Mary Robinson – Reshaping the debate on climate change

For those of you who missed it in November, Mary Robinson’s lecture ‘Reshaping the debate on climate change’ is available to watch on YouTube now:

John has covered this lecture in a previous post, which I have taken the liberty of reproducing below:

Mary Robinson delivered a superb contribution to a packed audience in the Round Room of Dublin’s Mansion House. Her topic, in the EPA climate change series was: “Reshaping the debate on climate change”, and she pulled few punches.

There are, she pointed out, “powerful media figures giving oxygen to the (climate) deniers”. The main motivation of the media in this instance was, she argued, “of wanting a particular approach to governance” (i.e. laissez-faire economics). “Some within the media are very big players – Mr (Rupert) Murdoch is a problem – let’s call him by his name”, she said, to sustained applause.

The Murdoch press, notably Fox News in the US, has done untold damage to the fight against climate change and its toadying to corporatism; its media tentacles here in Ireland are extensive, from Sky News to the Sunday Times, The Sun and of course the News of the World (home of “columnist” Bertie-in-the-cabinet Ahern).

Robinson stated bluntly: “we’ve reached the limits of the the world’s development space”. Despite the current media-stoked spasm of denialism, “as climate events proliferate, their man-made causes will become ever more difficult to deny”. The current level of global economic growth of around 2% per annum “is simply not compatible with the urgent need to reduce emissions – even with a revolution in green technologies, it’s clear that stark choices lie ahead”.

As the atmospheric carrying capacity for CO2 is at or approaching critical levels, “the space for carbon-driven development no longer exists for developing countries. We’ve used up the (atmospheric) space for a safe world….we’ve been using it in a greedy way, we have confiscated this development space from the poor, and the poor are further paying for the ravages of climate change that they contributed little to create”.

We live, she added, “in a world of increasing intimacy; my carbon-rich lifestyle directly contributes to floods and droughts elsewhere…the good life we still enjoy here in Ireland has been built in part on the precariousness of the lives of climate refugees in Bangladesh”.

Despite the media panic-driven coverage of the very serious economic crisis in Ireland, “we don’t have the luxury of not attending to the longer term”, Robinson reminded her audience, in what was a commanding performance from a woman whose powers of reason, passion and persuasion remain undiminished after more than four decades of fighting the good fight.

This entry was posted in Global Warming, Irish Focus, Media, Sustainability. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Mary Robinson – Reshaping the debate on climate change

  1. denis says:

    Mary Robinson is a wonderful passionate defender of human rights, but unfortunately along with the majority of the world`s people, she understands very little about energy.
    She, along with many others, believes that if we could only use so called alternative energy from sun, wind, waves, and tide, then we, the human race, could go forward and live in a carbon free world and arrest the climate change that is without doubt happening to us.

    This unfortunately, is utter nonsense, that has to be shouted from the rooftops, in order to get us to educate ourselves, and to prevent us from squandering our remaining precious resources of both energy and materials, on alternative energy systems that never will, and indeed never can, give us back more energy than was put into the manufacturing, deployment, and provision of infrastructure, for these energy systems.
    I urge everyone who has any interest in our future and our future energy supply, to please read these articles that I am providing the links to.
    I think that there is enough here for now, but I would be glad to provide more info to anyone who requests it.
    I hope that these articles can come to Mary Robinson`s attention too.

  2. denis says:

    And here is a salutory alternative energy story from Spain, that tells a tale that we would be well advised to digest—–I hope someone will bring it to the attention of the next minister for energy.

  3. John Gibbons says:

    Food for thought, alright, Denis. The Spaniards have been the poster boys for renewable energy, but my tuppence worth has always been that only an agressive renewables-plus-nukes policy (with some quick-fire natural gas turbines as an emergency fallback) gave us a snowball’s chance of actually having a viable de-carbonised grid. Spain appears to underline this assumption. Think we still need to go full-throttle on renewables here; after all, if your choice is between sporadic, expensive energy and zero energy, you’ll still opt for the former.

  4. denis says:

    @John—–for a sharp fella you sure suprise me—-if it doesn`t work, why in god`s name would we spend any more of our dwindling resources on it ? Have you not read my links to the EROEI analysis of so called alternative energy ? You accept that we need nuclear power—–if we have that, where would be the need for usless wind turbines too ?
    Gas provides us with most of the electricity that people think we are getting from wind—-cut out the tiny bit of wind power and go with gas, but use CCGT instead of OCGT, and realise big savings in CO2 output for a given amount of power , and get much better efficiency to boot.
    It looks as if we have a lot of gas especially if we tap into the Lough Allen gas basin [ why don`t we hear something about this huge potential supply ? ] and this will tide us over until the next generation of nuclear power station fueled by thorium has been perfected [ google Aker Solutions to see the work being done on this fantastic reactor ].
    Once we get large amounts of relatively cheap electricity, we can possibly manufacture a new viable transport fuel namely anhydrous ammonia—good energy density, and no greenhouse gasses.
    Mechanical energy capturing devices, wind, waves, tide, sun, wood or dung, simply cannot give us enough net energy to build the devices and contribute to the grid at the same time—–this is a hopeless route to take, and will definitely lead us into the sporadic and very low energy future that you think is better than nothing.
    We can do better than that, if we use our brains, much much better.

  5. John Gibbons says:

    Denis, fair enough, we can agree to differ around the edges, while concurring that we are heading into some very deep and very smelly doo doo, energy-wise, in the next 5+ years. Bad news, given that even if our political system underwent a pro-sustainability lobotomy tomorrow, we’d still need decades and tons of cash to begin to start building a new energy infrastructure. That’s time and money we simply don’t have.

  6. denis says:

    John—- I think that if we would just stop our foolish and pointless efforts in building wind turbines, we could save that money [it`s in the billions] and it would be much better spent on trying to rescue our economy for the next 5 years.
    By then, we may be in a better position to look again at our energy supply situation.
    We undoubtably have enough gas [when we get it flowing], to displace some of our gas imports and maybe to supplant to some extent the coal fired generation that supplies one third of our electricity,
    The world is realising very rapidly, the importance of nuclear power, and over 60 reactors are now under construction around the globe, and many more are being planned.
    With this new interest in NP, I am sure that faster built and less expensive reactors will emerge, and in 5 years, we would then be in a good position to avail of the latest nuclear technology.
    The wind is a totally undependable entity—–the load factor has dropped from around 29% in 2009, to below 22% last year—–after all we have had very little wind for the last three months—- and this is bound to have severe repercussions on the repayment schedules of existing wind farms.
    I wouldn`t be surprised to see an increase in our electricity bills this year, to cover the losses.

    Thank you for this opportunity to air my views on this subject, and I hope that I may have caused some people to reflect a bit more on our alternative energy program.

  7. John Gibbons says:

    I’m with Adam on this one. In terms of transitional technologies to help us along the rocky road towards zero carbon energy, I think it’s got to be belt-and-braces and despite the passion with which Denis dismisses all renewables, I remain unconvinced, especially in the case of Ireland, which is uniquely poor in fossil energy resources yet very blessed in the low-hanging fruit of accessible renewable energy.

  8. denis says:

    In the 1970ies, I believed that alternative energy was the future for our planet`s energy supply.
    I lived in the US then, and bought every book on alternative energy that I could lay my hands on.
    I returned to Ireland, aquired a piece of land near the sea, and built a wooden solar house, a solar water heater,and powered the lot with a wind turbine—-I even built a wind powered washing machine, using a Savonious rotor, which worked fine, except that in the gusts, it had a tendency to remove the buttons from my shirts !
    I then bought a book by Howard Odum—An Energy basis for Man and Nature, and I realised that in my purchases of supplies for my enterprise, I had really purchased a huge amount of embodied energy, and the energy that I thought that I was getting for free, had really been paid for and obtained in advance, and really came from fossil fuel.
    This was confirmed, when I did some basic calculations as to the power I was getting from the windmill, and the heat I was getting from the Sun—-if I had had to purchase my energy converters at a commercial price, they would have never paid off, especially when interest on capital was taken into consideration.
    Of course I was dismayed, that my dream of being “energy independent” was really a myth.
    Fast foward to 2010, and the Spirit of Ireland cant about Ireland being able to be “energy independent in 5 years ” triggered an old hope.
    As I researched things, to see if the laws of physics had changed in the last 35 years, I was pretty soon brought down to earth again, even more so when The Oil Drum, started to talk about Embodied Energy, and EROEI—–both concepts expanded, if not invented, by that genius Howard Odum, and expounded on even more in a series of brilliant articles on TOD.
    Most engineers in Ireland, have not heard of EROEI, and if they have, they seem to discount it for reasons best known to themselves—–with Greenies, they do not want their preconceptions about their wonderful free energy future to be spoiled, and maybe this is the case with the engineers too.
    However, we had all better become familiar with EROEI, because this basic truth about our generation of energy, is going to start becoming very important, as we strive to produce more energy from our declining fossil fuel resources, and waste our precious remaining resources on the false god of so called alternative energy.
    I still have that little house, but have spent more money than I should have over the years, on keeping the windmill and the solar water heater going, not for the energy, but just for the fun of it.
    The washing machine blew apart in a gale in 1978.

  9. denis says:

    There was an factually incorrect and biased report on the efficacy of wind power, on Morning Ireland last Thursday .
    Where are the scientific voices that should be raised, at this outrageous abuse of our public airwaves ?
    It is little wonder that the general public has no real understanding of the serious limitations of alternative energy, with this kind of misinformation being peddled on such an influential program.
    The report can be heard about 40 min into the program.

  10. denis says:

    Here is a country that can do it`s sums, and act accordingly.
    Why do we allow ourselves to be governed by eejits ?

  11. denis says:

    @ Adam—-nice to read the comments of someone who I can mainly agree with.
    Thorium is definitely the power source of the future, and maybe not that far away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *