All posts by doldroyd

Former teacher, school leader, Bristol University Graduate School of Education Senior Lecturer and international educational consultant. Formerly Voluntary Permanent Secretary of ENIRDELM, a European professional network and voluntary educational consultant the the Silesia Botanical Garden in Mikolow, Poland. Lifelong interest in the accelerating existential threat of human impact (the Machine World) on the Natural World and the overshooting of planetary boundaries.

Two important readings

OUR FUTURE ON EARTH

February 2020 – a 53 page comprehensive report with a range of articles by scholars and researchers from many countries and disciplines. Published by Future Earth, is a risks analysis based on a survey of 222 global sustainability experts. The survey identifies five global risks —climate change, extreme weather, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, food crises, and water crises — as the most severe in terms of impact. Climate change, extreme weather, biodiversity loss, and water crises – were the most likely to occur. More than one-third (82) of those surveyed underlined the threat of cascading crises with one worsening another “in ways that might cascade to create global systemic collapse. The full report can be downloaded free.

UNO’s CONFLICTING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

Seventeen global Sustainable Development Goals were agreed by the UN in 2015, with the ambition to achieve them by 2030. Our focus is the apparent conflict between the three ‘environmental’ goals (SDGs 13, 14 and 15) and the 14 ‘socio-economic’ goals. Griggs et al. (2013) pointed out the need to give priority to the environmental goals: ‘so that today’s advances in development are not lost as our planet ceases to function for the benefit of a global population’. Efforts to achieve the 14 socio-economic goals in the coming decade could increase the human ecological footprint, and thereby intensify the pressure on planetary boundaries (Rockström et al., 2009) moving the world further away from the three environmental SDGs.

We study this conflict by creating a relatively simple desk-top model, Earth3, to analyse scenarios for world development towards 2050. This practical tool is a first attempt at treating all SDGs and the planetary constraints within one quantitative framework. 

“How everything can collapse”

This book review by Jeremy Williams is of a review of futurology writing about the possibility of imminent collapse of society as we know it. The book is translated from French and was published in 2015. The emergence of a possible coronavirus pandemic adds weight to the case for seriously considering the collapse our present modern civilsation, not an unprecendented phenomenon in human history.

What do we mean by collapse? It’s “not the end of the world” say the two self-described ‘collapsologists’ who have written the book. “Nor is it a simple crisis from which we can emerge unscathed.” Instead, we’re talking about a process of erosion of economic and political structures that leave people’s basic needs unmet – things like water, food, clothing and energy.”

And here is an interview with Noam Chomsky about his new book “Internationalism or Extinction”.

“Charming Psychopaths”: The New Corporations

In this interview Joel Bakan talks about his update of his famous 2004 book The Corporation and his new film that shows how the modern corporations are co-opting social and environmental causes to serve their own pursuit of shareholder profit at the expense of the public good and environmental sustainability.

The corporation is a legal construct, indeed a legal fiction. It is not something created by God or by Nature, but rather a legally created and enforced set of relations designed to raise capital for industrialism’s large projects. Its main function is to separate the owners of an enterprise from the enterprise itself.

The latter is alchemically transformed into a ‘person’ that can bear legal rights and obligations, and therefore operate in the economy. The owners – shareholders – thus disappear as legally relevant, with the corporate ‘person’ itself (and sometimes its managers and directors) holding legal rights, and being liable when things go wrong.

It follows that shareholders’ only risk is to lose money if their share value declines. They can’t be sued for anything the corporation does. Moreover, to further sweeten the pot for their investing, the law imposes obligations on managers and directors to act only in shareholders’ best – that is, financial – interests.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT INDEX OF COUNTRIES

No countries are doing well in preparing for a sustainable future at present as this website shows. It lists the countries in rank order of how well they are doing and includes a world map to show their locations.

Poland is 122nd and the UK 131st on the list of 163 countries included on the list. Top of the list are: Cuba; Costa Rica; Sri Lanka; Albania and Panama.

The Sustainable Development Index (SDI) measures the ecological efficiency of human development, recognizing that development must be achieved within planetary boundaries. It was created to update the Human Development Index (HDI) for the ecological realities of the Anthropocene.

The SDI starts with each nation’s human development score (life expectancy, education and income) and divides it by their ecological overshoot: the extent to which consumption-based CO2 emissions and material footprint exceed per-capita shares of planetary boundaries. Countries that achieve relatively high human development while remaining within or near planetary boundaries rise to the top.

Aviation and co2 emissions

This comprehensive article reports research on the claims that airlines are lowering CO2 emissions. As with so many claims made by large businesses, these claims do not stand up to scrutiny. Any reductions being made are far smaller than the additional emissions resulting from more air travel. Wealthy populations dominate the proportion of people who fly. The article has graphs to illustrate this as well as to provide rank orders of airlines that are the greatest emitters and also those doing best at cutting emissions .

CO2, CH4, N2O and SF6 emissions compared

This article from The Conversation compares the contribution to global heating of several of the emissions that humans create, including the gas SF6 that leaks from electrical insulation used in all forms of electrical transmission, from both renewable and non renewable sources.

SF₆ is a man-made, colourless, odourless gas and is indeed the strongest greenhouse gas in the Earth’s atmosphere. On a per molecule basis, SF₆ is approximately 23,500 times more effective at trapping heat than CO₂ and lasts in the atmosphere for about 1,300 years. SF₆ is an effective electrical insulator for circuit breakers and switches (collectively known as switchgear) and helps prevent accidents and fires. Switchgear is leaky and inevitably emits some SF₆ to the atmosphere. Renewable energy installations require more switchgear in the electricity grid than fossil fuels, because it takes more solar panels and wind turbines to produce the same electrical output as a single coal power station. So as renewable power generation grows, emissions of SF₆ to the atmosphere should grow too.

The global concentration of atmospheric CO₂ today is about 410 parts per million, whereas the global concentration of SF₆ is only about 10 parts per trillion. In other words, there is 41 million times more CO₂ in the atmosphere than SF₆. But since SF₆ is 23,500 times stronger at trapping heat than CO₂, doesn’t this still mean it’s a bigger problem than CO₂ for the climate? CO₂ is actually a very weak greenhouse gas and is much less efficient at trapping heat compared to other greenhouse gases, such as methane (CH₄) and nitrous oxide (N₂O). The reason why CO₂ has the largest impact on the climate is partly because, like SF₆, it is very long-lived. But mostly, it is because there is so much more CO₂ in the atmosphere than other greenhouse gases (except for water vapour, which is not the main driver of anthropogenic climate change because it is so short-lived).

Using co2

Five ways of using CO2 are proposed in this article from The Conversation. More technological possibilities for sequestering CO2 to contribute to controlling emissions that lead to global heating.