Posts by Rich Lock

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2292 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Standing together, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Which is all very interesting but the reality is suggesting that personal morality has no role in law because of the professional code is both daft and something that lawyers insist is important.

    I work in law, and on many occasions I have been in a position where there are multiple possible courses of action available to a client. I am obliged to inform my client of all of the options, but generally I will attempt to emphasise the course of action that I think is in their best interests. The English language being what it is, and basic human psychology being what it is, attempting to provide the options in a completely neutral and balanced manner would be next to impossible.

    It would be disingenous to try to argue that it could be possible for the personally unscrupulous or unethical to emphasise a course of action that might financially benefit them more than another, but giving advice that is incorrect (knowingly or not), or omitting an option (even if with good intentions), can come back to bite you hard in the arse.

    And as has already been pointed out, I can’t force a client to pick an option I prefer. If they bull-headedly want to pursue a particular course of action, I don’t have a choice but to carry out their instructions to the best of my ability.

    However, there does seem to be an assumption here that the lawyers here are the responsible party - the ones in the driving seat. Given that there are many pieces of the jigsaw missing here, I think that's a somewhat hasty and not necessarily fair conclusion.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2292 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Standing together, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2292 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Standing together, in reply to NBH,

    If you conduct research with human subjects without obtaining human ethics committee approval, falsify data, or engage in plagiarism, then although there’s a good chance you haven’t broken any law you will be subject to professional sanctions up to and including effectively not being able to practise as a scientist ever again.


    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2292 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to BenWilson,

    But it is not at all certain that the economic losses to society as a whole would be large or even present at all.

    You will need be specific about what you mean because that is extremely counterintuitive. Are you not talking about taking out fossil fuel consumption, which accounts for 70-80% of all energy usage on the planet?

    The IPCC report for the UN concluded that:

    Diverting hundred of billions of dollars from fossil fuels into renewable energy and cutting energy waste would shave just 0.06% off expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3%

    I've not read it, but I expect that in the detail it addresses at least some of the points you are rasing (how people can transition from a crappy intenal combustion engine to something better without having to go back to nothing, for example).

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2292 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to DeepRed,

    Bart's scientifical optimism notwithstanding, I suspect you might be right.

    Their leaders talked...and talked.....and talked.....

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  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to David Haywood,

    And consider that we’ve already made a big step in aeronautical engineering from piston engines to turbines.

    That is a good example of what I meant by step change. My bigger problem is that while all this is lovely to talk about, and makes for a great theoretical discussion, as a society we have a built-in momentumand resistance to change at almost every level from the individual up to global.

    We’re still using much the same turbines 70 years after we made this particular change. I recently revisted my old graduate (aerospace) employer 20+ years on. They’re still working on improvements to the same models of exactly the same turbine engines 20 years later – not different brand-new designs – the same engines, just Mk [X]+3 intervening iterations (or whatever). This accounts for the vast majority of the rescource of thousands of employees. Scale that up to include airports, fuel suppliers, distribution chains, etc across the globe and you have a model that will take decades to change, for appreciable but limited benefit (you don’t overcome the contrail issue, for example).

    In the short term, I’d prefer a focus on using what we already have in a different or more limited manner. You don’t need to build more roads if you give incentives to have travel structured in a manner that means not everyone is on the road at the same time every day, for example. If air travel is a problem, then it needs to be made less accessible (it needs to cost more). That's not paletable, but medicine rarely is.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2292 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The perilous birth of the…, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    It’ll be nice to bring some data to the party.

    Is that even legal? :)

    There are, sadly, no plans to include a ban on the use of synthetic data. Although what is known is the subculture as the ‘success rush’ can be a euphoric experience, side effects can include hysteria, foaming at the mouth, blinkered vison, delusions, and self-hate. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of ‘astroturfing’, or ‘fact-twisting’, please seek assistance.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2292 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate,

    PS, in terms of investment, I doubt governments will be doing anything significant in the near future given that the prevailing flavour is austerity with a sour undertone of denialism. If we need a lot of money thrown at problems, our best best is probably to hope that today's internet billionaires start having children, stop farting around with space projects and start thinking about their possible grandchidren's futures.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2292 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate,


    Perhaps a better approach to the problem of air travel is to develop alternatives. Airships have potential but they aren’t as fast, which for some purposes is just fine. Sea travel really is too slow for most human interactions, but it’s worth noting that all mail is now delivered by air, which is convenient sure, but is also wasteful. There have been huge changes in aircraft engines, particularly around noise, perhaps a stronger focus on fuel efficiency could see a whole other class of aircraft that were even more fuel efficient.

    Current engines and aircraft run about as efficiently as they ever can, without some real eureka breakthrough that would allow a step change. Next time you’re watching an old ‘60’s or ’70’s film that includes footage of a passenger plane taking off, have a look at how much particulate crap spews out the back, and compare that to today’s engines. Even if such a breakthrough were to happen, it would take decades to cascade through the current global infrastructure.

    For example, it’s well-known that the flying wing style design is roughly around 40% more fuel-efficient than the ubiquitous tube-with-wings of today’s airliners. But even leaving aside the inherent problems of instbility/control difficulty, no-one’s developing one, because:

    1) it would take billions to develop a practical passenger/freight-carrying example as you’d be starting more or less from scratch rather than tinkering with an existing design, which is what all aerospace companies spend 99% of their time doing;

    2) studies show that passengers don’t like it as most of the seats are clustered in the centre rather than at the edges close to the windows (even the centre aisle in today’s layouts is seen as preferable).

    3) 100% of existing commercial airports are set up to slot a plane into a box of certain dimensions at the terminal in nice neat rows at the various gates so that an umbilical tunnel of standard size can be attached to the doors for loading/unloading (see pic). You’d either need an entirely new infrastructure, requiring investment at each airport you want to fly into, or a lot of design concessions on your aircraft. The Airbus A380 was seen as a big breakthrough when it was introduced, but it’s still just a tube-with-wings, and it was carefully designed to fit exisiting infrastructure.

    Air travel is a big problem for global warming, not just because a lot of carbon products are burnt, but because a lot of stuff happens in the upper atmosphere. Contrails from high-atmosphere flights are a big contributor to climate change, for example.

    It’s my view that people only stop doing something when you make it harder than the ’better’ alternative. The only reason anyone uses public transport in London to commute is because the other choices are worse – if you drive, you’re stuck in traffic for hours, you pay a congestion charge, and you don’t have anywhere to park when you get where you’re going. Cramming onto a tube like a sardine is seen as a slightly less hideous alternative. The only way to stop people flying is to make it too expensive to do on a regular basis.

    I have deliberately not bought a car - I don't need one where I currently live, but I would certainly like one. I'd drive a lot more if I had one. When I was in NZ, I deliberately didn't fly back to see family in the UK very often. It caused quite a few minor family political problems....

    My preference would be to tax aviation fuel (currently tax-exempt for historical reasons that date back to immediately post-WW2 and which are no longer relevant). This would require enormous global political will to overcome extreme resistance from the air industry, but would cut down on the proliferation of cheap and cheerful airlines that are ubiquitous in Europe (easyjet, ryanair, etc) that offer £1 flights.

    A slightly more local ‘carrot’ to cut down on emissions from driving would be to offer tax breaks to companies that offer employee concessions such as working from home or far more flexible working hours. My old firm used to close down any discussion of this by basically saying that we couldn’t be trusted to work from home, and that as we were a ‘service provider’, we had to be available to ‘service’ our clients within standard hours – i.e. everyone works the same hours because everyone else works the same hours. Both reasons were, frankly, bullshit (and the first was more than a little insulting, especially given that the metrics of ‘good/bad’ employee were by far more easily measurable than any other firm I’ve ever worked for). However, they do illustrate the inherent conservatism of the current mindset, that will only be changed by making ‘bad’ things too expensive to continiue doing, and ‘good’ things financially attractive.

    In terms of how we discuss the climate and the language we use, that requires a sea change in the media business model and mind set. Climate change is a story that’s been unfolding for decades – it’s 25 years since I first started talking about this stuff – CFC’s in aerosols and so on. It’s been decades since the big climate change summits in Rio and whereever. If I want to thoroughly understand a topic, I’ll generally read a few books about it – you start to get an understanding of ‘The War On Drugs’ by reading David Simon’s ‘The Corner’, and Ed Vuliamy’s ‘Amexica’, and Misha Glenny’s ‘McMafia’, and half a dozen others.

    The news media runs on scoops, and gotcha’s, and soundbites, and 24-hour rolling news, and ‘balance’ (here’s a chap in a white coat, ‘balanced’ against this other chap in a fetching tin foil hat). They have made a virtue out of getting an insignificant factoid to air five minutes before their rival. That does not lend itself to anything like a deep appreciation of what the problems are, and what needs to be done.

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