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The burning question: climate change in context, with Duncan Clark

Tackling global warming will mean persuading the world to abandon oil, coal and gas reserves worth many trillions of dollars - at least until we have the means to put carbon back in the ground. The burning question is whether that can be done. What mix of technology, politics, psychology, and economics might be required? Why aren't clean energy sources slowing the rate of fossil fuel extraction? Are the energy companies massively overvalued, and how will carbon-cuts affect the global economy? Will we wake up to the threat in time? And who can do what to make it all happen?

Duncan Clark, co-author of the recent book "The Burning Question: We can't burn half the world's oil, coal and gas. So how do we quit?", will be addressing the above questions, and more, at this London Futurists event.

Note that this event, as an experiment for the new year (2014), is being held on Saturday evening, rather than Saturday afternoon.

Brief reviews of the book "The burning question":

From Amazon:

• 'Climate change is the most difficult problem the world has ever faced. Berners-Lee and Clark have compressed this complex issue into a short and highly readable book that covers science, psychology and sociology. Uncompromisingly rigorous but easy to read, this book is a perfect introduction to the central topic of the twenty-first century.'
-- Chris Goodall, Low-carbon technology expert and author of Sustainability: All That Matters 

• 'The image of scientists and academics used to be one of calm, mild-mannered people but today the frustration among many is palpable. This book shows why. The gap between evidence, policy and practice is yawningly wide. This book tries to bridge that gap, offering a reasoned account of the problem and suggesting what we might do about it from global policy to culture change.'
-- Tim Lang, Professor of food policy, City University London

• 'This book hits the climate nail bang on the head: we can only avoid devastating damage if most of the world's coal, oil and gas are left in the ground. In wonderfully clear and readable prose, the authors set out the facts and what we must do about them. It deserves to be widely read: I only hope it will reawaken the climate movement, which has gone into such desperate decline over the last three years. Only public pressure will force governments to close down coal fired power stations and end our oil dependence: this book is a lucid and powerful call to arms.'
--Michael Jacobs, Visiting professor, Grantham Research Institute, LSE and former special adviser on climate change to the UK Prime Minister

• 'The issues explored in The Burning Question are hugely important. Policymakers and the public urgently need to be engaging in this kind of big-picture conversation.'
-- Jim Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

• 'Fossil fuels are so last century. The Burning Question tells us clearly why and how to get off them, but crucially also explores why we aren't doing anything much about it at the moment, and points the finger at the villains of the piece. Terrific.'
-- Sir Tim Smit, Founder of the Eden Project

• 'This is a book that needed to be written: it asks the right question then seeks the most effective ways of answering it. An essential contribution to our thinking about climate change'
-- George Monbiot, writer and campaigner

About Duncan Clark:

Duncan Clark is a consultant editor on the Guardian environment desk, co-founder of digital journalism company Kiln and a visiting researcher at the UCL Energy Institute. He helped set up and run the 10:10 climate campaign, is the author of The Rough Guide to Green Living and has edited many books on climate change and related topics.

Meeting Logistics:

6.15pm-8.30pm, Saturday 18th January 2014.

This includes 15 minutes for registration and informal networking, before the speaker starts his presentation (at 6.30pm).

Venue: Room 541, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square WC1E 7HX, London.

Room 541 is on the 5th floor in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.

Coffee and other light refreshments can be purchased from the Costa Coffee shop in the reception area of the building.

The event will be followed by a chance to continue the discussion in a nearby pub - The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ.

Covering meeting costs: 

A small fee (£5) is payable to attend this meetup. This fee covers room costs. Please pay in advance, online.

This will be refunded if the meeting is cancelled or rearranged, or if the attendee cancels at least 3 days before the meetup.

Alternatively, if there are still seats available, payment can be made in cash at the door on the day. (Requesting payment in advance assists with accurate planning of the event.)

Journalists are welcome to attend the meeting free-of-charge - please contact the organiser, notifying us in advance of your plans to attend.

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  • Sharky - Shariq P.

    I'm getting stuck into this hot potato. Late enrolment to this online course runs out on the tenth.

    https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/climate-change-challenges-and-solutions

    I'm thinking about positive consumer led mitigation. There's a big opportunity in next gen agriculture and farming (vertical farming, hydroponics, cultured meats, ect).

    A share of the profits from the increased yields could be used to lease land to reforest deserts or deforested land. With the aim to net net capture carbon... :-)

    If it can be demonstrated to consumers that buying products produced in this way is removing an amount of carbon per item then such a brand would be worth quite a bit!

    February 7, 2014

  • Kiran M.

    Natural Buffer for Human-Caused Global Warming?http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140202111055.htm

    February 2, 2014

  • Giuseppe L.

    I suggest to read "How the "Global Cooling" Story Came to Be"

    January 22, 2014

    • David W.

      Hi Giuseppe, The paper you mention, http://econintersect....­, looks like a good one to my eyes.

      But it doesn't conclude that we should stop worrying about global warming. It just gives potential explanations for a temporary lull in the increase.

      For example, one of the papers it in turn quotes, is this one from Nature just a few days ago: "Climate change: The case of the missing heat. Sixteen years into the mysterious ‘global-warming hiatus’, scientists are piecing together an explanation." URL is http://www.nature.com...­.

      That article ends, ominously, "...when that happens, if scientists are on the right track, the missing heat will reappear and temperatures will spike once again"

      January 22, 2014

    • David W.

      And Nature runs an editorial on this same piece of research, http://www.nature.com...­. That editorial concludes:

      "Ultimately, the hiatus has provided an opportunity to better understand both the climate system and climate models. One lesson is that the climate, like day-to-day weather, has its ups and downs. Another is that the average global temperature — although a useful indicator — is not the only measure of how the climate changes. Scientists are still trying to work out what all of this means for the future, but if the past is any indication, we may have to live with a fair degree of uncertainty. From a policy perspective, little has changed. The range of potential impacts projected by climate models warrants much more aggressive action than has been initiated so far."

      January 22, 2014

  • Giuseppe L.

    you can read this paper "Scientists Increase Efforts to Understand Global Warming Pause"

    January 22, 2014

    • yates b.

      The fact that we do not understand a complex model's dynamics does not mean we should strive to ignore critical changes in its variables - much the opposite.. I think. The fact that we do not understand it should make us more worried and lead to taking measures to ensure we have the tools to stabilise this variable.

      January 22, 2014

  • Giuseppe L.

    Dear David, IPCC can explain a short stop of warming but not a stop long as the warming

    January 22, 2014

    • yates b.

      You are reframing - so you were saying it was very expensive - now you are questioning the IPCC and that there is any warming at all?If you read my position on this the IPCC is incidental - the key is Co2 affects our atmosphere and life in it so we should strive to put in place the plans to stabilize it.

      January 22, 2014

  • Giuseppe L.

    I have read all the discussion and I stay with my opinion: we don't know what is really Global Warming and it is stupid to take costly decisions and to make proposals without a deeper knowledge.
    I know that The Heartland Institute is not the best source of information, but can give you good notices as Lukewarmist curry: IPCC cannot explain pause in warming (source: Climate Depot) and in any case IPCC is more unreliable and factious.

    January 20, 2014

    • yates b.

      .. but would be driven to work to restore the system to what we thought was safe. Aaand being the chaotic system that it probably is we would spin it out in a new direction..

      January 21, 2014

    • Peter M.

      Giuseppie, doing nothing is not an option. Being a theoretical physicist does not qualify you to be an expert on climate change or its causes. Far from it.

      1 · January 21, 2014

  • Giuseppe L.

    Dear Casalotti, I know GW from 40 years and I have written many articles on that argument. I don't need your scholastic explanations. I am a theoretical physicist and I was the scientific advisor for the president of ENEA (the Italian agency for energy, environment and innovation) and for the ministry for university and research. I have all the documentatios for what I say and on the cost to fight GW which is terribly high

    1 · January 21, 2014

    • yates b.

      Is it something like 6 billion tons per year * 50$ per ton? Seems huge but maybe not so terrible if looked at in percent of global GDP.

      January 21, 2014

  • Andrea C.

    Giuseppe,

    1. Decisions are made on facts, evidence and probabilities, not on opinions

    2. Doing nothing (i.e. continuing the way we are doing) is a decision that can be very costly

    3. We need to balance the probable costs of doing nothing with the costs of achieving various targets of CO2

    4. Pricing carbon correctly is not costly globally (except the trivial price of running the market); it is certainly costly for some people but beneficial to others

    2 · January 21, 2014

  • David W.

    There are some climate scientists who fear the situation is much worse even than as spelt out by Duncan Clark at the meeting. Duncan's forecasts were in line with the IPCC consensus, but for an outlying set of forecasts that we should arguably worry about (in terms of "Pascal's Wager"), see "The coming 'instant planetary emergency'", http://www.thenation.com/article/177614/coming-instant-planetary-emergency

    January 20, 2014

  • yates b.

    Hi Giuseppe, The way I see it is:
    - Co2 is a gas that is pretty much everywhere
    - you can see pretty simple effects of it on biology (maybe like even holding your breath)
    - at SOME quantity it will have an effect (you asphyxiate)
    - the planet weather is a complex system in which a small change can have big effects
    - complex systems are complex so by definition they CAN jump into states that persist for long periods of time, its fun to look at a double pendulum to get this sort of sensation
    - the planet weather is connected to biological processes (there would be no oxygen otherwise)

    I don't think its stupid to take steps to ensure that you could stabilise the changes you are effecting.

    1 · January 20, 2014

  • Kiran M.

    How people rationalise much more than they infer; Global Warming example. http://phys.org/news/2014-01-wrong.html

    January 19, 2014

    • Kiran M.

      -People rationalise much more they can infer.
      -Global Warming example.
      -How politicians frame issue.
      -Immigration becomes security.
      -How to think differently.

      January 19, 2014

  • yates b.

    Great work reframing question - weaker on a vision of most likely future scenario which I was hoping to get.

    1 · January 19, 2014

  • Giuseppe L.

    Global warming, as described by IPCC, is not credible. The so called green energy is not green. All the resources were and are created by man. I have written a lot of reports on these arguments. About energy: “Energia verde: caratteristiche, valenze, potenzialità e rischi” Il Giornale dell’Ingegnere n°17, 1 Settembre 2011, p 1&16; “Strategia energetica: una premessa e una proposta” il GIORNALE dell’INGEGNERE N. 5 - Maggio 2012; A Modest Proposal on Energy from Italy Who Quits Nuclear Use after Chernobyl, Journal of Environmental Thought and Education (Japan).
    Before to face global warning we must know what it really is. Research and not proposals without knowledge.
    Giuseppe Lanzavecchia

    1 · December 26, 2013

    • David W.

      Giuseppe, What evidence can you provide for your unusual description of the IPCC reports as "ridiculous"?
      Is it because you believe these reports discount the possibility of exponential progress in technology, such as the possibility that we will have fusion power by 2050?
      Personally I am a big fan of exponential progress in technology, but there's nothing inevitable about wide adoption of technology that still has a long way to go to become mature. Nuclear fusion, as an extreme example, was thought to be 20-30 years in the future, back when I was a student, over 30 years ago.
      I do believe technology will provide the solutions to carbon extraction and clean energy production, but the timing is uncertain, and that's why we need to consider changes in the meantime at the economic, political, and social levels - in order to give us more time to get the technology working safely.

      1 · December 28, 2013

    • Daniele A.

      1 · January 19, 2014

  • terence f.

    the first talk I have enjoyed which has not raised my scepticism; fairly convincing.

    January 19, 2014

  • Diogo N.

    Really sorry but I can't make it :( is it going to be streamed on hangouts as well? Have a great time there. Great topic!

    January 18, 2014

  • Kiran M.

    2 · January 18, 2014

  • Shaun P.

    As I have to travel into London, evenings are somewhat inconvenient. Shame, as it looks like an interesting subject.

    January 15, 2014

    • David W.

      Shaun, I'm sorry this timing is inconvenient. On this occasion, the speaker was unable to speak during the usual afternoon slot.

      January 15, 2014

  • David W.

    For my introduction to the topics expected to feature in this meetup, see my personal blogpost, http://dw2blog.com/2014/01/13/six-steps-to-climate-catastrophe/.

    1 · January 13, 2014

  • Giuseppe L.

    Dear David, the evidence on what I say on IPCC is given by all the scientific literature. Moreover You can see each week the reports of the NIPCC and of the Heartland Institute. I have written a lot of articles in Italian on GW and the IPCC, and I cite only one which shall be published next march in a book. If you give me your e-mail address I can send you a copy of this intervention that you can translate with google. Regarding nuclear fusion energy I was the assistant to the president of the Italian Energy Research Institute (ENEA) and I am a theoretical physicist; two weeks ago I met The President of The JET Project.Also myself I have doubts on the time of fusion but the situation is today much interesting; in any case Fusion is only an example and I can enumerate a long list of new valuable sources of energy. As you I believe in the technology and its capacity to solve our problems.

    December 29, 2013

    • David W.

      Hmm, I have a hard time to take the Heartland Insitute seriously, given their track record of fighting against the evidence linking smoking to cancer. See e.g. http://en.wikipedia.o...­.

      Re your claim "the evidence on what I say on IPCC is given by all the scientific literature", are you talking about peer-reviewed publications in standard scientific journals?

      Your claim is far removed from the detailed references provided throughout http://en.wikipedia.o...­.

      1 · December 30, 2013

    • David W.

      While doing more prep for this event, next Saturday, I've found out more about the Heartland Institute. I'm frankly sickened and appalled by the wickedness of their propaganda. See e.g. http://www.skepticals...­ which dissects the Heartland's astonishing claim that
      "The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen."
      (For people reading the book "The burning question", see chapter 10 of that book.)

      1 · January 10, 2014

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