Saturday, November 29, 2014

Searching for Unburnable Oil in Lincolnshire.

In 2013 Egdon Resources applied for planning permission to drill an exploratory oil well at Biscathorpe, a particularly pretty spot in the Lincolnshire Wolds.  The local community voiced their many and varied objections and my own letter to Egdon's Managing Director, Mark Abbott, can be read here.  Once the Highways Department of the County Council objected on the grounds that the access roads were inadequate for the proposed lorry traffic, Egdon withdrew their application.

A new application was submitted this year but the site was moved a few hundred yards distant from the earlier proposal.  It remains a mystery as to why Egdon didn't pick this new location in the first place, presumably they just didn't think about it enough, but the new site removes many of the objections.  It's on an old quarry site, reclaimed for agriculture.  There is little issue relating to archaeology, biodiversity, scenic interruption, noise, lighting, or traffic on a small lane.  No newts will be harmed.

Taking the planning guidance at face value it seems likely that planning consent will be granted.    But the planning legislation was constructed with particular objectives in mind and that did not include saving the human race from catastrophic climate change.  Narrowly defined, our planning rules are no longer fit for purpose.

Here is what I have written to the Lincolnshire County Council's Planning and Regulation Committee:

In the foreword to the World Bank’s November 2014 report, Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group, wrote:

“Many of the worst projected climate impacts outlined in this latest report could still be avoided by holding warming below 2°C. But, this will require substantial technological, economic, institutional and behavioural change. It will require leadership at every level of society.”

“Every level of society”; Kim is calling for leadership from you, the councillors of Lincolnshire County Council. Similar calls have been made recently by Christiana Figueres, Head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and from Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nation.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made it clear that most of the fossil fuel already discovered must be left underground and unburnt if catastrophic climate change is to be avoided. There can be no justification for searching for further sources of oil and gas.

The planning rules, under which you are considering the current application for an exploratory oil well near Biscathorpe, were designed for a purpose other than climate change mitigation. If they are narrowly interpreted you will likely grant planning permission. These rules, however, are not fit for the purpose now called for. You have it within your powers to step up to Jim Yong Kim’s call, to show leadership, and to refuse planning permission for any search for new sources of fossil fuel in Lincolnshire. You owe this to our future generations.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Turned Out Nice

Last February, when there was a wet spell, I wrote a little piece, Turned Out Wet in which I discussed probabilities of extreme weather events. I followed it a few days later with
Turned out Wet (and still raining).  If you didn't read them at the time, or need a refresher, please take a look before proceeding.

Right, done that?  Good.

Yesterday we had another one, another extreme weather event.  Ok, nobody's home was destroyed, it was just a rather pleasant day.  Up until yesterday, the highest temperature recorded in England on the last day of October had been 20°C.  This year the temperature reached 23°C in several places in North Kent, with Gravesend seeing 23.6°C, and over 20°C across a large part of England. (Let's ignore central London where the heat-island effect kicks in.)  So that's three degrees warmer than had ever been recorded. Does that make it another 3-sigma (or more) event?

Well, there's a kind of cherry-picking there if I say yes. There's nothing that special about a particular day.  I mean, we couldn't claim any significant record if there had been warmer days close to the 31st of October.  But there aren't. The nearest nearby record temperature was November the 4th 1946 when 21.7°C was recorded in Prestatyn.  In 2011 there was a very warm spell at the beginning of October (I remember it - I went swimming off the Lincolnshire coast) when Gravesend (again) reached 29.9°C.  But that was October the 1st, a whole month earlier.

So was yesterday's weather another portent of doom, more evidence for global warming?  Frankly, it really doesn't matter.  Writing this on the eve of the release of the IPCC AR5 Synopsis, we should understand that we already have enough knowledge and understanding to realise that we have to stop all burning of fossil carbon fuels now if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.  And even then a lot of people are going to have to adjust to not living close to the current sea level.

We no longer need a thermometer to know that the patient is critically ill.