Geoff Beacon elsewhere | Brussels Blog

Geoff Beacon elsewhere

posted by Geoff on 18th Apr 2014

I have been writing elsewhere on topics that are similar to those on Brussels Blog so if you read any of these here …

I have several pieces on Thanks to guidance the editor, Chris Titley, I think the writing is rather clearer than usual:

The list of these is updated at YorkMix Author Archives: Geoff Beacon

Transition network

Mar 2014: BBC: The wrong debate


Jan 2007: Topic: Operation vs Construction CO2

Feb 2007: Topic: Lower building densities – good for the environment?

Jan 2008: Topic: keeping draughty house warm

To be continued …

Climate Change: Last Hours?

posted by Geoff on 5th Apr 2014

I don’t know how seriously to take that Last Hours video but it does feature one of the most famous climate scientists, Michael Mann, of hockey stick fame. When I re-read the response I made in 2007 to the Draft Climate Change Bill, I remembered that none of the contributors to the blogs that I follow have been willing to comment on Last Hours. I know some of the scientist associated with it have had threats made so perhaps that’s wise.

My response in 2007 is more-or-less what I believe seven years later. Sadly, I think policy politicians are mostly out of the loop. I believe that climate policy in the UK is governed by civil servants – under the pressure of lobbyists. The key departments are in HM Treasury, DECC, BIZ, DEFRA, DCLG. My interpretation of their approaches to climate change:

  • HM Treasury: Its causes are not our problem.
  • DECC: Energy security is a problem.
  • BIS: Now controls the Met Office.
  • DEFRA: Hides the carbon footprint of beef and lamb.
  • DCLG: Ignores embodied carbon in construction.

They obstruct green policies except for energy security.

They still ignore the real message which hasn’t changed.

Summary of my 2007 submission:

We must:

Aim for carbon negative lifestyles

Get power systems to take carbon from the atmosphere

Stop nearly all flying

Cut most road transport

Build to embody carbon dioxide in construction.

Change our economy

Let the public know

Publicise carbon footprinting

Change food consumption

Develop neighbourhoods using new planning strategies

Come clean on construction

Change international trade, development and aid

Take military options seriously

These policies may be beyond what is politically possible but what is politically possible can change. Tomorrow is the start of The Embodied Carbon Week organised by the UK Green Building Council and supported by serious commercial interests.

Last year the Committee on Climate Change finally conceded that the UK’s carbon footprint has increased since 1990 rather than decreased.

A change in the politics of climate change will come if the super El-Nino that some are predicting emerges over the next two years. If it comes will the Government Departments stop ignoring the truth about climate change?

Global Warming and The Problems of Climate Change

A Response to the Draft Climate Change Bill

by Geoff Beacon

June 2007


At its worst, climate change is recognised as a threat to human existence. Sadly its effects are probably much worse than the assessments given by the IPCC to the governments of the world. My contention is that the strategies that have been put in place by the government of the UK are simply insufficient to cope with the scale of the problem.

continue reading…

Can dangerous climate change be avoided?

posted by Geoff on 19th Mar 2014

I have been given permission to repost Can Global Warming be Limited to Two Degrees originally published on econnexus by its author, Jim Hunt.

February 28, 2014

Can Global Warming be Limited to Two Degrees?

Last week the United Kingdom’s Committee on Climate Change “launched a call for evidence in order to identify relevant published information of the risks and opportunities to the UK from climate change”. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, last night I attended a talk organised by Transition Exeter entitled “Climate Change Update – The Pathway to Two Degrees Warming” and subtitled “Can Global Warming be Limited to Two Degrees?” The evidence was presented on the night by Dr. Jeff Ridley from the Met Office’s Hadley Centre here in Exeter and consisted of an overview of the results of the UK Government funded AVOID research programme, followed by a question and answer session with the members of Transition Exeter. The brief executive summary of the answer to today’s headline question is :

No – There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell!

continue reading…

Cooperation and competition as values.

posted by Geoff on 10th Feb 2014

Originally on the Labour Party Group on LinkedIn

I trailed down to the University of Surrey [in December] for a seminar by Dr Tom Crompton, Change Strategist, WWF-UK. His talk was “Why Green Consumerism Sucks”. The email introducing it said

Mainstream environmentalism is dangerously obsessed with getting people to ’save the planet’ while doing other things – shopping, looking cool, or just mindlessly getting on with life. Here’s why it won’t work, and why enthusiasts for green consumerism press on regardless.

I thought it relevant to an argument I was having with Leeds City Council: I want them to publicise more details of what makes up our individual carbon footprints. The Leeds answer seemed to be don’t tell people because it will make no difference.


I had read some of Tom Crompton’s work on the web which was about framing (in the psychological sense). I failed to get a clear enough message from what I had found but the sense of it became much clearer at the seminar. The main message I took was that individuals have several value systems which govern our behaviour and sometimes these work against each other.

Competitive and cooperative values

continue reading…

Global Warming 2013. A summary.

posted by Geoff on 3rd Jan 2014

I found this excellent summary of Global Warming 2013 via Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice Blog. It was a post on Judith Curry’s Climate Etc. R. Gates has given me permission to repeat it here. I have added the headings and some formatting.

R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist | December 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm

As we ring out 2013, as an honest skeptic, I like to look back at the year and see what actual climate events of the year might cause me to modify or abandon my warmist position on AGW. Let’s take a look at a few of highlights of the 2013 Climate Year:

The lack of new records in 2013

1. The Top Story of the the 2013 Climate Year is probably the lack of any new global tropospheric records. This flattening of the rise in tropospheric records continues a10-15 year trend.

As a skeptic, I might take this to be evidence that “global warming” has stopped, but of course, being a knowledgeable skeptic and knowing that at least 50% of tropospheric heat comes from the ocean, we have to look back to the ocean to see what might be going on.

continue reading…

Food and permaculture

posted by Geoff on 18th Dec 2013

David Blume ( has kindly agreed that his article could be published here. This was originally written some 20 years ago.

I wrote this in response to post to the bioregional listserve from a woman at ATTRA who said something like “Of course you couldn’t feed the world with such a hippy-dippy, hunter-gatherer, landscape system like permaculture.” Well that got me a little steamed so this is what I wrote.

Dear Folks,

Real World Experience in Permaculture

I would like to inject some real world experience into this otherwise abstract discussion of food and permaculture.

In addition to being an ecological biologist, a permaculture production food farmer for 9 years, and an expert on biomass fuels, I have also been teaching permaculture since 1997 and have worked in many countries on food/energy production design issues. I have certified more than 400 people in permaculture design since 1997. For more info on this see my site at

So in light of my experience I have a couple of things to say. Let us dispense, for the moment only, with the talk of hunter-gatherer models since, to return to that state or to imitate it with design would meet limited acceptance. This is not the core design goal of permaculture although some of our small scale subsistence agriculture designs vaguely look like a hunter-gatherer paradise (i.e. it never existed like this in nature.) The issue of private property as we now define it also complicates that model. We are living in an agricultural age and permaculture offers huge benefits to both production and subsistence agriculture.

Two acres produced enough food for 300 people

As far as I know I was one of the only farmers fully utilizing permaculture to produce surplus food for sale in the US as a full time occupation. On approximately two acres— half of which was on a terraced 35 degree slope—I produced enough food to feed more than 300 people (with a peak of 450 people at one point), 49 weeks a year in my fully organic CSA on the edge of Silicon Valley . If I could do it there you can do it anywhere.

continue reading…

IPCC carbon budget: Missing feedbacks ignored.

posted by admin on 7th Dec 2013

Missing and underestimated feedbacks in the CMIP5 climate models used for the IPCC carbon budget

25th November 2013: Note for the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology listing papers on missing or underestimated feedbacks in the CMIP5 climate models used to calculate the carbon budget in the recent IPCC report (AR5).

The papers on missing/underestimated feedbacks.

December 2011

High risk of permafrost thaw: Climate change: High risk of permafrost thaw

September 2012

Permafrost feedback: Significant contribution to climate warming from the permafrost carbon feedback

continue reading…

Not a 50% chance. A 50% conditional probability.

posted by Geoff on 19th Oct 2013

Below is a reply to Lord Deben, the chair of the Committee on Climate Change.

The Committee has focused on “an approximately 50% chance of a global average near surface temperature increase of 2ºC above pre-industrial levels” (see below).

Their reasonong is flawed.

To get their “50% chance”, the Committee had to exclude the effects of feedbacks missing from climate models. See Missing Climate Feedbacks in my previous post.

This means the Committee really considered a “50% conditional probability“. It is conditional because this probability depends on the assumption that the missing feedbacks would have no net effect on global warming. This 50% conditional probability is not the same as a 50% chance.

I think scientific judgements (even at that time) predicted the net effect of the “missing feedbacks” would increase global warming. This means that taking these missing feedbacks into account, the chance of exceeding a 2ºC limit would be greater than 50%.

I don’t remember Lord Turner (then chair of the Committee on Climate Change) making the conditionality clear when he spoke at the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change on 2nd July 2008.

The reply to Lord Deben

Lord Deben
The Committee on Climate Change

19th October 2013

Dear Lord Deben,

A “50% chance”?

Thank you for your reply. I am pleased to hear that the CCC is in the process of considering the effect of permafrost melt and other feedbacks on future global warming. May I draw your attention again to the work of Kevin Schafer. There is an accessible report of his concerns in Science Daily, Thawing of Permafrost Expected to Cause Significant Additional Global Warming, Not Yet Accounted for in Climate Predictions.

Nov. 27, 2012 — Permafrost covering almost a quarter of the northern hemisphere contains 1,700 gigatonnes of carbon, twice that currently in the atmosphere, and could significantly amplify global warming should thawing accelerate as expected, according to a new report released November 27 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).


Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost seeks to highlight the potential hazards of carbon dioxide and methane emissions from warming permafrost, which have not thus far been included in climate-prediction modelling. The science on the potential impacts of warming permafrost has only begun to enter the mainstream in the last few years, and as a truly “emerging issue” could not have been included in climate change modelling to date.

I read the title of this article as meaning the same as “There is a substantial probability that thawing of permafrost will cause significant additional global warming”. Do you read it differently?

continue reading…

The Committee on Climate Change: Letters and response

posted by Geoff on 18th Oct 2013

Lord Deben
The Committee on Climate Change

15th October 2013

Dear Lord Deben,

DECC and the Committee on Climate Change

Thank you for agreeing to read this letter. I hope you remember our conversation after the PRASEG Annual Conference. You may find some passages tangential but I hope you will see why I include them. The first tangent is about the classical theory of the optical properties of matter.

The classical theory of the optical properties of matter

When I was reading Physics at Hull, I attended a series of lectures on the optical properties of matter. This used classical physics i.e. the physics developed before Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and quantum theory.

At the beginning of the series I wondered why we were being asked to learn a theory, which was based on concepts that had been overtaken by relativity and quantum theory. I assumed that the lecturer was lazy and just used some old notes of lectures he attended years before.

To my great surprise the theory, based on outdated concepts, seemed to work – and work reasonably well. Here was a theory about matter that had hard solid little things called atoms, nuclei and electrons whizzing round inside solid matter affecting the light that passed though it. We then knew such things were a nonsense and that the ‘reality’ was much more complicated, but the theory worked. Amazing!

continue reading…

Letter to the director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies

posted by Geoff on 14th Oct 2013

28th September 2013

Dear Dr Johnston,

Thank you for speaking to me on Tuesday. I thought your presentation of the state of the tax system and government expenditure at Economic competence and ‘In the Black Labour’ was very informative and clear.

You may remember I asked the question on the topic of earmarked taxes; in particular whether earmarked tax rebates should be counted as government expenditure or a cut in taxes? You agreed that they were a cut in taxes.

The particular tax rebate I mentioned was the rebate on VAT for every worker employed [1]. This rebate is an earmarked tax rebate. You were doubtful of earmarked taxes for reasons you explained but what objections do you have to earmarked tax rebates?

After the session I suggested to you that we need a very high carbon price to combat climate change. You replied that this would put our industry at a disadvantage. When I suggested imports should be taxed on their embodied carbon, you raised the objection that this would start a trade war.

continue reading…