Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Carbon must be sucked from air, says IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor

Drastic cuts in carbon emissions may not be sufficient to avoid the worst ravages of global warming and the world will need to suck carbon from the atmosphere to avert permanent damage to the climate, according to a leading world authority on climate science.
In an interview with The Times, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), proposed that new techniques should be applied to help to mop up atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide that have been pumped into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.
“There are enough technologies in existence to allow for mitigation,” he said. “At some point we will have to cross over and start sucking some of those gases out of the atmosphere.”
Speaking days before the start of the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, Dr Pachauri, who collected the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the IPCC with Al Gore, said that such a strategy needed to be pursued as a matter of urgency.

The Indian scientist, 69, also said that the target adopted by the 192 governments that are due to attend the conference, of restricting average global temperature rises to less than 2C (3.6F), may be insufficient to prevent catastrophic warming impacts such as a rise in sea levels of between 0.5m and 1.4m (1.6ft and 4.6ft) and enough to devastate many coastal cities around the world such as Shanghai, Calcutta and Dhaka. Instead, he said, a 1.5C rise was a safer target.
Dr Pachauri raised the prospect of so-called geo-engineering, whereby carbon dioxide is actively stripped from the atmosphere. A range of techniques have been proposed including seeding artificial clouds over oceans to reflect sunlight back into space, sowing the oceans with iron ore to boost plankton growth and using carbon capture and storage technology to fix emissions from power stations.
About 27 billion tonnes of pure carbon dioxide are pumped into the atmosphere every year — equivalent to 7.3 billion tonnes of pure carbon.
Total atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are now at 387 parts per million, up from an historic average of 180 to 280 ppm. Even if radical cuts were adopted by world governments in Copenhagen and adhered to, the lowest level at which they could be expected to stabilise is 450 ppm, say scientists. To prevent a further temperature rise of more than 2C, emissions would need to be stabilised around that level.
Dr Pachauri, speaking to The Times on Saturday before travelling to Paris to brief President Sarkozy, suggested that the fossil fuel lobby could be behind a hacking incident last month that led to the publication of thousands of leaked e-mails between climate scientists. He said that it was entirely possible that “corporate interests” had had a hand in the leak.
Dr Pachauri, who was in London for a lecture at the Wellcome Trust organised by the BBC World Service, demanded an immediate investigation into the hacking of e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s climatic research unit, which he branded an “illegal act”.
He said: “One needs firstly to find out personally who is responsible, who the culprits are and what were their motives. And unless we do that it is likely that similar things will happen in the future.”
A prominent climate change sceptic, Steve McIntyre, told The Times yesterday that he was “unaware of any evidence that the fossil fuel lobby had anything to do with this and I doubt that they did”.
Dr Pachauri dismissed the suggestion that biased research had crept into the IPCC’s most recent report on the science of climate change. A complex system of checks and balances was in place to prevent bias being insinuated into the panel’s work, he said.
The third way
Governments have focused their attention on mitigation — reducing their carbon output — and more recently on transition — redeveloping existing assets to ensure carbon control. According to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, there is a third way, geo-engineering; measures that do not just reduce emissions, but take them out of the environment:
Artificial trees These 12m boxes, filled with absorbent materials, soak up and store carbon. The devices, which could be placed by roads, would be emptied regularly and the carbon buried. About 100,000 artificial trees would require about 600 hectares of land, but the carbon that they remove from the atmosphere would be equivalent to all the non-stationary and dispersed emissions to the UK
Algae-coated buildings Strips of algae are fitted to the outside of buildings in units called photobioreactors. Algae naturally absorbs C02 through photosynthesis. Periodically the algae are harvested and used for biofuels that have an energy rating similar to coal. This solution requires no extra land use
Reflective buildings Between 10 and 50 per cent of solar radiation can be reflected back out of the atmosphere by painting buildings and road surfaces in light colours

Iran threatens to pull out of nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent

Iran lashed out at international attempts to curb its nuclear ambitions today, threatening to pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and insisting that it would forge ahead with plans to step up uranium enrichment.
The chorus of fury came as world powers reacted with renewed concern at Iran’s announcement of plans to build ten new nuclear sites and Western leaders warned of imminent new sanctions to punish Tehran’s defiance.
Russia and China joined the United States, Britain, France and Germany in backing a rare official rebuke to Tehran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday over its concealment of the recently revealed Fordo enrichment plant on a heavily bunkered military base near the city of Qom.
Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said that the announcement of a vast new enrichment construction programme was meant as direct retaliation for its censure at the United Nations body, which also ordered it to cease construction work at Fordo. His remarks were to be the opening salvo in a hail of official invective against the atomic watchdog, ordinarily reserved for Western adversaries.

Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, accused the IAEA of implementing “the law of the jungle” by passing the resolution calling on Iran once again to halt enrichment. "This is an act of bullying,” Mr Mottaki told a joint press conference with Sergie Shmatko, the visiting Russian Energy Minister. “Today, we call it the law of the jungle. Such measures will destroy the very foundation of the UN Security Council and the IAEA.”
Iran has been ordered five times by the UN Security Council to suspend enrichment until it has satisfactorily answered questions about a suspected nuclear weapons programme.
Mr Mottaki said that enriching uranium was Iran’s right as it has been a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty for close to four decades. Ali Larijani, the influential conservative parliament speaker, went further, questioning Iran’s continued membership of the protocol, raising fears that it may be preparing to withdraw as North Korea did shortly before developing a bomb.
"I think they have completely made NPT useless," he told a press conference in Tehran. "What is this NPT which has become a one-sided tool ... to create a political atmosphere? We say that we want to carry out our activities under NPT and they must guarantee this ... that NPT regulations be properly applied and that they do not do indulge in any political interference."
Mr Salehi blamed Western powers for raising tensions after Iran’s announcement of plans to build ten new enrichment plants, far beyond its current capabilities or needs — civilian or military.
"We had no intention of building so many sites ... but apparently the West does not want to understand Iran's message of peace and the way they behaved persuaded the Government to pass a decree to build ten sites like Natanz.” Natanz is the industrial-scale enrichment plant currently monitored by inspectors.
Britain, France and Germany warned that Tehran would face more sanctions if it continued to defy world powers. "The priority always is to get the talks to work," said a spokesman for the Prime Minister in London.
"We would then review at the right moment, and maybe it's towards the end of this year, whether we pursue the second route of a dual-track policy which is obviously, you think about things like sanctions."
Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Minister, warned that "if Iran rejects the hand that has reached out, it must expect heavier sanctions."
But Mr Shmatko, on an official visit to Tehran to discuss the Russian-built civilian reactor there, sought to cool tempers and refocus attention on the diplomatic track.
"A constructive agreement between Tehran and five-plus-one [the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany] is of high importance and we do not want the thing to escalate at all," said Mr Shmatko. "I think there is still good scope to continue negotiations."

Climate heats up Australian politics

Australia's Liberal leader is being forced out over emissions trading. The crisis may be a taste of what's to come elsewhere
Julian Glover
guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 November 2009 15.30 GMT
It is only a slight exaggeration to say that Australia is experiencing the world's first political crisis of the climate change age. No one in Britain is paying much attention – because the story involves the country's opposition Liberal party and politicians hardly anyone outside the country knows. But what is happening matters. It is a test case of political will – especially on the right – to pay the price of global warming.
In Britain we've been spared a political bust-up between sceptics and zealots, thanks to David Cameron's rather brave and early decision to make the environmental agenda his own. But there was nothing inevitable about his victory, or Tory support for green measures that will be hugely unpopular with voters once they have to start paying the bills. If David Davis or Liam Fox had beaten him to the leadership in 2005, Australia's crisis would be Britain's, too.
First, a brief political history. Australia, one of the world's highest per capita carbon polluters, stood aside from the Kyoto protocol until John Howard's right-of-centre coalition was defeated by Kevin Rudd's Labor in 2007. After that, Australia moved into the mainstream on climate change, and the Liberal party elected Malcolm Turnbull, as the opposition leader.
Turnbull is interesting – he was the lawyer who took on the British government in the Spycatcher case, then championed an Australian republic, and, as environment minister in the Howard government, he was the greenest member of the cabinet. To the Australian right, he's always been a bit suspicious: a flash Sydneysider from Australia's richest constituency whose got enough money to indulge environmental concerns.
In opposition, he's been struggling, hit by bad poll ratings and a car crash of a crisis a while back when he called on the prime minister to resign on the basis of some emails that turned out to be fake. His rivals have been manoeuvring. In the past week they have pounced, after Turnbull forced through a controversial vote to back the government's emissions trading scheme in the Australian senate.
Without at least some Liberal support, this scheme will not pass, since Labor doesn't have a majority in the upper house. If you want to be generous, you could say that Turnbull has decided to sacrifice his leadership for his principles – a "climate change martyr" as the Sydney Morning Herald put it. Or you could say he is trying to face down his critics on an issue where he can hold the moral upper hand, and that this whole saga has more to do with egos than climate change.
Either way, Turnbull is toast: a large chunk of his frontbench resigned rather than back emissions trading, and at least one member of it, Tony Abbott, has confirmed he will fight Turnbull for the leadership tomorrow, on an anti-emissions trading ticket.
He might win. If he doesn't, another member of the front bench, Joe Hockey, is likely to get the job. He is Turnbull's preferred candidate but risks becoming a hostage of climate sceptics if he takes over with their backing.
For the Liberals, it is a hellish mess. For Australia, it is a testing moment. Does the country have what it takes to cut emissions? For the world, it might be a foretaste of politics to come.

Major cities at risk from rising sea level threat

Hannah Devlin and Robin Pagnamenta

Sea levels will rise by twice as much as previously predicted as a result of global warming, an important international study has concluded.
The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) calculated that if temperatures continued to increase at the present rate, by 2100 the sea level would rise by up to 1.4 metres — twice that predicted two years ago.
Such a rise in sea levels would engulf island nations such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and Tuvalu in the Pacific, devastate coastal cities such as Calcutta and Dhaka and force London, New York and Shanghai to spend billions on flood defences.
Even if the average global temperature increases by only 2C — the target set for next week’s Copenhagen summit — sea levels could still rise by 50cm, double previous forecasts, according to the report.

SCAR, a partnership of 35 of the world’s leading climate research institutions, made the prediction in the report Antarctic Climate Change and Climate. It far exceeds the 0.59 metre rise by the end of the century quoted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007. This was based on a “business as usual” approach by governments that allowed temperatures to rise by 4 degrees. It will underpin the negotiations in Copenhagen.
SCAR scientists said that the IPCC underestimated grossly how much the melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets would contribute to total sea-level rises.
One of the world’s leading experts on climate science has called for the world to intensify efforts to control global warming by actively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
In an interview with The Times, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, said that geo-engineering, where carbon is stripped from the atmosphere using specialist technologies, would be necessary to control runaway damage to the climate. “At some point we will have to cross over and start sucking some of those gases out of the atmosphere.”
He added that world leaders meeting in Copenhagen should aim for a tighter target of no more than a 1.5C rise in global temperatures.
The IPCC report predicted that the melting of ice sheets would contribute about 20 per cent of the total rise in sea levels, with the majority coming from the melting of glaciers and the expansion of the water as it warms. It said that it was not able to predict the impact of melting ice sheets, but suggested this could add 10-20cm.
The SCAR report uses detailed climate observations over the past century linking temperature to sea levels to produce a more sophisticated estimate. It puts the likely contribution from ice sheets at more than 50 per cent.
The calculations were carried out by Stefan Rahmstorf, Professor of Physics of the Oceans at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Sceptics seized upon his figures as further evidence of the unreliability of climate change predictions.
“It’s 50cm, 60cm, 100cm — 60m if you ask James Hansen from Nasa,” said Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation . “The predictions come in thick and fast, but we take them all with a pinch of salt. We look out of the window and it’s very cold, it doesn’t seem to be warming. We’re very concerned that 100-year policies are being made on the basis of these predictions”

The Economics of Climate Change

The stakes are too high to treat Climategate as just another academic spat.
The emails and documents leaked last week from some of the world's leading climatologists offer a rich trove of evidence that scientists were massaging the data and corrupting the scientific process to support their own preconceptions. But they also offer the beginnings of an explanation for why. In the words of another famous leaker, follow the money.
On its Web site, the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit describes how it could barely make ends meet for most of the years since it was founded in 1972, and how most researchers weren't even guaranteed salaries in the early years. "Since 1994, the situation has improved," CRU writes. Why 1994? That was the year the U.N.'s climate change convention came into force. Since then, it has been boom times for those lucky enough to have gotten in on the ground floor of a growth industry powered by grants from governments eager to understand just how quickly we were overheating the planet.
In the 1990s, CRU director Phil Jones helped bring in £1.9 million ($3.1 million) for climate research. But in this decade, according to one of the leaked documents, the total shot up to £11.8 million, including grants from the U.K. National Environmental Research Council, the U.S. Department of Energy and NATO. Another leaked spreadsheet for CRU researcher Tim Osborn shows a similar pattern. Between 1994 and 2000, Mr. Osborn secured research contracts totaling £173,881. Between 2001 and 2007, the last year covered by the file, his haul jumped to £764,055.
Or consider the cash that Michael Mann—another climate establishment figure whose name comes up frequently in the leaked emails—has helped pulled for Penn State University. In 2000, before Mr. Mann joined the faculty, the university banked $20.4 million in research funding for environmental sciences. By 2007, two years after he came on board, Penn State counted more than $55 million a year for environmental research, much of it government funded.
To keep this money flowing, climate scientists needed to keep the fear going. Anything that called into question their most dire predictions of climate catastrophe would put all that funding at risk. On the other hand, the bigger the climate calamity, the more willing governments became to fund global-warming research. Keeping the dissenters on the outside was not simply a matter of academic jealousy. It was in many cases a question of professional survival.
In 1988-1989, the U.S. ponied up 199,500 Swiss francs ($198,995) to the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. By the end of Bill Clinton's and Al Gore's tenure in the White House, America's annual offering to the international global warming authority had ballooned more than 2,600%—to 5.42 million Swiss francs in 2000-2001. The very earth hung in the balance, after all.
The gusher of money that has flowed into climate research does not, by itself, impeach the conclusions reached by the scientists. But it does make clear just how much their professional fortunes became tied to the notion of climate catastrophe. It was the fear of catastrophic climate change, after all, that unleashed the rising ocean of money by which their research came to be funded. Findings that might call the hysteria into question would also, perforce, put at risk the flow of funds into their field.
According to the old quip, the disputes in academia are so vicious because the stakes are so low. In this case, the money trail suggests the reverse—the scientists were so protective of their theory because the stakes had become so high. Under those circumstances, it's no wonder they were tempted to "hide the decline" in temperatures and keep their critics out of the peer-reviewed literature.
For the world's economy, of course, trillions of dollars are now at stake in pursuit of emissions reductions based on the flawed science that these leaked emails have helped lay bare. For the rest of the world too, the stakes are too high to treat this as just another academic spat.

Barack Obama's road to Copenhagen ends in Oslo for most of the US media

US press pack will have to make do with reporting from Norway, as Danish capital runs out of room
Suzanne Goldenberg
guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 November 2009 17.11 GMT

Only the other day Barack Obama was being applauded for breaking the deadlock at the Copenhagen climate change summit. The White House confirmed last week that Obama would commit to reducing America's greenhouse gas emissions, and would drop in on the meeting on his way to Oslo where he is to receive the Nobel peace prize.
There was relief around the globe. America's failure to set a target for reducing emissions had been seen as the greatest single obstacle to reaching a strong political agreement at Copenhagen. Obama's stopover in Copenhagen on December 9 was also welcomed - although the timing means the president will not join other world leaders in actually sealing a climate change agreement at the end of the two-week meeting.
Even so, the White House was so pleased by the positive response to the announcement that it even interrupted the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to point reporters to press reaction.
"On climate change, the president demonstrated America's commitment to global action, while at the same time convinced key countries like China and India to pledge to take mitigation actions to reduce their carbon emissions. This progress is a result of the president's recent trip to Asia, and his policy of global engagement," the release said on Saturday.
But all that praise is still not enough to guarantee an actual hotel room in Copenhagen, the White House learned to its chagrin.
The White House travel office said today it could only provide accommodation in Copenhagen for the dozen or so reporters who will be in the presidential press pool. The White House charter flight, carrying the rest of the reporters, will only stop in Oslo for the Nobel ceremony.
Everything else was booked up long ago. The US government delegation alone is reported to include some 600 officials.
"It's not that we don't want people to be there," a travel office spokeswoman said, "but we've heard that the closest hotel rooms are in Oslo."

Building an easy answer to climate change

Buildings last for decades, so increasing their green credentials can have a long-term impact on our energy consumption
Mark Clifford
guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 November 2009 09.00 GMT
Killer typhoons in Taiwan and China ... a failed monsoon in India ... the United Nations secretary-general pleading for action on climate change, while politicians argue over who will bear the costs.
But, instead of bickering while the planet heats up, policymakers should embrace one of the cheapest ways of cutting the air pollution: by making buildings more efficient.
Surprisingly, buildings account for about one-third of global energy use. Transportation, mostly cars, accounts for roughly another one-third. Factories and mines make up the rest. A lot of attention has gone into making cars and factories more efficient since the first global energy shocks of the 1970s. Yet most buildings are bigger energy hogs than a fleet of SUVs. Given advances in technology in everything from window glass to air conditioners, change can come for no net cost.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which produced a landmark study on the topic, contends that buildings should put back into the system at least as much energy as they take out. The consultancy McKinsey & Company notes that a number of key energy efficiency technologies for buildings offer payback periods of less than a year and could have a dramatic impact on greenhouse-gas emissions.
But governments must act. Building codes already guard against dangers like fire and earthquakes. Far-sighted governments in places as different as Germany and Singapore are now mandating green buildings. Policymakers there know that governments have a role in mandating regulations to create a level playing field and helping build industry capacity. California's latest building and appliance standards are expected to avoid the need for five large power plants in the next 10 years.
Buildings last for decades, so decisions made today have a long-term impact on our energy consumption. Efficient buildings enable countries to produce and consume less energy, which supports economic development, because money is freed up for other projects, while promoting energy security and environmental sustainability.
All of this can be done without hurting economic growth. The average US refrigerator uses only one-quarter of the electricity of its counterpart of 30 years ago, despite being larger and offering more features.
Greener buildings are particularly important for Asia, home to the world's most rapid economic growth – now and probably for decades to come. Asia's share of global energy consumption has doubled in the past 30 years, and its buildings' share of energy use is growing at similar rates, with China and India alone constructing more than half of all the world's new floor space. Without well-designed policy measures, improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings and appliances will continue at a relatively slow pace in Asia.
If Asia pursues a business-as-usual policy, it will burn money on energy that could be put to other uses. Energy-hungry China builds the equivalent of two to four 500-megawatt power plants every week. Each year, it adds more new energy generation capacity than the installed base of the United Kingdom. No one can ask China to slow its development. But if China can improve its energy efficiency, it will save money and strengthen its energy security. Indeed, Chinese government sources estimate that an efficient building is five to six times cheaper than an inefficient building to heat, cool, and light.
Before change can come, some old myths need to be demolished.
Myth 1: Green buildings cost a lot more to build. Initially, there may be higher costs, usually 3% to 10%, though this figure tends to fall quickly, as everyone from architects to construction workers becomes more familiar with new ways. Moreover, suppliers re-tool to manufacture more energy-efficient products, causing prices to fall. But even higher upfront costs are quickly paid for with cheaper utility bills.
Myth 2: Energy-efficient buildings are uncomfortable. The idea that energy-efficiency means sitting in the dark, shivering in the winter and sweating in the summer is nonsense. Repeated studies have shown that well-designed buildings are more comfortable. Green offices have lower employee turnover and fewer sick days. Green buildings increasingly show higher capital values.
Myth 3: If energy efficiency worked, everyone would have done it already. This is like the joke about the two economists who ignore a $100 bill they see lying on the street, figuring that if the money were real someone would have picked it up. Building developers often don't want the extra cost or extra hassle of breaking old habits. And why should they? After all, they either sell the property or pass on the higher utility costs to tenants.
Nothing stands in the way of change except the unwillingness to change old patterns. Governments need to set standards that become progressively tighter over time. Everyone in the building and construction industry needs to be more creative. Tenants need to take the same care with buildings that they do with cars. The net result of a series of small changes would be a dramatic reduction in energy consumption.
• Mark Clifford is executive director of the Asia Business Council and co-author of Building Energy Efficiency: Why Green Buildings Are Key to Asia's Future.
• Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2009.

India to Invest 1.63 Trillion Rupees in Renewable Energy

NEW DELHI -- India hopes to invest 1.63 trillion rupees ($35 billion) during 2012-17 in additional power generation capacity from renewable resources, India's minister for renewable energy said Monday.
"Capacity addition of 25,500 megawatts during the 12th Plan (2012-17) will need total investment to the tune of 1.63 trillion rupees, which is envisaged mainly as private investment," Minister of New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah said in a written reply to the Upper House of Parliament.
India hopes to raise the total installed capacity of renewable power to 22,500 MW by March 2012 and 48,000 MW by 2017, from 15,539 MW currently.
Write to Sunil Raghu at Sunil.Raghu@dowjones.com

Honda promises to change the world with U3-X, the first ‘mechtronic’ unicycle

Leo Lewis in Tokyo

Every so often, a brand new “personal mobility” contraption appears and someone declares that the world is about to change forever. For the car and the bicycle, the claims were legitimate. For the jetpack, hydraulic pogo stick, Sinclair C5 and hydrogen powered rollerskate, less so.
But shaky odds of success have never deterred Japan from gadgetry. So gird yourselves, mortals, and throw away your walking shoes — because if Honda is right, pavements across the globe will soon be the domain of U3-X, the world’s first “mechatronic” unicycle.
A decade in the making and test driven exclusively by The Times, Honda’s creation unambiguously restores Japan’s reputation as the most fanatical of mad inventors. Its starting point, explains an excitable Honda boffin, was nothing less than the reinvention of the wheel. The balancing technology came from the same division of the company that recently produced a pair of robotic trousers.
After a 30-second tutorial, the test drive begins. Minutes later I have mastered the future of travel: it is somewhere between the hovering landspeeder in Star Wars, the effortless glide of a Dalek and a piggyback from my dad when I was 4.
As I recklessly shimmy around the boardroom, reversing gloriously into a whiteboard, the chief engineer behind the unicycle struggles to describe how the U3-X is working beneath its shiny, carbon fibre shell.
The trick, says Shinichiro Kobashi, is to imagine balancing a broom handle on your palm. The thousands of tiny movements your hand instinctively makes to keep the broom upright are simulated in the U3-X by a lattice of motion sensors and Honda’s new omni-directional wheel.
The new Honda drive system, he continues with a cackle, can do all sorts of useful things ordinary wheels cannot, such as moving sideways.
None of this, however, outshines the machine’s most spectacular magic trick: Honda has somehow managed to build a 10kg unicycle that can stand upright on its own. Taken off its charging stand and held in the starting position for a few seconds, the U3-X quivers to life. It will not fall over as long as its batteries last. Even while in motion, the unicycle is nearly impossible to topple and makes no balancing demands either of the buttocks cupped in its soft leather saddle or their bemused owner. The driver merely leans the torso in the desired direction of travel and the single wheel compensates improbably for the shifting weight of its master, rumbling off with a puny electric whirr.
One day, says the engineer, polo matches will be played on these machines. For the moment, though, any match would be a slow one. Honda has limited the unicycle to a maximum speed of 4mph (6km/h) — a speed at which it makes considerably more sense to walk.There are reasons why Honda may be on the brink of a great personal mobility transformation — and many why we may never see the U3-X again.
The machine is far more portable than a fold-up bicycle and takes up no more pavement space than a pedestrian. But Honda are not yet talking about a price for the machine, or even a release date.
If nothing else emerges from the project, however, Honda may well be the first company to produce a car that rolls sideways into a parking space.

Atlantis plans major tidal turbine test

Published Date: 01 December 2009
ATLANTIS Resources is to test what is claimed to be the world's biggest tidal turbine in the waters off the Orkney Islands next year.
Chief executive Tim Cornelius yesterday said the company was investing about £15 million to build and test the turbine, which has rotors that are 18 metres in diameter, roughly the height of a five-storey building.The AK-1000 turbine, which has a capacity of 1 megawatt – in line with other pioneering marine energy converters – will be deployed at the European Marine Energy Centre test site in Orkney.Atlantis is working with Norway's state-owned utility Statkraft to win a bid in the Pentland Firth marine energy project.

Local residents to receive incentives to allow wind farms

Local residents who allow wind farms to be built in their neighbourhood will be rewarded with lower energy bills, the Tories have promised.

By Rosa Prince, Political CorrespondentPublished: 8:00AM GMT 30 Nov 2009
By offering incentives to communities to encourage them not to object to planning bids by wind farm developers, the party believes it could end the often bitter disputes which currently thwart many green projects.
As well as lower gas and electricity bills for up to 25 years, residents would be invited to share in the proceeds of business rates paid by wind farms for six years after they were built.
Communities will also be offered shares in local wind farms, allowing them to become part-owners and enjoy a stake of the profits.
Developers would be likely to offer shares as a way of avoiding getting “bogged down” in planning rows.
In a speech at Oxford University, Greg Clark, the shadow energy and climate secretary, criticised Labour’s handling of residents who opposed green technologies, saying their only tactic was to shame them into giving way.
He said: "Onshore wind is often a divisive subject, riven by bitter planning disputes – which are bad for climate change policy, bad for the wind power industry and bad for local communities.
“Labour's only solution is to demonise anyone who has the temerity to object. As well as being wrong, this is obviously counter productive.
“What the government should be doing is finding ways to solve some of the problems that lead to stalemate.
“I would argue that wind farm applications are often bogged down because there is no clear benefit to local communities in hosting them.
“But, in its characteristically centralising mindset, this government has made little effort to try and unlock any such benefits to local communities for hosting wind farms – instead seeking to demonise people when communities have objected.”
Mr Clark singled out Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, who he accused of failing to offer residents positive reasons to accept a wind farm in their area.
He said: “Ed Miliband has said he thinks it should be considered as socially unacceptable to be against wind turbines in your areas as it is to drive over a zebra crossing without stopping.
“Conservatives are determined to find ways to allow communities who participate in renewable energy projects to share in the rewards that comes from doing their bit.”
Mr Clark said that a 10 megawatt wind farm involving five large turbines would pay around £72,000 a year in rates back into the local community
There are also plans to allow residents lower energy bills for the duration of a local wind farm’s life, which usually last around 25 years, and “empower” communities by offering part ownership of farms.
In Denmark, 86 per cent of wind farms are partly owned by locals, with more than 100,000 families having shares.
Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of the British Wind Energy Association, welcomed the proposals.
She said: "We have long called for localisation of business rates which we believe would bring great advantages to local communities."
John Sauven, chief executive of Greenpeace UK, added: "These are constructive proposals that will enable the benefits of wind power to more clearly shared by the communities that host them.”
Adrian Snook, of Stop the Spin, which campaigns against wind farms, said: "I am sure this more even-handed approach will be welcomed by rural communities.
“Opinion polls consistently show that 80 per cent of people express strong public support for the notion of harnessing wind energy, with only 10 per cent opposed.
“However rural communities deeply resent the unfair and one-sided terms associated with the actual planning proposals put to them by the power industry and in turn by central Government.
“Rural people would like to feel good about wind energy, but the current administration has robbed them of any opportunity to so.”
Martin Harper, Head of Sustainable Development at the RSPB, added: "Today's announcements by the Conservative Party on renewable energy are a genuine step forward.
"Greg Clark showed that this revolution can be achieved without riding roughshod over the needs of the natural environment or ignoring the voices of local people."

India Not Counting on Others to Fund Carbon Cuts

NEW DELHI -- India's top climate change envoy said Monday he doesn't expect funds or technological help from developed nations in its battle to cut carbon emissions and maintain economic growth, and that's indicative of a deep gulf between the major developing countries and the developed world ahead of the global conference in Copenhagen.

Asia's third-largest economy isn't looking at richer nations as natural allies, making its job to reduce carbon more difficult, Shyam Saran said at a conference Monday.
"If you look at the future, we are not looking at a very supportive global regime. Neither are you going to get any technology nor finance for major developing countries. Money will go to the small developing states or least developed countries. But large countries like India are expected to take care of themselves," Mr. Saran said.
The country will have to generate funds through carbon trading, he said.
China and India have said rich nations bear historic responsibility for climate change, so developing nations shouldn't be legally bound to cut carbon emissions blamed for rising temperatures--which U.N. scientists say will put entire species at risk and could shift agricultural and climate zones around the world if left unchecked.
However, the world's two fastest growing economies are regularly cited as part of the problem, Mr. Saran said. They are accused of failing to keep a lid on carbon emissions as more dirty coal is burned to power their factories and more fuel-guzzling cars hit the roads.
India has yet to offer figures on reining in its carbon output, with just over a week to go until the United Nations climate talks start on Dec. 7 in Copenhagen.
"We should not be hustled in to a position that harms our economic interests," Mr. Saran said.
India has refused to accept binding emission cuts that it says could slow its economic growth, and has instead highlighted voluntary actions to stem emissions, such as support for renewable energy.
"The climate change negotiations are not just about climate. They are also today very much about economic interests," Mr. Saran said.
It is unlikely that there will be any legally binding outcome from the forthcoming negotiations, although that is the mandate for the meetings, he said.
Write to Rakesh Sharma at rakesh.sharma@dowjones.com

Carbon Trust increases interest-free loans

The Carbon Trust has increased its maximum interest free loan for energy efficient plant and machinery to half a million pounds after agreeing its first £400,000 deal.

By Richard TylerPublished: 12:01AM GMT 01 Dec 2009

Astrum, a military vehicle castings maker which employs 240 people, has become the government agency's largest single borrower after it applied to replace its air compression system at its foundry in Stanhope, County Durham. The decision will cut the cost of generating compressed air by 50pc.
Mike Hutchinson, from Astrum, said: "It was a no brainer. It's cost neutral for four years and after that we will be saving." The monthly electricity savings will pay for the capital repayments on the interest-free loan, he added.
Astrum began reviewing its energy use over a year ago in anticipation of further energy price rises. The company tackled savings like more efficient use of lighting and then began assessing the efficiency of its production processes. "We identified opportunities for savings, but did not really understand what they were," said Mr Hutchinson.
They hired a consultancy, Air Energy Management, to review their findings, suggest improvements and advise on the best equipment.
But limited resources meant that Astrum had to prioritise its investments, and tackling the efficiency of its air compression equipment was not at the top of the list.
The Carbon Trust loan made the difference, said Mr Hutchinson. "It's something that would have been on our plans but it's accelerated it," he said. "We probably would have done it in stages but we would not have got the benefits immediately."
Richard Dainton, managing director of Air Energy Management, said Astrum's experience was not unique. "Most factories don't realise how much energy they are wasting," he said. "The way I try to do it is to reduce the demand on the system."
The new equipment from Teseo UK, a company based in Witham, Essex, has improved the efficiency of the system and Astrum has also added more control so it can vary the air pressure around the main ring so that it minimises leaks and only compresses the air to the levels needed. Waste heat from the compressors is being used to heat the production areas of the factory, removing the need for diesel-powered heaters.
Mr Hutchinson said the paperwork involved in the application was not onerous. Once the application had been assessed the loan was agreed and made available to be drawn down within 10 days. "It was completely hassle free," said Mr Hutchinson.
The Carbon Trust has more than £100m to lend to small and medium businesses over the next 18 months. Hugh Jones, director, said it had made 800 loans so far this year and was on track to lend all its money by early next year. The average size of each loan is £38,000.
He said they had decided to increase the maximum loan size to £500,000 because they were receiving more applications for expensive equipment, like plastic moulding lines.
Mr Jones said that manufacturers were aware of the bottom line benefits from energy efficiency but the lack of capital had prevented many from investing. "Free money is great but businesses have not been taking these loans unless they have been convinced that there's a benefit," he said.
Official statistics released last week showed business investment fell 20pc year-on-year in the last quarter.

Is Lord Adonis being driven by an urge to impress David Cameron?

While most ministers are keen to hang on to whatever perks they have left, Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, has dispensed with one of Westminster's most valued extras, his ministerial car.

Tim Walker: Edited by Laura Roberts Published: 10:00PM GMT 30 Nov 2009

Perhaps he is hoping to ingratiate himself with David Cameron, who is rumoured to be considering asking him to stay on in government as an education minister if the Tories win the next election. Cameron pledged to cut the budget for official government cars by a third in September.
A spokesman for the minister said: "Andrew has given up his allocated car since October. He now uses the green car taxi service on an ad hoc basis."

Interestingly, the spokesman was keen to make clear that his decision had nothing whatsoever to do with a green agenda.
"This fits in with his arrangements better," he said. "He hasn't made the decision based on environmental reasons."
Prior to giving up his car, the cost of Lord Adonis's department's four cars in 2008-09 increased from £272,700 to £289,800, a rise of £17,100 – the price of a Ford Mondeo saloon.
However, his sacrifice won't necessarily save his department any money. Chris Mullin, the Labour MP for Sunderland South, disclosed in his published diaries A View From The Foothills that dispensing with a government car could cost a department up to £704.75 a week in addition to £4,000 in a depreciation charge.
Mullin memorably recounted that Charles Clarke, the former Home Secretary, was also unwilling to use a car as a junior minister. He was only able to rid himself of his unwanted vehicle by claiming that he needed to walk for health reasons.

Gordon Brown the eco-warrior might swing the green vote his way

The Copenhagen summit is not only important for the planet - it could also shape politics at home, says Mary Riddell.

Mary Riddell Published: 7:33PM GMT 30 Nov 2009

Death by motorcade is a hazard for hangers-on at diplomatic circuses. Stuck on a New York pavement some weeks ago, I watched a delegation hurtle past on its way to the UN climate change summit. While Barack Obama's convoy stretches the length of a Manhattan block, this modest retinue comprised only five vehicles and inspired a sigh of what sounded like sympathy from the foreign negotiator standing next to me. "Sierra Leone," he said pityingly.
Some travel even less lavishly at such events. Ed Miliband, Britain's Climate Change Secretary, mostly goes on foot. But New York's limo-loving leaders seemed to symbolise the summit's gridlocked agenda: few revealed what, if anything, they might bring to the Copenhagen conference. Rarely, it sometimes seemed, had so much hot air and carbon been emitted to so little end.

This weekend the motorcades move into Copenhagen for the summit that may determine the future of mankind. Although no one is certain, or even optimistic, that a deal can be done, few governments are driving the agenda more forcefully than the British.
While the ebbs and flows of Gordon Brown's premiership have been marked by floods (Gloucester in 2007 and now Cumbria), the broader politics of weather once appeared to pass him by. His conversion to climate change evangelist came when he first read Lord Stern's report and realised that the thesis married his two favourite subjects: planetary salvation and economic revival. Since then he has spread the message that the market could help curb global warming and propel Britain out of recession on a wave of green jobs and eco-technology.
Not since the emergence of Swampy, the Newbury bypass tunneller, has Britain produced a doughtier eco-warrior than Mr Brown. His garden boasts a wormery and compost bins, his computer is never left on stand-by, and No 10's feuds and furores are illuminated by low-energy light bulbs.
It is, however, on the international stage that Mr Brown is most effective. In the "climate emergency", he has discovered another epochal event, like the recession, that plays to his penchant for car-wreck politics. The PM is a catastrophile in the sense that he is suited, by temperament and intellect, to tackling global disaster.
The £13.3 billion fund he unveiled at the Commonwealth meeting will channel money from rich countries to poorer ones (Britain will donate £800 million) and so give immediate aid to nations hit by hurricanes and drought. Besides launching this vital plan, Mr Brown is said by allies to have quashed the "silly numbers" advanced by some countries who wanted help equating to 1 per cent of GDP, on top of 0.7 per cent in development aid.
Mr Brown was also the first leader to say he would go to Copenhagen. More than 80 heads of government and state have since followed suit, including Mr Obama. Although the President will arrive too early and offer too little, both his presence and the US offer to cut carbon emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 are deemed a passable start from a man placed in "an impossible situation" by foot-dragging compatriots.
The offer from China, the other key player, attracts no such guarded optimism. A pledge to decrease carbon intensity by 45 per cent by 2020 (an effective emissions increase) has been met with public politeness and private alarm. The numbers, one expert says, are "frankly disappointing". If Beijing does not up its game, then Copenhagen could end in disaster.
With no hope of a legally binding treaty, optimists still hope for a deal halting global warming at two degrees, put into force immediately (unlike Kyoto, which took eight years) and ratified in law in 2010.
It is hard to gauge how much all this preoccupies Mr Brown's top team. Though the Cabinet includes some ardent recyclers and composters, a widespread view is: leave it to Ed. It is true that Mr Miliband is displaying a skill and fluency that attracts admiration bordering on reverence at No 10. While not every senior minister is as enthusiastic ("Wind farms are b------", one heretic told me last week), David Cameron cannot be accused of lack of interest.
Once the Tories' ethical man, towed by huskies across ice floes and planning a wind turbine on his roof, his espousal of blue-green politics put his party above Labour as the voters' eco-choice. Mr Cameron's greenery subsequently wilted so fast that he and George Osborne barely mentioned the environment in their conference speeches. These omissions were hastily rectified last week.
Mr Cameron declared his "passionate" commitment to Copenhagen amid a plethora of initiatives, including Mr Osborne's plan for a "green recovery" and paying people to recycle. The shadow chancellor's charge that the Treasury has been "indifferent" or "obstructive" was greeted with derision by Alistair Darling, who – as anyone who listened to his Budget speech and G20 messages could affirm – has plugged green issues to the point of narcolepsy.
Promises of green ISAs and an investment bank, however shakily financed, are a mark of the Tories' desire to recapture an agenda sidelined by Mr Cameron, many of whose supporters balk at wind turbines on their doorsteps (or anyone else's) and won't wear high-speed rail links carved through Middle English pastures.
Neither party has yet struck a populist chord. Stories of the tax status of Zac Goldsmith, Mr Cameron's land-owning organic guru, remind voters that peasant farming is more fun for non-doms than for peasants, while government backing of a report urging cow-free diets suggests a Marie Antoinette-style edict: let them eat tofu. Meanwhile, the less said about Heathrow expansion the better.
However clumsy their overtures, both parties know the eco-vote is vital. In Brighton and Norwich, Labour could yet be unseated by the Green Party, but the real election game-changers will be the semi-greens: the vast constituency who fear for their children's and their grandchildren's future. Unlike the American Right, they do not think climate change is less credible than the tooth fairy. Unlike Lord Lawson, they do not consider agnosticism a prudent stance when scientists (of whom he is not one) have produced overwhelming evidence of looming catastrophe. Unlike sceptics seeking diversionary tactics, they don't think emails disgracefully suggestive of faked statistics at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit should divert attention from Copenhagen.
In key marginals, the semi-greens may vote for the mainstream party with the best environment policy. On current indicators, that will not be Mr Cameron, who is losing the support of the powerful NGOs once persuaded by his green agenda and now swinging back to Mr Brown.
A general election is inconsequential compared to what's at stake in Copenhagen. Nor may Mr Brown's impressive away performance compensate for the weaknesses in his home game. Even so, Denmark will shape political as well as planetary destinies. Mr Cameron is right to be afraid.