Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

We have the cure for our ailing planet…

with 12 comments

…so can we please use it?

Here reproduced in full, with the kind permission of the author, is international environmental journalist Stephen Leahy’s prescription to save us all from unintended ecocide – it’s called renewable energy.

I think it's time to take evasive action!

I think it’s time to take evasive action!


————–

For an Ailing Planet, the Cure Already Exists

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jun 1 2012 (IPS) – The planet’s climate recently reached a new milestone of 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the Arctic.

The last time Earth saw similar levels of climate-heating carbon dioxide (CO2) was three million years ago during the Pliocene era, where Arctic temperatures were 10 to 14 degrees C higher and global temperatures four degrees C hotter.

Research stations in Alaska, Greenland, Norway, Iceland and even Mongolia all broke the 400 ppm barrier for the first time this spring, scientists reported in a release Thursday.  A global average of 400 ppm up from the present 392 ppm is still some years off.

If today’s CO2 levels don’t decline – or worse, increase – the planet will inevitably reach those warmer temperatures, but it won’t take a thousand years.  Without major cuts in fossil fuel emissions, a child born today could live in a plus-four-degree C superheated world by their late middle age, IPS previously reported.  Such temperatures will make much of the planet unliveable.

In a four-degree warmer world, climate adaptation means “put your feet up and die” for many people in the world, said Chris West of the University of Oxford’s UK Climate Impacts Programme in 2009.

This week the International Energy Agency reported that the nations of the world’s CO2 emissions increased 3.2 percent in 2011 compared to 2010.  This is precisely the wrong direction: emissions need to decline three percent per year to have any hope of a stable climate.

By 2050, in a world with more people, carbon emissions must be half of today’s levels.

Impossible?  No.  A number of different energy analyses show how it can be done.

Dutch energy consulting firm Ecofys published a technical study in 2010 called “The Energy Report” that demonstrates how the world could reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Greenpeace has a plan called “Energy [R]evolution“.  Even the International Energy Agency has one: it’s called the “450 Scenario“.

There is no lack of technical knowledge about how to cut emissions and still keep the lights on.  Some countries have already started.

Germany, a modern industrialised country, generated more than 30 percent of its energy from solar power one bright sunny day last week. Instead of using 20 or more climate-wrecking coal plants, Germany used the energy from more than one million solar panels on houses, buildings, along sides of highways – even those ugly highway sound barriers have solar panels.

Although hardly known for sunny weather, Germany has more solar panels than all the rest of the world combined.  It gets four percent of its total annual electricity needs from solar.  Germany could increase its solar output by a factor of five or 10, experts say, especially with recent drops in the cost of solar panels.

The difference in Germany is leadership. Hermann Scheer, a minister of economics in the German government, created the now famous feed-in tariff in 2000 that launched Germany’s renewable energy revolution.

The outspoken Scheer had to both champion and defend this policy for many years to prevent successive governments from gutting it.  He died suddenly in 2010.  Other German politicians, supported by environmental groups and the public, have continued to push for more.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reversed her support for nuclear power following huge public protests following the catastrophe at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants in 2011.  Germany will close its 17 nuclear plants by 2022. Renewables and energy efficiency are to replace that lost energy under an ambitious plan called “Agora Energiewende“.

If successful, as much as 40 percent of Germany’s energy will come from renewables by 2022.

German energy prices have risen and large power users, as well as the politically powerful energy sector, oppose Merkel’s plan.  The chancellor will need strong public support even though Germany’s renewable energy sector now employs more people than its vaunted automobile industry.

Globally, the renewable energy sector now employs close to five million workers, more than doubling the number of jobs from 2006-2010, according to a study released Thursday by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The transformation to a greener economy could generate 15 to 60 million additional jobs globally over the next two decades and lift tens of millions of workers out of poverty, concluded the study, “Working towards sustainable development”.

Only 10 to 15 industries are responsible for 70 to 80 percent of CO2 emissions in the industrialised countries, the report discovered.  And those industries employ just eight to 12 percent of the workforce.  Even with policies forcing major reductions in emissions, only a fraction would lose their jobs.

“Environmental sustainability is not a job killer, as it is sometimes claimed,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia.  “On the contrary, if properly managed, it can lead to more and better jobs, poverty reduction and social inclusion.”

(Copyright 2012 Stephen Leahy)
———-

By way of explanation, I should perhaps just say that this (re-posting of Stephen Leahy’s article) was inspired (if that is the right word) by the insanity of yet another anonymous idiot (called ‘jdey123′ on the Met Office blog) commenting that current snowfall in the UK is the return to the weather of his/her youth.  To which I responded as follows:

What we are now experiencing is not the return to the weather of anyone’s youth.  This is because the last time atmospheric CO2 exceeded 400 ppm was three million years ago.

Unless we stop adding to the CO2 in the biosphere (and start removing it) excess atmospheric CO2 will eventually lead to the Antarctic becoming ice-free once more (800 ppm 35 million years ago). Such a transition may well take hundreds of years but we should not delude ourselves that it will not happen; or that now doing nothing is a survivable option (for significant proportion of all life on Earth).

As a geologist, I know that climate change may well be natural. However, what is now happening is predominantly unnatural. The only people who dispute this are those with a short-sighted vested interest in the continuance of business as usual and/or an ideologically-impaired ability to accept what atmospheric physicists have been telling us for over 50 years.

For more background information on this subject, please visit:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_Earth’s_atmosphere

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eocene

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12 Responses

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  1. Great post, Martin.

    Paul Handover

    16 January 2013 at 00:06

    • Many thanks Paul. You are not doing so bad yourself! ;-)

      Martin Lack

      16 January 2013 at 08:46

    • Am I correct in assuming that in the production of solar panels no CO2 is generated or released? Before we ascend into euphoria over this one size fits all solution, I think we should have all the facts and figures. And the main factor in this self-destructive development is overpopulation. As long as Homo Fornicatus insists on his or her “right to have children”, CO2 will continue to rise inexorably. Some of the mitigation schemes – CO2 sequestration and storage come to mind here – involve enormous expenditures of material and energy; but will (we are assured) generate vast employment opportunities. Thus more work means less CO2; right?

      Duncan

      16 January 2013 at 08:48

      • Hi Duncan. Thanks for these comments. I am half expecting Schalk Cloete to post yet another comment insisting that a renewables-only future is impossible but my settled opinion (and that of a great many experts) is that we must not delay the reduction of our dependence on fossil fuels. To answer your (rhetorical?) question directly, clearly investment in renewable technology results in CO2 emissions (and the consumption of rare earth metals). However, I also agree with those experts who say that the best possible reason to burn fossil fuels is in the manufacture of the technology that will replace them. I do not see why you would wish to dispute that the Green Economy has the potential to create more jobs than will be lost from traditional manufacturing. One thing seems certain, however, which is that, despite the creation of 800 Jaguar Land Rover jobs in the UK, a 70% increase in annual car sales to China cannot be defined as sustainable development!

        Despite all of the above, you are right to highlight the problem of overpopulation (and to allude to the problematic “right to a family life” enshrined in Article 16 of the UDHR).

        Martin Lack

        16 January 2013 at 09:19

  2. Since the worldwide live demonstration of ‘free’ / ‘sustainable’ / ‘green’ energy technology over a decade ago I don’t seen the establishment (or the masses) demanding this technology be embraced, thus ending our dependency on all current forms of energy technology, solving world poverty, reducing carbon emissions to zero and making the ‘ruling elite’ effectively irrelevant along the way.

    The general consensus (propagandised into existence) seems to be instead all about setting up global taxes enforced by a global government, a reduction in living standards for the masses and re-adoption of ineffective and costly energy technologies such as wind power which was already abandoned centuries ago.

    Bottom line: if the establishment really cared about ‘green/ sustainable energy’ we’d have it already.

    In this age of rapid technological advances the fact that we’re still dependent on century-old (or older) energy technology is as ridiculous as if we were still dependent on fountain pens and hand written letters to communicate.

    Abandon TV

    16 January 2013 at 01:50

    • Many thanks for that, Abandon TV (what a great user-ID, BTW). I could not have put it better myself. Can I be so bold as to ask how you found yourself here?

      Martin Lack

      16 January 2013 at 08:53

      • Sorry I have no idea how I found your blog. It was over a week ago… your reply to my comment only just appeared on ‘comments I have made’ for some reason.

        “A week is a long time in blogging” as the old saying goes ;)

        Abandon TV

        31 January 2013 at 14:40

        • WordPress is sometimes “random” like that. Cheers.

          Martin Lack

          31 January 2013 at 16:03

  3. [...] 2013/01/16: LoE: We have the cure for our ailing planet… [...]

  4. Reblogged this on Energy post.

    Energy post

    30 January 2013 at 22:44


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