Monday, 2 November 2009

Climate Change and Malaria in Africa

Limiting carbon emissions won't do much to stop disease in Zambia.

The challenge of global warming has captured the attention of politicians around the world. The following article is part of a series leading up to the December U.N. conference in Copenhagen on how ordinary people in different countries view the issue:
When he first got sick, Samson Banda didn't realize he had malaria. Only after he came down with a serious fever did he end up at a clinic in the Bauleni slum compound in Lusaka, Zambia. The clinic has just a few nurses and staff with basic medical skills. Locals can wait for an entire day to be seen.
Unchecked malaria is serious. Nine out of 10 of the world's annual one million malaria-caused deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. The disease—transmitted via mosquitoes—can cause low blood sugar, an enlarged spleen and liver, severe headaches, a shortage of oxygen to the brain, and renal failure. It can lead to coma and death. Twenty-seven year-old Samson was ill for six months before he started to recover.
Bauleni is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes during the rainy season between November and April. The slum lacks any sanitation or sewer supply, so locals dig pit latrines. The waste overflows. Most adults have some long-term infection that tends to recur.
"Our conditions are pathetic—both the health clinics and the sanitation in this area," Mr. Samson told a Copenhagen Consensus Center researcher.
Ask what he wants to see foreign donors' money spent on, and he is quick to answer: better health care. When he is asked about global warming, Mr. Samson responds: "I have heard about it, but I don't even know how it would affect me. If I die from malaria tomorrow, why should I care about global warming?"
In the West, campaigners for carbon regulations point out that global warming will increase the number of malaria victims. This is often used as an argument for drastic, immediate carbon cuts.
Warmer, wetter weather will improve conditions for the malaria parasite. Most estimates suggest that global warming will put 3% more of the Earth's population at risk of catching malaria by 2100. If we invest in the most efficient, global carbon cuts—designed to keep temperature rises under two degrees Celsius—we would spend a massive $40 trillion a year by 2100. In the best case scenario, we would reduce the at-risk population by only 3%.
In comparison, research commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center shows that spending $3 billion annually on mosquito nets, environmentally safe indoor DDT sprays, and subsidies for effective new combination therapies could halve the number of those infected with malaria within one decade. For the money it takes to save one life with carbon cuts, smarter policies could save 78,000 lives. Mr. Samson has not done these calculations, but for him it is simple: "First things first," he says. Malaria "is here right now and it kills a lot of people every day."
Malaria is only weakly related to temperature; it is strongly related to poverty. It has risen in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 20 years not because of global warming, but because of failing medical response. The mainstay treatment, chloroquine, is becoming less and less effective. The malaria parasite is becoming resistant, and there is a need for new, effective combination treatments based on artemisinin, which is unfortunately about 10 times more expensive.
Mr. Samson is right to ask what spending money on global warming could do for him and his family. The truthful answer? Very little. For a lot less, we could achieve a lot more.
Mr. Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank, and author of "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming" (Knopf, 2007).

The Earth Cools, and Fight Over Warming Heats Up

Many Scientists Say Temperature Drop From Recent Record Highs Is a Blip, While a Few See a Trend; Inexact Climate Models
Two years ago, a United Nations scientific panel won the Nobel Peace Prize after concluding that global warming is "unequivocal" and is "very likely" caused by man.
Then came a development unforeseen by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC: Data suggested that Earth's temperature was beginning to drop.
Global climate models did not account for a drop in global temperatures since 2006, but climate scientists believe the lower temperatures are temporary.
That has reignited debate over what has become scientific consensus: that climate change is due not to nature, but to humans burning fossil fuels. Scientists who don't believe in man-made global warming cite the cooling as evidence for their case. Those who do believe in man-made warming dismiss the cooling as a blip triggered by fleeting changes in ocean currents; they predict greenhouse gases will produce rising temperatures again soon.
The reality is more complex. A few years of cooling doesn't mean that people aren't heating up the planet over the long term. But the cooling wasn't predicted by all the computer models that underlie climate science. That has led to one point of agreement: The models are imperfect.
"There is a lot of room for improvement" in the models, says Mojib Latif, a climate scientist in Germany and co-author of a paper predicting the planet will cool for perhaps a decade before starting to warm again -- a long-term trend he attributes to greenhouse-gas emissions. "You need to know what you can believe and can't believe from the models."
The renewed discussion of inherent shortcomings in climate models comes on the cusp of potentially big financial commitments. In five weeks, diplomats from around the world will meet in Copenhagen to try to hash out a new agreement to curb global greenhouse-gas emissions. The science continues to evolve.
The goal of climate models is to project how rising greenhouse-gas emissions will interact with natural forces to affect the global temperature. The models are technological marvels. Using supercomputers, they divide the world into grids of roughly 4,000 cubic miles apiece. The grids are stacked, one on top of the other, up through the atmosphere.
It is complicated stuff. The models consist of dozens of equations written to reflect how liquids and gases move about the planet. Just as a symphony's sound is affected by the crash of cymbals or the pluck of a violin string, the planet's future temperature is influenced by powerful ocean currents and tiny specks of sea salt. In between are other players, such as sunlight, clouds and rain.
Added to the equations are such measurements as past temperatures, barometric pressure and sea salinity. Calculations about the influence of sunlight are entered. Then various projections of greenhouse-gas emissions are factored in. The computers run the equations and generate projections of global temperatures.
The models are only as good as the information they are fed. One big uncertainty is ocean temperature. Oceans trap huge amounts of heat, and the process by which they release it over time affects the temperature of the planet. But there isn't a lot of actual data, because the vastness of the oceans makes gathering temperature data costly and arduous.
The success of the models also depends on the soundness of their assumptions. The effects of clouds, for example, are unclear. Depending on their shape and altitude, clouds can either trap heat, warming the earth, or reflect it, cooling the planet. The way that greenhouse gases affect cloud formation -- and how clouds in turn affect temperature -- remains a subject of debate. Different models treat these factors differently.
On a graph, the models' temperature projections ultimately point upward, signifying warming. But along the way, each line has dips -- temporary periods of cooling. The timing and depth of the drops differ from model to model.
Most climate scientists have regarded these zigs and zags as noise. Their models are designed to project how greenhouse gases will affect the global thermostat over a century, not what temperatures will be in any year or even in any decade.

"We care about the climate in the 2080s. We don't care about the climate on Aug. 15, 2084," says Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University.
The models' focus on century-long trends is in part a function of limited data. Predicting short-term temperatures requires more measurements than projecting long-term trends. But such data have been lacking. "These long-term climate projections are a much easier problem than these shorter-term climate projections," says Mr. Dessler. "It's sort of counterintuitive."
Though often overlooked in the debate about man-made warming, natural factors have contributed to record high temperatures. The year 1998, for example, was widely noted as the hottest year on record, intensifying concerns about global warming and people's role in it. But one reason that 1998 set a record is that a strong shift in ocean temperature known as El Niño occurred that year. "1998 was a very hot year because it was an El Niño year," says Mr. Dessler.
The 2007 U.N. report included in its widely read summary a chart of projected temperatures that lacked visible periods of cooling. That is because it was an average of the lines from many different climate models. As averages do, it looked smooth. And it pointed up, indicating rising temperatures.
Yet as the report was released, the global average temperature was below what it had been in 2005, which along with 1998 was one of the two hottest years on record. Even so, the average temperature in 2006 and 2007 remained among the 10 highest ever recorded.
About a year after the U.N. report's release, researchers in Germany published a paper in the journal Nature that attributed the cooling to the enigmatic ocean currents.
The paper was based on a model that used new ocean-temperature measurements. It concluded that a shift in ocean currents was counteracting the warming from greenhouse gases. And that is causing the planet, on balance, to cool.
The paper argues that intermittent cooling from natural factors such as ocean currents will prove less significant in the long term than continued warming from greenhouse-gas emissions. But climate scientists acknowledge that those natural variabilities aren't fully understood. "This is pioneering work," says Mr. Latif, one of the authors of the authors of the German paper. "I won't say our forecast will be correct."
A separate study by researchers in the U.K., published in 2007 in the journal Science, also says the cooling will soon be outweighed by warming from greenhouse gases.
Unsurprisingly, the research hasn't settled the debate. Scientists who have long questioned man-made global warming cite the temperature drop that began in 2006 as more evidence the models are wrong. "They were predicting warming," says Richard Lindzen, a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Mr. Lindzen's work, regarded as leading the research challenging man-made warming, suggests that natural factors such as clouds generally inhibit, rather than intensify, greenhouse-gas warming. He wrote in a recent article that the study from the U.K. admits that the kind of climate model cited in the U.N.'s IPCC report "did not appropriately deal with natural internal variability, thus demolishing the basis for the IPCC's iconic attribution" linking greenhouse-gas emissions to climate change. He added that "even when all models agree, they can all be wrong."
The researchers behind those studies strenuously reject that description. But they disagree among themselves on how long the cooling will last. The British paper says warming will resume as early as this year. The German paper says warming won't resume for perhaps a decade.
Such disagreements aren't unusual in a nascent science. "I don't think anybody is surprised that we're going to get one model that suggests it's going to cool and another that suggests it's going to warm," says Vicky Pope, a scientist at the Hadley Center, the U.K. institute where the research for the British paper was done. "That's consistent with where we are with the science."
Write to Jeffrey Ball at

Low-carbon UK threatened by cuts, CBI argues

Rebecca O’Connor
The CBI has warned that public spending cuts are driving down bids for construction projects to such low levels that builders will be unable to meet the Government’s low-carbon economy targets.
The business leaders’ organisation has begun a campaign to protect investment levels, after accusing construction company clients, about 40 per cent of which are in the public sector, of using the recession as an excuse to drive down prices to unsustainably low levels.
John McDonough, chief executive of Carillion and chairman of the CBI’s construction council, said: “To ensure that the construction industry can play its role in the UK’s economic recovery, we need to make sure that good procurement practices do not fall by the wayside.
“We have already seen worrying signs of some clients using the recession as an excuse to seek the lowest possible tender prices.” He said that if prices were driven down too low, construction companies would not have the resources to spend on more expensive energy-efficient building methods.

Tender prices are expected to fall by 6.6 per cent by the end of this year and are not forecast to recover until 2012, according to a Construction News survey. Construction output decreased by 1.1 per cent in the third quarter of this year, after a 0.8 per cent drop in the previous quarter.
Lord Mandelson set up the Innovation and Growth Team (IGT) last month to review construction. It will consider the sector’s contribution to the development of a low-carbon econ- omy. The Government is expected to announce the appointment of a chief construction adviser as soon as this week, according to reports.
Mr McDonough said: “The Government needs to lead the way and work with the construction industry to ensure focus remains on innovation, partnership and value for money.” He called on the Government to change its view of the importance of the construction sector to realising its aim of creating a low-carbon economy and put an end to the practice of driving down prices.
He said: “Construction is seen as an old industry and not very glamorous, which is a shame. The contribution of construction companies to a low- carbon economy is a good example of why construction will play a vital role in the future of the country.”
Pricing of construction projects is already a contentious issue. Last month the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) imposed fines of £129.5 million on 103 construction firms in England that had colluded with competitors to drive up the price of public sector contracts. However, the OFT said that there was evidence that bid-rigging was still taking place.
The CBI argues that without government support for building projects, the economic recovery will take longer.

The climate of fear

Unless our leaders take radical action, global warming could usher in the far-right strongmen
Peter Preston, Sunday 1 November 2009 20.30 GMT
Sometimes, when you file a column like this, you begin with a gentle request to the subeditor. For instance: "Please don't choose a headline saying 'Today's Greens are tomorrow's fascists'. That's not what I'm saying. The end of democracy, and maybe the end of the world, will be a lot more complicated than that."
And, of course, complications come deep-fried, boiled or roasted when you start stirring the global warming pot. If Nick Griffin had got an environmental word in edgeways on Question Time, he'd have talked BNP policy on offshore wind farms, high-speed rail links, fast-breeder nuclear power stations and a Boris island in the Thames estuary, as well as clearing the immigrant decks: he would also, in a manifesto mutter, have acknowledged that "some climate change may be manmade". Even the far right knows there's a problem. The question – looming, receding, drifting back and forth between Kyoto and Copenhagen – is whether anyone has the will to do anything about it.
Consider the EU summit last week which didn't offer Tony Blair a new, rather boring chairman's job. It didn't offer much on saving the planet, either. By 2020, apparently, poor countries will need £90bn or so to help them grow in the best green ways, and Europe will have to stump up some of that: but the first, much smaller bill for £6bn-plus drops in January, and nobody wants to sign for that. Poland won't pay, others from the east say they can't find the cash. Germany will only go so far.
So the summit's 27 statesmen stand back and wait for Barack Obama. And, as usual, nothing gets done. Democrats can talk the talk when sacrifices come later. By 2020, none of them will still be in power. But 2010, and another bout of electoral retribution from voters already cheesed off because their Oz holidays suddenly got more expensive? Nobody wants to walk that walk as far as the nearest departure gate. The perceived name of the game is sounding sombre and promising to rescue the earth: but not until the last ballot box is opened.
Naturally you can grow too cynical. I don't suppose Ed Miliband thinks he's just going through the motions. I'm sure Obama believes that, yes, he can do something useful. The ritual post-summit briefings where world leaders hail progress and green activists cry too little, too late, have a malign habit of fuelling despair. But it is, indeed, desperately late already to begin wondering openly whether democracy, in its rhetorical aspirations and covert calculations, in its consensual stumblings and murmured frailties, can cope with the upheaval that science tells us is necessary. After all, if our former postie of a home secretary can't abide scientists getting more stressed over gin and tonic than a reefer, why should he jump to attention when professors everywhere advocate far more radical – and expensive – change?
The BNP, for what little it's worth, feeds on despair. It takes the multicultural world we live in and promises to make it white and simple again. Forget Europe, forget treaties, obligations, UN charters. The fear is father of the deed. And this is the soil in which autocracies flourish. This is what happens politically when the options run out.
We're used to the awful prophesies of cities submerged, continents parched, millions left to perish. But we're not used to thinking through what these things will mean for the systems we live by, the norms we embrace. Take the sum of all fears, when it's (almost) too late. Take the realisation, at last, that something has to be done. Take the sudden, alarmed perception that bickering politicians have been the problem all these years, not the solution. Then take the greatest care.
See what a relatively few terrorist strikes have wrought by way of corners cut, liberties eroded. Imagine how a savage mix of floods and droughts will devastate old assumptions. Enter a strong man, or a series of strong men, promising extraordinary action. Exit a generation of failed leaders without, it is said, the strength to lead.
If our climate changes, then much else must change with it. If Copenhagen sets a time scale for action, then every second counts. If public fear cries at last for sacrifice rather than temporising, then there will be no time for those we chose to lead us in an environment where debate and delay never ceases. That's democracy, of course. Our way, our belief. But, put to the test on current performance, it doesn't sound much like survival – unless the political classes know it's their survival at stake, too. Memo to subs: How about something on the lines of "a freedom to self-destroy"?

Climate change 'can kill children'

Press Association, Monday November 2 2009
A quarter of a million children could die next year due to the effects of climate change, Save the Children warned.
The charity said the figure could rise to more than 400,000 per year by 2030.
Its report Feeling the Heat, which is launched, claims that climate change is the biggest global health threat to children in the 21st century.
The charity predicts that 175 million children a year - equivalent to almost three times the population of Great Britain - will suffer the consequences of natural disasters like cyclones, droughts and floods by 2030.
It warns that more than 900 million children in the next generation will be affected by water shortages and 160 million more children will be at risk of catching malaria - one of the biggest killers of children under five - as it spreads to new parts of the world.
Save the Children is urging world leaders to put children first during climate change negotiations in Barcelona this week, ahead of the Copenhagen summit in December.
Ultravox star Midge Ure, a Save the Children ambassador, recently returned to Ethiopia 25 years after the 1984 famine which prompted him to create Band Aid with Bob Geldof.
"Climate change is no longer a distant, futuristic scenario, but an immediate threat," he said.
"We've all heard about the East African food crisis but I've been in Ethiopia seeing first hand the impact it's having on children's lives.
"I've seen how vulnerable children are to the effects of climate change."
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Money is the key to the success of Copenhagen

Developing countries want up to £245bn to reduce their carbon emissions while the EU thinks it should cost them as little as £20bn. Michael McCarthy reports on the huge gap
Monday, 2 November 2009
You think it's about greenhouse gases. You think it's about carbon emissions. And it is. But the Copenhagen agreement on climate change that the world community will attempt to sign in December is just as much about money – enormous, mind-boggling amounts of money.
In brutally simplistic terms, the essence of any deal will be to pay the developing countries of the world, led by China and India, to cut back on the carbon dioxide pouring out of their now-mushrooming economies, which will come to represent 90 per cent of all future emissions growth, and the inducement for them to do this will have to be substantial.
It has hardly dawned on the general public just how big are the sums of cash that the developing world is seeking, and that the rich world will have to go some way towards providing, if the vital pathway to keeping global temperature rises below C is to be mapped out.

But they are truly colossal, and the gap between the potential donor countries and the recipients may be unbridgeable; it is finance, rather than the setting of emissions targets, which is more likely to be the deal-breaker in Copenhagen.
Ever since the first UN global warming treaty was signed in 1992, the rich nations have accepted that they have a special responsibility over climate, as we caused the problem in the first place – most of the CO2 that has gone into atmosphere has been put there by 200 years of western industrialisation.
Now we are asking China and its colleagues in the G77 group of poorer nations to grow – and so bring their people out of poverty – in a different low-carbon way from the way in which we grew, which is difficult and expensive; do as we say, not do as we did. And it is accepted on all sides that if they are to do this, we must help them.
They need help for two essential tasks, which in the jargon are mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation means cutting back on carbon emissions, by substituting renewable energy projects, say, for coal-burning power stations; adaptation means coping with climate change which is now unavoidable, such as building enhanced flood relief schemes to deal with the threat of climate-change-induced sea-level rise. It is obvious that all of this will be costly.
Just how costly the developing world thought it would be became clear at the end of August, when the G77-plus-China, as the nations are collectively known, put forward a formal proposal for financing a new climate agreement. Their "enhanced financial mechanism" suggested that the rich countries should pay between 0.5 and 1 per cent of their gross national product every year. For the European Union, this would be between $90bn (£55bn) and $180bn annually; for the US, between $70bn and $140bn; for Britain alone, between $13bn and $26bn. The full total would be between $200bn and $400bn, a range from nearly double to nearly four times the amount of all current overseas aid flows. Moreover, it would have to be on top of existing aid, the developing countries said – it must be "new and additional", above all current overseas development assistance.
There have been no negotiations about this, because that figure has lain on the table for two months without any of the rich countries responding. But on Friday, at last, the European Union became the first rich-country bloc to come up with its own financial proposals. The EU thinks that the full amount of extra public money needed to pay for climate change in the developed world is €22bn to €50bn annually, depending on what actions the poorer countries undertake (the sum is nearly the same in pounds sterling; in dollars it is about $32bn to $72bn). Europe would probably end up paying about 20 to 30 per cent of this, perhaps €5bn to €12bn, of which Britain itself would probably pay about €1bn. The full regime would be in place by 2020, with lesser sums coming earlier.
The key point about these figures is that they are a start; they allow officials from the 192 countries involved in the treaty, including Britain, at last to start talking about money from today, when the final week of pre-Copenhagen negotiations begins in Barcelona. Oxfam recognised this at the weekend, even while protesting that the level was too low – the charity thinks that more than double the public finance is required. "Finally coming forward with numbers is a positive step but the proposed figure falls well short of the €110bn needed to help poor countries adapt to climate change and curb their carbon emissions," said Robert Bailey, Oxfam's Senior Policy Advisor on climate change.
And, indeed, getting the 27 EU members states to agree at all – some, such as Poland, being very reluctant – was a considerable achievement, for which much of the credit must go to Gordon Brown, who has been pushing hard for an EU deal for months. The EU sums will be the ballpark figures to which other rich nations, the US above all, must now react.
But will they be enough to secure a deal? The quickest glance will show that the EU's top sum is only a third of the developing countries' lowest figure. Is that gap bridgeable in negotiations? Perhaps.
It is not the only problem looming. A condition of the EU offer is "universality" – meaning that some of the richer developing countries, such as China and India, will have to contribute to the fund themselves, even if they end up net beneficiaries of it. They will not like that. But most of all, there is no cast-iron guarantee that the finance will be entirely "new and additional" on top of current aid flows, and the poorer countries fear their development aid may be cut to provide their climate funding.

The unwanted equation: poverty vs climate change

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Monday, 2 November 2009
The proposed Copenhagen climate treaty has plenty of jargon – "mitigation" and "adaptation" are two examples already given. But the key word may yet turn out to be "additionality".
Additionality means that finance provided to help developing countries deal with climate change is entirely on top of the aid sums they receive from the rich West to help them with their development – with agriculture, poverty relief, health and education. They fear that, without this guarantee, when the rich states have to start providing huge sums of climate finance under the treaty, they will simply divert their aid flows, and that money that once went to schools and hospitals will be switched, for example, to windfarms. But although additionality is hinted at in the EU proposals, it is not guaranteed – which could be a deal-breaker in December.

"Even the poorest countries are aware that if the money is coming from future aid commitments, it's forcing them to choose between building flood defences and sea walls, and building schools and hospitals," said Oxfam's Robert Bailey. "And that's not a trade-off that's going to be acceptable.
"Why should they sign a deal that gives with one hand and takes away with another? If there's no new money, there'll be no deal," Mr Bailey said.

Solar power from Sahara a step closer

The German-led Desertec initiative believes it can deliver power to Europe as early as 2015

Ashley Seager, Sunday 1 November 2009 14.20 GMT

The technology is not new - it is the scale of the Desertec initiative which is a first
A $400bn (£240bn) plan to provide Europe with solar power from the Sahara moved a step closer to reality today with the formation of a consortium of 12 companies to carry out the work.
The Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) aims to provide 15% of Europe's electricity by 2050 or earlier via power lines stretching across the desert and Mediterranean sea.
The German-led consortium was brought together by Munich Re, the world's biggest reinsurer, and consists of some of country's biggest engineering and power companies, including Siemens, E.ON, ABB and Deutsche Bank.
It now believes the DII can deliver solar power to Europe as early as 2015.
"We have now passed a real milestone as the company has been founded and there is definitely a profitable business there," said Professor Peter Höppe, Munich Re's head of climate change.
"We see this as a big step towards solving the two main problems facing the world in the coming years - climate change and energy security," said Höppe.
The solar technology involved is known as concentrated solar power (CSP) which uses mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays on a fluid container. The super-heated liquid then drives turbines to generate electricity. The advantage over solar photovoltaic panels, which convert sunlight directly to electricity, is that if sufficient hot fluid is stored in containers, the generators can run all night.
The technology is not new - there have been CSP plants running in the deserts of California and Nevada for two decades. But it is the scale of the Desertec initiative which is a first, along with plans to connect North Africa to Europe with new high voltage direct current cables which transport electricity over great distances with little loss.
Leading European energy industry expert Paul van Son has been appointed chief executive of DII and will recruit staff to build up a framework to make the building of both power plants and the grid infrastructure.
"We recognise and strongly support the Desertec vision as a pivotal part of the transition to a sustainable energy supply in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe," he said.
"Now the time has come to turn this vision into reality. That implies intensive cooperation with many parties and cultures to create a sound basis for feasible investments into renewable energy technologies and interconnected grids."
Desertec has gained broad support across Europe, with the newly elected German coalition government of Angela Merkel hoping the project could offset its dependence on Russian gas supplies.
North African governments are said to be keen, too, to further exploit their natural resources. Algeria and Libya are already big oil and gas suppliers to Europe.
Höppe said Munich Re had been concerned about the potential impact of climate change on the insurance business since the early 1970s. Extreme weather events related to climate change are already a reality and have the potential to be uninsurable against within a few decades, pointing to a possible crisis for the industry, he said.
"To keep our business model alive in 30 or 40 years we have to ensure things are still insurable," he said.
Munich Re also plans to invest in the new initiative and Höppe said banks were confident that they could raise sufficient funding to make the project work.
There are already some small CSP plants in Spain and North Africa, with the power used locally. But Desertec plans to see big power stations of one gigawatt operating in five years' time and exporting some current across the Mediterranean. The consortium stresses, though, that power generated by solar fields in North Africa would be used by North Africans as well as Europeans. North Africa has a small population relative to the size of its deserts. For similar reasons Australia is putting together its own Desertec initiative.
Dan Lewis, head of a new thinktank, the Economic Policy Centre, and author of a forthcoming energy policy paper, said: "This is just the sort of long-term, big-difference, energy security gain project that our UK short-term targets and policy framework can't deliver.
"Instead, we're spending ridiculous sums on no-hoper, marginal stuff like fusion energy and a massive smart meter rollout, that at best will only shave a fraction off peak demand."

Government's claims on energy 'should be taken with a pinch of salt'

Government claims that there is "no danger of power cuts in the next decade" should be taken ''with a pinch of salt'', according to campaigners.

Published: 5:28PM GMT 01 Nov 2009
The warning was issued by the expert group, Supporters of Nuclear Energy (SONE) which accused politicians of formulating policy in a vacuum of ignorance.
Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, was quoted in SONE's monthly bulletin as saying: ''There is no danger of power cuts in the next decade. Power stations are closing but we already have ten gigawatts (10,000MW) of new power stations being built and another ten gigawatts that have planning consent.''

But Sir Bernard Ingham, who was Margaret Thatcher's press secretary, writing in the bulletin insisted: ''Mr Miliband is a bold man whose estimates are based on heroic assumptions about static demand, a massive (and probably) unattainable increase in renewables and energy efficiency.
''Our conclusion is that official energy forecasts are best taken with a pinch of salt. The odds remain on the lights going out, especially in view of the ludicrous concentration on wind, the lackadaisical approach to nuclear's development, and our minimal gas storage.'
"It is three months since we first drew attention to the contrast between the Government's confidence that power supplies in the next decade would be sufficient and the informed view that at best it is touch and go whether we shall run short.''
He said that SONE knew ''to our despair'' that not a single nuclear power station had yet been ordered let alone approved.
''We also know that four coal-fired power stations have been sanctioned. We can only conclude that these figures prove there has been a massive and underhand dash for gas that does nothing for energy security or minimising carbon emissions.''
He said that Mr Miliband appeared to be far more focused on climate change than energy generation. ''It will be left to a new government to take the decisions Labour has dodged.''
Now, SONE have written to the main party leaders making these points:
:: current energy policies lack credibility because they are driven more by environmental considerations than the urgent need for secure supplies at lowest cost while minimising carbon emissions
:: they take no account of value for money and exacerbate fuel poverty
:: we cannot afford in our straitened circumstances to waste our substance on uncompetitive and unreliable sources of energy or electricity or have any interruption in supplies
:: only nuclear ticks all the boxes in securing greater security of supply at lowest cost, limiting the use and import of fossil fuels, bringing economies in the use of land and grid connection and economic security to remoter areas of Britain, and securing Britain's place at the cutting edge of high technology
:: what we need is a sense of urgency.

No Deal: Chamber Chief Battles Obama

WASHINGTON -- With President Barack Obama bidding to overhaul the health-care system, tighten bank oversight and make industries pay for their greenhouse-gas emissions, some trade-association chiefs have decided to compromise with the party in power.
Not Thomas Donohue. On many of Mr. Obama's priorities, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is working to defeat the administration—delighting some members, causing some to quit and sparking a furious reaction from the White House and left-wing activists. In the process, he has made the Chamber one of Mr. Obama's most visible opponents.

On climate change, Mr. Donohue's group says warmer temperatures could help by reducing deaths related to cold weather.
On health care, a Chamber ad says Democrats' approach will kill jobs and slow growth.
On financial regulation, one ad says the administration's plan will hurt small businesses, "even the small butcher"—a line that prompted Mr. Obama to denounce the Chamber from the presidential podium this month.
Now, Mr. Donohue aims to spend $20 million annually for several years advocating free-market policies such as open trade and less regulation, taking aim at much of the Democrats' agenda. The public-relations campaign is the biggest undertaking in the Chamber's 100-year history.
A question hanging over all this is whether Mr. Donohue's aggressive stance will work better than compromise. The Chamber, which says it has 300,000 dues-paying members, has become a political target in Washington's partisan atmosphere. Though Mr. Donohue has strong supporters, a vocal minority of companies, including Apple Inc. and Nike Inc., have recently quit the Chamber or its board.
"They've put Main Street businesses in a precarious place by taking a position that's not credible and doesn't allow them to shape legislation to their members' benefit," said James Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy Corp.
He says he has cut the electric utility's contributions to the Chamber over two years to protest the group's stance on climate change. Duke is one of the biggest owners of nuclear reactors in the U.S. but also the country's third biggest emitter of carbon dioxide because of its reliance on coal. It has said it favors legislation putting a price on carbon partly out of a desire for regulatory certainty in making investment decisions.
Through a spokesman, Mr. Donohue declined to be interviewed for this article. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations this month, the 71-year-old said "the great preponderance of our members believe in our position [on climate change] and support it."
Watch a December 2007 ad, paid for by the Chamber of Commerce, attacking a proposal then making its way through the Senate that called for cutting U.S. emissions roughly 70% from 2005 levels by 2050.
Watch a confrontation from Oct. 19 at the National Press Club in Washington between a spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and pranksters falsely claiming to represent the Chamber of Commerce and "announcing" that the Chamber was dropping its lobbying efforts against climate legislation in Congress.
On the Chamber's general approach, he said: "We work very hard to be inclusive, to give people a fair hearing, to ask for their input, and go back and forth with them." In a response to written questions, Mr. Donohue said Duke's Mr. Rogers "remains a good strong member whose counsel we greatly value."
Though it has attacked the leading proposals in Congress to make companies pay for their greenhouse-gas emissions, the Chamber says it accepts the idea that man-made emissions contribute to climate change and supports reducing them.
Some supporters of Mr. Donohue say if anything, he has been too accommodating to companies that support climate-change legislation. "You can never herd all companies in the same direction. He's doing as good a job as anyone I've seen heading one of these organizations," said Don Blankenship, CEO of coal producer Massey Energy Co., and a Chamber board member.
But, he added, "I don't like to see trade associations refer to global warming as "an issue" because it supports the idea something needs to be done about it." He said he has pressed Mr. Donohue to take an even tougher stand against proposals in Congress to require companies to pay for their emissions. He said high emissions "mean you've got a better, more productive economy."
Some other trade groups have moved to compromise with Democrats. Drug makers have offered $80 billion in savings to help fund a health-care overhaul. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers not only endorsed the administration's plan to raise national fuel-economy standards but helped it thwart a proposal by Senate Republicans to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate emissions.
The Chamber is in the unusual position of quarreling publicly with major corporations. In recent weeks, Apple, PG&E Corp., PNM Resources Inc. and Exelon Corp. have quit the association, citing its position on climate change, while Nike quit its board. Exelon, a big generator of nuclear energy, says it expects an annual revenue boost of about $1.1 billion if climate legislation approved by the House in June is enacted.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently called the resignations "wonderful." The senior Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, said it was "disingenuous" for Nike and Apple to criticize the Chamber "while manufacturing their products in countries that consistently refuse mandatory emission impacts." Representatives of both companies declined to comment.
With environmentalists and activist shareholders pressuring some firms to quit the Chamber, it sent members a memo two weeks ago apologizing for "any annoyance and inconvenience these efforts against us might cause you."
The Chamber recently disclosed it spent $34.7 million to lobby the government in the third quarter. That was up 68% from the same period last year.
A former Postal Service executive and trucking lobbyist, Mr. Donohue has tripled the Chamber's revenue over 12 years, helped beat back tougher air-quality rules and helped pass legislation that makes it harder to bring class-action lawsuits. The Chamber's board has rewarded him with a chauffeured car, $3.1 million in annual pay and the use of corporate aircraft often stocked with oatmeal-raisin cookies, his favorite snack.
Shortly after taking over in 1997, he pledged to dispel what he said was the Chamber's image as "a sleeping giant, missing in action from many important battles." He publicly expressed hope someone would punch the then-president of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney, "in the mouth."
To bolster firepower, Mr. Donohue hired a new team, including William L. Kovacs as senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. The Chamber then launched a series of attacks on climate-related bills.
Democrats in Congress want to bring down emissions by requiring companies to have permits to emit the gases. Over time, the U.S. would issue fewer permits, with the aim of reducing emissions.
In December 2007, the Chamber produced a TV and Internet ad depicting a family wearing coats indoors, cooking over candles and walking to work. Legislation in the Senate "could make it more expensive to heat our homes, power our lives and drive our cars," it said. "Is this really how Americans want to live?"
The ads surprised the U.S. unit of Germany's Siemens AG, which could see more demand for its wind-power and nuclear-services businesses if the U.S. adopts carbon caps. "We told [Mr. Donohue] we didn't agree with the ads and that we'd like a heads-up when a decision is made on how to represent the Chamber's position on climate change," a Siemens spokeswoman said at the time.
The ads also got the attention of Gen. James L. Jones, a retired Marine Corps commandant and then president of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, a unit of the Chamber that makes recommendations to policy makers. According to a person familiar with the matter, Gen. Jones complained to Mr. Donohue that the ads put him in an awkward spot because the general was seeking a United Nations foundation's support for Chamber energy initiatives.
Two months later, the Chamber released another Internet video, on the eve of a U.N. climate conference in Monaco, accusing U.N. diplomats of hypocrisy for staging summits in locations requiring jet travel.
"Jones's concern was that it would make the Chamber look like bullies," said the person familiar with the matter.
Gen. Jones, now Mr. Obama's national security adviser, didn't respond to requests for comment left with his office. Mr. Donohue, through a spokesman, declined to comment on his discussions with Gen. Jones except to say the two "have had literally thousands of conversations over a full range of topics." He said the general is a "great friend" and was "an absolutely superb president of our Institute for 21st Century Energy."
Some Chamber members who support tougher regulation see it as just one of many important issues and praise other positions taken by the group. George Nolen, a retired CEO of Siemens's U.S. unit, cites the Chamber's support of free-trade policies. "They can't possibly have every member company in agreement on how to attack the problem in the same way," he said.
But as a House panel prepared for hearings on emissions restrictions in April, Johnson & Johnson's vice president for government affairs, Clifford Holland, urged the Chamber to express its members' "full range of views" on the issue. He expressed hope "a consensus can be reached that reflects the views of the range of Chamber members."
Until this past summer, the Chamber's uneasy balance on climate change was holding. Then in June, the group petitioned the EPA to hold a hearing on the agency's declaration that greenhouse gases endanger public health—the basis for regulating them under the Clean Air Act.
The Chamber accused the EPA of ignoring analyses that "show that a warming of even 3 degrees Celsius in the next 100 years would, on balance, be beneficial to humans' because the reduction of wintertime deaths would be "several times larger than the increase in summertime heat stress-related" deaths.
In interviews with reporters, Mr. Kovacs, the Chamber's environment chief, spoke of its desire for a hearing that would be the "Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century," referring to the 1925 trial that pitted evolutionism against creationism.
Environmentalists and some Chamber members pounced. In a letter to Mr. Donohue dated Sept. 18, PG&E CEO Peter Darbee said his company would leave the Chamber as a result of "deep concern" over "extreme rhetoric and obstructionist tactics."
Mr. Donohue said the Chamber continues to support federal investments and incentives for power that can be produced without emitting carbon dioxide, while "standing firm" in its opposition to the legislation passed by the House. "If people want to attack us, bring 'em on," Mr. Donohue told reporters.
They are. Last week, a group claiming to represent the Chamber staged a phony press conference in Washington to announce the Chamber would suspend all lobbying against climate legislation. A real Chamber spokesman interrupted the fake announcement, but not before several news organizations reported it.
The Chamber called the hoax "a foolish distraction from the serious effort by our nation to reduce greenhouse gases." This week, it sued the group that organized the stunt, alleging in federal court that it had violated trademark law by using the Chamber's emblem.
Write to Stephen Power at

Scottish jobs at turbine firm in danger in fight with Europe rules

Peter Jones

Up to 750 new Scottish jobs are in danger of going abroad because of a “Catch 22” stand-off over European regulations which rule out Scottish Enterprise funding for a company making revolutionary noiseless wind turbines.
Neither the Scottish jobs agency nor private investors involved are willing to step in without a written guarantee from each other — but neither will issue one first.
The turbine firm, based just outside Edinburgh in Midlothian, wants to build a Scottish factory but now fears it may have to accept an offer from a major European firm to make them in Germany, despite securing promised backing from one of the world’s biggest financial firms to site the factory in Scotland.
Last night, after being told of the problem by The Times, Scottish Enterprise promised new efforts to find a solution.

“We are caught in a Catch-22 situation,” said Charlie Silverton who, with fellow Edinburgh University graduate Dave Anderson, founded Renewable Devices in 2002. The company already has enough orders to sustain 100 jobs and sees demand for its product eventually leading to 750 jobs.
In three years, the duo has successfully designed and installed over 100 of their turbines on offices, shops and houses, overcoming the problems of other domestic-scale wind generators, such as damaging vibration and noise.
A novel rotor design and sophisticated electronics make their machine twice as effective in harnessing wind energy as rival designs. By encasing the blades in a circular rim, they have also made their turbine virtually noiseless. “It makes about the same noise as a refrigerator and it is quieter than a tree rustling in the wind,” Mr Anderson said.
At moderate wind speeds, the turbine can generate 1.5kW of electricity, about half that used by an average household and much more than that produced by other small turbines.
In the last two years, Renewable Devices, which now employs 40 people, has sold 1,450 turbines. Tesco has put them on supermarket roofs. They have also been installed at the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand’s highest building, and the Corning Tower in Albany, the tallest building in New York State.
“We have orders to ship over 100 a month to the US and 200 a month to Europe,” said Mr Anderson. Now the company urgently has to increase its production facility to meet demand.
Insurance Australia Group (IAG), which is one of the world’s biggest insurance companies and committed to environmental sustainability, has bought a 2.5 per cent shareholding in Renewable Devices at a price valuing the company at £49.6 million. It wants to invest up to £5 million more to fund the expansion Renewable Devices needs. But IAG policy dictates that any investment must be backed by government money. So earlier this year Mr Anderson and Mr Silverton approached Scottish Enterprise.
The agency told them that, partly because of European Union rules on subsidies, it could not deal with them directly, and any approach would have to be made by a private investor who had thoroughly checked their company’s viability.
Although IAG has done these checks, it is not willing to make any written promise to invest until it has a written guarantee of Scottish Enterprise support which, the agency says, it cannot issue without a written application from IAG.
Mr Silverton said a major German firm with car-making interests is keen to build the factory in Germany. “We have been told it could employ up to 750 people,” he said.
The two entrepreneurs met enterprise minister Jim Mather last week to try to break the deadlock. “We got the impression that he fully understood the issues,” Mr Silverton said.
Yesterday Gerald Kelly, Scottish Enterprise director of investment, said: “Our co-investment model means that we can’t invest directly with a company but instead we co-invest alongside private-sector partners, who are responsible for carrying out due diligence on specific deals. IAG is currently not one of [the] approved partners but we have indicated to the company that we would be more than happy to discuss this opportunity with IAG with a view to bringing them on board.”
A Scottish government spokesman said that Mr Mather’s aim is “to work with the company and Scottish Enterprise to try to find a solution”.
Despite being one of Europe’s windiest countries and having plenty of engineering expertise, Scotland somehow managed to lose out in the rise of wind energy caused by the shift from high to low-carbon electricity generation.
Scotland’s hills got the turbines but most of them were designed and manufactured elsewhere — notably in Denmark and Germany.
The progress made by Renewable Devices in producing an effective and virtually silent domestic-scale wind turbine is not only a remarkable achievement by two Edinburgh University graduates, but also offers a chance to recapture some of that lost technological and manufacturing lead.
With resistance to industrial scale wind farms growing, despite the warnings of the threat posed by climate change, small turbines on rooftops look like a different and more publicly acceptable solution.
The fact that this small company has managed to sell 1,450 of its machines world-wide at a price of about £6,000 each is evidence that this is how the rest of the world sees it. It seems extraordinary that a bureaucratic snarl-up is preventing the creation of what could be a major manufacturing operation, especially if Renewable Devices’s designers succeed in their goal of reducing the price of their turbines to about £2,000.
Scottish Enterprise says that it has made big efforts to find the information it needs to make progress; the company’s founders say their efforts to meet Scottish Enterprise have been rebuffed.
But it seems clear that unless these lines are uncrossed, another potential lead for Scotland in wind energy will be lost.

Cancún beach project suspended after environmentalist legal action

Jo Tuckman in Mexico City, Sunday 1 November 2009 22.41 GMT
Cancún is among Mexico's Caribbean beach resorts recently affected by shifting sands.
A huge project to replenish eroded beaches in Mexico's main Caribbean coastal resorts, including Cancún, has been suspended after legal action by environmentalists.
Campaigners claim the $75m (£45m) plan – involving taking 6.2m cubic metres from a sandbank just off Cozumel island, 50 miles from Cancún, to hotel beaches – is based on incomplete assessments.
Critics say dredging the sandbank will alter currents and damage ecosystems, including coral reefs and breeding grounds for species such as the queen conch. They also fear Cozumel will become more vulnerable to hurricanes. "It's absurd. We understand it is necessary to fill out the beaches but it needs to be done without sacrificing other places," said Alejandra Serrano of the Mexican Centre for Environmental Law.
But Rodrigo de la Pena, president of the Hotel Association, criticised the delay: "We cannot sell ourselves as a place of sun and sand, if we don't have the sand."
A federal judge ordered a review of the project last month just hours before the Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, was due to launch the dredging. However, the same judge has now ordered activists to put down a 15m peso (£680,000) guarantee against loss of earnings incurred by project delays, to be paid if the final decision went against them. Unable to raise the money, campaigners have filed for an injunction to review the bond requirement.
Lupita Alvarez of the group Citymar, said: "If this doesn't work we will just have to go and put ourselves in front of the dredgers."
The depletion of the white-sand beaches (above) is often blamed on Hurricane Wilma but environmentalists blame high-rise hotels built on sand dunes. After Wilma, 800,000 cubic metres of sand were implanted at a cost of $19m, only to see the beaches washed away within months. The project relies on much more sand and artificial barriers.