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Zero Carbon report: delusional

What's there to say about it? -- it's delusional!

Very simple point; where does the money come from?

In order to generate the money to pay for this change, assuming all the materials were there at an affordable price (that's a big "if" if you read the EU's new report on critical raw materials, ) you're going to have to grow the economy further; growing the economy futher not only negates reductions in emissions but it also drives the depletion of natural resources further.

This report presumes that not only is the present conception of mainstream society "natural", but that this can continue without any significant change by simply changing the energy sources that we plug into. This, for want of a better term, is complete bullshit. As energy forms at least half of the value of economic growth there is a dynamic interaction between energy and the economy {EROEI/IROII (investment return on investment input), exergy efficiency, etc.} which means that changing the financial and energy flows within the economy will ultimately redefine function of the economy. That whole issue is missing from this report.

I though the first Zero Carbon Britain was flawed because they flatly ignored the inter-relation of economics and energy, and the ways this could improve/negate the possibility of changing the ecological footprint of Britain. I've yet to do some detailed crunching on their numbers but I think this is worse because they've doctored the elements of the strategy in order to fit the desired outcomes rather than looking at the mechanics of how such change will play-out in a real world environment.

HOWEVER, the most egregious flaw in this report is that this is a "carbon-from-energy-sources" problem. Carbon is not the only critical factor in our future. Food, raw materials, water, population and climate change are going to define the future for the other two major factors in the problem -- population and economic growth -- over the course of this century. This is a blinkered view of the problems of "carbon", not an analysis of how we negotiate the limits to the human ecological footprint.


Britain has no proper renewable energy industry. E.g the Sharp PV factory near Wrexham "makes" pv panels, but the intellectual property for those panels, and the licensing payments/profits for manufacturing those panels in the UK all flow back to Sharp in Osaka. Likewise the Vestas "wind turbine factory" in the Isle of Wight didn't make wind turbines, it made the blades and towers. That's work that any steel fabrication factory could do anywhere (which is why the work went elsewhere). The really important bit, the nacelle containing the drive train, transmission and electronics is made in Denmark at Vestas HQ.

This is why Zero Carbon Britain is full of holes. We don't have the money to buy this equipment -- Britain's platinum Barclaycard is already maxed-out! For that reason the only way we're going to do this is by massively re-tooling the economy back to manufacturing, or by growing the economy to create new wealth to print money/issue credit against in order to buy the technology from abroad. Either of these two options would of course increase not only our proportionate carbon emissions, but it would also increase our energy demand just at the time we've got problems with energy supply (e.g. read this and try keeping a straight face

This is why, much to the annoyance of some of the CAT people I've met in the past, I stress the need for "low tech" options to both reduce emission AND reduce energy supply and the need to consume. E.g., turning down the heating and putting a jumper on rather than installing super-dooper-insulation materials. It's really a matter of complexity. The more complex your tooling -- e.g. reducing demand versus installing a massively expanded national grid -- the more energy and resources you have to throw at the problem. We're not in a position, nationally, but also most individuals stuck in jobs just to pay their loans, in order to extend ourselves any more to create some new green energy utopia.... and it is a utopia because at the global level, considering all humanity not just the comparatively rich consumers in the developed world who have a conscience about these issues, the raw materials required to create this new system (electric cars, field of PV, whatever) just don't exist. We don't have the resources to carry on the present industrial system for more than a few decades, and the new greener technologies that Zero Carbon Britain promotes requires the large-scale use of even less plentiful resources (e.g. rare earths -- see Paul Mason's excellent piece on this


arguably we passed the "sustainable" limits to growth in the late 80s (my interpretation of a "limit" is something you can achieve and maintain).

What we're now experimenting with are the "limits to collapse" -- the point when (metaphorically!, although it'd make a great Nick Park animation) the rivots pop and the exploding panels of the economic steam boiler start to slice and dice the engineers. It's not that simple because, of the 20 or 30 natural or man-made critical elements within the human ecological system, it only takes one or two to consistently fail for the whole complex structure to unravel -- and how fast it unravels/falls back down the slope depends on which fail first. CSIRO's re-evaluation of LtG in 2008/9 found that we're still on course for the "standard run" scenario peak and collapse -- about 2020/2035.

From the Zero Carbon Britain point of view there's many elements of their plan which have value, but without that over-riding notion of ecological limits and sustainable capacity the ZCB scenario doesn't mean much. At present the environment movements lobbying for renewables is being supplanted by an industry backed lobbying effort to secure the lucrative production subsidies. E.g., did you know that the Yes2Wind campaign (, set up by WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, has been sold to the people who run "power sector communications specialist Pendragon PR" (as their web site describes themselves --