Stories of Change: The past, present and future of energy

Stories of Change Team Story 3 items 30 Nov 2016

Climate Change - Optimism, pessimism or Straight Denial?

Cover picture caption

Climate Change - Image by (c) Chris Bonfiglioli 2015

There are wide range of views about climate change which can be explored in the interviews done by Roger Harrabin for the BBC and the Open University as well as the interviews from the Earth in Vision and Stories of Change Open University Projects.

The BBC and the Archives - Bill Thompson

Bill Thompson is Head of Partnership Development with the BBC Archive. His interest in energy is one that we all share, a concern for the future of the planet, concern for sources of energy and, within the context of the BBC, the BBC has its own commitments to sustainability, to reducing energy use, to limiting carbon release from productions. Stories of Change Project My involvement with Stories of Change My name is Bill Thompson and I’m Head of Partnership Development with the BBC Archive, so I sit on the advisory board of Stories of Change and I represent the BBC’s interest to be part of the project. But, of course, my interest in energy is one that we all share, a concern for the future of the planet, concern for sources of energy and, within the context of the BBC, the BBC has its own commitments to sustainability, to reducing energy use, to limiting carbon release from productions. All those aspects converge on this fascinating project. Using the BBC Archive to tell new stories My role within the BBC Archive is to look at ways of delivering greater value from that archive. It’s not just an archive of radio programmes and television programmes; there are scripts and documents and photographs and music scores, a massive variety of materials. I want the people who are working within the Stories of Change project to be able to draw on those materials to help them tell the new stories. So I see my role as facilitating access to the BBC’s Archive, improving awareness of what’s in there and, insofar as it’s possible, making that material available within the projects, the artistic, the creative projects that emerge. How I’ll work with Stories of Change My work splits really into two. There’s my role within the BBC where it’s largely about making the archive available to people. Then there’s my role as a journalist and someone who actually cares about these issues myself. I’m hoping to take advantage of my privileged position on the advisory board to be involved in a number of the projects as they emerge, in all three strands and with the artists. I have my own history as a storyteller, as a journalist who works in the area of technology I’m very concerned about the ways we increasingly use too much energy in our devices, the ways in which the devices we build make use of scarce natural resources, that their production and their disposal cause enormous issues for us. So I want to bring my professional life to bear and to work with the artists in the projects. I want to ask the oil companies … What question would I like to ask about energy and is there a person or institution I’d like to put that question to? It’s not difficult. The problem with being asked a question about energy is it’s so broad, there are so many possibilities. It’s like when you have a genie and they’ll only give you three wishes, that’s so few wishes. Kim: Desert island. Therefore that sort of forced choice is inevitably artificial. If I had to ask one person a question about energy it would be to take the Chief Executive of one of the big oil companies, companies that rely on fossil fuels, and ask them if they truly understand what it is that they are doing when they campaign against measures that would help preserve the biosphere. The future of Planet Earth: Optimist or pessimist? Pessimism of the will, optimism of the heart, I think, is the way that… if I look at what’s going on it’s very difficult to be optimistic because so many people seem to be so concerned about stopping progress – the vested interests, the energy companies, the politicians, they lack will or where they do have will it’s the will to do the wrong thing. But I refuse to give up on it. I refuse to believe that we will so totally damage the biosphere that we will be unable to recover from that, and so I think that we will find a way forward; I’d like to be part of finding that way forward.

The BBC and the Archives - Bill Thompson

Listen to Bill talk about the OU Project.

Get the views of Charlie Kronick from Greenpeace.

What can businesses do about Climate Change? Interview with Dr. Chris Hope.

Chris Hope at TippingPoint Stories of Change Project **Modelling climate change action** I’m Dr Chris Hope of the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge. I work there on trying to help governments and businesses and even individuals decide what kind of actions they should take about climate change. The way I got into this was originally I trained as a physicist and then for my PhD I looked at renewable energy sources and trying to decide whether we should support them or not. Of course in order to make those kinds of decisions you need not just to look at the physics but you need to look at economics, you need to look at how we make decisions, how we deal with risks and all those kinds of skills were useful for me when, in 1991, the European Union was trying to decide what kind of action it should take on climate change ahead of the big Rio summit a year later and I was able to put those skills to use in developing a simple model to help them try and decide how they should split their effort between cutting back emissions of greenhouse gases and trying to just cope and adapt to the kinds of impacts that we would otherwise have, and I’ve been working on climate change issues ever since. **Modelling the impacts of climate change** The kinds of impacts that we might see from climate change are flooding in Asia, the melting of Arctic ice-caps. It’s really hard to try and put an accurate value on those kinds of impacts, particularly as they’re going to occur over many decades into the future. But the kind of modelling I do has the best go at trying to put numbers on that, just how serious will it be; taking account of all the risks that are there, the risks that we might actually end up melting the Greenland ice sheet. It looks as though the kinds of impacts that are being caused by our emissions of greenhouse gasses are something like $100-150 per tonne of carbon dioxide that’s put up into the air. So what we should be doing is charging a climate change tax on everybody who is emitting those kinds of greenhouse gases. Whenever they buy coal or oil or gas to burn they should be paying the climate change tax of $100-150 per tonne of carbon dioxide. What I’m trying to do is make sure that the calculations that I do take into account the best evidence that we have from the scientists and the economists; they’re finding out new things every year. In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for instance, just recently as reported; try and make sure the estimates that I’m making with the modelling that I do stays up to date and gives us an accurate figure or as accurate as we can calculate. **The impact of Arctic ice melting** One of the most important things that has been happening over the last few years is that we’ve seen really big decreases in the amount of ice that there is in the Arctic Ocean. In 2012 the Arctic Ocean got almost ice free by the end of the summer and it has not been quite as bad in the last few years but even this year it has been the sixth lowest amount of Arctic ice extent there’s ever been. This has been a little bit of a surprise to some of the climate modellers and they’re working hard to try and understand why the Arctic ice has disappeared so quickly and is going so rapidly. They’re also trying to understand what kind of feedbacks there might be from that because the ice, when it’s there, reflects a lot of the sunlight and means that the ocean doesn’t heat up as much as it otherwise would have done. If the ocean heats up then it means that there’s lots of deposits of methane underneath the sea bed in the Siberian Sea which could be released if the ocean becomes ice free. There are all sorts of carbon dioxide and methane in the permafrost in the Arctic, what kind of impact could that have? So I’m working with a team of Arctic scientists and others to try and get the best information about what is likely to happen in the Arctic over the coming decades and then I can use that in the modelling that I do to say how much extra impact might that have on the world as a whole. From the preliminary results we’re getting it looks as though it could have tens of trillions of dollars of extra impact, huge amounts, dwarfing the kinds of impacts that we saw from the financial crisis, just from the fact that the Arctic ice is disappearing faster than people thought that it would. **Climate change tax** The kinds of actions that we need in order to tackle this issue are getting the prices right on emissions of carbon dioxide, a climate change tax. There are some countries and some regions around the world that already have taken this to heart and have put in that kind of tax. So British Columbia in Canada, for instance, has had a climate change tax of the order of thirty or more US dollars per tonne of carbon dioxide for several years and it has been a great success. It is politically accepted and in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, British Columbia has lower emissions and they’ve gone down more than other parts of Canada and their economy has been doing well. Those are the kinds of results that the model said should happen. So there are people who are taking it on board, it’s not something that has to be taken on board by every country in the world at the same time. There are great opportunities here for countries like the more progressive ones in the European Union, Canada, other parts of the rich countries to say, yes, we want to do this ourselves; we will get these climate change taxes in place; we will use the revenues that we get from them, which could be tens of billions of dollars a year, to reduce other taxes which are stopping people getting into work, for instance, if they’re national insurance or payroll taxes. We’ll reduce all those other taxes, it will allow our economy to grow faster and grow better. Those few countries can act as people who demonstrate that this is really a good thing to do and then other countries around the world will see that and we won’t have to twist their arms up behind their back to cut their carbon dioxide emissions because they’ll want to do climate change taxation themselves and get the benefits that you get from it. And that’s how it spreads throughout the world. It won’t be over the next few months, it probably won’t be over the next few years but within the next decade or so I would hope to see really big changes across the world. **Planet earth: optimist or pessimist?** When I look at what might happen over the next few years there are two things that worry me. One is that we will carry on expecting progress to be made at huge international gatherings that happen once every few years and then people just go away in between and forget about it. We’ve seen at Copenhagen in 2009 that that’s really quite a dangerous path to take, because it only needs one of those great big international conferences not to deliver and you’ve set back progress for quite a long way. So I really hope that we don’t go down that path and that we do begin, in the countries and regions that want to take action on this, not to feel that they’re held back but to be able to take their own actions, be able to institute climate change taxes which will allow them to generate revenues which will allow them to cut other taxes and grow their economy. When I’m feeling optimistic I think that will happen over the next few years in some countries and over the next decade or so in most parts of the world and we’ll be well on the way to dealing with this issue. **Let’s have a serious discussion about climate change taxes** The question that I would like to ask about climate change is why do we find it so difficult to have a serious discussion about strong, stable, comprehensive climate change taxes? Why is it that there always seems to be a knee-jerk reaction which says you can’t do anything which will increase the cost of energy, without having the complete discussion which goes round to saying you can have these revenues to reduce income taxes or sales taxes or payroll taxes and get a big benefit for your economy? I would like to put those kinds of questions to people who are in the treasuries of the most advanced countries.

What can businesses do about Climate Change? Interview with Dr. Chris Hope.

Story created by Stories of Change Team, 30 Nov 2016