Climategate part 2

A couple of weeks ago the BBC published a story under the heading of ‘Global warming confirmed by independent study’ – you can read it here. The results were from the Berkeley Earth Project.

Predictions or guesses?

I couldn’t help but notice at the time that the story contained a line suggesting that the ‘report’ was still subject to peer review. So, at the moment, it is really a draft.

I don’t really doubt that man is causing problems on the planet – after all we are using up lots of resources and expending nasty CO2 gases. We need to treat the planet a bit better. My biggest beef is the lack of a coherent and accurate picture. We are basing Policy on some of the assumptions from studies like this.

To make matters worse, in the Mail on Sunday at the weekend a bit more of the story came to life. Professor Richard Muller from Berkeley said that “there was little room for doubt” that the earth was continuing to warm – along the lines of the trajectory from 1950. But then, one of his co-Authors, Professor Judith Curry, has said that this “is not remotely the case”. Her suggestion is that global warming has been flat for a decade.

It is cause for concern that the planet has grown warmer by around 1 degree since 1950, but if the temperature has more or less remained constant for 10 years – would we not be better admitting that, and concentrating on working out why?

The headlines are not helpful – and you have to question the credibility of the figures. In the words of the legal profession, we need the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And, as I was taught many years ago – about report writing – “if in doubt, leave it out”.

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The green agenda – tread lightly?

We seem to be bombarded with sticks and carrots in the property industry. We are told that almost half of the UK’s carbon emissions come from buildings. So it is my industry that can make a difference.

Is this a picture of global warming? It didn't feel like it....

The Government are trying to impose rules on the Industry for new buildings – especially in the housing sector where Zero Carbon is a target for 2016 for anything newly built. In the commercial sector we are required to provide Energy Performance Certificates for sales and lettings. It has been suggested that by 2018 it will be illegal to let commercial properties with an “F” or “G” rating.

On the other hand we have the feed-in tariff for those with solar panels – a technology that allows you to sell your excess electricity back to the grid.

Putting to one side the questions over the validity of the arguments about the damage we are (allegedly) doing to the planet, the messages we get and guidelines we have to operate by can be confusing to say the least. The lack of clarity does nothing to help us make choices.

But, if you take a step back – it probably isn’t a bad thing that we should reduce our footprint. Not just on the resources we are consuming but generally on the planet. The resources are scarce and the real test is when we see prices of gas and electricity increase – last weeks suggestion of 18/20% increases this winter will start to hurt.

So perhaps the message needs to be a little more realistic. Rather than zero carbon, perhaps we should try to ‘tread lightly’. To think about what we do. But at the same time acknowledge that in some situations we can do little to get to zero carbon. In my business we spend our lives driving to property – it isn’t practical to use public transport. We do where we can (commuting to London as an example).

Tread lightly – I like that. Now I need to lose some (more) weight….

Cars and CO2 – make your mind up

I had to change my car last September and it was a sad sad day; I blogged about it here. The reason the car had to go was primarily tax, but it was a massive part of my carbon footprint. My replacement car was a much greener diesel Mercedes.

RS4 RIP - for no reason

The new car isn’t the same, but then the RS4 was something quite different and special. My E Class Mercedes does have a (hairdressers) drop top – which I am looking forward to over the next few months! The top was down last week.

I nearly choked on my orange juice at the weekend – the Daily Telegraph main story on Saturday was that Diesel Cars are now close to worshipping the Devil – as far as the green brigade are concerned. To the extent that they are worse for the environment than petrol cars, some Councils are now charging a premium for ‘dirty’ diesel engined cars. In some parts £150 per year more for a permit.

Make your bloody minds up. I thought my diesel produced less CO2?

My real issue with the whole of this sustainability movement is the lack of consistent and accurate data. I do accept that we need to reduce our carbon footprints as we have established a link with bad stuff. But this constant stream of conflicting data does nothing for the cause.

You might recall that I am doing some research with The University of Nottingham about values in green buildings. One of the early suggestions is that ‘the market’ have some concerns about the credibility of some of the technology – and whether all of the rules are necessary. The ‘East Anglia effect‘ still burns…

In the meantime – I am considering getting a Hummer

Energy Figures

In my industry we are obviously being herded into a green agenda by a number of means – taxes (like the Carbon Reduction Commitment) and by rules (like The Building Regulations). The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) issued targets for carbon reduction in 2008. The targets (against a base-line of 1990) are for a 34% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

It is estimated that by 2020 around 31% of our energy bills will be taxes for environmental regulation!

I was interested to see a table in the Mail on Sunday magazine (it’s the only bit I read) – this showed the amount of energy produced by each sector but alongside showed the CO2 generated.

The results were:

Fossil Fuels – 71% of consumption – 410g-800g per KWh produced
Hydroelectric – 1.3% of consumption – 3-11g per KWh.
Solar – 0.029% and 0.59g per KWh
Nuclear – 16% and 5g per KWh
Wind – 4.6% and 5g per KWh

The balance of our energy is purchased from overseas.

So, Wind and Nuclear look a good bet.

But a word of warning on Wind Turbines. In December 2010, we may have had a cold snap, but it was not good for wind generation. Peak demand on December 20th for the UK was 60,000 mega watts. The wind turbines collectively produced 140 mega watts that day – or 0.2% of the demand! They were running at 2.43% of their own capacity.

I can’t help but feel that we really are playing something of a guessing game with some of this technology. It bothers me that we are being beaten with various sticks and yet we don’t have sufficient reliable data to be able to settle on a grand plan.

I am working on some research at the moment looking at green technology in commercial buildings and their impact on value. My basic premise is that the market generally is quite cynical about some of the green credentials being peddled and is discounting buildings – rather than paying a premium.

I will return to this subject!