NERC strategy

NERC has a new strategy draft out (I think its public – if you can’t read it, its not…).

And it has an ambitious goal: UK to lead the world in the prediction of the regional and local impacts of
environmental change from months to decades
. So thats bad news for the rest of the world, you’ll be left trailling in our footsteps, crushed by the weight of powerful science flowing from our mighty budget which dwarfs yours. Or the goal might just fail. Or the rest of you might just decide that NERC can have this bit and go off and do something more exciting instead.

But enough snarking, whats more interesting is the shift from 2100 to the near future, and towards regional and local. The decades stuff fits in nicely with the recent Smith paper, so thats OK. But the regional and local? Its what governments want, so since we’re an organ of the UK govt I suppose we do what they want… mind you, only recently Lenny Smith was criticising the over-interpretation and over-localisation of results.

And a for what they might mean by “prediction”… please don’t forget the unresolved earlier thread.

Comments

  1. #1 Luboš Motl
    2007/08/24

    I think that you have misunderstood the character of your leadership. NERC will be the leader in the sense that it will predict, project, and forecast the most catastrophic future among all oracles. That’s a rather doable goal, especially if NERC gets rid of James Hansen and Al Gore ;-)

  2. #2 nigel cook
    2007/08/26

    It is brilliant news that the UK will lead the world for a change. Living in England (not in Antarctica), I like the idea that UK taxes will increase for the sake of making the UK the world leader in environmentalism. It’s a really wicked idea!

    Especially satisfying is the fact that the UK doesn’t actually contribute a significant fraction of the world’s pollution, unlike USA, Russia, and China.

    It reminds me of the situation at school: unruly pupils would plant tin tacks on the chair of a teacher during break. Afterwards, a pricked teacher would punish everybody equally (herself included!) by keeping the whole class in over lunch break, hoping someone would divulge the names (it wouldn’t happen, simply because nobody else wanted to have it arranged for them to sit on tin tacks).

    Leading the world in tackling something you are not doing, is not really something to be proud of. It’s silly, pointless, etc.

    The rest of the world will simply laugh at us (inbetween emitting belches of foul pollution).

    This tactic for tackling global pollution is identical to the strategy of teaching policemen to lock themselves up everytime someone else does a crime, in the belief that criminals will feel bad and will stop being criminals.

    There is a complete lack of human psychology involved. Or maybe the problem is that the people who write such silly reports don’t care about reducing global problems, and are just doing it for political reasons like spin.

  3. #3 nigel cook
    2007/08/26

    Lubos, I agree with you here. The predictions will be entirely political, not scientific.

    The crucial inputs to the model aren’t scientific data but are political data about the future use of oil, coal and nuclear energy by China, the USA and Russia.

    Predicting these numbers isn’t work for a PhD mathematician but for a politician (or a Nostradamus). It depends on the political leadership in the countries and also upon the global economy, neither of which is reliably predictable by computer forecasts.

  4. #4 Nathan Rive
    2007/08/26

    Nigel, you have neglected a number of key points:

    1. The UK has higher current emissions per capita than the developing countries you noted, and has historically contributed more to greenhouse forcing over the last 100 years (den Elzen et al. Environmental Science and Policy, 8 (6): pp. 614-636, 2005). From an equity point of view, it is quite reasonable that the UK should take a lead (and a higher cost burden) than them. The “but we’re so small” argument simply doesn’t fly.

    2. Innovation theory predicts (or was it projects?) taking the lead in developing clean technologies can be a good option – first mover advantage can be huge, and the possibility of supplying the world with technologies means much $. For example, Vestas in little old Denmark are now the biggest wind turbine company in the world. Norway are now pouring a lot of money into carbon sequestration tech, which could yield similar results.

  5. #5 Nathan Rive
    2007/08/26

    Nigel:There is a complete lack of human psychology involved

    So, pointing a hypocritical finger at developing countries and yelling, “but but…China!” is constructive how?

  6. #6 nigel cook
    2007/08/26

    Nathan,

    (1) the emission per capita is irrelevant to global warming, which depends on the gross emission.

    (2) even if Britain shut down all its CO2 emissions from all processes completely (even if everyone stopped exhaling CO2), it would make no significant difference to the global problem.

    (3) identifying the actual cause of the problem is scientifically constructive if you are honest and want to actually do something about the problem that will have a significant effect: identify the real problem, then focus on it. (China could be pushed into acting by some carefully considered economic sanctions such as a hike in import duty on its products. That might in the long term help to solve the problem.)

    Granted, if you are a dishonest politician, then it’s indeed a cunning plan to start by ignoring the bigger problem, sticking your head in the sand, and acting as if the UK produces 99% of global CO2 emissions and is now solving the global warming problem for the world by simply reducing UK emissions. (This “setting a good example” fallacy has echos of the politics of disarmament in the 1920s when politicians believed that if the UK reduced its armament spending to below the level required to deter war, other countries would do the same. They were wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised if the response of China, Russia et al. to the UK announcement will be to increase their own CO2 outputs, arguing that since the UK is tacking the problem, they don’t have to. It’s totally pathetic.)

    Fortunately we’ll run out of oil, coal, etc. (in the sense that the price will rise beyond what we can afford) probably at the very time that our multi-billion pound CO2 scrubber plants are completed and ready to use! (The politicians responsible for the blunder will have retired with Lordships and gigantic pensions by then.)

  7. #7 MikeB
    2007/08/27

    Nigel, you completely dismissing Nathan’s excellent points.

    Although its vital to bring total emissions under control, the reality is that the UK produces something like 7 times the amount of CO2 per capita than China. And of course China’s output of CO2 is in part due to the use of energy to produce goods which we buy. In effect, when we outsourced manuafacturing to China, we outsourced the pollution as well http://www.mnp.nl/en/service/pressreleases/2007/20070622ChineseCO2emissionsinperspective.html.

    As the report puts it, ‘in newly industrialised developing countries such as China, Malaysia, Mexico and South Korea, a large fraction of the goods produced by the manufacturing industry is subsequently exported, particularly to high-income industrialised countries: a substantial part of China’s emissions growth is being driven by consumers in industrialised countries buying Chinese goods’.

    Have a look at the non-food section of Tesco’s, Asda or Sainsburys, and try to find something amoungst the gardening, household, or kitchen goods (and certainly toys) which has not been made in China. Then think how much CO2 is embodied in those goods. If we are so concerned about China’s CO2, then perhaps we simply should not buy those goods – but of course we will. I quite agree that we can and should require China to reduce its emissions per head (which it is trying to do anyway), but as Nathan points out, shouting at them to do something we are unwilling to do ourselves is simply hypocritical – and something which will confirm to China and India that its everyone for themselves.

    The UK can make large cuts in emissions without harming its economy – in fact it will almost certainly save money, create jobs and improve security. Less oil burned means less oil from the Middle East (do we really want to give the Saudi’s more money?). Greater efficiency by domestic users means lower bills, and less gas burned means less money in Putins pocket. Solar, wind, etc are all moneyspinners, if we get our act together. And then there’s peak oil…
    We frankly burn more CO2 than most, so it makes sense to start with what we can do. And nobody is going to listen to us if we don’t change. Its not ‘setting a good example’, its simply doing something which everyone is going to have to do anyway.

    We alreay know what the problem is, we all burn too much CO2 and the real problem is presently in the West. So a dishonest politician would basically say exactly what your saying – that its not really our problem, and we can continue to do what we like, because China, Russia and India will simply carry on burning too. But China and India have to start talking at the next round of post-Kyoto talks, and there will be deals struck, but unless we do something, they certainly wont.

    Actually, our politicians are even worse. They admit climate change exists, they say we must all do something, they say they are doing something, but then do little or nothing. We can be fooled for a while, but nature wont.

  8. #8 Luboš Motl
    2007/08/28

    Dear Nathan, you don’t seem to distinguish reality from wishful thinking and past from the present.

    1) Britain was the key country in the world 150 years ago or 300 years ago and we are grateful to this country for a huge portion of the civilizational achievements but it is no longer the case. Right now, Britain is the #1 leader neither in the production of CO2 nor in the production of useful scientific results. Get used to it. Even William got this point.

    2) Innovation may be great but it is still an option that has certain costs. If someone only wants to see benefits but not the costs, for example you, he is guaranteed to end up with irrational conclusions.

    3) I am personally pointing no fingers because I think that the fight against climate change is as irrational for poor countries as it is for rich countries. Obviously, if I thought that the emissions were a problem, I would be looking at their major sources – absolute sources, not sources counted by capita which are completely irrelevant.

  9. #9 guthrie
    2007/08/28

    Lubos-
    1) irrelevant.
    2) too broad a comment to make judging relevance possible
    3) makes more sense, but we know that your position is not exactly based on the science.

  10. #10 MikeB
    2007/08/28

    Lubos – Guthrie was spot on – what are you on about?

    Now if NERC can tell us the lottery numbers for next week…

  11. #11 Eli Rabett
    2007/08/28

    Putting on my Pielke hat (J&S) what science can do is tell politicians: If your policy leads to this level of emissions/land use changes this is what is likely to happen on global and local levels.

  12. #12 Luboš Motl
    2007/08/28

    Dear MikeB, I didn’t address my reply to wild dogs who can only angrily bark. I wrote it for readers with IQ above 90.

  13. #13 Fritz
    2007/08/29

    “Dear MikeB, I didn’t address my reply to wild dogs who can only angrily bark. I wrote it for readers with IQ above 90.”

    Hey that’s cool. Can we now look foreward to you taking your wisdom to other, more sophisticated blogs? Here you’re just wasting your time with all those simpletons.

    F.

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