Saturday, 31 May 2014

Climate Change solutions: "Revealing greater agreement than the pro-growth versus de-growth dichotomy suggests."

It's not just a question of how your politics shapes your view of the 'reality' of climate change:
Futures Forum: "Climate science has been dragged into the American-style culture wars that are turning British intellectual life into a battlefield."
Futures Forum: The continuing politicisation of the climate change debate

It's also a question of how your politics shapes the 'solutions' to climate change:

And one of the central ideas for discussion is whether we can 'decouple' economic growth from environmental degredation:
'Decoupling' economic growth to save the climate
Jonathon Porritt: EU 'remains mired in the last century' - Blue and Green Tomorrow
Over €100 Million for Climate Change Innovation Programmes Announced in Europe - PR.com
Decarbonising The Economy Will Save $71 Trillion By 2050 Says IEA By Sophie Yeo

In economic and environmental fields, decoupling is becoming increasingly used in the context of economic production and environmental quality.

In 2011, the International Resource Panel, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned that by 2050, the human race could devour 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year – three times its current appetite – unless nations can start decoupling economic growth rates from the rate of natural resource consumption.[1]

The OECD has made decoupling a major focus of the work of its Environment Directorate. The OECD defines the term as follows: the term 'decoupling' refers to breaking the link between "environmental bads" and "economic goods." It explains this as having rates of increasing wealth greater than the rates of increasing impacts.[2]

Tim Jackson uses this distinction to caution again technology-optimists who use the term decoupling as an "escape route from the dilemma of growth."[3] He points out that "there is quite a lot of evidence to support the existence of [relative decoupling]" in global economies, however "evidence for [absolute decoupling] is harder to find."[3]

Similarly, Herman Daly (1991, p. 118) states: It is true that "In 1969 a dollar's worth of GNP was produced with one-half the materials used to produce a dollar's worth of 1900 GNP, in constant dollars." Nevertheless, over the same period total materials by consumption increased by 400 percent.[4]

From the New Economics Forum:

Climate change: time to end the tug of war


What's stopping us joining forces to act on climate change? UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki moon thinks scepticism is still one of the fundamental obstacles. But I think there’s more to it than that.
As the effects of climate change hit home, a deeper disagreement is surfacing: not from the dwindling sceptic camp, but from the growing proportion of us already convinced of the need for action. We all want an environmentally sustainable economy, but when it comes to how we get there – we’re divided.
At one pole, green growth advocates believe the economy should remain broadly unchanged. We should continue to pursue economic growth because technological innovation will someday enable us to use natural resources in a sustainable way. At the other pole, degrowth advocates believe that economies must actually contract if we are to avoid breaching environmental limits.
Sure, many of us, if pressed, might place our own position on the matter somewhere between these two extremes.  But has framing the issue in terms of this division created a tendency to (consciously or not) relate with one or other pole; making us reluctant to give serious consideration to the views set out by the “other side”?
I think so. And I think it’s slowing us down. Which is why in the new paper we’ve just completed as part of the European Commission’s NETGREEN project, we set out to abandon our preconceptions on how best to achieve a green economy and take a more objective look at the main approaches that have been championed. The idea was to get to grips with exactly why the approaches differ on three key aspects:
  1. the strategic approach to transitioning;
  2. the interventions necessary to make the transition happen;and
  3. the political viability of the overall approach.
We found that, once you give equal merit to all approaches, some incontestable truths become clear, revealing greater agreement than the pro-growth versus degrowth dichotomy suggests.  
For example, the cost and extent of technological innovation needed to decouple production from environmental degradation is often presented as one of the main battlegrounds in the green economy debate. But scratching at the surface reveals that at the heart of this lies the indisputable truth that we simply cannot know whether advances in technology will provide the solution to environmental sustainability. This realisation makes it clear that the dispute isn’t about what technology will achieve, but whether technological innovation is the only solution that’s likely to work; and whether alternative solutions should also be pursued, such as convincing citizens to switch to less resource intensive lifestyles.
This isn’t a new revelation - but we think that by approaching the disagreement more objectively, it’s easier to get to the crux of the issue, frame it in terms of the true source of disagreement, and identify common ground along the way. By taking such an approach, we might just be able to find opportunities for constructive discussion, be able to move thinking forward, and crucially, accelerate progress towards a green economy.
Climate change: time to end the tug of war | new economics foundation

From the EU Commissioner for Environment:

Fewer forests in our cars

Conference on the challenges of deforestation and forest degradation in the context of climate change, development and biodiversity loss

Brussels, 26 May 2014

I am convinced that our approach and strategy for tackling the challenge of deforestation and forest degradation needs to part of our wider resource efficiency strategy. We need to decouple our economic growth from resource use. This means moving away from traditional economic models, old technologies and failed ideas.

Our economic system carries a legacy of decades, if not centuries, of resource‑intensive growth. We are far too tied to a linear economic model, which leads to the extraction of ever more resources, only to quickly discard them as waste. And allow me to say “what a waste!”, what a waste of precious resources. And when you consider that when we throw away forest resources we are at the same time increasing the vulnerability of entire ecosystems, habitats and species, the wastefulness is all the more untenable.

But the reason for bringing all of you together today is not to dwell on the problem, but to think of solutions to it. A momentum is building to move to a circular economy where virtually nothing is wasted, where we get far more value from resources by designing sustainable products that last and that can be easily repaired, re‑used, re-manufactured, eventually recycled or safely returned to the environment.

Such circular economy systems are essential to delivering the levels of resource efficiency that will enable us to decouple economic growth from resource use and its negative environmental impacts, including deforestation and the degradation of forest ecosystems.

In the coming weeks I will present a package of initiatives that will further pave the way in this direction and help close existing loops. We want to develop an enabling framework for the circular economy in the EU, with measures combining smart regulation, research and innovation, encouraging investment and attracting financing.

EUROPA - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - Speech: Fewer forests in our cars

From the Ecologist:

Riches won't make you happy, but a greener economy might

Jules Pretty 30th May 2014

The futuristic Korean science and technology vision envisages an advanced economy driven by clean energy, low carbon use and green growth.

Priority technologies include polymer electrolyte fuel cells, space solar power, integrated water and sewage management, bio-oil replacements, zero-emissions housing, seawater desalinisation, wearable robotics, vertical farms, self-diagnosing materials, automated driving systems, floating cities, smart dust technology and rotating buildings for sharing sunlight and views.

Riches won't make you happy, but a greener economy might - Comment - The Ecologist

From the organisation Responding to Climate Change:

Walmart: Tackling climate change is not a PR stunt

Last updated on 29 May 2014, 8:12 am

Business driving grocery giant’s green ambitions, says VP, revealing new push on energy intensity targets

Walmart has started to roll out a fleet of hybrid trucks to boost its logistics chart in (Pic: Walmart)

By Sophie Yeo in Cancun

Walmart’s fight against climate change is not an elaborate PR stunt, but a sensible business strategy, according to the company’s vice president Manuel Gómez Peña.

Any company that hopes to stay in business in the long term must operate sustainably, said Peña, who leads the environmental programmes of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer.

“It’s not something that we’re doing for public relations or it is the nice thing to do. It’s now making business sense,” he said, adding that the impacts of climate change were already having a
n impact on the economy.

Walmart: Tackling climate change is not a PR stunt

Cycling: "The first part of the Sidmouth to Feniton route"

Whilst we await the outcome of the feasibility study on the Sidmouth to Feniton route:
Futures Forum: Cycling: Sustrans publishes Sidmouth to Feniton study
Futures Forum: Cycling: Sustrans publishes Sidmouth to Feniton study: further press reports

... there has been some progress on the 'start' of the route out of Sidmouth, 
as reported in the Herald:

Latest local news & information in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

This follows on from Devon County and the College agreeing to more cycle paths to connect to the Sidmouth to Sidbury route:
Safer cycling and walking link to Sidmouth College approved | News centre
View From Online - News from West Dorset, East Devon & South Somerset
www.sidmouth.gov.uk/PDFs/STC Minutes 2011/STC-MAY23.pdf

Friday, 30 May 2014

Knowle relocation project: “Relocation is central to our plans to transform the council into an organisation that meets the needs of our residents and businesses in an accessible, cost effective and joined up way.”

There has been a lot of press surrounding the Village/Town Green application for Knowle:
Futures Forum: Town/Village Green application: "a mechanism that local objectors are using to try to hold up the council's plans for Knowle"

The Express & Echo also carried the story today - together with further comment and context:

East Devon District Council HQ relocation bid threatened by Village Green Status application

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: May 30, 2014


EAST Devon District Council’s ambitious and controversial relocation bid from Sidmouth to SkyPark could be hindered by an application for Village Green Status for the parkland it wants to sell-off.

Cabinet members are due to back the next step in the relocation process at their meeting this week on Wednesday, June 4, including appointing top estate agents, Savills to market the site of its headquarters at Knowle and its Manstone depot.

The sale of these sites for redevelopment are integral to the council’s ability to fund its planned relocation to SkyPark, a move backed by cabinet members in February.

Their support was subject to further research into the viability of the council’s office relocation – in particular the outcome of an exercise to find out the value that developers are prepared to put on Knowle and Manstone.

The plan was for the marketing of Knowle and Manstone to be completed in July, however experts have advised the council to hold-off until there is clarity surrounding the status of the village green application.

In December 2012, members of the Knowle Residents Association applied to Devon County Council for the Knowle parkland to be granted Village Green Status.

A Government inspector recently held an application hearing and his report is due in the next few weeks.

The outcome could be rejection, approval or the call for a more extensive examination on the application.

“If the parkland is granted Village Green Status it would make it very difficult for building to be permitted there,” affirmed association member Mike Temple.

“We just want to save this precious and outstanding parkland which is part of our heritage. We were forced into pursuing the application because we feel that public opinion is being ignored.”

Critics of the council’s relocation bid including both residents and councillors, have argued with the premise that a move from Sidmouth will be as cost effective as council officials have stated.

Concerns have also been expressed at the viability of locating the council’s headquarters on the fringe of the district.

Capital receipts from the sale of parts of Knowle, Manstone and the council’s site at Heathpark in Honiton, will be invested in the new headquarters.

Heathpark was marketed for supermarket development last year and exchange of conditional contracts for this multi-million pound sale is imminent.

Redevelopment of Heathpark would involve the vacating of the East Devon Business Centre which is located there. The council has appointed specialist consultants Carter Jonas, to investigate how the council can support the future needs of th businesses and their findings and recommendations are expected by September.

Just under £502,000 has been approved for the relocation project and cabinet is this week expected to approve a further £203,000 for 2014/15 – bringing the total pre-contract cost to just over £705,000.

This figure is split between project management staffing costs and survey, valuation, legal, marketing fees.

There is also a “significant and prudent” element of contingency factored in.

Council leader, Councillor Paul Diviani, added: “The squeeze on public expenditure is set to continue and if we carry on as we are, the council will be faced with a budget deficit of £2.8m by 2020.

“Remaining at Knowle keeps us tied to old and inefficient buildings and fails to make best use of this valuable council owned asset. At present, the council is struggling to maintain an oversized, inefficient and low-value headquarters on a site that has significant capital value as well as continued amenity value.

“Relocation is central to our plans to transform the council into an organisation that meets the needs of our residents and businesses in an accessible, cost effective and joined up way.”

East Devon District Council HQ relocation bid threatened by Village Green Status application | Exeter Express and Echo

VGS - AGM: Weds 18th June: "The future of Sidmouth"

The Vision Group's AGM will feature the launch of the SidEnergy share offer:
Futures Forum: SidEnergy latest: launch of Share Offer: Weds 18th June

And the evening will also give attendees further opportunity to input into the Town Council's consultation:
Futures Forum: "What are your ideas for future projects for Sidmouth?" ..... ..... deadline for suggestions: Monday 30th June

More from the VGS website:

The Future of Sidmouth

Cellar Bar, Kennaway House

Come and discuss ideas for future of Sidmouth

  • Launch of SidEnergy Membership Share Offer - reducing energy costs and generating local renewable energy: find out more about what this is and how to participate in this share offer
  • Ideas for the Town Council consultation
  • “How would you improve Sidmouth?”
  • Port Royal & the Drill Hall
  • AGM
Everyone welcome at this free event. Download the event poster.

Draft agenda for the AGM part:
1. Review of the year since June 2013
2. Report of the Chair and Treasurer
3. Reports from the Action Groups
4. Election of Officers: Chair, Treasurer, PR and Publicity, Secretary
5. AOB

Vision Group for Sidmouth - VGS meeting

Town/Village Green application: "a mechanism that local objectors are using to try to hold up the council's plans for Knowle"

Looking to the District Council's cabinet meeting next Wednesday, there will be several issues to contend with, especially on Knowle:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: the current issues... District Council cabinet to consider its "Relocation Update": Weds 4th June

One particular issue is that of the ongoing application for a Town or Village Green on the grounds of Knowle:
Futures Forum: Inquiry to look at issue of Town/Village Green for Knowle: Thurs 10th April

As highlighted in today's Herald:

Latest local news & information in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

And a statement today from the SOS website:

Updates on Knowle: Town & Village Green application, and footpaths.

Radio Devon’s interview with Kelvin Dent (Chair of Knowle Residents’ Association) by Matt Woodley, will be broadcast next week (Monday or Wednesday morning breakfast show).
First surveyor work spotted in Knowle parkland (May 2012)
First surveyor work spotted in Knowle parkland (May 2012)

Town and Village Green

An application was submitted to Devon County Council in July 2012 to register the land at the Knowle as a Town or Village Green.

At that time the owners of the land, East Devon District Council, were proposing to grant themselves planning permission for housing  and to sell off a large portion of the park and gardens to developers. In the event, the Council refused their own planning application on 1st March 2013. The Town or Village Green application has not yet been determined although an Inspector appointed by the County Council held a preliminary public hearing in April this year and his report is now awaited.

The application to register land at the Knowle was made by the Knowle Residents’ Association in order to try to protect the public’s enjoyment of the magnificent park and gardens. Sidmouth Urban District Council were clearly concerned about the future of the land because they formally declared much of it as public open space before handing it over to East Devon District Council on local government reorganisation in 1974. Local residents are saddened that EDDC objected to the application and that they have fought the local residents all the way.

The application to register the land was supported by 40 witnesses, mainly local residents, who have enjoyed the use of the land for a variety of recreational pursuits for periods of up to more than sixty years. Many people believe that the land is actually owned by Sidmouth. Whilst this is not technically correct, it is true that the park and gardens are an asset which are enjoyed by both locals and tourists and the application to register the land was made to protect this asset for the future.

Updates on Knowle: Town & Village Green application, and footpaths. | Save Our Sidmouth

A further report on Cllr Claire Wright's blog:

Campaigning residents apply brakes to EDDC office relocation project
Tuesday, 27 May 2014 1 Comment by Claire
Sidmouth campaigners who are opposing EDDC’s office relocation and development on the grounds of the Knowle, appear to have put the brakes on the project.
A report to EDDC’s cabinet for Wednesday 4 June confirms that a delay has been caused by residents’ town and village green application, which aims to stop or limit redevelopment of parts of the Knowle.
And an application by residents to create a formal public right of way through the picturesque Knowle grounds, which have been used by the public for decades, has also slowed down the relocation project, which has seen costs spiral and residents become increasingly angry.
EDDC’s agents, hired to sell the Knowle to developers, have advised the council to defer any marketing of the Knowle and Manstone Depot, until there is clarity on the public right of way order, which a planning inspector is unlikely to hear until the autumn.  EDDC has formally objected to the creation of formal public right of way.
The recommendations to cabinet include noting that the “extended timeframe of future decision-making,” on the relocation programme and that final decisions will be made “later in the year.”
A final decision on the project had been due to be made at July’s full council meeting.
In February, EDDC’s conservative majority controversially nodded through proposals to start negotiations to buy land at Skypark for almost £1m, in order to proceed with building new offices.
My motion to allow an independent assessment of the Knowle buildings, which had the backing of EDDC’s overview and scrutiny committee, was voted down by the conservative group.
Incidentally, EDDC has objected to an appeal to the Information Commissioner by resident, Jeremy Woodward, to publish its building assessment survey.  EDDC has no far refused to release this document under the Freedom of Information Act, which is fuelling scepticism about the state of the buildings – and validity of the case for relocation.
Next week’s report to cabinet states that negotiations are ongoing on Skypark’s developer, St Modwen, “on a variety of matters, including site acquisition and timeline.”
Plans for a supermarket on the site of the existing East Devon Business Centre at Honiton, which are required to fund the rapidly spiraling costs of a brand new office rebuild, appear to be continuing apace, with contracts close to being agreed.
A planning application is expected later this year and if approved by EDDC, it would mean that Honiton would get its fifth supermarket. 
Last year, EDDC’s planning committee rejected a planning application to redevelop the cherished Knowle garden for housing.
Click here to read what happened at the full council meeting in February - http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/council_nods_through_decision_to_spend_1m_on_skypark_land
The cabinet meeting is on Wednesday 4 June, starting at 5.30pm.

Campaigning residents apply brakes to EDDC office relocation project.

Plans for Port Royal: "the aspiration for first phase development of Sidmouth Drill Hall"

Following on from an exchange of letters and debate in the Herald
Futures Forum: Plans for Port Royal: the "real facts" about the Drill Hall
Futures Forum: Plans for Port Royal: the "real facts" about the Drill Hall: part two

... today's edition takes "the aspiration for first phase development" of the Drill Hall to its front page:

Latest local news from Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

"Climate science has been dragged into the American-style culture wars that are turning British intellectual life into a battlefield."

It's very much a matter of political perspective when it comes to how you see 'climate change':
Futures Forum: The continuing politicisation of the climate change debate 

This seems to be particularly the case in the English-speaking world:


The Climate Culture War enters a new phase in Australia | Watching the Deniers
Climate and the culture war - The Washington Post

A 'left-libertarian' view would say that big government is the problem:

Climate Change and Corporate Welfare
Car Culture and the sprawl lifestyle was created by massive government intervention and only survives from massive ongoing government intervention. It lives, moves and has its being in big government.

Climate change is not something for the government to combat by prohibiting or taxing various activities that contribute to CO2 emissions. Just the contrary: The best way to combat anthropogenic global warming is for government to stop doing stuff like actively subsidizing or mandating sprawl, subsidizing long-distance shipping and transportation, and subsidizing energy consumption.

Center for a Stateless Society » Climate Change and Corporate Welfare

A 'right-libertarian' view would agree, but in a different way:

Former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman criticized Republican leaders this week for being cowed by the Tea Party into disavowing climate change. What's more interesting, and more pressing for the rest of us, is the question he didn't answer: Why are Tea Party supporters, who still hold sway over the Republican Party, so insistent that climate change is a hoax?

The answer isn't as obvious as it might seem. As Harvard University's Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson detailed in their 2012 book, "The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism," most members of the movement are smart and engaged, with "relatively high levels of education and overall savvy about the political process." These aren't foolish people.

That's what makes the ardency of Tea Partiers' views on climate so striking. According to polling last year by the Pew Research Center, 66 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of independents said human activity is making the planet warmer. For Republicans, the figure was 24 percent. For Tea Party supporters, it was 9 percent; 70 percent rejected the very premise that the earth is getting hotter.

Outside of religious belief in creationism, it's hard to think of another area where a position that's directly refuted by science remains so widely held. What explains why an intelligent group of people would reject a scientific consensus?

I put that question to Williamson, who said part of the answer, as you might expect, is business groups in the petro-chemical industry with a financial interest in preventing environmental regulations. Those groups have an incentive to challenge the science of climate change, and the influence to transmit that view through conservative media.

But that's not all of it; simply blaming Fox News and talk radio is a lazy explanation for anything, climate denial included. Williamson attributed the receptiveness of Tea Party supporters to two widespread views: First, the coastal elite looks down on people in Middle America; second, the government wants to exert ever-more control, and will use any pretext to do it.

"There's a general perception that the government wants to expand its power," Williamson told me. "That discussion felt sincere to me."

That sincere fear, Williamson said, has convinced Tea Party supporters that the coastal elites (a group that includes scientists) is manufacturing evidence around climate change. The aim, in their view, is to undo the American way of life -- big cars, big homes, suburban sprawl -- and make the heartland look more like the coasts.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, consider the concerns Williamson recounted hearing repeatedly: That the United Nations was plotting a global conspiracy or that people would be "rounded up and put into camps." She recalled a Tea Party meeting in Reading, Massachusetts, where people worried the government was trying to take control of their thermostats and talked about using hair dryers to fool government monitors.

That worldview is what makes Tea Party supporters so receptive to the message from conservative media that the science of climate change is bogus, Williamson said. "That constant influx of very wrong information is very toxic."

The takeaway is that releasing yet more reports showing climate change is real won't change Tea Partiers' minds. The better strategy may be waiting for the movement's hold over Republicans to loosen, as a Gallup poll this week showed is already happening.

But even as the Tea Party fades, conservative think-tanks and media outlets will continue to peddle their myths about climate change. The question is whether Republicans take up the challenge Huntsman described, to move the party "to a place where science drives our thinking and actions." They've got a long way to go.

Climate Change Is Stuck in the Culture War - Bloomberg View

These points have been made for some time now:

Climate Science as Culture War

The public debate around climate change is no longer about science — it’s about values, culture, and ideology.
By Andrew J. Hoffman32 | Fall 2012

Climate change has become enmeshed in the so-called culture wars. Acceptance of the scientific consensus is now seen as an alignment with liberal views consistent with other “cultural” issues that divide the country (abortion, gun control, health care, and evolution). 

This partisan divide on climate change was not the case in the 1990s. It is a recent phenomenon, following in the wake of the 1997 Kyoto Treaty that threatened the material interests of powerful economic and political interests, particularly members of the fossil fuel industry. 

The great danger of a protracted partisan divide is that the debate will take the form of what I call a “logic schism,” a breakdown in debate in which opposing sides are talking about completely different cultural issues.

How Climate Change Got Caught in the Culture Wars - Forbes

The Telegraph in the UK picked up these debates recently:

Climate change: the science is not settled. It's all over the place as greedy opportunists scramble for cash

By Damian Thompson Science Last updated: May 16th, 2014

1008 Comments Comment on this article

The Day after Tomorrow: a warmist prophecy that isn't coming true

Until now I’ve never written about global warming. That’s because I’m a coward. I don’t want “climate experts” sneering at me because I dare venture an opinion without knowing as much as they do.

I’m talking about climate sceptics, by the way. It’s their orthodoxy I’ve been too gutless to challenge. I still sometimes move in conservative circles in which it’s taken as read that climate scientists are lying crooks. If I question these sceptics, I will immediately become a “libtard” – part of the EUSSR/Bilderberg/MSM axis. At the very least, Right-wing friends will snub me at parties (as opposed to me snubbing them, which is what I prefer).

Meanwhile, over in the “warmist” camp, there’s no shortage of blind intolerance. Let me draw your attention to a story in today’s Telegraph. Prof Lennart Bengtsson of Reading University says he fears for his “health and safety” after he undermined the alarming predictions issued by the UN’s panel on climate change (IPCC). He’s frightened of the alarmist hardliners among his colleagues: that is, members of the “science is settled” school of thought. These are the people who – back in the heady days of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth – invented the label “denier” to imply that questioning global warming was on a par with rejecting evolution (a “theory” supported by so much data that the science really is settled) or even denying the Holocaust.

Climate science has been dragged into the American-style culture wars that are turning British intellectual life into a battlefield. It’s not an edifying spectacle. Warmist scientists have been caught tinkering with statistics in order to close gaps in their theory (it was thanks to a Telegraph blog post by James Delingpole that the “Climategate” scandal exploded). They just can’t bear to provide their critics with ammunition. Meanwhile, the more voluble deniers suck up to rich American fruitloops who think cavemen had pet dinosaurs – because the earth is only 6,000 years old – and reckon President Obama is a Kenyan-born Antichrist.

The worst thing about this warfare is that it obscures the really inconvenient truth – that we simply don’t know how serious a problem anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is going to be. In the second decade of the 21st century, the science, far from being settled, is all over the place.

For example, professional climate researchers need revise only one or two estimates for their whole predictive model to fall apart. Unsurprisingly, they’re not anxious to advertise this problem. Nor are they keen to explain why global temperatures aren’t rising at the moment.

That’s a clear victory for the deniers, you might say. Not so fast. More and more sceptics grudgingly agree that AGW is fact, not fiction. It’s happened in the past and may do so again. One formerly prominent sceptic, Prof Richard Muller from UC Berkeley, while still rejecting “alarmist claims”, now believes that carbon dioxide will slowly push up the earth’s temperature.

In other words, if you strip out the rhetoric, there’s room for a convergence of views. The vaudeville ferocity and sarcasm of the climate wars have kept us angry and entertained, but now we need to talk to each other. From here on in, surely the argument should be led by open-minded sceptics such as Nigel Lawson and open-minded climate scientists such as Bengtsson and Muller.

But I’m not holding my breath. Nothing sells books or attracts grant money like the message that we’re doomed by a conspiracy. The last thing the opportunistic deniers and warmists want to do is demolish the fence that separates them. Not while there’s so much cash floating around.

Climate change: the science is not settled. It's all over the place as greedy opportunists scramble for cash – Telegraph Blogs

See also:
Futures Forum: Climate Change: "It appears the more carbon we emit, the less we want to believe we’re contributing to the problem."
Futures Forum: The impacts of climate change are “severe, pervasive and irreversible” says the latest assessment from the IPCC.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Reintroducing the apprenticeship system in the UK

Germany has been a model for the apprenticeship system for some time now:
Dual education system - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Although there are fears that 'too many young people are going into university':

Around 500,000 people started a university degree in 2013, up from 360,000 in 2005.
Eric Schweitzer, president of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK), warned in February that this trend had to be reversed. “The consequences to Germany's economy will be damaging, if the trend to study at any cost is not stopped,” he said.

Apprenticeship numbers hit record low - The Local

Interestingly, it is the Chambers of Commerce in Germany who largely steer the apprenticeship system:

In 1969, a law (the Berufsbildungsgesetz) was passed which regulated and unified the vocational training system and codified the shared responsibility of the state, the unions, associations and the chambers of trade and industry. The dual system was successful in both parts of the divided Germany.
The precise skills and theory taught on German apprenticeships are strictly regulated. The employer is responsible for the entire education programme coordinated by the German chamber of commerce.
Someone who has not taken this apprenticeship or did not pass the final examinations at the chamber of industry and commerce is not allowed to call himself an Industriekaufmann. Most job titles are legally standardized and restricted.

Apprenticeship - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Whereas in Britain, there is currently a lot of discussion going on as to who should be responsible for what as a 'modern' apprenticeship system emerges:

Apprentice funding plans risk wrecking training system
Proposals intended to improve apprenticeships could see small companies abandon the system as they can't face upfront costs of paying for training

Alan Tovey, Jobs Editor 24 Apr 2014

A shake-up aimed at improving apprenticeships by giving employers more control over what their trainee staff learn risks wrecking the system altogether, according to an industry body.

Government proposals for employers to pay training costs and then claim them back through the PAYE tax system would see many small firms give up on taking on apprentices as their balance sheets could not stand the burden, according to the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA).

The association was shocked by the responses after it asked its 3,000-plus members for their thoughts on the Government’s proposals, with 94pc of those who replied saying they would cut down or even stop taking on apprentices because of the changes.

Di Johnson, ECA skills ambassador and director of Eric Johnson of Northwich, which has been training apprentice electricians for nearly 70 years, said: “The system used to be simple, we identified who we wanted to take on, paid their wages and training organisations did the rest.

“Under the new plans we will have to source the apprentices, then find the organisations to train them, quality check them, negotiate a price and then try to claim it back. 
For small firms who might only have one or two apprentices, they are never going to be able to negotiate a decent price or go through all the hassle.”

The proposals – which are out for consultation until May 1 – are intended to make apprenticeships a “joint investment” between apprentices, employers and the Government, according to the consultation document. The Government, which is pushing apprenticeships as an alternative to university, hopes that by requiring employers to “co-invest” they will be incentivised to find higher quality training at a more competitive price.

Apprentice funding plans risk wrecking training system - Telegraph 

And in response, in the letters page of the Telegraph, several captains of industry showed commitment to the apprenticeship:

Employers need to control the funds to make apprenticeships useful
Apprenticeships offer young people a way into well-paid jobs

6:58AM BST 05 May 2014


SIR – The Government’s plans to change apprenticeship funding “risk wrecking the training system”, reports Alan Tovey, your Jobs Editor. As business leaders, entrepreneurs and their representatives we know that improving apprenticeships is in all our interests.

Apprenticeships build the country’s skills base, support industries and create opportunities for young people leading to well-paid jobs. The proposed reforms are a welcome step towards a skills system with the needs of employers at its heart.

Placing employers in control of the design, delivery and funding of apprenticeships is essential. Through the current reform programme, employers have demonstrated leadership, creating a set of rigorous standards for a wide variety of highly skilled occupations.

Control over funding would give us the opportunity to work directly with training providers and build relationships which allow us to design apprenticeships which are more relevant to the needs of the British economy.

A simple, proportionate government contribution to each apprenticeship is a welcome step forward, as the current arrangements have more than 100 possible funding rates, and lack transparency to the employer and apprentice.

The Government has been consulting on the detail of how these changes will be delivered. It is vital they get this right, especially for smaller businesses.

We encourage all businesses to stay involved in this process to ensure that we can realise the goal of world-class apprenticeships designed and led by employers themselves.

Sir Charlie Mayfield
Chairman, John Lewis Partnership and Chairman, UK Commission for Employment and Skills...

Employers need to control the funds to make apprenticeships useful - Telegraph

Knowle relocation project............................................. "Should we build less and reuse more?"

At a recent seminar in Bristol held by the Glass House...
Futures Forum: Community-led design from the Glass House
... asked whether we need to 'build less and reuse more'.

This ties in with ideas for Knowle: that the District Council does not need to build new elsewhere, but could reuse the current building:
Futures Forum: Knowle: old bricks vs new build: embodied carbon: letter
Futures Forum: "A truly green alternative to EDDC's proposal"
Futures Forum: Knowle plans: flats
Futures Forum: Knowle plans: 1970s building
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: open-plan offices
Futures Forum: Solar photovoltaic system at Escot ... and at Knowle?
Futures Forum: Costs of relocating District Council offices vs costs of refurbishing Knowle
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: getting the figures straight
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: moving to Skypark... and Flooding in the West Country
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: District Council vote to spend £1million on Skypark: blog reports

Should we build less and reuse more?

• Reuse is more appropriate than new build development 
for the current environmental, economic and social 
challenges facing our places. 

• The short cycles of government and their influence on 
planning and development decisions can be a great 
obstacle to the continuity of collaborative efforts to 
improve the quality of our places. 

• The argument that the cost of retrofitting buildings 
and spaces is too high is flawed; creatively retroffitting a 
space can lead to cheaper running costs in the long 

• Why are we not getting things right when we have so 
much knowledge about how to create and shape great 
places that are loved and enlivened by people?


Should we build less and reuse more? A round-up of the Bristol debate
Posted 6 Feb 2014
16:38 / Written by Louise Dredge

Should we build less and reuse more? The answer to this question might seem obvious in an age when the concept of ‘sustainability’ is a preface to every discussion about growth and development.

On Wednesday evening in Bristol, we invited three speakers to share their views and brought together an audience with a shared interest in how places work and how they can be the best they can be, now and in the future. Our three speakers represented three distinct voices – a designer, a community activist and a commercial developer – sharing an open, equal platform.

Should we build less?

Interestingly, most people acknowledged that we need to build more! Community speaker Chris Chalkley (chairperson of the Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft) referred to the ever-expanding world population: when Chris was born the total population was estimated at 3 billion; it now stands at 7 billion and is predicted to reach 10 billion by 2050. There is no doubt that we need to build more to accommodate this growth. More locally, the housing shortage in the UK means that more housing needs to be built, and with that, more infrastructure and services.

Importantly though, all three speakers argued that we need to build better. Taking us back to the days before sustainability became the buzzword in development terms, audience member Richard Guise reintroduced the concept of the 3Ls in developing our places and spaces – think long life, low energy and loose fit.

Should we reuse more?

In order to better support reuse most agreed that the 3Ls were crucial. Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson, speaking from the audience, said “we should be building buildings to reuse them”. However, speaker Kieran Lilley, an architect with Bristol-based practice Stride Treglown shared his challenges in negotiating design briefs with client developers, specifically on student housing projects, where there is little room or scant desire to allow for spaces that could be adapted for other uses in the future.

The high cost of retrofitting buildings and spaces is a common argument for demolishing and rebuilding. Speaker Gavin Bridge, a director of Cubex Land, acknowledged that refurbishment is often more expensive but also argued, through the example of his company’s redevelopment of 1 Victoria Street in Bristol, where 98% of the material taken from the building was recycled, that creatively retrofitting a space can lead to cheaper running costs in the long term. Many also felt that our financial model is broken, and the fact that VAT is still applied to refurbishment is but one example of this.

Quite a few times, a recent planning change – the ability to change the use of office premises to residential use was raised as an opportunity to unlock potential in place. Quite apart from the preservation and reuse of listed structures, we discussed the unloved office blocks built in the 1970s and 1980s that can be found across many cities in the UK, which many felt would make ideal homes. Indeed, Gavin Bridge argued that in the context of vacant shops that litter endless high streets across the island, these spaces should be recycled and replaced by schools that would act as a catalyst for regenerating town centres. An interesting idea!

It’s not just about buildings though. The spaces in between buildings, the infrastructure that supports our cities must also be considered. Small changes, such as the action of a community group to apply a new coat of paint to a beloved but neglected streetscape, can reinvigorate and renew places and spaces and have a big impact.

What about collaboration in place, and in reusing and reimagining our places?

Audience member Ann de Graft-Johnson, shared her experience of the dangers of allowing participatory processes to fail. Development, she felt, is still affected by the mistrust of developers towards communities and often, what people value is ignored. The repercussions are immense:

“Everytime you do this, you dismantle community and it takes a lot of energy to put it back again.”

The short cycle of politics and its influence on planning and development decisions is a great obstacle to the continuity of collaborative efforts to improve the quality of our places. This is also compounded by the current shortage of local authority planners, which is frustrating many attempts to bring collaborative projects forward.

Why are we not getting things right when we have so much knowledge about how to create and shape great places that are loved and enlivened by people?

We need to be brave!

We ended with Chris Chalkley, who believed that until we address the issues around equality and liberty in our society, achieving this is impossible.

In his words: “It starts with values”.

Should we build less and reuse more? A round-up of the Bristol debate | The Glass-House Community Led Design