"To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing." - Raymond Williams

Carbon Offsets and the value of money

by Shaun Chamberlin on December 1st, 2009


Off the back of the comments on carbon offsetting in the two videos I have posted in the last week, I should mention that this Wednesday evening I will be on a panel discussing offsets, carbon trading and carbon rationing as part of CheatNeutral‘s spoof chat show ‘Going Neutral’ at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre.

(edit – the debate can be viewed retrospectively on my site here)

So this feels like the perfect time to take a look at the concept of voluntary carbon offsetting, the most recognised example of which is the planting of trees to ‘soak up’ our carbon emissions, thus supposedly making our net impact ‘carbon neutral’…

Read more »

The final word – Al Gore debates climate sceptic Monckton

by Shaun Chamberlin on November 25th, 2009

All Party Parliamentary TEQs report – rationing, not carbon trading

by Shaun Chamberlin on August 14th, 2009

Market invisible hand

As the evidence for the utter inapplicability of free market carbon trading to our climate emergency continues to pile up, interest continues to grow in the less PR-friendly alternative – the rationing of carbon-rated energy.

Yesterday, the UK Government’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas previewed a draft report commissioned from The Lean Economy Connection. The report, which I co-authored with Dr. David Fleming, emphasises the necessity of considering our pressing energy challenges alongside climate change, and argues that national energy rationing systems on the model of TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas) will be essential to the fair distribution of fuel as shortages unfold, with implementation now an urgent priority for the UK.

John Hemming MP, Chairman of the All Party group, stated that the UK government remains unprepared for peak oil: “The evidence is now strong that peak oil is either upon us or just over the horizon. Even the International Energy Agency accepts that an oil supply crunch seems to be on its way. The UK government should urgently consider the TEQs system, as I believe it’s the only comprehensive and fair way to tackle climate change and the coming oil crisis.” Read more »

Transition Towns – get involved where you live

by Shaun Chamberlin on December 7th, 2008

Transition Towns

Last month I discussed some of the national and international developments that are shaping our future, but in spite of the ongoing climate talks in Poznan, today I’d like to focus on the importance of local-level action.

Amidst all the focus on global climate agreements it’s easy to forget that agreeing a tightening global cap on emissions is not a solution in itself – such a cap would be meaningless without on-the-ground solutions and lifestyle changes at the local and individual levels. This is why I see the tremendously rapid spread of the Transition movement as such a hopeful sign. Read more »

Why do they do it?

by Shaun Chamberlin on July 27th, 2008

Mum's the word

Since my earlier review of Burn Up I have discovered a comment on the film posted yesterday by Jeremy Leggett, one of the few with any media profile to openly discuss the interplay of peak oil and climate change.

In his piece Leggett asks: “Why do the carbon-club lobbyists and contrarians do what they do? What is in their heads as they go about their work? Surely they must see the power of the emerging evidence that the threat is real, and massive? … I don’t have an explanation.”

This is a question I have devoted a lot of thought to, and I will venture an answer. Read more »

Focus on Climate Change and ignore Peak Oil? Not good enough

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 14th, 2008

Oil Platform - Day

Lately I seem to be encountering many climate change activists who have a blind spot when it comes to peak oil. At present, Friends of the Earth appear to be particularly prone to this.

They assert that climate change is overwhelmingly urgent (no arguments from me there) and so that the depletion of fossil fuels is largely irrelevant. In fact they argue that it can only be good news, limiting the availability of these dangerous substances which have the potential to destabilise our climate.

But this ignores the reason why humanity is so loathe to wean itself off these fuels in the first place. They are exceptionally potent energy sources which greatly increase our ability to change our human infrastructure and shape the world around us. Energy is perhaps best defined as the ability to do work, and there is much work to be done in the transition to a low-carbon way of life. Read more »

TEQs (downstream) or Cap and Dividend (upstream)?

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 8th, 2008


In the climate policy community there is a growing debate between advocates of ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ carbon caps (dams?). The terms draw an analogy between the flow of water in a stream and the flow of energy through an economy. ‘Upstream’ advocates want to regulate the few dozen fuel and energy companies that bring carbon into the economy, arguing that this is cheaper and simpler than addressing the behaviour of tens of millions of ‘downstream’ consumers.

At first glance this seems a convincing argument, but there is one important regard in which an upstream scheme fails – it does not engage the general populace in the changes required. Read more »

Concentrating Solar thermal Power (CSP) – a step in the right direction, but no panacea

by Shaun Chamberlin on May 19th, 2008

CSP parabolic trough

As I mentioned in my earlier post, last week I met Polly Higgins, The Lazy Environmentalist. She specialises in CSP, and informed me that we may now be seeing serious political movement towards an EU-MENA supergrid bringing CSP-generated electricity to Europe from the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East.

For those not familiar with the concept, CSP is not about photovoltaic solar panels, but rather the simple use of mirrors to focus solar heat on pipes filled with water. This generates steam which turns turbines to generate electricity. It is a simple low-tech concept that has been operating a 165 MW power plant in California for over 20 years.

It has been calculated that, if it was covered with CSP plants, an area of hot desert of about 254 km x 254 km — less than 1% of the total area of such deserts — would produce as much electricity as is currently consumed by the whole world.

An area measuring 110 km x 110 km, a small fraction of the area of desert in North Africa and the Middle East, would produce the same amount of electricity as the European Union consumed in 2004. This is illustrated graphically below the cut.

So this political movement towards a CSP supergrid is a very significant development, and, I think, a positive one. Read more »