Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

This tiny protein could solve climate change forever

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018 | Science

Human-caused climate change, commonly called global warming, is perhaps the biggest threat facing our time. But some scientists believe they have a solution that could solve the problem forever. And the planet’s saviour could be one of the simplest building blocks of life.

It’s called a prion disease and it is fatal to humans in 100% of cases.

“When it comes down to it, we know what is causing climate change and we know how to stop it”, explained Professor Ben Roberts from the School of Climate Science at Castleford University. “We just need to kill all of the humans and the planet will be fine. And this protein could be the key.”

Members of the campaigning group Save Our Climate recently started a petition that has so far gathered 11,000 signatures, calling for the government to begin a mandatory introduction of the protein to the population.

At a press conference on Monday, former foreign secretary John Borison said he lamented the red tape currently imposed by the European Union that would prevent such actions, which technically count as genocide. “Once we’re free of those over-dressed health-and-safety-mad European twits, we’ll be free to introduce these proteins everywhere”, he told reporters.


Sunday, July 31st, 2016 | Books

SuperFreakonomics is a non-fiction book published in 2009. It is written by Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt as a follow-up to their 2005 book Freakonomics.

I had this book vaguely on the back-burner of things I wanted to read. However, while holidaying in Wales I found, to my surprise, a copy lying around in the cottage we had rented. So I sat down and had a read.

It is a short book, weighing in at just over 200 pages plus an extensive notes section. It is also a fun book. I read through it in about 24 hours. While enjoyable, I find it less enlightening or informing than their first book. I enjoy their writing style. There is a short rant about how people say things were better in the old days, even though on almost every metric things are better today. I often have this exact same rant.

The most interesting statistic they produce is arguably in the introduction. They discuss the risk of fatal accidents while driving drunk. It turns out that you are actually more likely to die if you walk home than if you drive. Walking home is dangerous: you might wander out into the road for example, or, if you’re in Leeds, into the river (sadly people frequently have).

It makes sense that drunk driving is illegal, because you are more likely to take an innocent victim with you, but actually it would be safer to let people drive home. Or, if you are the drunk trying to work out what method of transport to take, the best option would be to take a cab.

While the book is on the subject of vice, it next moves onto prostitution. Prostitution pays comparably well compared to many other professions but used to be far better paid. The problem: increased competition. These days, pre-martial sex is acceptable, and so you don’t need to pay a woman to have sex with you, you can just go dating instead.

They suggest this has implications for fighting drugs. If you go after the dealers, more will pop up, because the demand exists. Prostitution reduced because demand reduced, and so perhaps the way to deal with drug dealers is to go after the users and reduce the demand. This ignores the complexities of addiction but could be a good way to think about many other problems society faces.

They also discuss whether child car seats save lives. I blogged about this last month after watching Steve Levitt’s talk at TED.

While on children, they talk about how increased access to television correlates with criminal convictions later in life. This is something I am also reading about in The Village Effect, a book that stresses the importance of face-to-face communication over raising a child in front of the TV.

The book ends with a discussion on climate change. They note that food transport makes up only 11% of carbon emissions. Therefore, buying locally can actually be bad for the environment because large farms are typically more efficient. Rob Lyons talks about the same thing in Panic on a Plate: local farms might be closer, but in third world farms far more is done by hand, as opposed to carbon-polluting machinery.

I am less convinced about their solution to climate change though. They suggest that a technique called Budyko’s blanket could solve the problem. It would be nice if there was a simple solution that we had overlooked. However, a quick check on Wikipedia seems to rule this one out.


The Problem with Methane

Friday, April 29th, 2016 | Humanism


This month’s talk at West Yorkshire Humanists was John ‘Compost’ Cossham talking about “The Problem with Methane”.

John gave the same talk at Leeds Skeptics a year ago, and I came away with the same gloomy feeling this time, even though I knew what was coming. We are totally fucked. If we think we have fucked up the climate this far, wait until the feedback loops kick in. Climate change causes methane release, that causes more climate change.

John however, is much more upbeat. He is confident that we can change society, reduce our carbon footprint and continue boldly on as a species. He says the world can support all 7,000,000,000 of us, as long as we live in an ecological way. This was heartwarming because in the back of my mind I always wondered whether our population could actually be sustainable in the long term.

After the talk we held our usual social in The George, which was well attended also.

Summer on the Horizon published

Sunday, April 17th, 2016 | Books, News

I am pleased to announce that my first novel, Summer on the Horizon, is now available for buy.

I will be honest with you, it is not the finest literary work ever produced. It was written for NaNoWriMo and while the first half has been proof read by someone other than me, the second half has not. There are no mistakes in it though. It is set 400 years in the future. Anything that appears to be a spelling or grammar mistake, it actually just the evolution of the English language.

Here is the description:

Four hundred years in the future, humanity is struggling with the impact of climate change. The population has been forced to retreat into enclosed cities. As one newspaper aptly puts it, ‘humanity is domed’.

I have had the proofs sitting around since January. Then began the long process of editing. It is a lot easier to do when you have a physical copy you can scribble in.

The book is available from the following locations:


Climate hoax

Friday, May 16th, 2014 | Religion & Politics


Lovely cartoon by Joel Pett.

Climate change

Friday, April 1st, 2011 | Events, Humanism

For the March meeting of Leeds Skeptics in the Pub we welcomed Pauline Neale, who is a speaker for Oxfam, to talk about climate change. The talk was enjoyable though I think I should be made it clearer to Pauline before the event that we all accept climate change as I think she was initially expecting a far less friendly reception!

Thanks to Rob for the photos.

The sickening stench of a climate based religion

Monday, December 7th, 2009 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

I love the environment. I love the planet. I think we need to take action in order to prevent human caused climate change.

But like so many of the causes I support, I hate the people who also support it.

Of course, I don’t actually hate them. I just said that for dramatic effect. I suspect they hate me and I’ll come on to that later. It’s more that they irritate me. Much in the same way as religion they arrogant self righteous actually cause more harm than good and I feel a need to stand up against this.

So, I guess we should start at the beginning.

Global warming, human caused climate change is happening. I should say it’s almost certainly happening to be more accurate, there is always that .1% chance it isn’t, but to the best of our knowledge it is happening, it is having an adverse affect on the planet we’re living on and as we are planning to continue to live her for quite a while we should really do something about it.

But the current climate change movement isn’t helping matters. Indeed they’ve become so dug in to their beliefs that it has almost become a religion. Indeed, it has become a religion – earlier this year a belief in climate change was held up to be in need of the same protection as those afforded to religious beliefs. Of course the fact that these beliefs need such protection is the giveaway.

Much like religious stories, the ideas of the climate change movement are just so crazy and far out there it’s almost “too unbelievable to make up.” Take a minute to consider them. The planet, the whole planet, and the very future of the entire human race is at stake. It’a future rests on you. You can save it – if only you would switch off that light bulb that draws only a 1/200th of the power your kettle draws in that room you are not using.

But it’s gets far, far worse. From this very dubious idea we have an entire world view building up around it which mirrors religion – and in particular Catholicism far closer than anything ever should to the point where you would expect a scandal a decade down the line involving small children and sexual acts which should never have taken place.

It’s the concept of original sin. The idea that you’re born into the bonds of inequity as St Paul put it. That you have some kind of penance to pay to a greater body which you will always be trapped in.

Think about it. You’re a new born baby brought into the world. Into a hospital surrounded by bright lights, of intensive electrical equipment in a city so full of light pollution you can’t even see the stars. You’re already a sinner – using up energy! Do you need that incubuator? Won’t a blanket do?

We live our lives every day using up power, turning lights on, running our computers and it’s all just climate change sin. You can’t escape it – you can’t not use electricity. Or gass. Or paper which is still bad even though it’s a renewal energy source. You’re sinning every minute of every day of your life.

You might think you lead a good life. You’re trying your best – you turn lights off in rooms you’re not using, you turn your TV off rather than putting it on stand by. But honestly, have you recycled everything? Have you scraped the cheese off that pizza box so you could recycle the cardboard? Have you turned the computer off the minute you finished using it? Left a charger plugged even after your phone was fully charged? Have you even just thought about it in your head?

Of course you have. So I have I. Right now I’m running my laptop and my desktop and only using my desktop because I’m going to use my laptop again soon. I also have a light on in my kitchen so I can see where I am going when I go in there to take my dinner out of the oven. And where, where is the global warming jesus character to take this climate sin away from us?

We need to pay penance for our sin, sin which we generate every day by just trying to live our lives because quite frankly the modern world just isn’t stressful enough.

For the love of the god I do not believe in, it’s 2009, the UK is a 1st world country, we shouldn’t be in this situation.

I was at a York Brights meeting last month and there was a discussion going about the real way in which people could control their footprint – by not having another child.

And they’re right. Having a child has a huge environmental impact. Every new human does. It’s probably the number one thing we could do to stem climate change, just stop having kids.

Of course, this is just stupid. I don’t even need to make a reductio ad absurdum argument, because we’re already here. We shouldn’t have to prevent ourselves from having children if we want them, we should be able to leave our computers on all day if we want to, we should be able to light our homes without feeling guilty about it.

What we need of course, is a serious approach to climate change.

Stemming climate change isn’t going to come from stumbling around in the dark or using paper bags even though the productuion methods use almost as much natural resources as just making plastic ones.

It’s going to come from technology and innovation. From human creatively, from pushing back the boundaries of science and engineering, from creating new ways to generate the energy our society needs which don’t damage the world around us. Remember all that stuff? Or are we so dead inside that we have forgotten we are the same people that put man on the moon, split the atom or transformed Planet Earth with civilizations and cultures more advanced than anything we know of?

But it’s blasphemy to say this. It probably offends people’s beliefs for me to express these opinions. Like the religious fundamentalist the idea that I might take a position based on reason and evidence rather than their carefully constructed dogma threatens their fragile world view which can so easily be blown away by the winds of logic.

Well it’s about time people stood up and called them on it. There are ways we can solve these problems – amazing ways. Look at nuclear fusion (not to be confused of course with nuclear technology at the moment which operates on nuclear fission). Here we have the potential to unlock virtually limitless supplies of energy without harming the environment. Why, why are we not literally pouring money into such research?

We should be, we need to be – for our own sake, as well as the planet’s.