Thursday, 15 April 2010

Volcanic ash 'could take 36 hours to cross UK'

Press Association
Thursday, 15 April 2010
Volcanic ash from the eruption in Iceland could take between 24 and 36 hours to drift across the UK - if there is no more volcanic activity, weather forecasters said today.
The ash could also affect Scandinavian countries as well as, eventually, France and southern Europe, forecasters added.

The UK is going to be affected as the winds currently are from the north, switching to north westerly.
Brendan Jones, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather arm of the Press Association, said: "At present the Icelandic eruption is not a big one, although we have to wait to see if there are further eruptions.
"The ash that will come over the UK will not be a huge plume but will be diffused and will feature small ash particles."
He went on: "It will be difficult to detect and the only visible sign could be lurid sunsets that often are a feature after an eruption.
"Ash particles from eruptions can spread widely which is why Sweden and Norway could get ash. The ash at present is moving south east from Iceland and will probably be clear of the UK within 24 to 36 hours as long as there are no further disruptions."
The concern is that the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, which has sent the cloud of ash into the sky, is the first in nearly 200 years and geophysicists fear it could trigger a much larger explosion of nearby Mount Katla.
Katla is described as "enormously powerful" and because it lies under a glacier its eruption would cause a huge glacial outburst flood and could spread its shadow over a much larger area.
Over the years, volcanic eruptions have had a huge effect on the weather.
The moon "turned blue" after the massive 1883 eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia, a blast so enormous it was heard over one thirteenth of the globe.
In 1815 a huge eruption on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa caused freak weather conditions throughout the world.
Mount Tambora spewed out massive amounts of sulphur dioxide which combined with water vapour to form a sulphuric acid mist that reflected sunlight away from the earth.
OctopusMT.generateThumbnail('c9a3f2cc-594d-4355-b587-71fb4a4e8443', 'UK airports have been severely disrupted by an ash cloud from Iceland.', 300, '1f18ba48-98bd-48c1-b14a-9a08dff37add');
Video: Ash cloud closes airports
That caused such a drop in temperatures that 1816 became known as "the year with no summer".
Crops failed due to low daytime temperatures, late frosts and abnormally high rainfall, provoking food riots, famine and disease.
In Ireland rain fell on 142 days that summer and across France the grape harvest was virtually non-existent.
In North America there was snow in June and lakes and rivers froze as far south as Pennsylvania during July and August.
It followed a smaller eruption in Iceland just over 30 years earlier that caused a thick fog of gas virtually wiping out the summer of 1783 across much of Europe and North America.
American statesman and amateur meteorologist Benjamin Franklin wrote of a "constant fog" over Europe and North America that year.

Sun's magnetic field may have caused freezing winter

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Thursday, 15 April 2010
It was the coldest winter in England since 1963 – the coldest in Scotland since 1914 – and weeks of ice, snow and sub-zero temperatures from last December to March defied predictions by climate-change scientists of milder, wetter winters. So what happened?
One theory suggests that last winter's cold temperatures were part of a pattern that is set to continue because of a complex interaction between the Sun's magnetic field and the high-altitude jet stream which dominates Britain's weather system. The jet stream normally brings mild, damp westerly winds over Britain during winter but this year it went into "blocking" mode, sweeping back on itself and allowing a bitterly cold north-east wind to blow over the country, bringing ice and snow with it.
Scientists have found a link between blocking changes to the jet stream that result in colder winters and variations in the "activity" of the Sun, as measured by alterations in its magnetic field. This could mean that the UK can expect more cold winters than usual in the coming decade, despite global warming.
The researchers behind the controversial idea emphasised that their findings do not contradict the scientific consensus on man-made climate change. They said that global warming is still set to dominate the world's climate, but that the relatively small region of Britain and north-west Europe could nevertheless be in line for more frequent, colder-than-expected winters, just like the last one.
"The winter we've just had fits the trend very nicely and it was actually last winter that made us look into this," said Professor Mike Lockwood, a solar physicist at the University of Reading and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, Oxfordshire, who led the study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
"We have found an association between variations in solar activity and changes in the temperature records of central England over the past few decades. This year's winter in the UK has been the 14th coldest in the last 160 years and yet the global average temperature for the same period has been the fifth highest. We have discovered that this kind of anomaly is significantly more common when solar activity is low."
The Sun has a roughly 11-year cycle and at its height the solar magnetic field is active and sunspots appear on the Sun's surface. But over recent years the Sun has entered an unusually dormant phase, with few sunspots and very low magnetic activity. Professor Lockwood said one effect of this low activity was that the normally high ultraviolet light from the Sun was lower than usual. This means there is less heating of the upper stratosphere over the equator, where ultraviolet light causes the creation of ozone. This has a knock-on effect on the jet stream.
It means the normal inhibition on the formation of a blocking system is lifted and the jet stream is likely to curl back on itself over Britain, bringing colder winds from the north-east to replace the damp, mild maritime air that normally comes from the south-west.

Beyond green growth: why we need a world without economic growth

Beyond concepts of green growth or sustainable growth there is also that of 'no growth'. Christopher Doll for OurWorld 2.0, part of the Guardian Environment Network
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 April 2010 10.45 BST

Last March, Tim Jackson put forward the idea of prosperity without growth in a report published by the United Kingdom's Sustainable Development Commission and followed up with a book of the same name released last November. The book is a best seller (ranked 1,729 on Amazon) and in it he argues convincingly that we can still prosper without adhering to the encoded mantra of expansion and growth that permeates modern market economies.
More recently, in January 2010, Andrew Simms and Victoria Johnson at the new economics foundation (nef) published a more emphatic message in their report entitled Growth isn't possible. They argue that we should abandon the notion of growth altogether. The premise is that we need a new economic model "that allows the human population as a whole to thrive without having to rely on ultimately impossible endless increases in consumption".
In influential forums — like the G8 or G20, for instance — while it is acceptable and even desirable to use the word 'sustainability' in communiqu├ęs, it is most certainly taboo to equate 'no economic growth' to a social good. However, such heresy nonetheless finds traction (if only in book sales), even when our world is suffering from the ills of economic recession.
When addressing our environmental ills, the closest we ever seem to get is 'decoupling'. This idea has been around for decades and essentially suggests that we can break the links between economic growth and nasty side effects like pollution (e.g., carbon dioxide). Decoupling is done by producing things more efficiently — using less (and preferably renewable) energy, or using technology to capture the pollution. However, Jackson says that this relative decoupling is only possible to a certain level. He believes absolute decoupling is a myth — simply the acceptable face of sustainability that leaves our complex social and economic systems unchanged.
Stuff, stuff, and more stuffGenerally, we humans don't really like complexity or understanding how things work too much. For many of us, it is a bit of a shock to be confronted by some of the realities. You can find a good illustration of this in The Story of Stuff, which does a nice (albeit heavily politicised) job of illustrating the linkages within the modern economy: from where we get our resources, to their production, consumption and disposal.
You either love or truly hate this story. Some of the more inquisitive may want to look more deeply into "stuff", but I suspect many will convulsively reject it as heresy. After all, growth is good and without wealth there is no progress and what you don't know, doesn't hurt you.
At the same time, there are several important and accepted norms that dictate how the economy works and the role that consumption plays. For example, companies' first obligations are to shareholders, governments plan their spending based on the assumption of growth, and investors expect interest on their monies lent. Our role as consumers is to fuel that growth (preferably borrowing money in the process).
It is therefore entirely understandable that governments, businesses and consumers have little choice but to be obedient followers of the Growth God: otherwise uncertainty would prevail, revenues would fall and social stability would be threatened.
At a personal level, all this talk of growth focuses on the consumer cycle. Most of us like new things and the feeling of satisfaction (sometimes fleeting) that these things provide. And a large part of our modern society is optimized to meet these consumption habits with ever more innovative products delivered with ever increasing efficiency, even to the point of not having to leave the comfort of your home.
Ironically, it is this increasing efficiency — coupled with advancing technology and connected trade systems — that often breaks the link between the consumer and the consequences of their manufactured goods and results in social vulnerability when growth slows. Individually, we are often unwittingly runners on this treadmill.
Fortunately, it is the buzz of this consumer exercise that helps us deal with the stress it creates. Governments are hopelessly addicted and try frantically to get us back on the treadmill like the overbearing trainer whose job is on the line if you don't perform. Far from this latest financial and economic crisis being a time of reflection, the main priority is to get growing again.
Yet, as American author Edward Abbey once wrote, "growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell". Reforming an economic system that mandates growth on a finite planet requires drastic changes in how we do business. Therefore, in order to avoid the pain of environmental chemotherapy, many are developing alternative therapies.
Better, not biggerThe notion that our progress (and happiness) equates to our consumption became very strongly embedded in economic policy not least because we can measure consumption, and although we know it's imperfect at some level, it works. There is however, a whole array of proposals aimed at redressing this.
For example, the Redefining Progress approach is based on broadening our conception of affluence beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the Genuine Progress Indicator. The 'capability approach', articulated by India's Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen and others, has provided the basis for the Human Development Index and mainstream acceptance of wider measures of welfare.
Some are advocating economic changes that address the key problems affecting the world's resources and climate systems. Jackson, believes, as many have long warned, that we must recognise that exponential growth interacts with resources so that we may begin to adjust our economic activity in the face of scarcity and constraint. (This notion seems to be experiencing a revival, see our recent Survivalism back in vogue).
"Prosperity consists in our ability to flourish as human beings — within the ecological limits of a finite planet," states Jackson in the report. "The challenge for our society is to create the conditions under which this is possible. It is the most urgent task of our times."
So, beyond concepts of green growth or sustainable growth there is also that of 'no growth'. The latter is distinguished by the fact that it does not equate 'development' with economic expansion. The so-called steady state economy would look very different than our current system. We may share jobs, which would mean less income but, if we must still believe that time is money, increasing our time capital would afford us the luxury of doing the things that money can't, or would no longer be needed to, buy.
The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy has summarised a number of policies from leading thinkers in this area.
Changing attitudesHow does such a thing happen? Will everyone come on board? The reality is that changing any system is always hard because we are not rewarded for doing things differently or because we receive perverse incentives not to change (i.e., fossil fuels still heavily subsidized).
Some of the ideas laid out in the above-mentioned publications may initially sound awfully undesirable. But are they really? Or is it just because they don't fit with how we currently define prosperity?
"As long as you are using that word 'consumer', you will be degrading the quality of the public discussion as we go into the very difficult future that we face." — James Howard Kunstler
The tricky part is getting individuals to think about changing. The provocative author and new urbanist James Howard Kunstler puts it simply: people need to stop thinking of themselves as consumers. He argues that consumers do not have obligations, responsibilities or duties to their fellow human beings.
"As long as you are using that word 'consumer', you will be degrading the quality of the public discussion as we go into the very difficult future that we face."
So while today we cannot deny that we are part of a mass consumer culture, it is a culture that to which we should begin waving goodbye. Perhaps luckily, mass consumerism is still a relatively new phenomenon; it is essentially a leftover of post-war excess productive capacity allied to ingenious marketing that plays a crucial role in stimulating various desires and dissatisfactions and keeps the consumer ball rolling. The culture-jamming magazine Adbusters considers advertising to be akin to intellectual pollution and aims to reform current perceptions of advertising in modern society, often using subversive counter advertisements.
Maybe what we really need is more space and time to reflect on these issues. Interestingly, Clay Shirky coined the term cognitive surplus to describe the little free time that our structured working lives allow. He explains how this time is currently filled largely by watching television (and shopping). Some of his figures are astounding: 200 billion hours of TV are watched in the US each year and 100 million hours/weekend are spent just watching adverts.
This vast cognigitve surplus could be better employed, he argues, by using our time creatively rather than consumptively. The creative awakening enabled by the internet is transforming some of us from consumers to producers and sharers of music, video, knowledge and so on.
It is early days, and we still don't fully comprehend the way the internet is altering our social and economic norms and it will certainly be employed on both sides of the consumption debate.
But, if we can change the way we use media, then why not also the way we consume material things?

Waitrose shelves eco-friendly milk containers

Supermarket chain withdraws 'eco-friendly' milk pouch and jug after poor sales led to high wastage


Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 April 2010 16.06 BST
The supermarket chain Waitrose has withdrawn an "eco-friendly" milk pouch and jug from all its stores after poor sales of the supposedly revolutionary product led to high wastage.
The retailer has phased out the pouches, claiming that initial strong sales had tailed off because shoppers preferred the convenience of conventional plastic bottles - even though they are marginally more expensive. A Waitrose spokeswoman said: "It was a hard decision to take, but we believe it's totally unacceptable for food to be wasted in this way. Instead we will continue our work to minimise packaging in other ways."
The new product was hailed as likely to revolutionise the sale of milk as a pouch typically contains 75% less plastic than the bottles in which at least two-thirds of the 180 million pints of milk consumed by Britons every week is sold. Less energy is used in making them and they take up far less space when disposed of. But many consumers have found them difficult to use, reporting leaks and spills.
Bottles have been the preferred milk container in Britain since 1880 when they were introduced - originally in glass - by the Express Dairy Company. Glass and later plastic bottles have been dominant ever since, only losing some market share in the 1970s to Tetra Pak cardboard containers. However, bagged milk has been much more successful in other countries, with the jug and pouch (designed to fit neatly in a fridge door) the overwhelming choice for shoppers in Canada.
Waitrose launched the new product after initial trials three years ago showed strong demand. Despite the idea failing to take off in the 1970s, the supermarket chain had hoped that the milk pouches would prove more of a hit now with today's more environmentally conscious consumers. It declined to reveal sales figures for the product.
Waitrose's experience is in contrast to that of Sainsbury's, which last month rolled out its milk bags nationwide following a successful trial in 50 stores. It said sales of the bags have climbed to around 110,000 per week and now account for one in every 10 two-pint containers of semi-skimmed sold, twice as many as the supermarket originally predicted.
The bags have been introduced as part of Sainsbury's drive to reduce packaging by one-third by 2015, the company said. Switching to bags could save up to 1.4m kg of packaging every year, as well as reducing the oil and energy required to make conventional milk packaging. Tesco, Marks & Spencer and the Co-op do not pouch milk.
Emma Metcalf-King, Sainsbury's senior dairy buyer, said educating consumers had been key to success: "Sales have far exceeded our expectations. Before launch, we gave free jugs to our store colleagues to make sure they understood how to use them. As a result, our colleagues have proven to be the best ambassadors for the product, as they are able to explain it to customers using their own personal experience."

Big coal gets frosty reception at Congress climate hearing

Hearing reveals continuing differences between the coal industry and federal attempts to tackle climate change
The big three of American coal were called on to the carpet by Congress today - nine days after one of the deadliest mine accidents in history - for trying to block climate change legislation.
Big coal is leading the campaign to defeat a climate and energy bill in Congress and to block the Obama administration from using its regulatory powers in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to put curbs on emissions.
Ed Markey, the coal companies' host today, co-wrote the climate and energy bill they are trying to destroy.
So the welcome from the chair of the house select committee on energy and global warming to the chief executives of Peabody Energy Corporation, Arch Coal Inc, Rio Tinto and the Ohio Coal Association, was a tad - shall we say - frosty.
Today's hearing was also momentarily disrupted by protesters in surgical masks who dumped handfuls of coal on the table in front of the execs.
Here's Markey in his opening remarks: "I ask you that you cease efforts to deny the science of global warming and stop spending millions of dollars misleading the public on the true science behind climate change."
And here's Michael Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association, in his: "The role for coal in the new energy age is greatly hampered by the regulatory assault waged by the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency and in particular the 'war on coal'."
That earned Carey a sharp reprimand from Democrat Jay Inslee of Washington, who noted that the house version of the climate and energy bill offered $60bn to the coal industry for the development and deployment of clean coal technology. "We don't give $60bn to people we are at war with. We aren't giving $60bn to al-Qaida," he said.
Today's hearing also comes barely a week after 29 miners were killed in a West Virginia mine operated by Massey Energy Corp - America's fourth-largest coal company.
Of America's coal barons Massey's CEO, Don Blankenship, is the brashest and least apologetic when it comes to environmental concerns. In public appearances and on his Twitter feeds, he has denounced global warming as a hoax and lambasted government safety regulations for mines. The company has been cited tens of thousands of times for environmental and safety violations by government inspectors. It has paid more than $7.6m in fines for breaching safety regulations.
The executives were whether they agreed with Blankenship that climate change is a hoax. Peabody, Arch and the Ohio Association have all joined lawsuits challenging the EPA's authority to regulate emissions.
Carey, in his opening remarks, repeated that position, saying: "We believe that the science undermining the EPA finding is questionable." The three other executives on the stand all claimed to believe in the science, just not the need for regulation.
However, Peabody's Gregory Boyce also said there needed to be an independent review of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) and other science. "We think the EPA should take a step back and do more work."
Aside from Rio Tinto, the executives were also opposed to the idea of putting mandatory curbs on emissions rather than leaving it to technology to find a cleaner way to burn coal.
So is there a chance for reconciliation? Markey, in his closing remarks, said dealing with climate change did not need to be an adversarial process. But he also made it clear he thought coal industry in America was dying - with or without the prospect of climate change regulation.
No new coal plants were built last year. America's use of coal slid from 49% to 44%. Prices, meanwhile, have risen by 60% in the last five years. "We do believe there is an inexorable decline. We see it year after year," he told the executives.
That may be, but big coal is not giving in yet.

Big coal gets frosty reception at Congress climate hearing

Hearing reveals continuing differences between the coal industry and federal attempts to tackle climate change
The big three of American coal were called on to the carpet by Congress today - nine days after one of the deadliest mine accidents in history - for trying to block climate change legislation.
Big coal is leading the campaign to defeat a climate and energy bill in Congress and to block the Obama administration from using its regulatory powers in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to put curbs on emissions.
Ed Markey, the coal companies' host today, co-wrote the climate and energy bill they are trying to destroy.
So the welcome from the chair of the house select committee on energy and global warming to the chief executives of Peabody Energy Corporation, Arch Coal Inc, Rio Tinto and the Ohio Coal Association, was a tad - shall we say - frosty.
Today's hearing was also momentarily disrupted by protesters in surgical masks who dumped handfuls of coal on the table in front of the execs.
Here's Markey in his opening remarks: "I ask you that you cease efforts to deny the science of global warming and stop spending millions of dollars misleading the public on the true science behind climate change."
And here's Michael Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association, in his: "The role for coal in the new energy age is greatly hampered by the regulatory assault waged by the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency and in particular the 'war on coal'."
That earned Carey a sharp reprimand from Democrat Jay Inslee of Washington, who noted that the house version of the climate and energy bill offered $60bn to the coal industry for the development and deployment of clean coal technology. "We don't give $60bn to people we are at war with. We aren't giving $60bn to al-Qaida," he said.
Today's hearing also comes barely a week after 29 miners were killed in a West Virginia mine operated by Massey Energy Corp - America's fourth-largest coal company.
Of America's coal barons Massey's CEO, Don Blankenship, is the brashest and least apologetic when it comes to environmental concerns. In public appearances and on his Twitter feeds, he has denounced global warming as a hoax and lambasted government safety regulations for mines. The company has been cited tens of thousands of times for environmental and safety violations by government inspectors. It has paid more than $7.6m in fines for breaching safety regulations.
The executives were whether they agreed with Blankenship that climate change is a hoax. Peabody, Arch and the Ohio Association have all joined lawsuits challenging the EPA's authority to regulate emissions.
Carey, in his opening remarks, repeated that position, saying: "We believe that the science undermining the EPA finding is questionable." The three other executives on the stand all claimed to believe in the science, just not the need for regulation.
However, Peabody's Gregory Boyce also said there needed to be an independent review of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) and other science. "We think the EPA should take a step back and do more work."
Aside from Rio Tinto, the executives were also opposed to the idea of putting mandatory curbs on emissions rather than leaving it to technology to find a cleaner way to burn coal.
So is there a chance for reconciliation? Markey, in his closing remarks, said dealing with climate change did not need to be an adversarial process. But he also made it clear he thought coal industry in America was dying - with or without the prospect of climate change regulation.
No new coal plants were built last year. America's use of coal slid from 49% to 44%. Prices, meanwhile, have risen by 60% in the last five years. "We do believe there is an inexorable decline. We see it year after year," he told the executives.
That may be, but big coal is not giving in yet.

How Labour, Tory and Lib Dem green policies measure up

All the major parties have included the environment in their election manifestos. But can they win votes with their green ideas?•
Juliette Jowit
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 April 2010 11.29 BST
Labour listed environment in chapter eight of 10, entitled A Green Recovery. For Conservatives it ranked fourth out of five sections, under the - somheadline Protect the Environment. Liberal Democrats put environment on the cover, then eschewed a separate section in favour of green proposals in every policy area, even defence.
VisionLabour: "Our vision is of a society where economic prosperity and quality of life come not from exploiting the natural world but from its defence."
Conservatives: "We have a vision of a greener Britain... This is a country which has become the world's first low carbon economy."
Liberal Democrats: "We must hand on to our children a planet worth living on. That requires action across government."
Regulation
Labour said "only active government can shape markets to prioritise green growth and job creation"; it cannot be left to individuals and businesses "alone". Conservatives appeared to say the opposite: "Instead of using rules and regulations to impose a centralised worldview, we will go with the grain of human nature, creating new incentives and market signals which reward people for doing the right thing." Liberal Democrats promise a general rule of "one in, one out" for new regulations. In reality all three parties offer a mix of regulations and incentives.
TargetsNo party disagrees with existing commitments to cut emissions 20% by 2020, and 80% by 2050, or the current target of generating 30% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Given another term as the majority party, Labour says it would press for a higher cut of 30% by 2020 across the EU as part of a global deal. Tories are silent on this. Lib Dems suggest the EU should adopt the higher 30% target anyway. Lib Dems also pledge zero emissions from electricity by 2050.
Climate & energyLabour and Conservatives offer a mix of renewables, new nuclear and "clean coal" using carbon capture and storage - how clean is not specified - alongside more local energy generation, incentives for home efficiency, and "smart grids" to manage demand. Lib Dems say coal plants must capture high levels of emissions .
There is agreement on a green investment bank, though critics called for all parties to pledge more funds to it, such as income from selling carbon trading allowances.
HomesLabour are building 10,000 new homes in rural areas; Lib Dems want to restore 250,000 empty homes, and toughen new building reguations.
To make homes more energy efficient, Lib Dems are offering a £400 cashback for improvements in their first year in power. All three major parties offer loan schemes to be paid back from energy savings on bills, and support the feed in tarrif to pay home owners for renewable energy they export to the grid, something Lib Dems offer to increase.
TransportLabour alone is adamant it will expand Heathrow airport; the others promise to reverse the decision. Lib Dems also pledge higher air taxes from planes instead of passengers, and a national road pricing scheme, offset by axing vehicle excise duty. All three parties offer high speed rail.
ConservationBoth Labour and Conservatives offer more protected areas, and in particular to create "wildlife corridors" along which species can move as they adapt to climate change. Lib Dems offer a new protection status for locally important areas, and to double woodland. Conservatives also propose "conservation credits" whereby any loss of biodiversity is compensated by improvements elsewhere.
GMConservatives will let GM crops go ahead when they are "safe for people and the environment". The manifestos of the other two main parties don't mention GM - indeed all three are woefully silent on food policy - but a Labour spokesman told Farmers Weekly that the party also supports GM when it's judged safe, and the Lib Dems dodge the issue by asking for another debate.
WasteLabour and Conservatives talk of "Zero waste Britain", Liberal Democrats want to set it as a target. Labour are most radical in proposing to ban most of what goes to landfill in future, Conservatives want councils to encourage people to recycle by paying them, Lib Dems are more vague about how they would succeed in their ambition for "more recycling, and a huge increase in anaerobic digestion to generate energy". None of the three publically advocates incineration.
And the restLabour: landfill bans; continued ban on fox hunting; a review of land use, to balance demands for more food, wildlife protection and development.
Conservatives: a floor under the carbon price; annual energy statement to parliament; reform of energy regulator, Ofgem.
Lib Dems: make all public buildings energy efficient, starting with schools; tax on financial transations and aviation and shipping emissions to help poorer countries mitigate and adapt to climate change; better protect gardens by declaring them greenfield sites.
What Guardian readers think
"Climate is simply not an issue that voters in this election care about and for that reason it does not figure, to any degree, in the policies and in the manifestos of the major parties" - daveyboy103 on Labour
"Anyone suggesting that the economy should come before our children's future needs to read The Ecology of Commerce" - Grumps on the Conservatives
"Expensive energy will make UK companies uncompetitive and the country poorer: and that includes public services. The only realistic solution is nuclear power. I don't like it but that is just how it is"
bill9651 on the Liberal Demcocrats

Why I won't be voting Green

Green voters support a party that places the environment low in its priorities, and whose political agenda is part of the problem• Response from Green Party candidate Chris Goodall

Myles Allen
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 April 2010 11.32 BST

I write as a voter not as a scientist, but as I work on climate change and you might feel inclined to vote Green to voice your concern about the issue, you might like to know why I won't. This is not about tactical voting, nor any lurid revelations about climate conspiracies or Green party funding. It's about their climate policy record.
This may seem harsh, given that the Green Party doesn't mention climate change in the policies highlighted on their website, while the environment is consigned to page 33 of the manifesto the party launched today. It is a measure of how toxic the issue has become, after Copenhagen and the hacked email row that not even the Greens want to draw attention to it. Plus how can anyone object to the policy record of a party that has only recently achieved power beyond allotment associations?
That cliche only works in Britain. The Greens have been a force to be reckoned with in European politics for years. In the run-up to Copenhagen last December, Europe's leadership spoke from a script largely written by Europe's Greens: wholehearted support for a legally binding system of internationally negotiated emission quotas based on the principles of "fairness" and "common but differentiated responsibilities".
If Kyoto/Copenhagen had worked as intended, it would have established the principle that a valuable global resource should be allocated according to formulae devised by technocrats in obscure late-night negotiations, not according to who is prepared to pay for it. This was the reason the Chinese vetoed it, despite the fact that they stood to gain very substantially in the short term.
All the major British political parties, when they mention climate change, focus on the 2% of global emissions produced by Britain. Their policies for the other 98% seem to amount to nothing more than "showing leadership" and a vague commitment to keep up the good work on the Kyoto/Copenhagen process.
British climate foreign policy could matter. We have been one of the main cheerleaders for binding emission quotas ever since John Prescott negotiated the original deal in Kyoto in 1997. If the new energy and climate change secretary were to announce on 7 May that Britain was joining America and China in a fundamental re-think – addressing the problem at the point fossil carbon comes out of the ground, for example, rather than the futile task of chasing down emissions – the results could be dramatic. Such "upstream" measures would make fossil energy more expensive for everyone, making it much harder to use climate policy as a tool for wealth redistribution or an excuse for an international pork-fest. Europe's Greens would, of course, be incandescent, but their favoured approach is going nowhere: witness the failure of the Emission Trading System to actually reduce emissions, and the humiliation of Europe's leaders excluded from the final negotiations of the Copenhagen accord.
The Greens are no better on domestic climate policy. Their manifesto revels in the opportunity of using decarbonisation as a tool for social change, redesigning our cities, houses and transport systems to suit their vision of a socially inclusive future. Solutions that would not require fundamental changes in how we live and run large chunks of the economy, such as carbon capture or the nuclear option, are either ignored or ruled out.
I have no doubt that avoiding dangerous climate change will be a major factor shaping society over the coming century, along with dealing with global pandemics and containing the likes of Osama bin Laden. But we should fix the problem of climate change, which will make certain forms of energy much more expensive, and let our children decide how they wish to live their lives. I don't trust any party that sees climate change as an opportunity to push a largely unrelated social and political agenda.
The irony is that, in Chris Goodall, I have an excellent Green candidate for MP. As a thoughtful, humane and approachable intellectual, genuinely committed to the environment, he belongs in the Cabinet, not on the Green party ticket. Of course, then he might have to make some real decisions.
The environment will not be a serious issue in this election. But for those that do care about it, this election is an opportunity for a serious debate about environmental policy. It is time to break the link, beloved of Europe's Greens, between environmental protection and progressive social policy. Insisting that we have to reform capitalism before we can save the planet is clearly a good idea if your priority is reforming capitalism, but a very bad idea if you want to persuade China to help save the planet.
I fear that many people will be voting Green because they want to send a message of concern about climate change. How many realise that they will be voting for a party that places the environment relatively low in its policy priorities, and whose political agenda has become part of the problem, not part of the solution? No one who really cares about the environment should consider voting for a party that is prepared to hold the planet hostage to its social justice agenda.