Catching up

Having abandoned this blog for a couple of months, I thought I should quickly write a catch-up post to justify the interruption in service and get myself back into the swing of things. So although I don’t really approve of all-about-me diary-style blogging, here goes anyway.

  • A new book. I was busy in January writing a proposal for new book to be coauthored with Mike Berners-Lee, whose previous book I commissioned and edited. We want to write something that will be fun to read and which explores the whole issue of energy and climate change from a zoomed-out, big-picture perspective. Imagine a combination of Freaknomics and David MacKay’s Without Hot Air. The book has now been commissioned by Profile Books, where I used to work, and will come out in due course. If you have any overlooked big-picture insights into climate, energy and how the whole issue fits together then do get in touch. Mike and I gave a talk about the book at the UCL Energy Institute last week and it was great to have such a receptive crowd and so many offers of help. Many thanks all you UCL folks.

  • Data journalism. I’ve been trying to do more data-focused journalism at the Graun of late. Recent examples are these articles on fossil fuel reserves and UN negotiation positions, fossil fuel subsidies and this map of global responsibility for climate change. My inner geek is massively drawn to data journalism and I’ve been enjoying doing stories like these, though it’s amazing how long it can take to crunch the numbers sometimes. I’m keen for more ideas and sources, so do let me know if you have any good unexplored datasets.

  • New nuclear. I spent a while researching integral fast reactors and their current PRISM incarnation for this story about what we could theoretically do with the UK’s plutonium stockpile. The piece, and George Monbiot’s analysis that ran alongside it, generated lots of interest and – perhaps inevitably – a crop of highly critical letters from anti-nuclear green groups. I haven’t had time to reply to the letters yet, though it struck me reading them that none of the letters addressed Monbiot’s simple question (i.e. “what is the best way to get rid of the waste we have”), nor the fact that all the perspectives in my piece came from David MacKay, who green groups usually treat as an infallible source when he’s talking about renewables. My own view – like MacKay’s – is that these reactors are worth properly evaluating, though I still think thorium molten-salt nuclear is a more attractive proposition – not least because it doesn’t require potentially dangerous sodium as a coolant and it promises to be even more meltdown-proof than IFRs. Unfortunately molten salt reactors are further from being commercially viable.

  • 10:10. I haven’t been doing as much at 10:10 recently, though I did recently pitch our crowd-funding Solar Schools project to NESTA who selected it as one of the projects they will be supporting through their Innovations in Giving Fund. Thanks NESTA! Speaking of Solar Schools, the pilot has been doing really well, with the first school putting up its solar panels up the week before last and plenty of others not far behind.

[Writing those two bullet points adjacently reminds me that I’ve been meaning to post something on how odd it seems that most people interested in climate change seem determined to slag off either solar or new nuclear, as if the two were mutually incompatible.]

  • Ultimate Climate Change FAQ. I’ve been motoring ahead with this project, with help from the Grantham Institute, Met Office and others. If you have expertise in any climate change topic and would like to submit an answer to a question we haven’t yet covered, then please do drop me a line, as it’s very much as a collaborative effort. And helpful yourselves to the content, most of which is released under a Creative Commons license.

  • Consultancy stuff. I’ve been advising M&S recently on their carbon cutting work. I mention this partly because it’s proving an interesting experience and partly because I think anyone who does journalism should be transparent about any consultancy work they do, to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

  • Kiln. In between our day jobs, Robin Houston and I have been developing some interesting data visualisation stuff which we will be unveiling in a couple of weeks. The earth will move, quite literally. Watch this space.

I’ll stop there to avoid descending into complete tedium, but now that catch-up is out of the way, hopefully I’ll find time to start posting again properly soon.

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