Read the debate that got delegates hot under the collar during this month's Sustainability Now. Are fossil fuels bad? Does burning them lead to climate change? Read as the sparks fly
Here is an abridged extract from the heated discussion at the Sustainability Now lounge on the first day of the event. It all started when Brad Bamfield, managing director of the Solution Organisation, entered the virtual room. See how the debate escalates, when he takes on The Carbon Coach Dave Hampton and Fulcrum engineer Jules Saunderson.
Round oneBrad Bamfield: Good afternoon people
Dave Hampton: Yo Brad!
Brad Bamfield: So tell me people - this is an open question - why is burning fossil fuel bad?
Tim Pollard: Hmmm... I wonder? Could it be anything to do with climate change?
Brad Bamfield: Burning fossil fuel does not have to lead to climate change
Dave Hampton: Yes it does Brad,
Tim Pollard: Really.... not CCT (carbon capture) please!
Brad Bamfield: Tim all those things are effects but that cause and effect can be broken.
Tim Pollard: Tell me more?
Brad Bamfield: There is nothing essentially wrong with using finite resources. What would happen to them if we did not use them?
Tim Pollard: I think the point is that we're running out! UK importing 70% of gas by 2015
Brad Bamfield: So it runs out so what? we use something else. So Carbon Trading is about resource rationing then?
Tim Pollard: Nature has already done that!
Brad Bamfield: Are we afraid that the resources will run out or the inappropriate use of them will harm us in some way?
Dave Hampton: Both old boy
Tim Pollard: Are fossil fuels not running out then?
Brad Bamfield: Tim they are but I am not sure that is the problem. Think about it if all the oil, gas and coal was used tommorrow global warming would be a different story. The resources and being finite do (does) not cause climate change.
Bobbing and weavingJules Saunderson: So Brad, argue your corner, put forth an argument. : I agree that you should be allowed to challenge to accepted version of events, and too often anyone who dares question gets yelled down that's the joy of a forum like this, you can say your bit and whether people shout you down or not, it's still up there and people can read. But so far you've just asked polemic questions to draw people into such one-sided debate
Brad Bamfield: Jules I will but we need to engage the ones that know that answers. We need to get to the route of the problem and not accept simple solutions from people with other agendas and axes to grind. This whole debate (not here but globally) has been derailed by single issue groups using Carbon as a club to beat us all.
Jules Saunderson: I tend to agree with you, but having said that, the scientific consensus is, at the moment, that anthropogenic climate change is real
Burning fossil fuel does not have to lead to climate change
Tara Hughes: Hi Brad, what are you actually saying? that climate change isn't real or it is really but carbon dioxide emissions aren't causing it?
Mark Harris: Have to agree with Brad, carbon is the new religion. Heard the other day that Nitrous Oxide is 300 times more dangerous than carbon but its not being talked about by governments
Brad Bamfield: I think we are missing the point when the emphasis is on depletion, surely it is the effect of the way we use them?
Chris Sharpe: I'm not sure the emphasis is on depletion - surely the emphasis is on the use?
Jules Saunderson: isn't it both Brad?: I think the media has a problem with multi-faceted, inter-related issues, doesn't mean we have to?
Brad Bamfield: Chris have you seen who is funding the PR of many green issue proponents? And no I am not a conspiricy theorist I am a realist.
Jules Saunderson: right, vs who would fund the opponents?
Dave Hampton: have you seen who is funding the PR of the oil industry Brad
Jules Saunderson: Who has more money?
Brad Bamfield: Jules The media does and they will tell it's because their readers/viewers cannot understand complex issues.
Jules Saunderson: as I say, doesn't mean we have to simplify the arguments
Brad Bamfield: Dave are you aware the same oil industry is funding some green issue agendas, it is in thier interest for us to accept rationing. x tonnes at £y/tonne = less than same x tonnes at £y+100
Dave Hampton: So what is your suggestion Brad, keep on driving round the M25?
Brad Bamfield: Who lives in a democracy? Just because 20 people agree with something does that make it right? Do you know the success rate of scientists? Anyway you still miss my point.
Dave Hampton: Ok Brad time to admit your fooling around now, or should you be rebranding as The Problem Organisation. As a species we are producing pollution faster than solution. That ain't sustainable.
Jules Saunderson: Right, but no one has come up with anything varifiable that's says otherwise. MOA of steroids isn't understood, the effects and applications are still respected though, and research continues to try and understand more
Colm Quinn: What does the phrase "Do you agree with the success rate of scientists?" actually mean? Are you disputing the scientific method in general as a way of trying to understand the world?
Eleanor Short: what is your point Brad?
Jules Saunderson: OK, well, let's have Brad's point again, cos definitely some people have missed it
Brad Bamfield: I prefer to take you to the point of seeing yourself rather than tell you as in the past it has been a waste of time and closed minds who have accepted the one truth can not appreciate a new perspective.
Jules Saunderson: OK, well, could you tell us, just to test a few of us out? Then you can take the rest down the road?
Brad is helping us understand that its possible CO2 isn't really any problem at all for the planet. Thanks for that Brad. I'll add you to my will.
Right hookDave Hampton: Brad is helping us understand that its possible CO2 isn't really any problem at all for the planet. Thanks for that Brad. I'll add you to my will.
Chris Sharpe: I think part of the problem is that none of us have the time to read and fully understand all of the various scientific reports on climate change (apologies if there are any eminent meteorologists here), and so any attitude towards climate change, to some extent, has to be an article of faith or belief.
Brad Bamfield: Using the brain is the most difficult exercise there is. The alternative is to meekly follow and regurgitate the percieved wisdom. Oh yes and let's shoot anyone who does not agree with it.
Dan Robins: No more so that belief in evolution is an article faith surely?
Jules Saunderson: Brad, no one's shooting you? In fact, some are seeking your opinion
Iain Fraser: Wow, I think Brad has everybody's attention after his provocative comments. Can I ask him why he feels the way he does? It might be more useful to get into the psyche of a sceptic, than to re-hash old debates.
Brad Bamfield: How about I am not sure if the additional CO2 is really responsible for what we appear to be seeing now?
Jules Saunderson: OK, that's fine, but currently no one has managed to make a view like that stick scientifically, so what makes you so sure?
Phil Clark: Brad your virtual grenade has certainly inspired some debate. Are you feeling under siege or enjoying the attention?
Brad Bamfield: Phil. Not either really I am sad how easy it is to rattle people who believe rather than understand.
Dave Hampton: Our scientific understanding of climate change is sufficiently sound to make us highly confident that greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming. Science moves forward by challenge and debate and this will continue. However, none of the current criticisms of climate science, nor the alternative explanations of global warming are well enough founded to make not taking any action the wise choice. The science clearly points to the need for nations to take urgent steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, as much and as fast as possible, to reduce the more severe aspects of climate change. We must also prepare for the impacts of climate change, some of which are already inevitable.
Nick Drake: So why do you understand Brad, what relevant education do you have in atmospheric science?
Final roundsDave Hampton: Almost all of the systems known to affect climate change are now in a state of net positive (amplifying) feedback. Each feedback mechanism accelerates its own specific process. The output of each feedback is an input to all other feedbacks, so the system as a whole constitutes an interactive set of mutually reinforcing sub-systems. This "second order" feedback system accelerates the rate of climate change and faces us with the possibility of a "tipping point" in the whole earth system. If we go beyond the point where human intervention can no longer stabilise the system, then we precipitate unstoppable runaway climate change. The implication is that climate change is non-linear. Once set in motion it is acceleratingly self-perpetuating. There is then only a small time-window within which human intervention has any (rapidly diminishing) chance of halting the process and returning the system to a stable state. Failure to act effectively within that window of opportunity would inevitably precipitate cataclysmic change on a par with the five mass extinction events known to have obliterated almost all life on earth.
Mark Rummings: I think that a measured approach is required to sustainability. It is important but the current problem is that the approach with codes over and above the building regs is making development harder to procure. We need sustainable housing but also quality design. Politicians are trying to make us all believe sustainabilty and green issues are high on their agenda beause it is good marketing. The UK is a small place so a lot has to be done elsewhere in the world as well such as addressing the global warming of one coal fire power station being built every week in china.
Brad Bamfield: Jules I have to end for a while as I have been reminded I need to do some work. For your eyes only I believe the problem is not the use of finite (fossil) fuels but how we use them. I do not know if CO2 will do everything it is calimed it will but that is not the point. 30 yrears ago I did not know that smoking caused cancer but it was obvious that inhaling smoke was not a good thning. So being a tech society we do not need to regress to cave dwellers (and yes I was on a conference platform in Switzerland wher that was suggested) we need to develop the technology to avoid putting anything into the atmosphere. There is nothing wrong with using electricity but the generation might be. The Goverment answer is use less electricity. My answer is do that (it saves me money) but find a way of generating energy that is not polluting. I really don't care if we use coal if we ensure the emissions are negligable. Further we need to do this so that the emerging nations don't make the same mistakes we did/do.
Brad Bamfield: Bye everyone I will be back later.
Dave Hampton: Bye Brad, enjoyed the debate
Dave Hampton: Bye Brad, enjoyed the debate
martin brown: Bye Brad
Phil Clark: Brad has left the lounge. I didn't mean to push him out as clearly a debate over climate change is a fairly important one to be having.