax avoidance and personal tax evasion than robust research, have really gone to town on environmental taxation. So here are two fatal flaws and an interesting conclusion for those worried by the headlines. First, they pit these taxes against the cost of carbon dioxide emissions. But by their own, buried and obfuscated admission, these taxes do a lot more than just reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Fuel and vehicle excise duty, which make up the bulk of the taxes, also address congestion,…

Read More TaxPayers Alliance accidentally show we need more eco-taxes