Energy Arithmetic without the hot air

It is over two years since I first read the book ‘Sustainable Energy without the hot air‘  by Prof. David Mackay (Available for free download) and I din’t expect that I would get an opportunity to listen to his talk and today it just happened. Prof David Mackay spoke on the topic ‘Energy Arithmetic’ drawing on from his work and the book on how the climate change problem should be addressed.

Prof with energy arithmetic case study

Prof with energy arithmetic case study

In this talk Prof. Mackay stressed on the need to limit the global energy temperatures and cut down the emissions. In addition to his now famous energy balance calculations in which he calculates the energy need and the energy production capabilities he also spoke about what he calls the “Inconvenient Truths”.


The inconvenient truth

  • We got to get the emission rate down from business as usual (if possible get it to zero)
  • People are unaware of the scale of action required
  • And they are misled by myths
  • Low carbon technologies are expensive
  • They have front loaded costs

Can we reach the goal?

Prof. Mackay demonstrated a few tools which simulates our energy consumption pattern and predicts the future.

The Global Calculator

Global Calculator

And for Indians there is India Energy Security Scenario

Indian Energy Securities scenario

And finally what if we miss the targets, any back-up plans??



Geoengineering maybe!!


[1] ‘Sustainable Energy without the hot air‘ 




Pole To Paris: Time for Climate Action

Pole to Paris reached Cambridge en route the journey to Paris and Cambridge University hosted an event on climate change.

Erlend Knudsen began the evening with the story and inspiration behind the Pole to Paris Campaign.

Erlend Knudsen explains the begining.

Erlend Knudsen explains the beginning.

The need to do the campaign in this scale??

WP_20151108_18_20_38_ProOnly 57% of the general public believe that climate change is real and happening whereas 99% of climate scientists are sure of it.

Why is he optimistic about a deal being signed in Paris COP21?

  • The build up has been good with countries sending in their pledges already.
  • The big countries have declared the emission cuts well in advance.
    The time to act on climate change is now!!

    The time to act on climate change is now!!


  • There is a need for a deal which incorporates sanctions as we don’t want to end up with another Kyoto protocol.
  • The Green Climate Fund is a good thought but it needs to be put in action.
  • Everything will fail unless there is a motivation for the people to act!!

James Pope of the British Antarctic Survey spoke next on the climate modelling tools.

The three big Olympic questions on Climate Change

WP_20151108_18_30_56_ProWhere are we headed with mean global temperatures?

James Pope talks about the global temperature predictionsJames Pope talks about the global temperature predictions.

Only the best case scenario (not business as usual) will keep us within the 2deg limit.

And it is also predicted there could be a 10% precipitation difference in Amazon because of climate change which could be catastrophic because Amazon is a massive carbon sink.

WP_20151108_18_39_16_ProIt is strange that it took us 21 COPs to agree to a climate change deal argued Tony Juniper a climate change specialist who has seen it all right from the Rio Earth summit in 1992 where it all began.

Tony Juniper delivering the talk

Tony Juniper delivering the talk

Tony criticised the current UK Govt. for its recent renewable energy policy goof-up. It took them only 6 months to bury our 30 years of work he argued.

Tony believes acting on climate change will not only save the plant but it will also help countries by strengthening the economy (more jobs in the process), enhanced security (energy) and to build resilient cities.

He also went on to discuss what is now referred to as impact on climate change on civil unrest. For more info check “Can climate change spark a war?”

Pippa Heylings of Climate and Development Knowledge Network
describes this situation as a ‘Tipping Point’. She believes our past deeds have now left us with no option but to act.

WP_20151108_19_21_10_ProPipa Heylings “COP 21 is the biggest experiment in rules making”

The Final Word

WP_20151108_19_28_29_ProHow can we make the deal work?

The success of the deal will not depend on what the sanctions are going to be or will it be imposed. It depends on the people and how they act. All the experts were unanimous in their opinion that only people can make the deal a success. They have to believe that every action they do counts. They should be vocal in appraising the progress of their respective governments at regular intervals. Its only peer pressure among the nations that will make the deal click.

Time to act on Climate Change is NOW!!

India’s INDC:Towards Climate Justice

India couldn’t have chosen a better day to release their INDC  (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions)to the public. Oct 2 is Gandhi Jayanthi and Mahatma Gandhi is invoked in the INDC right away; we should act as ‘Trustees’ to our natural resources. I wouldn’t compare our INDC to the rest of the world as there have been some major articles already.(Ref Economist’s Catching up with China). The INDC can be rated highly for its comprehensive effort in encompassing all the concerned ministries and dept. concerned even though Climate Change falls under the ambit of Ministry of Forests. A significant point of view conveyed through the INDC is “India was not part of the problem, but it is willing to be part of the solution” which is a swipe at all the biggies.


Key highlights

  • India plans to cut emissions by 33-35% by 2030 from 2005 level.
  • India projects to achieve a renewable energy capacity addition of 175GW by 2022 and increase the renewable energy in the mix to 40% by 2030. It seeks funds explicitly from the Green Climate Fund. (The fund the developed countries agreed to create for projects in under developed/developing countries).
  • To create a carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through forests and trees by 2030.
  • India estimates its Climate Change mitigation plan will cost $2.5Trillion between now and 2030.RE 2014

Some challenges

  • Enforcing policy regulations.
  • Creating a finance mechanism that utilizes the coal cess, Renewable Purchase Obligation(RPO), Perform Achieve & Trade (PAT) etc.
  • Creating a Green Energy Corridor (est. $6Bil) to facilitate power evacuation from renewable energy plants.
  • Not to compromise on Human Developmental Index of the nation. 300Million people in India still have no access to electricity. Hopefully we achieve the national target of ‘Electricity for All’ by 2019.
  • A need to cut subsidies and increase tax in fossil fuels.
  • Securing fuel for proposed 63GW of nuclear power projects.

And opportunities..


  • To create mass transit systems in major cities and encourage them.
  • Developing new cities to house 40% of India in 2030 through smart city projects.
  • Creating sustainable habitats that adhere to building codes.
  • To set up manufacturing hubs through ‘Make in India’ campaign that could be the most energy efficient.
  • To link up ‘Swach Bharat’ and waste to energy projects.

The Minister, Prakash Javadekar who has overseen the entire exercise hosted a public hangout  to talk about the INDC and address queries.

The minister reinforced his thoughts on the INDC that the document was titled ‘Climate Justice‘ because even though we haven’t harmed the planet as much we would like to make it a better place to live.  Some of the discussions that people shared included being Indigenous (Not Jugaad) and embracing our native principles which emphasizes on preserving our ecosystem. Social entrepreneurship could be a big winner in our fight against climate change.

India is in a tricky position, faced by developmental targets and aspirations which require enormous energy and infrastructure year on year. However this also gives it a significant opportunity to develop as nation like no other. Overall India’s INDC is challenging yet achievable.

References: INDC India Overview, Draft