May 28, 2019

Dutch Public Transit Strike: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Dutch public transit services went on strike today over a disagreement on the retirement age (which is set to rise to 67 years and then to track the life expentancy).

And this is how you find out just how good the Dutch public transit is: when it gets taken away for a day. A million people (out of a population of 17 million) depend on it to get to work or school. It is used by a broad section of Dutch residents (unlike in the United States where, outside a few coastal cities, trains and buses are occupied mostly by the poor and by hapless foreigners).

Photo by Yintan

As one example: Arriving at Schiphol airport generally involves going through immigration, picking up your luggage, and rolling it straight downstairs to the train tracks: the railway station is an integral part of the airport. On weekdays it's serviced by 25 trains per hour.

It's no wonder that the union action struck fear and panic among the operators at Schiphol. If all their passengers arrived or left by car it would be total chaos. They sued for retention of train service. A judge granted the exception, and today air travelers can expect 4 trains every hour at Schiphol.

May 13, 2019

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Far Higher than Companies' Profit.

This is a bold claim to make, and one that you might expect from radical groups like Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace. But it came from that staid, wholly establishment organisation, the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF estimates that in 2017 global fossil fuel subsidies reached a mind-blowing 5.2 trillion dollars, or 6.5 percent of global GDP, up from $4.7tn in 2015.

These costs include not only direct subsidies but also tax breaks that dinimish national budgets, health care costs from fossil fuel related pollution, the cost of traffic congestion, and so on. It's a pretty thorough assessment of all the indrect costs to society.

Worldwide subsidies for coal is about $2tn, subsidies to oil and gas about $2.5tn.

Now here's the truly gobsmacking thing about all this:

March 15, 2019

#SchoolStrike4Climate: Why I've been quietly crying

As is the way with worldwide events, New Zealand and Australia took the lead on the School Strike for Climate. Young people skipped class and took to the streets by the tens of thousands. I watched them from fourteen time zones away.


They came out in mountains, by rivers and in cities.


They walked in sunshine and steady rain, in grassy fields and by stately cathedrals

March 10, 2019

What do YOU see in the Green New Deal?

Let's start with a related question: how often do you talk about climate change, with your family, your friends, your colleagues, people at your place of worship? On a personal level, the single most important thing you can do about climate change is to talk about it. This has been the long time advice because with climate change, like with AIDS, silence kills.

Generally, we find it hard to talk about climate: it's like talking about cancer. It puts a damper on parties and convivial meals. So we tend to avoid the topic.

Two developments in late 2018 have changed that, completely.

The smaller thing is a poll from the Yale climate change communication group, that shows that for the first time more than half of Americans are worried about climate change: six in ten, to be precise. And nearly a third of Americans are very worried, or "alarmed" as the label goes.

This means that if you approach a total stranger, they are more likely to be worried about climate than not. Exactly how likely you are to find a like-minded person depends on where you live. But the fact remains that there has been a shift in sentiment from "it's a hoax" and "who cares", more toward "yes, I'm worried".

But what has really put climate change on the national discussion table is the emergence of the Green New Deal. Championed by the Sunrise Movement, young people who don't take no for an answer and lobby their elected representatives hard, it has earned the support of the charismatic young representative from Brooklyn, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In a way, the American right has fallen into the Trump trap. In the same way that the left, outraged by the lies in the president's tweets, are complicit in keeping those lies circulating, so now the right keep AOC and her progressive ideas in the news by compulsively trying to take down both her and her proposals.

Of course, the entire American punditry on the left is also jumping into the discussion, and suddenly everyone is talking about climate action.

But not everyone gets the Green New Deal right.

March 6, 2019

I'm Back

The biggest advantage, and the biggest disadvantage, of being an independent blogger is that you call your own time. This means that when life offline demands your attention, the blog goes by the wayside. That is what happened for the past year or two.

Now that I'm back, I'm going to write more about climate solutions, and maybe more outside the box with four wheels on it.

Not that I will stop writing about cars altogether. After all, a new and exciting wave of electric vehicles are just over the horizon, and, now that my kids have learned to drive with a stick, eventually we will need a replacement for that diesel Golf that we are driving now, so I'll be looking into those EVs.

Photo by Hans Weingartz

There will be no more posts on diesel cars. Europe made a pact with the diesel devil: they were going to put up with the particulate matter pollution for their population, in exchange for the very high efficiency that diesel offers, and a way to cut carbon emissions. Well, the diesel devil did what devils usually do when you make a pact with them, and after dieselgate one European country after another is now pledging to phase out the sale of all internal combustion engine cars, and to transition to electric ones. Who am I to buck that trend?

The sun rises on the EV.


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