Several pieces of news have caught my attention in the last few days which have challenged my generally positive outlook on climate change issues. Despite this, I remain stubbornly optimistic about our ability to rise collectively to the challenges we ...


Why I remain optimistic. and more...

Why I remain optimistic.

Several pieces of news have caught my attention in the last few days which have challenged my generally positive outlook on climate change issues. Despite this, I remain stubbornly optimistic about our ability to rise collectively to the challenges we face, as I will explain…. first though, the bad news…


Let’s start with the report from the BBC of a recent study by  Eun-Soon Im, Jeremy S. Pal, and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir. This considered an aspect of global warming which, I must admit, has passed me by – that is the impact of temperature on human survival. Not, I hasten to add, the conventional “dry bulb” temperature measurement we are all familiar with from weather forecasts (and which are hitting all-time highs in Europe in the last few days, in excess of 43 °C in Cordoba, in the south of Spain, for example) but rather the more esoteric “wet bulb” temperature.

This measurement is the lowest temperature that can be achieved by evaporating water from a surface. In a low humidity environment, the wet bulb temperature can be considerably lower than the dry bulb temperature (as heat energy – aka latent heat – is needed to evaporate the liquid water, so lowering the temperature of the surface). As the moisture in the atmosphere rises, however, the potential for further evaporation decreases and so the wet bulb temperature approaches the dry bulb temperature until we reach 100% humidity, when both temperatures are the same.  

If you look at a wet bulb thermometer, it literally does have a “wet bulb” with a sock that is kept moist with with distilled water via capillary action. Which brings to mind another surface that has capillaries and is cooled by evaporation – human skin. As warm-blooded creatures we need to maintain our core temperature around 37 °C. The reason that we can survive in higher-temperature environments, like Cordoba this week, is because the relative humidity in Cordoba has been around 5% at the hottest times of day, giving a wet bulb temperature of around 17 °C (you can use a psychometric chart or the NOAA calculator to look up the values), allowing for plenty additional heat loss via evaporation from the skin. For our cooling system to work the wet bulb temperature must be lower than 35 °C – any prolonged period above this, however fit we are, will lead to certain death as our body temperature rises. Indeed, a wet bulb temperature over 31 °C should be considered dangerous to human health.

Which bring me back to the study. This concludes that the highly populous Hindus and Ganges river valleys are especially vulnerable to increased wet bulb temperatures due to climate change – in a high emissions, business as usual scenario (representing global warming of 4.5 °C by the end of the century) over 30% of the population in this region would experience mean maximum wet bulb temperatures over 35 °C (figure D above). On the more conservative projection of 2.5 °C climate change (figure C above) substantial numbers of people will still face maximum wet bulb temperatures over 31 °C.

The second item that caught my attention was from the New York Times, which uses data from James Hansen and Columbia University to illustrate two important phenomena, as shown in the charts below, taken from the article. Here we can see two series of weather data from the Northern Hemisphere, the first from 1951 to 1980 and the second from 2005 to 2015. As we can see from the combined illustration on the right, the average temperature, represented by the peak of the distribution of temperatures has increased (by around 1.5 °C ). This reinforces countless other studies that demonstrate that global temperature increases are real and significant.

More important, though, is the fact that the curve has flattened – that is to say that the frequency distribution of temperatures has broadened. The apparently modest average increase of temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere of 1.5 °C masks the fact that the warming effect of climate change is uneven, with some regions experiencing very much greater increases. Given that we know excessive heat (or rather, wet bulb temperatures) kills humans, our focus should look beyond the headline temperature increases promised by policies such as the Paris climate accord, to the specific impacts on locations and communities that are likely to occur.

My final piece of depression-inducing news comes from another study quoted in the Guardian newspaper that calculates that we have just a 5% chance of achieving the global 2.0 °C  temperature rise goal set out in the Paris accord. Based on current policies the median is likely to be 3.2 °C rise by the end of the century, twice that which we have observed to date, and somewhere between the two scenarios modeled in the first study, above, making the deadly “humid heatwaves” with a wet bulb temperature over 31 °C a regular (1-2 year) event for millions of people.

So what are we to conclude? First, is the obvious, as the letter to Nature quoted in the Guardian states “Achieving the goal of less than 1.5°C warming will require carbon intensity to decline much faster than in the recent past.” Second, we need to acknowledge that material development is an essential part of our ability to adapt to and survive extremes of climate. Access to air conditioning and good medical facilities will be essential to the survival of poor agricultural workers of the Indian subcontinent, when – probably not if – these deadly humid heatwaves strike.

In short, we need to deliver both greater prosperity and considerably fewer emissions. Not only do we need to substantially improve our energy (and resource) efficiency on the demand-side but we also need to accelerate the supply of renewable and low carbon energy. This is where my optimistic persona kicks in.

You see, I believe that we already have the knowledge and expertise to deliver a substantial improvement in energy and resource efficiency which adds value at an individual, corporate and social level. Second I have observed the incredible pace of innovation that is driving the adoption of technology. Consider the key enabling technology that will allow intermittent energy generation technologies (such as wind, solar and tidal) to perform on a par with conventional, “on demand” fossil fuel generation from gas and coal – energy storage. Lithium battery technology is set to decrease in price 100-fold, from $10,000/kWh in the early 1990’s to $100/kWh in 2019 – in fact prices are so low that IKEA are now offering customer battery-storage packs as an add-on to solar energy systems. Indeed, lithium ion technology may supplemented by other even cheaper storage technologies such as rechargeable alkaline batteries. LED lighting has revolutionized illumination. Wind energy is now cost-equivalent, or better, than fossil fuel generation in many markets.

My optimism is because I have long believed that the challenge for us is about implementation not invention. While it would be great, and very helpful, to have technologies like large-scale carbon capture and storage or thorium nuclear reactors in place – these are not prerequisites for a profound decoupling of emissions and development. I am not alone in this observation. Some influential commentators, like Jigar Shah, are adamant that the challenge for us is not innovation, but deployment.  Jigar cites the Deep Decarbonization Pathways project as strong evidence that existing technologies can deliver the scale of emissions reductions needed. Indeed, my free book, above, on energy and resource efficiency is my own small effort to encourage uptake of techniques that are proven to work and deliver value today.

Another news story that caught my attention this week reinforces the message that delivery is key – I read with interest that orders for the new all electric Tesla Model 3 car stand at a staggering 455,000 units, before production has even begun. This in the same week as many governments and car manufacturers are promising the complete phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles variously between 2020 and 2040. The radical transformation of our transport system is underway using current technology – and is bound to accelerate as new entrants enter the market (an Apple iCar, anyone?).

That is not to say that we aren’t faced with real challenges and dangers. In our way are policies which subsidize and insulate fossil fuels from their true cost, barriers within finance that are impeding uptake, and ignorance and sabotage from vested interests. But the decreasing effectiveness of these obstacles – such as Scot Pruit’s dismantling of Federal programmes addressing climate change – is also a source for optimism. In the US state, city and citizen action is largely neutering the political dogma – actions speak louder than words and money speaks loudest of all. It is the inherently superior alternatives offered by efficiency and new technology that are attracting the investment – not the newly blessed coal mining industries. Financiers can see companies like Tesla disrupt old and outdated technologies and they want in on the action.

My only cause for concern is that, while we in the (relatively) affluent world celebrate the over-subscription of the Tesla Model 3, we need to remember that it is in the fertile river valleys in India that we will see the real measure of our success in transforming our use of resources.

Nope, on reflection, I am not depressed by the news – I am reinvigorated by it. To start with, I think I will check out those batteries at IKEA…


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Debating climate change sceptics and the irrational decision by Donald Trump

I want to share an argument that I have used on many occasions when faced with audiences who are yet to be convinced about climate change. This is summarized by the diagram below.


This illustration reflects, in the columns, the positions that folks adopt about climate change. Some think that it is real, others not. Of course, we cannot change these columns, one will be prove to be right and the other will be wrong.

The rows, on the other hand, reflect the choices we make. We have two choices, A or B – either we take effective action on climate change, or not. That choice is under our control.

Clearly, we want to avoid the red box – where life as we know it comes to an end. Thus the only rational choice is “B”, to take action on climate change, despite some uncertainties about the consequences of inaction.

President Trump’s announcement of the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement made in the Rose Garden of the White House yesterday unambiguously represents Choice A.

The statement Trump made justifying this decision relies on two central arguments, which are understood by reference to the table above.

First is the argument that the Paris Accord is not Choice B (i.e. it will do little for climate change). To quote.

Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree — think of that; this much — Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny, tiny amount.

Indeed, as the PolititFact site clearly elucidates, there is some truth in this statement. Scientists and climate change advocates have also been very clear that the commitments made in Paris were not enough. But they did see Paris as the framework through which countries could tighten their commitments over time. Indeed, Paris was a real milestone in that developing countries, too, agreed to targets for the first time. So saying that the first step is not enough is not an argument for stepping backwards.

The reader will note that there is no downside portrayed in the bottom left box, where dangerous climate change is not real, but we have nevertheless substantially transformed our organizations to reduce emissions and adapt to rising temperatures. While individual businesses, such as the coal industry, may well see a substantial reduction in their value unless they change the core business model, the majority of organizations will gain from resource efficiency to address climate change. That is because using less energy and creating less waste reduces costs. Delivering more efficient products will provide a competitive advantage. The new technology gold rush to mitigate carbon emissions will create countless business opportunities and thousands of jobs. Anticipating rather than reacting to regulation will create greater degrees of freedom for business operations extending, rather than diminishing, their licence to operate and innovate.

The second, essential, strand in the narrative of denial is to dismiss the notion that the lower-left box will lead to a better world even if climate change does not exist. Unless the fact that action is detrimental can be established, the precautionary principle would suggest that Choice B should be taken even if the probability that climate change is real (since the consequence of climate change is so catastrophic). To quote again.

The Paris Agreement would result in “lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.

Of course, this is total nonsense. The outcry by large sections of US business following the announcement is a reflection of the broad consensus that acting on climate change is good for business and thus for jobs and prosperity. This motion of loss is further articulated

China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. 


India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020. Think of it. India can double their coal production. We’re supposed to get rid of ours.

Notwithstanding the selective misinformation inherent in these statements (again, see PolitiFact), they also do not reflect the fact that how countries reduce emissions under the Paris Agreement is under their own control. It was the choice of the US to limit coal (albeit of the previous administration), not an external imposition. Indeed, the notion of contraction and convergence accepts that poorer countries will need to increase their emissions somewhat (while remaining well below the per capita levels in the US) as a matter of justice and fairness – after all they need to have power for hospitals and schools don’t they? The fact is that Paris provides the only framework where India and China can currently join in, and be held accountable, with global efforts on climate change.

Reducing arguments about humanity’s future to jingoistic “them and us” demeans us all. All those working on climate change are doing so in order to both elevate the human condition for all and to preserve the environment on which we all depend. It isn’t a zero-sum game, where either a US blue-collar worker or a brown-skinned person has to be sacrificed.

These arguments and a discussion of the precautionary principle are covered in greater depth in my book “Energy and Resource Efficiency without the tears – the complete guide to adding value and sustaining change in an organization”. Please do check it out – the PDF is free if you follow the link right.

I will leave you with a cartoon from the book:



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Why I am giving away six years work – free PDF of Energy/Resource Efficiency Book

I have had some kind feedback about my decision to give away a free PDF of my two-volume book on energy and resource efficiency, which sells for £59.99 (US$79.99) in print. Several people have commented on just how much work must have gone into the book and how useful it is for anyone in the energy and resource efficiency field. It is true that I have invested a lot into this book – over six years of weekends, evenings and holiday time writing the book between my “day job” as a consultant and Sustainability Director. And there are the direct costs in editing, images etc – which are not inconsiderable.

In some cases colleagues have asked me outright why on earth I am giving away such a valuable resource. There is puzzlement because folks who know me, know that I have quite a good “business head”. So I feel that I owe people an explanation.

The reason I am giving away my book is that I passionately believe that my profession – energy and resource efficiency practitioners – are central to solving one of humanity’s biggest challenges – how to do more with less. Over the years, I have observed that fellow practitioners often have great resources and knowledge about the technical or engineering aspects of their craft – but that there is virtually nothing that explains, with honesty, how to deal with the strategic, organisational, managerial, behavioral, financial and communications aspects. In fact, the plethora of self-congratulatory case studies from organisations would lead one to conclude that this efficiency stuff is easy.

I am giving away my book because I want to help my colleagues, because I am concerned about climate change and biodiversity, because the better we are at what we do, the better world we will leave for the next generation.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers in the book, but I do believe that there is much to support colleagues, and to train and enthuse the next generation of practitioners. I have been very lucky – I have worked for some outstanding clients in some remarkable programmes all over the world, alongside some truly amazing colleagues. Its time to give something back!

So how can you help? First of all please do share the PDF and the link to this blog ( – the more folks that make use of the book the better. Second, if you have suggestions for improvements, additions or if you spot errors please do let me know – I am totally committed to getting the contents right.

Finally if you are old-fashioned, like me, and you absolutely must have a printed copy of the book, please order it through my store rather than elsewhere – I have deliberately priced the printed book at the lowest level possible, which means that when the retailer takes their minimum required 40% commission on the sale price, there is virtually nothing left. That is deliberate – this book is not a money-making project! However, by ordering the book through my store, that 40% contributes towards recovering some of the publication costs and towards future revisions and (possible) future books. There is a free shipping option to most countries and ordering through my site is the most sustainable way of shipping as each book is individually printed on demand and sent directly from the printer to you (there are no additional journeys to warehouses etc).

Above all please do use the book! You can get the free PDF here – simply select the free PDF on the left, add it to your cart, and checkout as normal.

Hopefully, there is something there to help us all do more with less.

All the best,


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Free PDF of “Energy and Resource Efficiency without the tears”

I am absolutely delighted to announce that the two volumes of my book on energy and  resource efficiency have now been published as a single book.

As part of SustainSuccess’ contribution to sustainability the book, all 840 pages, is being made available FREE, in the Adobe PDF format.

I have been humbled by the outstanding reviews that leading folks in the efficiency world have give to the book:  

  • …the definitive source or making sense of energy efficiency and all of its attendant benefits.” [Christopher Russell –  Visiting Fellow, Industrial Programs,  American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy,  author of “Managing Energy from the Top Down“];
  • For anyone interested in a practical guide to improving resource and energy efficiency, this is the one and only book you need to own” [Dr Steve Fawkes – Managing Partner, EnergyPro, author of “Energy Efficiency“];
  • A very practical book which covers all the bases for practitioners and students of energy and resource efficiency alike. [Tim Sullivan – Director Energy & Property Compliance, Rolls-Royce.];
  • An authoritative and comprehensive book that will help any organisation justify and implement an effective energy and resource efficiency programme [Ray Gluckman – former President of the Institute of Refrigeration]
  • Niall Enright has produced a remarkably comprehensive manual for energy efficiency, which combines high-level insights and practical tips for developing and implementing projects and programs” [Donald Gilligan – President NAESCO]

You can get the free PDF easily. Simply go to the store, add the book to your basket and check-out. You will not be charged for the book, and on completing the check-out process, will received a download link to the PDF (17 MB).

The combined print version retails for £59.99 in paperback and £79.99 in hardback – including free postage options to most markets. The print versions also include free access to the companion files, for which there is a very modest charge for PDF version readers.

Please do feel free to:

  • Share the link to this post on your own social media pages. The shortened link is:
  • Share the PDF with others (although it is better that folks download the file from the shop as they can be informed about updates to the text or additional materials)

Please don’t hesitate to give me feedback on the book. The beauty of print on demand (and PDF) is not only that this is a resource-efficient method of publication but also that the content can easily be updated regularly. You can also award the book between 1 star and 5 stars in the store, so please do come back and give it a rating!

All the best,

Niall Enright

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Please feel free to add feedback on my book (positive or negative!) by clicking on the heading “Feedback” and then adding comments in the box below….. Unless otherwise requested, I may quote positive reviews received….. 🙂

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