Changing notions of comfort

I am so thankful I don’t have to work all the time in an air-conditioned office building. Especially since Covid-19, our entire Close Comfort team works part of the time at home. We’re happier and feel healthier too.
Of course, I have a Close Comfort personal air conditioner with me. Our team members each have at least one at home as well.
Lee Kuan Yew, honoured as Singapore’s founding father, loved to tell everyone how air conditioning enabled today’s Singapore by providing a comfortable working and sleeping environment. However, there’s a dark side that comes with 20th-century air conditioning systems.
It is well established that people who live most of the time in constant temperature air-conditioned buildings lose their natural thermal acclimatization. As a result, they only feel comfortable at about 23 °C.
Recently I hailed a Singapore cab and climbed into the shiny black refrigerator on wheels, feeling so glad I remembered to bring a cardigan tied around my shoulders. The driver exclaimed, “Ah, it’s so hot today, la!”
“What’s the temperature?” I asked.
“33, it’s really hot, la”.
“But, yesterday it was 32”.
“Yeah, 33, it’s so hot today, la!”

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Has Engineering Divorced?

I came across this report on the economic contributions of engineering prepared by PWC for Engineering New Zealand. In preparing the report, PWC and Engineering New Zealand assembled about 20 senior engineers from a representative sample of industries and asked them to write a brief description of engineering.

Fascinating.

Here’s a word cloud summarising the result.

Now, what’s gone missing?

Remember that this was an exercise in assessing the economic significance of engineering in New Zealand…

Still wondering?

Read more to see what I think is missing

Pothole in Australia’s Emissions Policy?

Over the last few weeks I have been studying Australia’ climate and emissions reduction policy. Remember the bush fires before Covid-19 took over the news media? Few disagree now that we have to hurry up and got on board the world-wide push towards zero net emissions by mid-century… except perhaps Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister Taylor assert that Australia will meet the 2030 emission reduction target “in a canter”. We may just do that, but in 2031 or soon after we will hit a massive pothole unless we make changes very soon.

Australia is relying on emission credits carried forward from the 1997 Kyoto climate accord to the December 2015 Paris agreement. We undershot our emissions targets over several years, partly because of the cap and trade scheme we started in 2012 which Tony Abbott labelled the ‘carbon tax’ before abolishing it.

Never mind that carrying forward credits is not mentioned in the Paris agreement. Our government is going to try and float this one anyway.

According to the 2019 projections available at the Industry Department web site, we can maintain our current level of emissions with no further reductions right out to 2030 using these credits. But, then what?

Read this op-ed piece and see if you agree with my assessment. Comments welcome!

Did you see or comment on the government’s low emissions technology roadmap? In a few days I will post my comments and submissions.

Corona virus will be more lethal for startups than bushfires

Update May 1st 2020: A modest success. With the help of friends and politicians, I and others managed to persuade the Australian Treasury to modify the JobKeeper scheme to include startups like Close Comfort and many others. A lifesaver for us. Thank you to all those who listened and acted!

The Australian government’s business rescue packages, while welcome, have overlooked the future: thousands of small and successful startups. Startups in many other less fortunate countries may struggle to survive.

Our company, Close Comfort (www.closecomfort.com), a small family-owned business, cannot demonstrate a 30% year on year loss of business to be eligible for assistance because we have invested to grow our sales. Now we face a similar financial catastrophe like tourism and hospitality businesses as our sales and sources of investment capital dry up simultaneously.

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A moratorium on new coal mines: a hypocritical Australian gesture

Recently there has been an Australian move to propose a moratorium on new coal mines.

For several years I have researched energy supplies on the ground in India and Pakistan.  I have also researched how engineers respond to the challenges of energy and water supplies there, and also in Australia.

I strongly disagree with this moratorium proposal.

Why?

First, it will be seen as hypocritical and selfish in countries like India and Pakistan because we Australians, more than many countries, have grown rich and prosperous by burning vast quantities of coal in the past and continue to do so today.

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