Author: Robert Wilson

Are we running out of oil, copper and zinc yet?

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I am in the middle of reading the many books published in the mid 2000s about the growth of China. My rationale is simple: if you want to know how credible the soothsaying of pundits is on a subject it is worth going back a decade. The ability to predict the future rarely improves.

So, right now I’m reading Will Hutton’s “The Writing on the Wall: China and the West in the 21st Century“. Read the rest of this entry »

Book recommendations updated

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The book recommendations section of the blog was getting a little dusty. I don’t think I have updated the thing¬†in the last 2 years, 2 years where I’ve done much less reading than I would have liked.

So, I’ve added a bunch of new ones, and removed a few, to leave 25 recommendations.

Naturally, I think everyone should read them all under duress. But at least you should all read the delightfully nasty Kill Your Friends or Jonathan Meades’ fine essay collection. You can take or leave the rest.

Why does 350.org employ people to spout arithmetic defying sophistry about Germany?

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A simple fact. Germany shutting down 8 nuclear power plants in 2011 resulted in carbon emissions being higher than they otherwise would have been. This should not be a controversial point, to argue against it is to take a stand for rank stupidity and ignorance of arithmetic.

Yet, many environmentalists continue to take a stand against it. Read the rest of this entry »

Solar powered self sufficiency at high latitudes is a fantasy

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One of the oddest delusions is the idea that at high latitudes you can run a house, town, city, or country on solar panels coupled with batteries. The idea itself is so daft I often fear I am attacking a straw man to even discuss it. Yet, a reasonable number of people seem to believe this nonsense.

The most popular form of it comes in the following sound bite: “If you covered all of Britain’s roofs in solar panels, it would meet 100% of Britain’s electricity demand”. The claim itself is actually false, even if you simply consider total energy produced – and ignore the long stretch of winter when Britain’s solar panels might as well be disconnected from the grid. And what a glorious coincidence this would be, that covering all available roof space in solar panels would precisely match demand. Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s to Ireland!

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Belief in progress may not be fashionable, but for many people progress is an evident reality.

23 years ago a harmless behaviour was illegal in Ireland, and today two men or women who engage in that harmless behaviour will be allowed to get married. And with luck a quarter of a century from now we will all be magnificently confused by what our ancestors were bothered about in the first place.

Love perhaps sometimes wins out over illogical dogma.

love

Why does holding irrational beliefs let you be a threat to public health?

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The number one cause of homophobia on the planet is almost certainly religion. Yet each time equal rights laws are passed religious groups leap into action claiming that across the board enforcement of equality laws is an infringement of religious freedoms, the freedom in question being the freedom to to discriminate against gay people on the basis that you believe in a non-existent deity. These arguments do not always win out, as we saw in Northern Ireland this week.

Irrational beliefs, of course, should be no reason for an exemption to the law. Deep seated bigotry is still given obscene levels of credibility when it is dressed up as religious belief. When a religion seeks an exemption from the law, that law must be enforced more strongly. Read the rest of this entry »

Germany’s 2020 greenhouse gas target is no longer feasible

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Some of us are slow learners. In 2011, Germany made the decision to shut 8 nuclear reactors and to close three more by 2020. The obvious consequence of this would be that Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions would be higher than they otherwise would have been.

This is simple arithmetic, yet it was denied at the time, and still is, by many (most?) people within the environmental movement. But now many in the environmental movement have suddenly noticed that Germany is not moving away from coal, and this is making their 2020 targets more or less impossible to meet. Naturally, dots remain unconnected, and Germany’s inability to move away from coal is not recognised to be the result of policies lauded by most environmentalists. A new form of denialism.

But how much do Germany’s emissions need to fall? The official target is for greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 to be 40% below 1990 levels. Germany has officially published GHG emissions figures for all years until 2014, and this is what it looks like: Emissions Read the rest of this entry »