There Is No Planet B
There Is No Planet B

There Is No Planet B

Table of Contents

it is a stark truth that the sum of all the world’s climate action has so far made little or perhaps even zero detectable impact on rising global emissions. (Location 431)

Tags: climatechange

Note: Everything we've done so far to prevent climate change has had minimal impact

A person’s inherent worth is independent of their circumstances or the choices they have made in their lives or have had made for them. (Location 464)

Tags: equality

Note: Everybody has the same worth

1 Food

At the global level, we grow 5940 kcals per person per day. That’s nearly two and a half times as much as the 2350 kcals per day that the average person needs to eat to be healthy. (Location 546)

Tags: food

Note: .food we grow 2.5x times as much food as we need

What happens to the food we grow? Some 1320 kcal are lost or wasted, 810 kcal go to biofuels and a massive 1740 kcal are fed to animals. (Location 553)

Tags: food

Note: A little under 1/3 of the food we grow goes to animals

Animals contribute 590 kcal to the human food chain as meat and dairy. BUT they eat 1740 kcal per person per day of human-edible food as well as 3810 kcal of grass and pasture. (Location 619)

Tags: animals

Note: .animals animals consume far more energy than to provide to humans

Whilst more than two thirds of all farm animal food are grass and pasture, which cannot be eaten directly by us, the human-edible crops that we feed them amount to more than three quarters of the calorific needs of the entire human population. (Location 622)

Tags: animals

Note: The human edible crops we feed to animals amounts to 3/4 of the calorific needs of all humans

An estimated two thirds of all antibiotics14, 63,151 tonnes per year in fact15, are gobbled up by animals – and some of that even makes it back to us through meat and milk. (Location 674)

Tags: antibiotics

Note: 2/3rds of all antibiotics go animals

Over 1% of the world’s total GHG footprint could be saved by simple improvements to the way rice is usually grown. This is a big untold story. It has nothing to do with the fossil fuel used by tractors, lorries, boats or any other parts of the supply chain. Specifically, what is needed is more judicious use of fertiliser and not flooding paddy fields22. Paddy field methane is about 6% of all greenhouse gas emissions from the food supply chain. I’ve seen photos of rivers in China that are bright green from so much excess fertiliser; the yield is probably actually suffering from over application. (Location 827)

Tags: methane, climatechange, food, rice

Note: rice contributes to ghg emissions through methane from paddy fields

Food transport only really becomes a big problem when things get put on an aeroplane. UK examples of this can include grapes and berries from California, fresh tuna from the Indian Ocean, baby vegetables from Africa and, perhaps worst of all, asparagus all the way from Peru. (You can’t eat flowers, but many of them also travel on planes so the same rule applies.) (Location 856)

Tags: food transport, climatechange, food

Note: Food transport is an issue when put on a plane

putting food on a boat, even from the other side of the world, can enable a relatively sustainable food supply. What turns out to be a fairly small transport energy demand comes in return for an important flow of nutrients from places with plenty of sun and fertile land to highly populated places that are unable to meet their own food needs. Nor are a few hundred road miles a disaster, although the fewer the better, especially when it comes to heavy stuff like beer. (Location 859)

Tags: food, food transport

Note: Food transport is not a major issue when shipped

There is no place for air freighted food in the twenty-first century. (Location 865)

Tags: climatechange, food, food transport

The price and popularity of fish seems to have little to do with taste or nutritional content, and everything to do with marketing.

To give just one example, Patagonian Toothfish was undesirable until a Californian fish merchant marketed it as the new-found delicacy of Chilean Seabass in the late 1970s, pushing the price to over £60/$85 per kilo. It isn’t even a seabass!

Sadly, the result of all the popularity is that stocks of this once-abundant fish, found in the deep (by which I mean anything from 300 m to over 3.5 km down) Southern Ocean, and able to grow to over 2 m in length and 100 kg in weight, are now threateningly low. And it takes 45 years to replace a 45-year-old fish. (Location 911)

Tags: favorite, marketing, fish

Note: Changing the name of a fish hugely boosted sales

Out of 1320 kcal wasted per person per day, 48% is cereals. That’s enough calories to feed everyone in China and America. Nearly two thirds of all losses occur in harvest or just afterwards, in storage. After dietary change away from eating too much meat and dairy, cutting waste is probably the next most important way to ensure there is enough nutrition to go round. (Location 982)

Tags: sustainability

Note: .sustainability

We will see later that biofuels are mainly bonkers (page 78). Enough wheat to provide the daily calorific requirement for one person for a day is only enough to power a small petrol car, such as my Citroen C1, for one and a half miles. If biofuel for cars became popular, it could lead to a lot of hunger. We need to watch this like crazy as we move to the low carbon world. (Location 1088)

Tags: biofuel

How can we produce enough food for 9.7 billion of us in 2050? As we have seen, the priorities are (1) to reduce human-edible food being fed to animals, (2) to cut waste, (3) to keep biofuels in check and (4) the sensitive application of new technologies. (Location 1142)

Tags: food

Note: Reduce human-edible food given to animals, cut waste, dont use too many biofuels

The single most important change will be an amazingly simple dietary shift towards less meat and dairy consumption, with a particular focus on reducing beef. (Location 1178)

Tags: climatechange, food

Note: Eat less meat and dairy

2 More on Climate and Environment

What is Ocean Acidification and why does it matter? Caused by CO2 and potentially just as nasty as climate change. Described by Jane Lubchenco, former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as global warming’s equally evil twin7, this oddly gets less than 5% of the coverage of climate change. The basic story is that CO2 from burning fossil fuel finds its way into the ocean and the resulting acidification reduces the ability of sea life to produce shells and skeletons8. Any species that takes a hit passes on the pain to all those who like to eat it. (Location 1297)

Tags: co2

Solar panels covering less than 0.1% of the total land surface (an area of 228 miles by 228 miles) could meet today’s energy needs (Location 1489)

Tags: solar panels

What about when the sun isn’t shining? There are four basic solutions: (1) Store energy from when the sun was shining (2) Supply energy from other sources (3) Make the demand match the sunlight (4) Transmit power around the world, because the sun is always shining somewhere. (Location 1584)

Tags: solar panels

My comparison of reserves with total sunlight is by no means a perfect measure of the winners and losers. There are many other factors to take into account: the resources to make the switch, the availability of other non-solar energy sources, the ‘usability’ of their sunlight and so on. Sunlight on the equator is relatively compact and also comes in all year round, whilst in Russia and Canada it is more thinly dispersed and centred on the summer months. However, my charts do serve to highlight yet again that moving to a low carbon world means a completely different thing to different countries: some should be rubbing their hands together in glee whilst other are understandably scared. How could a global arrangement be made without taking all of these different circumstances into account? (Location 1931)

Tags: solar panels

The urgency of responding to climate change looks very different if you are a drowning island state than if you are a huge nation that stands to find its ports unfreezing in winter, its frozen wastelands becoming fertile and its abundant fossil fuel reserves more accessible. (Location 1939)

Tags: global governance, russia, climatechange

Note: Climate change will have very different impacts on countries. It may be good for Russia and defrost their ports and make their fossil fuels more accessible

Biofuel-powered electricity generation stands to give us a carbon negative energy supply, but in the food section we saw that the pressure on land quickly becomes intolerable. (Location 1956)

Tags: biofuel

A continuation of 2.4% growth per year would mean we will be using seven times as much in 2100 as we are today. (Location 1981)

Some say global co-operation is beyond the capacity of human-kind. (Location 2014)

Tags: global governance

The world needs a deal to leave the fuel in the ground. The Paris agreement is a statement of intention but is a long way short of a firm arrangement to make it happen. (Location 2034)

Tags: global governance

Efficiency improvements are very important but on their own they do not generally bring about reductions is energy requirement. In fact the opposite effect is more usual; efficiency gains tend to be accompanied by an even greater increase in output, so that the total energy demand goes up not down. (Location 2036)

Biofuels on any scale require extreme caution as they threaten both food supply and biodiversity. (Location 2047)

Tags: biofuel

spend your money in support of energy efficient supply chains, low carbon technologies and infrastructure. Examples – if you need to buy a car make it electric if you can, insulate, put up solar panels, push for your pension to divest from fossil fuel and invest in the solutions we need. (Location 2063)

If the biodiesel came from wheat grown on our square metre, even assuming 100% efficiency of conversion, you could get enough to drive about one mile. To look at in another way, enough wheat to provide a person’s calorific needs for a day will only provide enough biodiesel to power car for 2.7 miles. That is a steep trade off! (Location 2144)

Tags: biofuel

Note: .biofuel

Whatever its low carbon credentials, biodiesel should not be thought of as a major part of our energy solution. Going down this route would put huge strain on the global food system and risk widespread malnutrition. (Location 2150)

Tags: biofuel

Note: .biofuel

Roughly two thirds of the carbon footprint of driving an oil-powered car is down to the fuel and the rest comes from the emissions involved in manufacturing the car in the first place. So, unless they are very inefficient, cars should be looked after and kept on the road for a long time. (Location 2218)

Tags: cars

Note: one third of the emissions associated with a car is due to the process of manufacturing

Electric cars cause less emissions in use than their oil-powered equivalents even if the electricity has all come from a coal power station, because their engines are so much more efficient than internal combustion engines.

This more than compensates for the inefficiencies of electricity production at the power station and the very high emissions from burning coal. However, the overall gains are marginal and apply only if you buy the most efficient car you can. (Location 2220)

Tags: electric cars

In the UK 40,0007 people a year die prematurely from air pollution, and vehicles cause 8,900 of those deaths. That is five times more than the 1,775 who died in road traffic accidents. (Location 2235)

Tags: cars, pollution

Note: .pollution

Diesels became popular in the UK for their supposed carbon efficiencies. However, this benefit is marginal because whilst diesel cars do a few more miles to the gallon, a gallon of diesel also has about 20% more carbon in it. (Location 2275)

Tags: cars, pollution, diesel

Note: .diesel .pollution

Low carbon flying is a hard nut to crack, but solutions look possible. The most obvious one is use biofuel. Unfortunately, we saw on page 78 that the trade-off between fuel and food is incredibly steep. If the biofuel used was made from wheat, the amount of it required would be enough to meet the calorific needs of all the passengers for a whopping four years and would require 1.5 square miles of prime California land for a year to produce it13 (Location 2301)

Tags: biofuel

Note: .biofuel

There is no denying the massive carbon footprint. For perspective, London to Hong Kong and back economy class is about a quarter of the average UK person’s annual carbon footprint (Location 2338)

Sea freight is over 30 times more energy efficient than air freight – but you need to be a lot more patient. (Location 2371)

Tags: shipping, food transport

The tiny portion of goods that travel by air are mainly luxuries (such as asparagus in winter and fast-fashion clothing). (Location 2382)

Tags: fast fashion

5 Growth, Money and Metrics

GDP goes up if things we used to give and receive for free become chargeable. A country’s GDP might well go up if the level of spontaneous kindness were to go down. If friends won’t baby sit or look after a frail neighbour, then it becomes a commercial activity. To give another example, the laundered profits from drugs and other crimes show up as GDP. (Location 2552)

Tags: gdp

Note: .gdp

Metrics are ways of simplifying our world view, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. All metrics are harmful if you give them too much power. GDP is no different. It is not a measure of human progress. Its simplicity makes it a tempting crutch for any politician who is feeling freaked out by the complexities of running a country full of real sentient people and is looking for a way to reduce their anxiety. (Location 2582)

Tags: gdp

Note: .gdp

Sometimes it is better to do a bad job of measuring something important than a good job of measuring something irrelevant. (Location 2601)

Tags: priotitise, metrics, measure

Note: .measure .metrics measure the right things

When a measure directs our attention one way, it has to be taking it away from something else. All quantitative metrics are simplifications of the world and therefore need keeping in context. They have an important place alongside, but not instead of, our rich qualitative understanding of the world and the human experience within (Location 2609)

Tags: metrics, kpis

Note: .kpis .metrics

Can the free market deal with Anthropocene challenges? Often not. It can’t solve problems in which individual interests don’t align with collective interests. So global challenges require some global governance. (Location 2629)

Note: The free market doesnt work as well when individuak interests dont align with collective interests

How is the world’s wealth distributed? America has 138 times more wealth per person than Africa. About half the world’s wealth rests with 1% of the population, whilst the poorest 70% own just 2.7% (Location 2711)

Tags: africa, usa

Note: Half of the world's wealth rests with 1% of the population

Tax does three key things:

- Firstly it disincentives some activities.

- Secondly it raises money that can fund things that make life better.

- Thirdly it can be used to change the way wealth is distributed. (Location 2911)

Tags: incentives, tax

Note: A tax on activities which contribute to global warming can help disincentive them

Fossil fuel will continue to be extracted and burned unless it becomes too expensive, illegal or both. The options are an enforceable carbon price and/or regulation backed by fines. In a sense they are equivalent. (Location 2960)

Tags: climatechange, fossil fuel

Quitting fossil fuel will have totally different implications for different countries and somehow that will need taking into account in such a way that everyone can sign up to it. In short, we will need to get our heads around the problem of sharing. This takes us inescapably into the question of how humans treat each other on every scale. (Location 2977)

Tags: global governance, fossil fuel

6 People and Work

7 Business and Technology

8 Values, Truth and Trust

What makes our values change? Our values move with the messages we receive and the things we think about. (Location 3450)

Tags: values

Note: .values

Two things in particular push us towards extrinsic values: insecurities and materialistic social messages. (Location 3457)

Tags: materialism

Rising human power has taken us into the Anthropocene This is a recent and huge change in the context in which we live. It demands a re-evaluation of how we operate. The Earth is no longer robust to our activities. Compared to us, the rest of the ecosystem gets more fragile by the day. Humans must learn how not to expand for the foreseeable future. We will not be doing significant space travel for a very long time so we have to make the most of Planet A – which luckily is still wonderful. (Location 3880)

Some types of growth are still healthy but others are not We have to shrink our environmental impacts. GDP growth is now harmful as a measure of success. Things we do need to grow as fast as we can include global empathy, stewardship, diversity, and quality of life for all species and our capacity for the types of thinking that will allow us to steer our way through the Anthropocene. (Location 3915)

Tags: gdp

Be a role model for sustainable living as best you can – and find ways of doing so that make your life better: find ways to consume less but appreciate more be sparing with meat, dairy and waste know your supply chains and support the ones you like every time you spend or invest. (Location 3948)

A global temperature rise of 2 °C looks very risky but 1.5 °C much less so (Location 3977)

Tags: climatechange

Note: .climatechange

It is also very possible, perhaps even likely, that at some point we trigger ‘positive feedback mechanisms’; vicious circles in which temperature change causes things to happen that in turn trigger more temperature change. This would be likely to provoke a step change in the climate that would probably be unstoppable by human activity. A recent and credible paper looked at five of these positive feedbacks and estimated that the trigger point for a step change could well occur at around 2 °C3 (Location 3988)

Tags: climatechange

Note: .climatechange

On the more sobering side, a continuation of the traditional doubling of cumulative carbon every 39 years would mean that 4 °C would be only 39 years behind the 2 °C threshold and 8 °C only a further 39 years behind that. (Location 4050)

Animal feed Here we are not talking about grass or pasture. We are talking about plant matter that is digestible by humans but is instead fed to animals. Globally, there is enough of this to provide about 1800 calories per day to every person on the planet; that’s about three quarters of the global food requirement for human energy. In return, animals give us back about 10% in the form of meat and dairy products. Cutting out animal feed would hugely help us feed the world and preserve biodiversity. (Location 4187)

Tags: animals

Note: .animals

Biofuels Energy from plant matter. There is a limited place for this in a sustainable energy system; managed woodland for burning fuel, conversion of waste products to liquid fuels, and perhaps a small amount of cropland for biofuel to allow aviation in the low carbon world. If land is used for biofuel crops instead of food crops, the nutritional sacrifice is huge for just a small contribution to the world’s energy supply. An explosion in biofuels as a replacement for oil would present a real threat to global nutrition. (See Are biofuels bonkers?, (Location 4216)

Tags: biofuel

Note: .biofuel

Fracking In principle, this technique for taking natural gas out of shale rocks could have a marginal role to play as a transition fuel on the way to the low carbon world, because gas is a less carbon intensive fuel than coal or oil. However, the extraction process requires energy and there are serious environmental issues to get right. Without both very tight regulation and a trustworthy assessment of the risks and benefits, it should certainly stay in the ground. The UK, for example, is a currently a long way from meeting these criteria. (Location 4416)

Tags: fracking

Gas (natural gas) The least carbon intensive fossil fuel in terms of energy per tonne of carbon dioxide. Emits about half the carbon dioxide per unit of energy that oil does, and is even better compared to coal. Sadly gas and oil extraction usually go together. The exception, fracking, is marred by other environmental concerns. (Location 4422)

Tags: gas

Note: .gas gas releases hallf the co2 of oil

Meat and dairy When animals are fed human-edible crops, this is the most inefficient part of the global food supply in terms of calories, protein and micro-nutrient terms. The inefficiency is also costly in greenhouse gas terms especially when the animals are ruminants (sheep and cattle) and typically double their impact through the belching of methane. Other problems include the two thirds of the world’s antibiotics that are used in animal farming, and the welfare of the beasts themselves. (Location 4535)

Tags: methane, animals

Note: .animals belching methane, consume energy from crops would humans could eat and antibiotics are used on them

Methane In the phrase ‘coal, oil and gas’, methane is the gas we are talking about. As well as being commercially extracted, it is also produced by cows and sheep when they chew the cud (ruminate), by paddy fields if they are flooded, it pours out of permafrost if it melts, and is produced by rotting organic matter in landfill sites. When burned it releases a lot of heat energy (that’s good) but produces carbon dioxide (that’s bad). Much more problematic is that if it is released into the atmosphere without burning it is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. In fact if you compare the global warming impact of methane over 20 years to the same weight of carbon dioxide of that period you find it is 76 times worse. However, methane only has a half-life of about 12 years in the atmosphere, so over a 100-year period, the slow acting but long lasting carbon dioxide has caught up a bit and the methane is ‘only’ 25 times worse. There is an arbitrary convention to take a 100 years’ timeframe, for most purposes. However, there is a very strong case for being interested in much shorter timescales than this, in which case methane needs to be considered as an even more powerful greenhouse (Location 4546)

Tags: methane

Note: .methane