DECC's 2050 emissions pathway
mobbsey at gn.apc.org
Sat Mar 5 12:50:09 GMT 2011
Hmmn, you go to quickly check your email and before you know it you blow more
than an hour picking apart someone's spreadsheet! :-(
On Saturday, March 05, 2011 10:24:38 am John Ackers wrote:
> Don't know how we have all missed this. Mike Childs, Lynas
> and others contributing to it.
> Public contributions only for 3 or 4 days starting today!
> Incredibly short period.
Short consultation? Perhaps they're worried someone would do a hatchet job on
their spreadsheet......... too late!
If you want to devise any reasonable plan then it has to be based upon
capacity, and the limitations of the technology upon which it is based, and
the resource implications of that strategy both today and extending well into
If you pull apart the guts of this spreadsheet then the limiting factors to
this model are, in order of significance --
* Primarily, the targets set for future economic growth and population (see
the 'Global Assumptions' tab) -- since they are the scaling variable by which
all decisions are modified;
* Second, the figures set by the user, which have no corresponding weighting
for either their ecological or reaource impacts, other than the effect on
carbon emissions; and
* Finally, the conversion factors and source data that are embodied within the
assumptions of the Digest of UK Energy Statistics, which form the structure
within which the model assumption are calculated and presented.
If you really were serious then you'd take the emissions limit as the critical
limiting factor and make all other considerations subservient to it --
unsurprisingly, that's not how this is spreadsheet constructed!
What this model represents is an extrapolation of past trends, and past
assumptions about the economic model upon which the nation operates. In many
ways this follows MacKay's own principles in 'Sustainable Energy Without the
Hot Air', for example, where he never assumes a reduction in power demand
because, as he states:
"In these plans, I assume that the current demand for electricity for gadgets,
light and so forth is maintained... Yes, lighting efficiency is improved by a
switch to light-emitting-diodes for most lighting, and many other gadgets will
get more efficient; but thanks to the blessings of economic growth, we'll have
increased the number of gadgets in our lives."
(I discussed this general issues in my Ecolonomics post from Sept. 2009 --
So, this whole strategy can be characterised as:
* A guestimation of future trends in carbon emissions,
* Not based on upon the direct characteristics of the systems involved but
assumptions about their performance,
* Based upon economic projections that are a summation of past trends, which
represent past political orthodoxy about wealth and markets, not an estimation
of future potential, and which therefore represent a form of political-
economic stasis, and
* Most important, it uses metrics within the model which are entirely false
because they are one-dimensional, only considering carbon and not the other
directly related limiting factors on human ecology (e.g. soils, land, water,
mineral resources and energy... and, of course, population) -- and which are
ultimately over-ridden by these other factors because they represent 'primary'
resource constraints not 'secondary' or 'derivative' products of the human
system (for an explanation of this reality see
This isn't an environmental, let alone an ecological, strategy -- it's a
reductionist smoke and mirrors exercise that, I personally consider, has been
"seen to be done" rather than "done to be seen". The decision on which energy
strategy the government will adopt *has already been selected* because it's
pre-determined by the economic strategy which they are committed to -- growth!
In order to grow the economy you must fulfil certain pre-requisites, and a
growing supply of energy and resources is the principal factor in this.
Therefore this is not a truly "open" consultation -- any solution which
doesn't accord to this overarching, pre-determined strategy will be summarily
The difficulty omitted in this model is that the growth trend is dependent upon
an equilibrium within which the availability and price of a whole range of
resources -- not just carbon -- have a far greater effect on economic
stability than the superficial political (as in, if you ask a politician which
is more important, growth or carbon) concern about carbon.
As we've seen with the political consequences of rising food and fuel prices
in the developing world, which will ultimately hit home here too once they
rise further, these other factors represent the driving economic reality of
resource depletion, and render the carbon issue an irrelevance in the face of
the dire human needs they create. For that reason exercises such as this are
misleading not only for the public, but also for the environment movement in
general, because they don't engage with the real trends which are driving our
modern, prdominantly urbanised society.
Like many forms of mainstream campaigning, this spreadsheet embodies stasis
within the economic system. It does not seek to challenge the social and
economic structures created by past economic expansion because that raises
awkward questions about economic/ecological/ethical fairness and justice. As
the factors currently driving the inflationary and asset price spirals drive
the equilibrium away from stasis I think that the carbon issue, driven by the
political necessity to answer such rational organs as The Sun and the Daily
Hate, will take a back-seat to other issues. To consciously create a future
where we can reduce carbon, and address the resource depletion issue, requires
that we change some of the fundamental assumptions within the economic model
of the UK -- that's not the purpose of this consultation, and nor is it
reflected in the assumptions inherent in the use of this spreadsheet.
Enough!... I'm off into the garden!
"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')
Paul's book, "Energy Beyond Oil", is out now!
For details see http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/ebo/
Read my 'essay' weblog, "Ecolonomics", at:
Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864
email - mobbsey at gn.apc.org
website - http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/index.shtml
public key - http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/mobbsey-2011.asc
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