+The other day one of the cooling towers at the decommissioned coal fired Ferrybridge power station came tumbling down in a controlled explosion. Today, only a small percentage of UK electricity is generated by coal. There’s a certain irony here for those of us who wore ‘coal not dole’ badges during the miner’s strike 35 years ago. A more recent irony could be that investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) research will be permanently stalled. If you’re not producing so much carbon from fixed, large scale power plants, there’s hardly much incentive to pour money into CCS—even though global coal use is still rising.
I am minded to think of these things having just watched Al Gore’s follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth (2006), this time called An Inconvenient Sequel (2017). The emphasis of the sequel is on the new renewable technologies which are undoubtedly taking off big-style—despite still receiving less subsidy than fossil fuels globally. Gore appears to have made his mark in the 2015 Paris Climate Change Accords by convincing India not to wreck it, a feat achieved by him making a few judicious phone calls from his hotel suite in Paris. There’s no point seeking to diminish his personal contribution to affecting India’s stance (which nevertheless remains wedded to a path of much increased use of coal) but sadly the film misses the point that the Paris agreement permits each signatory to get on with doing whatever they feel they want to—it is an agreement without sanctions (they come later with floods, drought, heatwaves, rising sea levels, war, etc., etc.)
Gore finds hope in his despair (the latter, as you might expect brought on not least by Trump) and he finds an antidote—in the shape of the portly Republican mayor of Georgetown, Texas, a town which will shortly become 100% renewable energy supplied. So there is hope and it shines eternal but it is I fear as rare as diamonds—fossil fuel use as has risen since Paris and there’s not much sign that trajectory is about to reverse. Still, Al does a good job trying to save the world, and if he engaged his interlocutors with the discipline of Contraction and Convergence he might have a way of measuring progress apart from the anecdotal.
+ I have been forced to write again to the Guardian, this time on the nationally gripping news (given front page treatment by the paper) that Alistair Campbell has decided not to pursue his righteous cause of re-instatement as a Labour Party member. Perhaps it's for the best.
As a Remoaner, I'm probably just as frustrated with Jeremy Corbyn's rather pragmatic approach to Brexit as is Alistair Campbell. But unlike Corbyn, we do not have the formidable task of trying to heal the divisions in our society. In this regard, Labour's current suite of policies, tackling social injustice to the climate crisis may have some significance, although Alistair doesn't mention any of them as reasons for sticking with Labour. Labour's shift towards a more nuanced remain position is welcome, but won't be enhanced by the outbursts of the Campbells of this world.