Are you evil or very evil? | Brussels Blog

Are you evil or very evil?

posted by on 23rd Feb 2018

Are you evil, or very evil?

The Carbon Budget Morality Index (CBMI) is an attempt to link the your effects on climate change with a score estimating your morality – so you can see how evil you are.

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Before the robots take all our jobs

posted by on 4th Feb 2018

Before the robots take all our jobs

This outlines an old proposal of mine to modify VAT to create jobs.

The proposal gives extra flexibility to the management of the economy, making it easier to achieve full employment.

Below are two pieces I had published in the Computer Weekly in 1978. The first is an introduction from something that got rather technical and the second more concise description of the proposal I have been putting forward since the early 1970s.

How to create more jobs without inflation

Computer Weekly, October 1978


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Mixed communities, car-free cities and pedestrian apartheid

posted by on 2nd Jan 2018

Mixed communities, car-free cities and pedestrian apartheid

The “mixed communities” paradigm for housing development aimed to mix poorer people with more affluent neighbours to avoid the problems of large sink estates. It has been central to housing policy for more than a decade. A Parliamentary Select Committee in 2003 reported:

90. Several witnesses drew attention to the mistakes of the 1950s and 1960s when large council estates were built which tended to include high concentrations of poorer households. In its new programme, the Government must avoid creating ghettos by ensuring that different tenures are integrated into new developments. New approaches are required by private developers and housing associations to create mixed tenure schemes.

The decline of council housing

During the 1980s many council estates declined. The rot really set in with Thatcher’s housing policy as Andy Beckett outlined in a Guardian article, The right to buy: the housing crisis that Thatcher built:

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Pedestrian apartheid

posted by on 26th Dec 2017

Pedestrian Apartheid

Separate developments for non-motorists

Hazebrouck before the car

In 1976, I wrote a note, “RSPCA News”, about developments for non-motorists, where they are separated from motorists. This outlined financial and legal mechanisms that could makesuch developments work.

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Climate change, training & the fallacy of the lump of labour fallacy.

posted by on 30th Nov 2017

Climate change, training & the fallacy of the lump of labour fallacy.

Janesville Assembly Plant is a former automobile factory owned by General Motors located in Janesville, Wisconsin. Opened in 1919, it was the oldest operating GM plant when it was largely idled in December 2008, and ceased all remaining production on April 23, 2009.

Listening to the BBC World Service Business Daily programme on Tuesday morning that old angry amateur feeling came back. The programme, Jobs for the World’s Young, was billed like this:

Young people make up 35% of the world’s unemployed, and it’s a global problem. Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Amy Goldstein, author of Janesville: An American Story, tells us how retraining doesn’t always work when it comes to finding people new jobs in the rust belt of America.

In her review of Janesville in the New York Times, Jennifer Senior wrote

In the case of the many laid-off workers in the Janesville area, the outcomes are decidedly worse for those who have attended the local technical college to learn a new trade.

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Censored by the Overseas Development Institute?

posted by on 27th Nov 2017

Censored by the Overseas Development Institute?

I hope readers will excuse the labourious details

but even I find the theme “The ODI censored me”

rather far fetched.

I reported in a Angry Amateur No 2 that most of my websites are banned in Morrisons supermarkets. Most other websites are available even protest sites like Making Workers Pay or The Canary, a left wing site which The Sun has accused of spreading fake news. With most of my other sites blocked, this looks personal – but why? I am a bit paranoid but there are some out there that want to censor my views (and, of course, other more important views) but imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Overseas Development Institute seems to have joined in.

At the Overseas Development Institute

Lord Adair Turner

Although the ODI are a bit too close to the UK Government, they strike me as good people. They invite me to their presentations and have publications like these:

Implications of geoengineering for developing countries

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Had we but world enough and time – The Angry Amateur No. 4

posted by on 22nd Oct 2017

Had we but world enough and time

The Angry Amateur No 4

Andrew Marvell (31 March 1621 – 16 August 1678)
MP for Kingston upon Hull

Andrew Marvell was a much better poet than I ever was. His most famous poem is To His Coy Mistress. I encourage readers to go to the Poetry Foundation website and read the whole poem and also forgive me for chopping bits out with my own headings

The world is limited and time is short

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.

Time really is short.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity

Enjoy life: We can’t stop the inevitable

Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.


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Global Carbon Budgets and Wildfires

posted by on 19th Oct 2017

Global Carbon Budgets and Wildfires
(with added RCP 2.6)

I’ve tried to keep this post understandable.
For those that don’t like too many numbers, sorry.
Sometimes the small print is important.

Carbon Budgets for 2015 and 2016

I’ve been comparing the Global Carbon Project‘s Carbon Budgets for 2016 and 2015 and found two useful diagrams. Here are the diagrams, with a little bit of extra annotation to avoid the confusion that I had to start with.

Figure A: From Carbon Budget 2015: Heading “The total remaining emissions from 2014 to keep global average temperature below 2°C (900 GtCO2 ) will be used in around 20 years at current emission rates”.

Figure A:The remaining carbon quota for 66% chance <2°C : From the end of 2014

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What can climate modellers tell us about flying and eating beef?

posted by on 13th Oct 2017

This is a re-post from

Representative consumption pathways

Representative concentration pathways (RCPs) are hypothetical emissions of greenhouse gasses and other climate pollutants.  (So why are they called concentration pathways?) The RCPs specify individual climate pollutants, such as CO2, CH4, N2O and black carbon for each year from 2000 until 2100. The RCPs were introduced in IPCC Assessment Report Five (AR5) in 2014. After a selection process four of these pathways – tables of numbers specifying the yearly emissions of each pollutant were chosen as representatives of possible future climate forcing over the century.

Four RCP’s were chosen as standard: RCP2.6, RCP4.5, RCP 6 and RCP8.5.  RCP2.6 specifies the lowest concentrations of climate pollutants was specified in RCP2.6.  According to climate models, RCP2.6 is the only RCP that keeps the rise in global average temperature since pre-industrial to below 2°C.  The others have worse outcomes i.e. higher average global temperatures.

Different climate pollutants have different warming and cooling effects on the Earth but the effects of different pollutants are often combined into a figure that would equal the effect of carbon dioxide alone. This measure is called carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e. Combining the effects of the pollutants for the RCPs give this graph

According to Moss et al, The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment, the global temperature changes in the years to 2100 are given by

Representative Concentration Pathway Temp anomaly °C
  RCP 2.6 1.5 – peak then decline
  RCP 4.5 2.4 – stabilisation without overshoot
  RCP 6 3.0 – stabilisation without overshoot
  RCP 8.4 4.9 – still rising by 2100

Figures taken from Skeptical Science

The United Nations Framework for Climate Change, describe the Paris  Agreement of 2016 thus:

“The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to [ keep] a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Since the Paris agreement there have been discussions as to a what temperature rise “above pre-industrial levels” means: e.g. What is the baseline?  In the paper, Interpreting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C temperature limit, Joeri Rogelj discusses natural variability

“Therefore, we argue that the long-term temperature goal in the Paris Agreement should be understood as long-term changes in climatological averages attributed to human activity – excluding natural variability.”

He doesn’t discuss here the issue that has arisen by a paper he co-authored, Emission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 °C. This paper has caused some controversy partly because it uses the HADCRUT measure of the temperature.  This rates the global average temperature lower than other measures of temperature because it does not include temperatures in the Arctic, where temperatures are increasing rapidly. The quantity of greenhouse gasses that can be emitted before a particular temperature is reached is the remaining carbon budget, usually expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent.

Criticism of this paper has come from one of the co-founders of Real Climate, Gavin Schmidt. Dr Schmidt is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. On his Twitter feed he said:

“Headline claim from carbon budget paper that warming is 0.9ºC from pre-I is unsupported. Using globally complete estimates ~1.2ºC (in 2015)”

Dr Richard Millar, is the lead author of the “Emissions budgets” paper is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Oxford Martin Net Zero Carbon Investment Initiative where Professor Myles Allen is co-director.  Professor Allen is also one of the co-authors and one of the best known climate scientists in the UK.  It may not be an inaccurate characterisation to call this a debate between Myles Allen and Gavin Schmidt.

Using the HADCRUT as the measure of global average temperature, the”Emissions budgets” paper reports  a smaller rise in temperature since pre-industrial. This helps the conclusion that the world can emit more greenhouse gasses (has a larger carbon budget) before the 1.5°C limit is reached: More greenhouse gasses than other scientists have calculated using  “globally complete” measures of average global temperature, such as GISTEMP from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Sciences.

Perhaps we should note, whatever the difference between the HADCRUT and GISTEMP measures on this day in October 2017, the actual physical state of the Earth (no) is unchanged. It is what it is, recent floods, droughts, hurricanes, wildfires and all.

The calculations  for remaining carbon budgets are made using climate models.

Future physical states of the Earth are predicted by climate models. These are used to estimate remaining carbon budgets by counting emissions as global temperature changes. However, the same “global temperature” may describe many different physical states. For example global sea level may be different so might the  size of remaining ice masses. Even these two are composite measures that can have different detailed structure. E.g. Will the Himalayan glaciers have disappeared or even more been shaved off the Greenland Ice Sheet?

To gather together all the characteristics that are used in complex climate models into one number, global average temperature, may be a useful shorthand but it is a fudge. It ignores not only regional temperature variations but also other measures, which are also fudges; but like sea levels, remaining ice mass and ocean heat content, they add more to the climate picture necessary for policy making.  And, let’s not forget the problem that looms in many scientists minds: ocean acidification.

Perhaps the “global average temperature” fudge is good for getting political agreements in the hands of skilled political operators but it isn’t enough to drive grown-up policy.  A more detailed picture of future possible climates and their consequences is necessary.

As well more detailed consequences of a changed climate ,  policy makers should know more about the levers of mitigation that are possible. Here, concepts like carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) which conflate several different climate pollutants become concepts that can be confusion: e.g. whether the short lived pollutantsin the CO2e composite should be calibrated for 20, 100 or 500 years.

In Well below 2°C: Mitigation strategies for avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate changes, Ramanathan et. al discuss three possible groups of levers for mitigating climate change. These are (1)cutting CO2 emissions, (2)cutting short lived climate pollutants and (3)sequestering carbon. Although these are levers of a sort, more direct mitigations might be based on altering consumption:

  1. Cut down on aviation
  2. Cut down on fossil fueled land and sea transport
  3. De-carbonise electricity
  4. Build with wood not bricks and steel
  5. Cut beef and lamb consumption
  6. Stop open wood fires

And lots more.

Changing any of these climate levers independently changes the mix of climate pollutants: a change that cannot be represented by Representative Concentration Pathway because the concentrations come from fixed tables of pollutant concentrations.

It would help if the effects of  these climate levers were outputs from climate models – separate effects like sea level rise or Himalayan glacier retreat but driven by measures of consumption like changes in aviation and diet.

Representative Concentration Pathways  used in climate models confuse the effects of consumption-based levers. Will there be, any time soon, climate computer models that can have Representative Consumption Pathways which could tell us the effects on climate of halving air travel or changing our diet from beef and lamb to more climate friendly diet?

An angry amateur exposes himself – The Angry Amateur No 3

posted by on 26th Aug 2017

‘You pretentious git’, said Dave. He had just read the first line of my last posting:

Once upon a time I was a poet. Quite a good one.

I had to agree it read like I am pretentious git but the reality is more complicated. I get embarrassed when people praise me too much. I usually utter a quick “F*** off”, look away, put my head down with my right palm covering my eyes. I don’t make eye contact. I’ve just rehearsed it with Ezekiel to check.

In this picture I was given the instruction “Go right over there, Geoffrey, and bounce a ball”.
That was a metaphor for my place in the school classroom. Not really fitting in. Can you spot me?

As a child, I wasn’t an outcast but I didn’t fit in well with the rest of the kids. I used to blame it on the fact that I lived in a bungalow the other side of a big hill away from the friendly terraced streets near the school. But it was probably more down to my personality – a sort-of loner. Later I learnt to be more gregarious but it didn’t come naturally. To be an Angry Amateur it is necessary to have some distance from the rest and be separate from the group think of the crowd. Actually it’s even less definite than group-think more like a subliminal group-smell as in that Guardian piece, Can you smell the perfect partner?

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