Welcome to the Climate Radio archive! 2014 promises to be a pivotal and exciting year in the transition to our low carbon future. This year our contribution is likely to be predominantly in the form of print media. We will be posting developments here at the Climate Radio archive, so stayed tuned! In the meantime, Climate Radio’s monthly shows for 2013 can be found here. As can our additional special programmes including new economics foundation fellow Andrew Simm’s keynote speech “Seeking Goodland”, coverage of the Reclaim The Power protest camp against fracking in Balcombe and an audio document of the Two Degrees festival of climate arts-activism. Thanks to Artists Project Earth, Resonance FM and New Internationalist for their support in 2013.
“This is a highly effective, unpreventable form of non-violent dissent – and also a sensual, personal work of art in its own right.”
This Saturday, 12pm-4pm, join Resonance FM & Liberate Tate for an alternative group tour of London’s Tate galleries facilitated by a special FM radio broadcast. Real life and radio combine as you are guided through Tate Britain, onto the Tate Boat and through the Tate Modern by a sequence of guerilla audio guides created by leading London artists.
If you’re not able to attend the event in person, you can still listen to the broadcast and webcast of the tours along with special guest interviews and a panel discussion on Resonance FM.
These specially designed sound works explore BP’s controversial sponsorship of the Tate galleries. They were commissioned by Liberate Tate, Art Not Oil and Platform London as part of the campaign to end fossil fuel sponsorship of the arts. The works are by Ansuman Biswas (Tate Britain), Isa Suarez, Mae Martin and Mark McGowan aka The Artist Taxi Driver (Tate Boat) and Jim Whelton and, yours truly, Phil England (Tate Modern).
For full details see the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1521065414783006/
Legendary radical artist Gustav Metzger has become increasingly concerned the impact human activity is having on nature. In a rare interview, I spoke to Metzger about the two-day conference he initiated at UCA Farnham entitled Facing Extinction – which asks the profound question “What role can artists play in radically limiting the ongoing decimation of nature?” – as well as his formative experiences and a lifetime of radical artistic practice.
The interview took place on Saturday 31st May at Gustav’s studio in London Fields. Climate Radio also recorded the proceedings of the Facing Extinction conference (7 & 8 June) for a forthcoming series on Resonance FM which will be archived in due course. Update: The Facing Extinction series is being broadcast by Resonance FM on Wednesdays, 1pm-2pm.
A revamped alternative audio tour for Tate Modern explores why sponsor BP’s problems are deep and structural. By Phil England. Published by Platform London.
It was four years ago this week that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded while drilling into BP’s Macondo oil well, killing eleven people. In a report issued last week, the National Wildlife Federation records that over 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the area since the disaster. Amongst other key species they noted an abnormally high number of dead sea turtles – around 500 every year. Respiratory problems and skin diseases continue to affect the human population and last month 300 pounds of tar balls washed up on a beech in Mississippi.
Fisherman Bert Ducote who helped with the clean-up effort in 2010 and has suffered with skin boils said, “The little amount of money they’re trying to give us, it’s never going to replace our quality of life, our health.”
It’s a far cry from the “temporary difficulty” that Tate director Nicholas Serota described his “friend” BP as having back in July 2010, while millions of barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico for the third month in a row.
In 2012 sound artist Jim Welton and I produced an alternative audio tour for the Tate Modern as part of a triptych of audio artworks taking issue with BP’s controversial sponsorship of the Tate galleries. One critic described it as “A highly effective, unpreventable form of non-violent dissent – and also a sensual, personal work of art in its own right.”
This week we launch a new version of the guide to accommodate changes in the gallery displays so that it now incorporates works by Derek Jarman and Pino Pascali. You can download the MP3 onto your mobile phone and listen on headphones or earbuds as you are directed through the gallery. Alternatively you can listen to the piece online at home.
Nicholas Serota’s belittling of the Deepwater Horizon disaster was offensive to those thousands of people whose lives and livelihoods were ruined by the spill and the dispersant used in the “clean-up”. We used his quote in the title of our piece – Drilling The Dirt (“A Temporary Difficulty”) – to draw attention to this misunderstanding and because it resonated in so many different ways. Most importantly we wanted to show that the problem with BP was not temporary and minor but deep and structural. Its business model is rooted in colonialism, puts profits before safety and is predicated on our collective descent into a world of climate extremes.
BP began life as the Anglo Iranian Oil Company after the British and French carved up the Middle East between them at the end of the first world war. Iran’s riches were expropriated at little benefit to the country’s population. In 1953 the UK and US even organised a coup to oust the democratically elected president Mohammed Mossadeq in order to keep the oil flowing. This colonial model continues today with BP “developing” the oil resources of poor countries in unfair deals that are maintained by supporting repressive regimes. Azerbaijan and Egypt are two cases in point.
According to the US Department of Justice’s lawyers currently prosecuting BP under the Clean Water Act, BP’s activities are underpinned by a “culture of corporate recklessness.” It’s nothing new. The investigation into the explosion at BP’s Texas City oil refinery in 2005 that killed 15 workers and injured 180 concluded that “organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of the BP Corporation” were responsible. They traced this managerial malaise back to two major cost-cutting drives – mandated by the then CEO Lord Browne – in 1999 and 2004.
This month the accident-prone company spilled over 1200 gallons into Lake Michigan from its refinery in Whiting potentially contaminating the drinking water of seven million Chicago residents. Oops.
And as if these concerns were not enough, it is the potential of fossil fuel companies like BP to influence our energy future that should concern us most.
BP’s projections assume we will not take sufficient action to tackle climate change as a global community. As a company they are essentially betting against your future and my future. We now know that 80% of fosil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. If BP wins, we lose.
The tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago caused the company’s share price to nose dive and brought BP to the brink of bankruptcy and there’s still a possibility the disaster could end up breaking the company. The current CEO Bob Dudley has overseen asset sales worth around $50 billion. That’s resulted in a 20% reduction in oil and gas output and a loss in profits of about $5 billion a year. If the US [Department of Justice] [courts] determines that BP was grossly negligent under the Clean Water Act the company’s liabilities could rise by an additional $18 billion.
The final reason we subtitled our work “A temporary difficulty” was because we believe it is only a matter of time before the Tate cedes to public pressure and ends its relationship with BP. The campaign was given high-level endorsement earlier this month when Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for an Apartheid-style boycott of fossil fuel companies to help drive forward action on climate change. “People of conscience,” he wrote, “need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.”
The Art Not Oil campaign has achieved some notable successes recently. A group called Reclaim Our Bard brought an end to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s relationship with BP using the power of their pop-up dramatic skits while choral campaigners Shell Out Sounds were successful in singing Shell out of the “Shell Classics” concert series at the Royal Festival Hall. The idea that fossil fuel companies are suitable sponsors for the arts and sport is coming to an end and the longer Tate clings on to its relationship with BP, the longer it will be on the wrong side of history.
Download the Tate Modern alternative audio tour from www.tateatate.org or listen online below.
Press release * 18th April 2014 * For immediate release
Fourth Anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Explosion marked with Refreshed Tate Modern Audio Tour
It was four years ago this Sunday (20th April) that the Deepwater Horizon exploded killing eleven workers. The subsequent spill and clean up operation devastated ecosystems, wrecked the health and livelihoods of communities and brought the company within days of bankruptcy.
To mark the anniversary and honour the victims Platform is releasing an updated version of the Tate Modern alternative audio guide which takes issue with BP’s controversial sponsorship of Tate galleries.
As Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls for an Apartheid-style boycott movement against fossil fuel companies and their funders in order to tackle climate change, Tate’s relationship with BP is becoming increasingly untenable.
The work, Drilling the Dirt (A Temporary Difficulty), was originally produced in 2012 by Phil England and Jim Welton and has been updated by the artists to incorporate recent changes in the gallery displays.
Phil England said, “Tate director Nicolas Serota belittled the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill when he described it as ‘a temporary difficulty’. Our piece gives voice to some of those who have been affected, not just by this disaster but also by BP’s activities across the decades. Our aim was to show that the problem with BP is not temporary, but deep, structural and ongoing.”
Kevin Smith of Platform said, “Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s comments earlier this month give a huge moral legitimacy to our ongoing campaign to bring an end to fossil fuel sponsorship of the arts. It’s time Tate started listening to the concerns of moral leaders, campaigners, artists and its own members.”
The work is part of a triptych of pieces collectively know as Tate à Tate. The other pieces are Panaudicon by Ansuman Biswas (designed to be played in situ at the Tate) and This is Not an Oil Tanker by Isa Suarez designed to be played in the on the Tate Boat that runs on the Thames and transports people between the two galleries. All three pieces were commissioned by Platform, Liberate Tate and Art Not Oil.
The piece is designed to be downloaded onto your mobile phone so that you can listen on headphones or earbuds as you are directed through the gallery. You can also listen to the work online in a setting of your choosing.
The tour can be downloaded from http://tateatate.org/
1. Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in The Guardian on 10 April: “People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.” (“We need an Apartheid-style boycott to save the planet”)
2. Nicholas Serota told the Jewish Chronicle in July 2010: “You don’t abandon your friends because they have what we consider to be a temporary difficulty.” (“Interview: Nicholas Serota”)
3. More information about the audio tours and artists can be found at http://tateatate.org/
By Phil England for The Independent, 31 March 2014
The publication today of the latest IPCC report on the projected impacts of a warming world is the latest in a long line of wake-up calls. Last November’s report on the physical science of climate change made clear that we are currently following the scenario with the highest risk – and we need to make a break with business as usual if we are to avoid the worst impacts. So what would it look like if we took climate change seriously and acted to keep global warming below 2C?
Professor Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Tyndall Centre – the UK’s leading climate policy research unit involving the collaboration of eight different universities – says that if we followed the science through and honoured the commitments we’ve made internationally, the EU would need to double its projected emissions cuts by 2030 – from 40 per cent to 80 per cent. This would mean revising the targets in the UK’s Climate Change Act and starting to make at least 10 per cent annual cuts in our greenhouse gas emissions immediately.
“The window for action is extremely tight. We need to radically reduce our energy consumption from now out to 2025 and at the same time very rapidly roll out a Marshall Plan for a low carbon energy supply. Those two things have to go hand in hand.” Instead of tinkering around with policies that make small changes, we would need bold action in key areas such as buildings and transport, requiring courage on the part of politicians and changes to how we live our lives.
“We’re on the cusp of having to take note of what is evidently happening around us but we’re still very reluctant to leave a political mindset that says we can deliver the changes using a bit of a carbon price, a few adverts trying to incentivise people to do things, and some carbon labelling. We still expect those types of piecemeal, ad-hoc mechanisms to deliver the sort of changes that are necessary and yet we know now in 2014 that they simply won’t work.”
So what do we need to do to make such radical cuts? Last December the Tyndall Centre organised a conference at the Royal Society looking at precisely this question and researchers at the Centre for Alternative Technology have been refining a plan for a Zero Carbon Britain by 2030 for some years. It takes time to put low carbon energy infrastructure in place. If we need to start making substantial cuts straightaway we have to cut energy consumption. Two of our biggest sources of emissions are the energy we use at home and the transport we use.
We know how to build new homes – known as “passive houses” – that require very little heating, but our main focus needs to be on the millions of homes already in existence. “We have a low demolition rate,” Anderson explains, “so what’s important is to retrofit these existing properties to very high standards, to make them low energy consumption and also resilient to a changing climate.”
“It will be expensive,” Anderson admits, “but it will eliminate fuel poverty, improve health, provide a huge amount of low and semi-skilled labour, improve our energy security and put a huge amount of money back into the economy.”
About a quarter of our emissions come from transport. “Private cars represent a very high proportion of UK emissions,” continues Anderson. “The average car in the UK will be emitting about 168 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre. Yet we are selling 322 models at the forecourt that are below 100 g/km. The natural retirement rate of cars will deliver a 30-50 per cent reduction in emissions within ten years if we put a standard of 100 g/km in place. And we can do that using existing cars sold at no price premium.” More efficient cars will mean cleaner air and a healthier population, as will encouraging a shift to public transport, cycling, walking and avoiding unnecessary journeys.
As with cars, there are big efficiency gains waiting to be had in our electrical appliances. “An A++ fridge uses 85 per cent less energy than an A rated fridge. So why are we selling A rated fridges? Why are we selling Bs, Cs and Ds? We should not be using a labelling scheme we should simply be using a minimum efficiency standard. And we can do this for all the major appliances.”
Energy efficiency is subject to the “rebound effect” meaning you can end up using some of the money you save on energy on other goods that use energy. To deal with this problem, Anderson says we will need to seriously consider policies that curb energy demand overall.
Cutting the carbon will impact on rich and poor differently. While super-insulating old homes will help the millions of people who are in fuel poverty, it’s the wealthier amongst us who have the biggest scope for reducing our carbon footprints and who will need to make the biggest adjustments suggests Anderson. “People like myself would fly much less, we would be driving smaller, less powerful cars, and driving less distance. Some of us would see that as a reduction in our quality of life, but a lot of things we really value in our lives – time with our friends and our families, living a good life – are not innately high-carbon consuming activities.”
The American Association for the Advancement of Science launched a great piece of clear communication around climate change this week entitled What we Know. The website, report and collection of short films highlight the risks of climate change and how we can minimise them by taking action. Their key messages are:
1. Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now.
2. We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.
3. The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.
By making informed choices now, we can reduce risks for future generations and ourselves, and help communities adapt to climate change.