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This coming week, a few thousand people will be setting up the third annual Climate Camp, at Kingsnorth in Kent, to protest against the building of a new coal-fired power station in the near future.

The Climate Camp has already been set up in a field near Kingsnorth power station, and will be there all week, culminating in a day of direct action attempting to prevent the power station from functioning on the Saturday. The direct action will be what hits the headlines, for obvious reasons. You can expect lots of pictures of people with dreadlocks and angel-wings being dragged around by police in the papers on Sunday morning.

You can also expect to hear very little about the rest of the climate camp. Over the week around 200 workshops and talks will be taking place on all kinds of topics related to climate change. It will use energy produced using solar panels brought to the site, and all are welcome. Visitors and speakers at the camp will include Caroline Lucas MEP, George Monbiot, and Chris Davies MP, who wrote an article in The Guardian recently explaining why he is going to the camp.

So what’s it all about? The present Kingsnorth Power station needs to be replaced. A proposal by E.On to build a new coal-powered station was given the go-ahead by Medway council in January, leaving the decision of whether to build it to the Government.

Coal produces more carbon dioxide than any other fossil fuel, so when we should be doing everything we can to reduce our carbon emissions, and the Government is including a planned 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, it’s suicide. Especially as this is the first of seven coal-powered stations planned by the Government.

It’s at this point that spokespersons from E.On start talking about carbon capture and storage (CSS). The idea’s simple – grab the carbon before it gets into the atmosphere and put it somewhere where it won’t cause global warming. Like underground. And it’s a good idea. It could reduce the carbon emissions from the new power plant by up to 90%.

And it’s at this point that practical people respond by reminding everyone that CCS isn’t yet available. The Government would like to have a demonstration power plant up and running by 2014 (two years after Kingsnorth will be ready), but they expect that this demonstration will take 15 years. 2029 then. Too little, far too late, to avoid catastrophic climate change. (None of this matters, because as it stands the new Kingsnorth power station may not be made ‘CCS ready’ anyway .

And that is where the arguments grind to a halt. The state of knowledge about CCS technology prevents it from going any further. If we knew that every new coal power plant was going to have CCS technology, and that this would reduce the emissions by 90%, then we would have a proper debate. Assuming, of course, that this could happen immediately.

But the sad fact is that we don’t have time to mess around. Estimations of when we could pass the point of no return with climate change vary wildly. This week the one hundred month campaign was launched, based on research saying that there are 100 months ‘to save the planet’, whereas James Hansen is telling us that we are already past the dangerous level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and we need to start reducing it, instead of just reducing the rate of increase.

So which is it? Well it doesn’t really matter. What we need to do is reduce our emissions to zero, and do it as quickly as possible.

I expect a few of the people at this years climate camp to be anarchist ‘greens’, that want to bring down society, overthrow the Government, and go back to living in tents and caves. Newspapers will refer to people at the camp as ‘environmental protestors’ or something similar, and most will be just that. But the majority of people at the camp are just concerned about the future of the human race, and the millions, if not billions, which will starve or die through global warming in the future. I’m not going to the camp because I want to save polar bears or ice caps. I want to save people.

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Let’s look at what happened in the last week or so.
On 4th July, The Guardian obtained an internal report from the World Bank estimating that biofuels have caused world food prices to rise by 75% (it seems I was far too optimistic on that previously).

On 5th July Gordon Brown gave an interview to The Guardian, in which he said he was going to tell the G8 nations that the problems of climate change and international development should not be sidelined by the credit crunch.

On the 7th July he launched a campaign to drastically reduce food waste in the UK, in an attempt to combat the escalating world food prices.
The very same day, the Government announced that they will be continuing with the requirement to have 2.5% biofuel in all transport fuel, although the planned percentage increases over the coming years will be reduced.

So let’s just recap. We are told to stop wasting our food on the grounds that we need to do everything possible to restrict food price increases, and on the same day we are told biofuels are going to continue to be in our fuel for the foreseeable future, despite the fact that they cause food price escalation, and starve millions.

A few days later, after the widely reported multiple-course lunches at the G8 summit, the issue of climate change seems to have passed the Leaders’ lips. Maybe between courses 6 and 7? It can’t have taken much longer than that, because they made minimal progress. Not even that.

The attempted 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 agreed by the G8 is the only thing that hit the headlines. The UK Government is already supposed to be thinking about a 60% cut by 2050 (in the Climate Bill which seems to have been lost without trace – maybe they left it in a taxi, or on a train). It’s commonly accepted now that an 80% cut is what we really need, with lots of educated voices saying 90% or 100% cuts are required, if not more.

The G8 announcement was so lame that even the head Economist of the Governments own Carbon Trust said it was crap – “an abrogation of responsibility” , as well as a whole host of the usual groups like Greenpeace etc. stating the obvious about it being a great let-down.

So it seems that, yet again, large international talks have come and gone, and all it that came of it was that our mighty world leaders agreed that something should probably be done sometime. But not any time soon, and certainly not with scientifically determined goals.

In the meantime, the Met Office tells us that spring is now arriving 6 days early in the UK , and satellites are showing that the vast Wilkins ice shelf in the Antarctic is collapsing. In winter.

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A Letter

My Dad get’s a bit pissed off, as I do, with the inadequacies of the UK Government. But instead of moaning about them on a website like I do, he writes letters to newspapers (amongst other things) – and every now and then he writes a good one.

Below is a recent ‘good one’……..

Sir,

The three main political parties appear to be agreed on the importance of addressing the vital issue of climate change.The bill presently proceeding through the House of Lords will shortly arrive at the House Of Commons where all Parties could set aside party politics and unite on this issue for the benefit of the residents of the British Isles and provide some leadership globally.
Everyone realises that if climate change is to be addressed effectively it will involve actions across the board – Housing, Transport, Planning, Education, in Local Authorities etc. It is not just a problem for the Secretary of State for the Environment.
Most people also realise that unless we are told what to do we are unlikely to act, as many changes in lifestyle will be required; – this will be challenging for any one Party to introduce, for fear of losing votes.
The current bill provides for a committee to advise the Sec. of State. Why not collectively agree to reverse this traditional approach? On this issue of national importance expand the committee into a Commission by including seats for all three parties and representatives of all the regions of the British Isles (not just the Devolved Countries) as well as the experts already provided for in the bill. Thereby creating an entity with national credibility. This body would be responsible for long term Strategy,reviewed on a regular basis in the light of Scientific research and report to Parliament every two years on the progress being made by the Government which was in office.
This would provide for a consistent strategy, avoid Ministerial ‘initiatives’ and hold all governments to account for their progress, or lack of it.
Do the leaders of the three parties have the courage and leadership to take a step forward for the benefit of us all? And if not – why not?

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