What do I think, What can I do?

Archive for March, 2012

Earth Hour and Strike balance

Thanks to the wonderful information from Spanish electrical distribution data it is possible to make an evaluation of Earth Hour. At 21:00 29000 MWh were used whereas it was 31500 last saturday and 31400 the previous one a 8% less. It is more than my expectations because I checked the lights around me and I did not notice any change with respect to a normal day. Even ourself started late as we did not notice the hour, after that we enjoyed 45 lovely minutes in candlelight. And I have to confess there was some light outside, so it was not so difficult.

To compare it with another figure, there was a general strike on Thursday, in this case the consumption dropped more or less from 33000 MWh to 27000 MWh in the morning hours, a 18%. The three last figures in the post show the day consumption evolution for those three days, Earth hour (saturday), strike (Thursday) and before strike (Wednesday).  Four basic conclusions:

  1. Classical ways of protest are still stronger than “new” ones, at least in this case and for the moment.
  2. Earth hour had an impact and enough followers to reduce the total consumption by 8% (it was even mentioned in the TV at 22:00, I got quite happy about that).
  3. We have margin and possibilities to reduce energy demand without returning to the caves. The best renewable is the efficiency and the best efficiency is to consume less.
  4. We, Consumers, are more powerful than we think, but we need coordination to show our strength

Earth hour day energy consumption and generation in Spain (source https://demanda.ree.es/demanda.html)

Strike day energy consumption and generation in Spain (source https://demanda.ree.es/demanda.html)

Day before strike energy consumption and generation in Spain (source https://demanda.ree.es/demanda.html)


Earth Hour in four days

This Saturday, with the hope of the beginning of Spring in Northen Hemisphere an interesting event will take place: the earth hour. I think I remember it or something similar from other years, but in any case I got the news from a street advertisement (classical media are still useful to some extent, although it would be great to get it from Angry Birds). In their web  explain it started in Australia in 2007, it is widespread now throughout the world, it is organized by WWF and wants us to make a contribution against climate change. The actions consists of turning of lights for one our from 20:30 to 21:30 on Saturday. I understand that it is local time, so it will not be simultaneous for all. I suposse that a coordination of a simoultaneous one is much more difficult but it would really funny for any astronaute or an alien observer.

Now, that were are in strike and demonstration times in Europe this other way to revindicate things its quite refreshing for me. New times, global problems and posibilities require global actions and new ways for cityzens in any part of the world. I think it has many unexplored possiblilities not only for general reivindication but also for more concrete ones.  For example, recently there was a crowded demonstration asking to shut down Garoña nuclear power station, most people living close to it, particularly in Basque Country is quite worried by this old nuclear very similar to Fukushima.  Demostrations are OK, but maybe a massive reduction of power requirement and commercialization might be more worrisome to the owners of the power station or the Goverment making the decision.

I believe in the joined power of small citizens, it is something we need in climate change, we need a big and diversified driving force. Making concrete things is a way to start and feel you get some reward. It is just a symbol, but it could help to gain moment. Next saturday I will try to shut down the lights and if we are lucky and more people shuts down their lights and the clouds go to another place enojy one hour of starry night in the city. I will prepare the telescope.

Science Fiction and Climate Change: Matrix

I am going to start my small, personal review of science fiction and climate change with Matrix. Although this is not a film anyone would relate with climate change it deserves a place in the hearts of science fiction lovers, at least for me. The nightmare of being harvested and artificially entertained by a quite imperfect world not so different from the real one was terrible and fascinating at the same time and the visual effects were a step beyond in 1999. Incredible.

But I am not here to comment the film, just to find a subtle connection with climate change.  Lets read the scrpit:

Morpheus : A singular consciousness that spawned an entire race of machines. We don’t know who struck first – us, or them. But we know it was us that scorched the sky. At the time they were dependent on solar power and it was believed that they would be unable to survive without an energy source as abundant as the sun. Throughout human history, we have been dependent on machines to survive. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.

In this case not exactly climate change but solar energy. As Morpheus explains to Nero the machines were powered by solar energy, all of them, and humans induced a kind of black out of it to destroy the machines. The situation in the film of humans as energy sources, comes from that. Of course, scientifically a human body is not very effective to produce energy, it produces heat but wasting energy that comes from plants, and eventually from the sun. So this idea is nonsense but the faith of solar power in the late nineties is remarkable. I wish it was more widespread now.

Climate change and Science Fiction

Image from wikipedia

Recently, Joe Romm wrote a very interesting autocritic post ,  where he complained about the low coverage of climate change in media and particularly in cinema.

In the first moment I thought I disagree with this opnion. After a second thought I am not sure. But doubts are frequently a good opportunity, so I am going to try to use it to do something I had in mind since some time: to look for links between climate change and Science Fiction, books and cinema in a broad and not too systematic sense.

I know this is not a key issue. Science Fiction is a hard to define combination of science, technology, expectations, fantasy and literature. Because of that, it does not prove any scientific fact, but it can be an index of the interest of a subject in a moment and I love it.

Finally, in spite of it’s lack of provatory value it can exert an influence in public opinion and help us make more conscious of climate change or other topics, particularly in the case of cinema.

Feed-in-Tarif stopped in Spain: some more fuel from against renewables.

Spain is in crisis, in a deep crisis, and one of the consequences is that feed-in-tarif for renewables (and other energy sources too) was stopped. But this was not an isolated maneuver, there were previous advises from the energy sector and it is justified after that even from leftist newspapers. The last justification is based on this article and even uncritically accepted in blogosphere.The idea is simple: energy in Spain is very expensive, this is terrible in crisis time and the guilty are the renewables.

The problem is that nothing is so simple. Beginning with the news. The first news says that Spain is the most expensive country in the EU regarding electricity prices. The source is more modest, it says that it is the third for households and expensive for industries too. If we go to the real source, eurostat, the ranking is effectively second for households and seventh for industries. Ok, we are improving. However, those data do not consider taxes, this source adds the tax effect, and with that Spain goes to the 6th in the household ranking and 12th in the industrial. The main conclusion is that the data are not so definitive and the differences low.

But going even further I dared to make a simple correlation graph with eurostat data. It is shown below and draws electricity costs for households and % of renewables in the generation. The result is really striking!!! The trend line is negative, the more renewables , the lower costs. Of course this is not true, first because the trend in the figure is completely unreliable, there is no trend, and second because the costs of electricity a quite complex with many subtle concepts deserving more posts.

Anyway, I think that renewables have been and still are in the first view more costly than some other sources, but in the long-term they are really profitable for the whole society. And, as a wise man told me today at work stopping all the promising renewable industry in Spain, in the verge of profitability seems a really short-term sort-view idea.


Climate Wars: The war on books.

This battle is not a real battle as the stolen email case (climategates vs. Herathland institute). It is
a different fight mostly dialectic but a fight after all. It is about books. One month ago a german book was considered a great success in skeptic blogs: Die Kalte Sonne. Two were the main reasons for skeptic joy, one of the authors had been an important environmentalist in Germany and the book was quite successful in Amazon Germany, at least before selling. Climate Hawks did not mention this too much except the answer in SKS, explaining the links of the author with energy industry and the mistakes contained in the book.

A bit later the most mentioned climatologists Michael Mann published a book about climate science and its wars. This book was harshly criticized by most famous skeptic blog WUWT as it uses to be anything Mann does. But this campaign reached again Amazon (definitively a battlefield) following the WUWT recommendation to vote it negatively. The defense came from Joe Romm in a nice to read post thinking about Amazons review system but at the same time taking care about ethics limits. In my opinion contrary to the emails one, this was a victorious battle, at least in the weapon choice. I bought Mann’s book for Kindle (I hope to read it someday).

At the same time this kind of books are not only interesting for their readers, the presentation of the book is a great opportunity for general media to remember climate change and say something meaningful and more effective than the book itself (I really have to put it in this year full list). And maybe someone will be interested enough to read it and get more conscious of climate change challenges.