Climate Change: It's time to be brave

March 12, 2021 4:50 PM

Jan Can Launch

In his latest blog, Jan discusses what we can do to stop a climate emergency.

But Jan, all you do is complain! Give us the answers, what do we do?

To that I say, I cannot convey my ideas until we speak the same language. I want to give you instructions on how to bake a cake together, but first we must agree on our units of measurement. Are we using kilograms or ounces, and perhaps more importantly, what is the conversion rate so that we are both free to pursue our preferred option with confidence that the end objectives are the same? I am attempting to convey my principles and philosophy so that instead of prescribing you a set of exact actions, we can agree on an approach. Here is the real kicker; I do not have all the answers. Perhaps even more importantly, I am not capable of enacting the solutions even if I had them. My role here is one of recipe book author and not head patisserie chef. It is an important distinction. I collate and communicate the information. I can tell you, for example, the right quantity of flour for this cake we are baking together is somewhere between 800 and 1500 grams… I based this on observation and study of many chefs (or climate scientists) who are experts who have tried different options.

So in this cookbook I am writing, there are no exact measurements. It is not up to me to decide the fate of our species… sorry I mean the flavour of cake we shall end up baking. I just know that the current recipe we are following will not yield a flavour I am going to enjoy… hence the complaining.

NONETHELESS!

Lets get detailed for a minute, if only to demonstrate that I am not entirely hot air. Let's talk about renewable energy.

First we must establish my starting point; if a utility or resource is necessary for survival (and I don't just mean scraping by, I mean a reasonable standard of life), its supply/access to it should not be entirely determined by an unregulated free market. What do I mean by that?

I need water to survive. You also need water to survive. This is not a preference, it is an absolute fundamental requirement for everyone. Therefore, I believe clean drinking water should have an absolute minimum standard available to everyone regardless of their circumstances. On top of this minimum floor for access, the free market should absolutely be allowed to provide a better service at range of costs. If you want bottled fizzy water straight from the Himalayan mountains and filtered through a gold plated system, sure! Someone should be able to provide that service at a cost that reflects the absurdity.

Given the above, I believe it is the fundamental responsibility and purpose of 'a government' to provide that minimum standard. Building on this starting point, I class the following as fundamental requirements for a reasonable quality of life; Water, food, shelter, safety, electricity, internet, and education. We are getting there! So let's take electricity and dive a couple of layers deeper.

Firstly, I believe that the level of profiteering off the provision of energy in our current system is wrong. It is my opinion that a part of the green energy revolution will involve localised renewable energy generation owned by local communities. For example, in Guildford, I would like the Borough Council to set up its own energy company. Then, use this to invite renewable schemes to the Borough from commercial companies but at the same time allow communities to also buy into the schemes as partners. Effectively, cut out the middlemen looking to profit, and allow residents to directly invest and benefit from reduced costs.

In other words, we should look to fuse the two objectives; better/cheaper provision of an essential service with the need for a greener grid for climate change purposes.

In parallel with the above, we should invest in large scale renewables to offset commercial and industrial activity/growth. And guess what? The maths works out such that we end up making more money! So what is stopping us doing that? Inertia. Roadblocks include planning law (a lot of greenbelt in Guildford for example), lack of support from government, lack of in-house expertise (the know-how for something never done before). There are even more radical solutions on the horizon. For example, salt-based thorium nuclear reactors. Without geeking out too much, if I was a betting man, I would put a lot of money in the future of molten salt nuclear reactors as a large scale power source. Even micro-reactors are on the cards. Email me about this topic, my editor won't let me include any more about it here!!!

Some of you are not ready for this but here it comes; I would welcome a molten-salt reactor to Guildford with open arms. I would have one in my house if I could! A politician at Surrey County Council (who shall remain nameless) heard me say this once and attempted to threaten me by telling the press...

So! Where does that leave us? I think we need to enable community involvement in the provision of energy in order to drive down prices (ie. Do not allow excessive profiteering from essentials) and create a positive pressure towards green energy. We need to develop inhouse skills and technical knowledge to enable these kinds of projects to come forward (my team and I are working on this at GBC). This requires both the national and local governments to admit the shortfall and re-prioritise. Perhaps most importantly, we need to make sure the people we put in charge of these things understand the problem and are not just paying lip service. We have to be brave. We have to be innovative and we have to be fast. We are running out of time after all…

How's that for a (partial) cake recipe?