Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sustainable Business presentation

David Thorpe on MTVA 3.5MB Powerpoint of a talk on sustainable business opportunities is here.

I gave the talk at the ESPM University Sao Paulo on November 18th.

At the venue I was astonishingly ambushed by a crew from MTV and here's a clip from the MTV interview with David Thorpe.

Wall Street versus climate science

We must not underestimate the pressure against a coherent deal at COP-15.

The on going controversy about the hacking into the e-mails of the Climate Research Unit in the UK exemplifies how extreme in the battle is becoming.

We must fight this anti-science and anti-democratic attitude at every chance. I am taking the opportunity to pass on comment on this by a colleague in the Cap and Share campaign group of which I am a part. (And if any of you don't know the difference between Cap and Share and Cap and Trade, see )

Lets not mince words - what we have in the CRU hacking is a financial sector and carbon economy sector attack on climate science, indeed on the scientific method in general.

For those who think this view is extreme then I invite them to read the following article in the Wall Street Journal about this crisis:

In order to get maximum clarity about the issues at stake I have cut out and selected phrases from this article to thrown them into maximal relief:

"much-ballyhooed scientific consensus on global warming"

"how a single view of warming and its causes is being enforced"

"the climate-tracking game has been rigged from the start."

"this privileged group" (climate scientists who published in peer reviewed journals)

Note the phraseology - peer review is "enforcing a single view" "rigging climate tracking right from the start" by a "clique".

"only those whose work has been published in select scientific journals, after having gone through the "peer-review" process, can be relied on to critique the science."

" critics outside this clique are dismissed and disparaged."

note the words. Climate scientists who submit to a peer review process are regarded as a: "clique"

Climate Research Journal "blackballed"

"The response from the defenders of Mr. Mann and his circle has been that even if they did disparage doubters and exclude contrary points of view, theirs is still the best climate science. The proof for this is circular. It's the best, we're told, because it's the most-published and most-cited—in that same peer-reviewed literature. The public has every reason to ask why they felt the need to rig the game if their science is as indisputable as they claim."

What is at stake here is nothing less that the future of scientific method - and whether it is going to be subordinated to commercial interests. The climate crisis is not going away - and nor will the financial interests who want to stop action on climate change. This crisis will get worse and the pressure on the scientific method will get worse too.....

Consider how climate science - or any other science - will evolve if not subjected to peer scrutiny by qualified colleagues: any explanation that you want will prevail to explain how the world works - as long as you have the money to pay "scientists" or " Institutes" in Washington and elsewhere to selectively and uncritically pick the data that suits the case you want to make. Scientific "truth" will be made by lawyers and the PR industry and will be available to the highest bidder.

...and the people with the most money to give will be in the banking and fossil fuel sectors......

Brian/ David

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Meeting Diego

Tonight I met one of my Brazilian fans, Diego Remus, at the place where he works, The Hub, which coincidentally is right near the restaurant where we were the previous night during the power cut.

When we met he first took me to a bookshop on Avenida Paulista and surprised me by finding on the shelves a copy of my book Hybrids in English as well as Portuguese and made me stand there while he took a photograph.

I'm getting kind of used to this while I'm here. in

Diego is a specialist in social networking and electronic media, a consultant to start-ups and interested in applying sustainability theory as well as communication theory to new models of business enterprise. He set up a Portuguese language fan club for Hybrids.

He works also for Startupi, which is a pun, because the Tupi is an old indigenous culture.

We especially talked about industrial symbiosis, resource efficiency and the potential of the sustainable economy new business model to benefit Brazilian businesses. He's going to arrange for me to give a talk at The Hub on the subject at the end of next week when I'm back in town from Porto Alegri and Curitiba.

Blackout in Brazil

I don't know whether it's because the Low Carbon Kid is in town, but yesterday was the biggest power cut in the history of Brazil, so big it made the front page of the Guardian newspaper.

I was in a Brazilian restaurant near the Avenida Paulista with Katey Moran, the author I am sharing the trip with, and two of her friends who teach at the St Paul's School where we are working this week. We were waiting for the main course when suddenly all the lights went out except for the emergency exit lights. These went out soon after.

Used to this kind of thing back home in Wales, I expected them to come on quite soon. I am well aware that there are frequent small power cuts in local areas here in Brazil. Then somebody got a call on their mobile from a relative in Rio de Janeiro who said the power was out there too, and in Brasilia, and we realised that it was big.

The waiter didn't bring candles until I asked for them! But then he bought a rather elegant oil-fed light also.

dining by candlelight in the Sao Paulo blackout. This is not us, but very much like us and in the same area!

We looked out the window - some places had lights on, most of them were dark and people were thronging the pavements talking in the light of the headlamps of passing cars. We speculated as to the cause and agreed that it was probable that it was the Itaipu hydroelectric plant as in fact it turned out to be.

Perhaps we'll never find out exactly what the cause was, but one thing is the sure: it's what happens if you put all your energy eggs into one supply basket.

Luckily the rest of the kitchen was cooking on gas and we got our main course. Luckily we didn't see any looting.

Unluckily we still had to pay our restaurant bill even though the cash till wasn't working!

We came back through darkened streets in the taxi. The hotel had a generator and some of the lifts were working though there were no lights in the rooms.

There's nothing like the power going out to make you appreciate electricity when it is there. Perhaps it's a signal to President Lula, but if so he's getting the wrong message. Today he pledged to use the revenue from the potential future exploitation of the Pre-Salt oil fields to strengthen the grid infrastructure.

As I said in my previous blog, this absolutely must be left under the sea where it is now, for the sake of the planet. Brazil is blessed with a variety of potential sources of energy, and solar power is one of them. A feed-in tariff like the one coming in in the UK and already in force in many European countries would be a brilliant incentive to diversify and localise the energy supply while creating wealth amongst the population. There's no shortage of other potential sources of sustainable energy.

Brazil needs to continue with its own development of renewable energy, not go backwards into the fossil age.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Brazil is going backwards to Copenhagen

There is nothing more urgent in the world than a meaningful settlement at the talks on climate change in Copenhagen in December.

The perspective here in Brazil is that it would seem to be on the right side of the battle to save the planet's climate. In fact, the truth is a bit more murky.

38% of Brazil's energy is from renewable sources; of the rest, 60% is fossil fuel at 1% nuclear. According to the International Energy Agency this puts the country on one of the lowest per capita carbon dioxide emissions (111th in the world) and certainly one of the lowest in terms of unit of gross domestic product. However it is the world's 17th biggest greenhouse gas emitter (UN figures) because of the fires used to clear land for pasture in the Amazon rainforest.

Brazil has pioneered the world in the production of ethanol from sugarcane and mandated that biofuels are blended with petroleum to fuel cars with 20-25% of ethanol and most cars bought in Brazil can run on either ethanol or this blend. Renewables account for 45%. It produces a large amount of hydroelectric power, which itself has been blamed for displacing indigenous people, but the number of droughts is increasing. As a result Brazil is actually going backwards.

To compensate it is using more and more gas, oil and coal and is planning to build five more nuclear power stations. This is in a country which is blessed with a huge amount of solar power. According to the United Nations Environment Programme's data set most other industrialised and populated areas of the country receive an average of 4-5.5 kWh/m2/day, with some receiving much more, making it an ideal place for solar water heating and photovoltaic power. As most of the rain and the hydroelectric power is in the north west of the country far away from these areas there will be much fewer transmission and distribution costs associated with the use of solar power.

Brazil also has a huge potential capacity - 100Mt/yr - to use biochar to fertilise the soil and lock carbon from the growth of sugarcane back into the soil as a fertiliser. This after all is where biochar was first discovered -- in the Amazon. (source: Perera, K.K.C.K. et. al., 29 Biomass & Bioenergy 199, 204 (2005).)

But is Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva doing this? No, instead he is increasing state control over huge newly-discovered offshore oil reserves. Brazil is sitting on reserves bigger than any discovered in the Americas since 1976. He is following his friend Chavez in Venezuela by netting the government company Petroleo Brasileiro take control of these so-called 'Pre-Salt" reserves. This may help Brazil more than double oil production and turn the state-controlled company into one of the world’s biggest producers, according to Adriano Pires, head of the Brazilian Center for Infrastructure.

The pre-salt Tupi field alone holds an estimated 5 billion to 8 billion barrels of oil equivalent but it is over 200 miles off the coast and beneath over 7,000 meters of water, rock and a thick layer of salt. Companies are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of getting at this oil, but it will itself cost a huge amount of energy and environmental damage to retrieve it.

Brazil wants to develop and the revenue would be the engine of funding its infrastructure - and of course the corruption in the government that everybody here talks about.

In fact while I am here Lula has been in London trying to seek investment in his country, which he says will be the fifth largest economy in the world by 2019. The huge emerging middle class is greatly expanding its energy consumption as everyone wants the same standard of living as the developed world.

Ironically, accompanying Lula on his London trip is Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of what is supposed to be the greenest city in the world or at least of the developing world, Curitiba. I hope to go there in just over a week myself to see if the miracle that is proclaimed to have happened there is true. Lerner has been showing Boris Johnson, London's mayor, what the possibilities are.

It would be better if Lula were to leave the oil in the ground beneath the sea and to roll out throughout the whole of Brazil the types of reforms that have happened in Curitiba.

He should also halt deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. 20% of it has already gone. In 2000-2005 deforestation in the Amazon, which is shared by eight countries, denuded an area nearly the size of Venezuela. Less well-known is deforestation in the Cerado biomass, which Environment Minister Carlos Minc says generates the same amount of greenhouse gases as Amazonian deforestation.

Lula has promised to reduce deforestation by 80% by 2020. But the government is under pressure to release more land to the farmers, and was widely criticised in June when Lula legalised in the stealing of 60,000,000 ha of Amazon rainforest by farmers that had been taken illegally.

However some states are going it alone, just as they are in North America. Here in São Paulo a month ago it became the first Brazilian state to approve a statewide climate change policy that calls for a 20% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2020. The head of the São Paulo Forum on climate change and biodiversity, Fabio Feldmann, has criticised Lula for his exploration programme of the pre-Salt oil reservoirs.

Brazil is going to Copenhagen with a flawed plan and an unclean conscience. Mind you, so is everybody else.