Climate Change

MIDWAY – A message to the world

The MIDWAY media project is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Returning to the island over several years, our team is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. With photographer Chris Jordan as our guide, we walk through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on. And in this process, we find an unexpected route to a transformational experience of beauty, acceptance, and understanding.


Advocating Climate Change

Couldn’t agree more with The Economist’s analysis of how to approach the climate issue.


At Duck of Minerva, Josh Busby, a political scientist at the University of Texas, looks at two alternatives: “Get Angry” or “Go Right”. The first would involve a more voluble environmental movement as a counterweight to the fractious climate sceptics (who are, keep in mind, the minority)—a sort of “Green Tea Party” organised around such issues as the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The second strategy would involve building the coalition by reaching out to Republicans, by focusing on the potential economic benefits of a shift to clean power, for example, or the national-security implications of dependence on oil imports.

Brookings Institute Recommendations for Rio+20 and Beyond

9 recommendations of actions by the Brookings Institute that will advance environmental quality that is “equitable and sustainable, pursued in conjunction with economic and social objectives, and undertaken with priority for poverty alleviation”.

A useful and interesting read for those in the enviornmental movement. Sadly, governments are likely just to ignore them.


Hong Kong’s Energy Sector

Over the years, much debate has raged both in Hong Kong and overseas as to whether Nuclear power should be used or not. Having delved not so deeply into the issue myself, I have come to the conclusion that Nuclear power is something that has its questions, but ultimately is sufficiently efficient and safe to be used as a source of energy.

In fact, the much quoted example of France shows that almost half of the country can legitimately be powered by nuclear energy. And in China, nuclear power plants are being built left, right and center. In the SCMP, Christine Loh, chief executive of think-tank Civic Exchange and former Legco member argues this very thought.

The official vision here and in Beijing is to turn Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta into a “green, quality living area with cleaner air, less pollution and a lower-carbon environment”. But is that sufficiently appealing?

A key part of this transformation, in the government’s proposed climate change plan, has to do with the energy sector. This plan will probably be the key driver of Hong Kong’s environmental upgrade in the coming decade.

The government has accepted that, as the richest and most advance part of China, it has the responsibility to do better than the national target to reduce carbon intensity. Thus, the Hong Kong government proposes a reduction target of 50-60 per cent by 2020 compared to 2005 – against the national target of 40-45 per cent. For Hong Kong, this is of course not the same as an absolute emissions cut, but it’s a start.

The bulk of the reductions will come from switching away from coal. By reducing coal-burning from 54 per cent to 10 per cent and increasing natural gas from 23 per cent to about 40 per cent, the city’s fuel mix will change dramatically. Half of Hong Kong’s electricity will come from nuclear power.

While reducing coal burning has general support, switching to nuclear power is controversial for green groups, who argue instead for renewable power such as wind and solar. Yet the constraint for this region is its modest endowment in renewable resources, according to the most authoritative research done by scientists at the University of Science and Technology. If we are to reduce emissions significantly within 10 years, it seems renewable power won’t be a big help.

China has a dozen nuclear reactors in operation and 24 under construction, and it decided this year to expand its nuclear capacity further by 2020. As a result, Hong Kong has the opportunity to buy more nuclear power from across the border, which is critical to the government’s proposed plan.

The commercial side of changing the energy mix will make electricity more costly in the future. Coal may seem cheap, but its real price includes a human toll. Mining accidents, air pollution, radiation from coal plants and coal ash are seldom taken into account. While natural gas is a cleaner fuel, the added costs of processing, storage and transport make it a relatively expensive energy source. Nuclear power is not cheap, but it is the only energy sector that has to deal with its waste and therefore costs its waste management into the price. The government has to help the public to understand the relative advantages and disadvantages of the new energy mix. The main gripe of green groups is over the treatment of nuclear waste, and this is an issue that needs to be better understood and addressed to allay concerns.

Top Posts of the Year: 2009

It’s been a relatively short year for this blog, but it has nevertheless been a fruitful one with nearly 40 posts in a short 2 months period. Here’s a round up of the top posts of 2009.

1. IB Results

SIS had its first batch of IB students completing their exams and the results of this was released sparsely with only certain staff members insisting that they were wonderful. However, in an ironic twist, the school carefully choose to exclude a number of important statistics of comparison.

2. Principal Interviews

With the announcement that Mr. Wray was due to go to another school, the process of selecting a new principal began. Ultimately, Mr. Graham Silverthorne was selected. You can read his bio here.


Climate Change: Global Drowning in Brokenhagen

The world had high expectations. But once again, the world was disappointed by bickering and selfishness amongst national leaders. Copenhagen was intended to hammer out an intentional consensus to solving Climate Change. Even before it began, the conspiracy effort to lower expectations and allow nations to skive off requirements began.

First was the questionable time of events of ClimateGate. Admittedly, the emails raised considerable questions. The fact that such phrases were ever used calls for the scientists to review their actions. But a few dubious emails don’t sustain a denial. The few emails that were stolen don’t suddenly overturn the thousands of pages of evidence that shows Climate Change is real and present. In the wider picture, it is still painfully clear that Climate Change is real and that we need to do something about it.Even the political arm of the White House tried to shy away from the issue by scheduling Obama’s appearance at an unimportant time before the realities of the world forced him to make a prime-time visit that created both failure and success.