[ Proposed chapter for the book “Surviving Climate Change”; finally published in “Time Up” the Climate Camp publication for 2006. ]
Surviving Climate Change – Some Geopolitical Indicators & Markers
by Tim Helweg-Larsen and Jo Abbess
23rd June 2006
“I kind of startled my country when, in my State of the Union [Address], I said we’re hooked on oil and we need to get off oil…we’ve got to diversify away from oil. And the best way to do it is through new technologies.” George W. Bush, President United States of America 21st June 2006
“We find that clean and more efficient technologies can return soaring energy-related CO2 emissions to today’s levels by 2050 and halve the expected growth in both oil and electricity demand” Claude Mandil, International Energy Agency, 22nd June 2006
“The policy of the Bush administration on climate change has not been helpful on the international effort..“We would have been further forward on climate change had there been a more engaged US position.” John Ashton, UK Climate Change Special Representative 23rd June 2006
The last 300 years have been the era of actualised human invention – industry with cheap energy has enabled high technology, taking what were once only far-fetched dreams and making them reality.
The last 50 years have been the era of actualised human greed – salesmanship with arch-materialism – through the use of high technology – has enabled the acquisition of great wealth and resources, concentrated in the hands of the few.
“Everything we do must be for this one central purpose: increased personal prosperity and well-being.” United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair, 14th January 2005
“The gap between rich and poor is growing, both within and between countries. A few hundred millionaires now own as much wealth as the world’s poorest 2.5 billion people.” Economics Forever, Panos Media Briefing No 38, March 2000
“We are concerned that the links between projected economic change in the world economy and climate change have not been as rigorously explored as they should have been by the IPCC.” The Economics of Climate Change, UK House of Lords, 6 July 2005
“From the start of the industrial revolution more than 200 years ago, developed nations have achieved ever greater prosperity and higher living standards. But through this period our activities have come to affect our atmosphere, oceans, geology, chemistry and biodiversity.” Tony Blair, 14th September 2004
Since the end of the Second World War, the Americanisation of aspiration has taken hold of our societies and cultures – and people have been sold the lie of perpetual prosperity.
“Any progress achieved in addressing the goals of poverty and hunger eradication, improved health, and environmental protection is unlikely to be sustained if most of the ecosystem services on which humanity relies continue to be degraded,” Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, 30th March 2005.
“While science tells us that the threat of climate change is real and already occurring, it’s the world’s poorest people — those least responsible for climate change — who are most prone to suffer from its effects.”, John Podesta, Center for American Progress 7th June 2006
Worldwide – as a whole – poverty has increased – and not just poverty in monetary terms. Natural wealth has been plundered, both mineral and living – and Climate Change is degrading the livelihoods of humans and destroying plant and animal populations.
Assessments of the biosphere indicate very strongly that globalised systems of trade, industrialised agriculture, and high-maintenance lifestyles are eroding the ability of the Earth to continue providing food and material resources. Not only that, but the gearing in the capitalised economies means that resource-use inefficiencies are high, and that wealth concentrates in pockets, impoverishing other parts. We have destroyed Ecology to create Economy, and we have substituted real wealth for pastiche.
The dominant system of economic exchange relies on the generation of interest returned on investment. That added value has to come from somewhere and it comes from natural resources and productive human labour being injected into the economic systems.
The steam train of wealth creation is about to hit the buffers – like it or not. Natural resources are depleting and becoming despoiled, and human labour is about to become very unproductive – for reasons unpacked below – and these facts will seriously start to chip away at economic survival, as well as ecological survival.
Taking personal responsibility, we can scale back our participation in processes that are siphoning away the planet’s lifeblood. A simple life is an ideal, and each person will approach it in their own way, but some guidelines could be : Buy Less, Use Less, Grow More, Share More. Invest in community, not banks. Buy cooperation, not cars. Watch theatre; watch nature, not television. “Make treasure in heaven” as the spiritual philosophers put it.
Yet our own individual actions will not solve all the problems. In the bigger picture, in the dimension of government, we have to look carefully at pending human system crises and devise strategies for our societies to cope with them. Highlighting the areas where current policies will exacerbate the problems, instead of calming them, can help us decide on “healthy alternatives”. These are not personal options or political choices, but essential plans for survival.
1. Climate Change &The Energy Crisis
“Global oil production is peaking – for all practical purposes, now. In the past weeks, the New York Times, Bill Clinton, and the executive vice president of Ford Motor Company (among many others) have stated that world oil flow is at peak. We have even seen one of the major oil companies (Chevron) place ads in multiple magazines and newspapers in order – gently, perhaps, but insistently and conspicuously – to break the news to the American people that the era of cheap oil, and cheap energy in general, is finished, over, done, dead, and gone. And that era just happens to be the only one that Americans alive today have ever known. Oil is not the only problem; natural gas is turning out to be just as big a worry in North America and many European countries, and just as big a geopolitical prize to those who have and covet it. “ American author Richard Heinberg, 22nd June 2006
Globally, there is an exponentially increasing demand for fossil fuels, which are non-renewable and currently constitute the major Carbon Source.
Burning fossil fuels is the major anthropogenic forcing of Global Warming, which is delivering historically unprecedented Climate Change; and in addition, the excessive burning of fossil fuels has brought us to the cusp of Resource Depletion – Peak Oil – and its evil twin, Peak Natural Gas.
The increasing Energy Gap between the rising demand and falling supply of fossil fuels is at the current time mostly from such factors as refinery backlogs, rising costs for rigs and drilling, international political spats, weather swing-impacted fuel distribution needs and storage limitations.
Yet Peak Oil is about to bite big and be the major impact on supply. Climate Damages will only add to this problem. We are about to see a sudden catastrophic system change – the end of cheap energy and the end of cheap transportation.
“The imperative of working together to improve energy security is matched by the need to act with resolve to address the serious and closely linked challenges of climate change and air pollution.To help ensure the global economy is powered in a sustainable manner, we will work together to advance the development and deployment of existing and transformational technologies that are cleaner and more efficient, producing energy with significantly lower emissions. Since 2001, the U.S. has dedicated over $29 billion to climate change programs, more than any other nation.” USA White House Fact Sheet, US-EU Summit 21st June 2006
The United States, and countries that tie themselves closely to its fiscal and social policies, take the view that when it comes to the Environment, the Economy comes first.
The accent for them is how to discover and develop new energy sources – preferably indigenous – in order to make their Economy secure. Their mantra is Energy Security.
They are not averse to Renewable Energy Technologies, which is regarded as free and enriching, but they want to continue to use Fossil Fuels, even if they have to mine pristine Arctic wilderness to do so – or consider the economic annexation of Canada – for its tar sands.
These policies are clearly borne of desperation : for example, the petroleum that could be extracted from the ANWR Arctic National Wildlife Refuge might amount to 6 months’ supply : and the Canadian tar sands : well the stock is large, but the input/output energy ratio is bad – and production is slow.
If it costs money to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and put equipment at coal-fired power stations to limit Greenhouse Gas emissions into the atmosphere, then that has been too expensive for the US of A.
When challenged about Climate Change, their response is to reach for a technology toolkit, which has some untried and untested components (such as large scale Carbon Sequestration), and some fantasy items (such as the fabled Hydrogen Economy), and still relies heavily on Fossil Fuels.
Carbon Sequestration, or CCS Carbon Capture and Storage, is so far only being test-driven in a dozen sites around the world, and yet whole policies are being based on trust in this technology. Carbon Sequestration has so far proffered itself at a high price for an unproven fudge.
We really cannot afford to relax about Coal – it will probably never be clean. America and Australia have taken the lead in carving up the landscape for coal, coal and more coal. And China has been following suit. It’s in the hinterlands, so nobody sees it. But everyone wants air conditioning, so it “needs” to be powered.
The promise of the clean, green Hydrogen Economy is based on a wild hope that Hydrogen fuel storage and distribution can one day be made economically viable.
Hydrogen will become useful as a localised fuel, particularly in fuel cells as backup and supply regulation for wind power. But its rapid dispersion rates, metal permeation ability, and the concomitant need for compression storage, will mean that it will require a high level of expenditure in order to use it for transportation and pipeline distribution.
Hydrogen is a high technology and will stay a niche energy solution for the rich. If it is highly promoted, Energy Poverty will spread because of the sheer cost of the technology – it’s not an Equity Solution. The Hydrogen Economy implies high industrial production, which requires traditional forms of energy and resource spend. The Hydrogen Economy is about steel, palladium and platinum, not hydrogen.
Nuclear Fusion – is still roughly 50 years away – and we are putting more energy and money into it than ever. Looks like a waste of time and energy so far.
Nuclear Fission – well there’s Peak Uranium to consider – if there is a global new build of nuclear power stations the cheaply minable uranium in stable countries will be exhausted sooner than you can blink.
The US Federal Administration is wilfully ignoring evidence that token Environmental Protection, and having faith in the future delivery of successful Technologies, are not enough. Defining limits to Carbon Dioxide emissions now, absolute limits, will avert crisis later. What they are in denial about is that Economy is actually a sub-set of the Environmental system.
Without the Environment, there is no Economy. In fact, Economy is a function of Environment.
“The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.” Gaylord Nelson, Former US Senator
America has strongly resisted joining in with the first and only international treaty on Climate Change – the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations. It shows they have not internalised the implications of runaway Climate Change – which imples No More Economy. Effective action on Climate Change – defining upper limits to Carbon Dioxide emissions – will not come until that realisation comes.
1a. Ecological Survival
From the point of view of ecological survival, it is convenient that Peak Oil has arrived, as it is an impetus for fighting Climate Change – a reduction in the use of fossil fuels is an invaluable part of the solution strategy.
In order to survive Climate Change we need an international treaty limiting the use of fossil fuels and placing an absolute cap on Carbon Dioxide emissions.
The strategy must be tri-partite in order to succeed, as any single element will not be sufficient in its reach :-
(1a1) Reduce Energy Demand
Close the increasing Energy Gap, for example, drop plans to increase volume of transportation, Carbon Taxation, Carbon Rationing, turn back the clock on globalised patterns of trade, allow Energy prices to rise, re-localise food production.
(1a2) Make Energy use more Efficient
Decentralise electricity generation, for example, abandon plans to have central national Big Energy provision, regulate for smaller cars with higher efficiency engines, have airships instead of aeroplanes. Use CHP Combined Heat and Power. Market EV Electric Vehicles.
(1a3) Use sustainable Renewable Energy technologies
Localise energy production to reduce heat and transmission losses. Regionalise – to combat instabilities from random systems maintenance and variabilities of resource. Use technologies that work in energy and economy terms – which means focus on wind power.
1b. Economic Survival
In fact, the strategy for Economic Survival is the same as for Ecological Survival – with the added proviso that the Technologies that we employ for Renewable Energy must be those we have already successfully developed, or are close to completing.
We will only be able to continue with the expensive Research and Development of Technology for a short while – until the contracting Energy Economy hits home.
Why will the Energy Economy contract ? What will cause the deflation of the Energy envelope ?
“The EU’s focus on energy security is understandable. But oil from the volatile Middle East and gas from authoritarian-ruled Russia makes Europe vulnerable. The most effective way to secure energy supply is to cut down energy waste first — and to produce energy from renewable sources in Europe. Climate change cannot be halted with yet more oil and gas consumption.” Jan Kowalzig, Friends of the Earth Europe
“Global demand for energy is increasing. World energy demand – and CO2 emissions – is expected to rise by some 60% by 2030. Global oil consumption has increased by 20% since 1994, and global oil demand is projected to grow by 1.6% per year…Oil and gas prices are rising. They have nearly doubled in the EU over the past two years, with electricity prices following. This is difficult for consumers. With increasing global
demand for fossil fuels, stretched supply chains and increasing dependence on imports, high prices for oil and gas are probably here to stay. They may, however, trigger greater energy efficiency and innovation.” European Union Green Paper, A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy, 8th March 2006
“…two riders of the apocalypse…” British environmentalist Jonathan Porritt on Climate Change and Peak Oil, Hay Festival, 2nd June 2006
First of all, Peak Oil will exacerbate the Energy Gap and cause Inflation (Monetary Devaluation) in all Economic sectors – we are already seeing extraordinary commodity price rises – in metals and minerals for example.
Peak Oil will bring a direct contraction of the Energy Economy, and in addition make Technological Research comparatively more expensive. The contracting Energy Economy means a contraction of the Technology Envelope. This is because Research and Development of new Technologies require large investments of Energy, materials, labour, time and money.
Secondly, Climate Change is causing Economic Damages – indirectly or even directly – for example through changing and chaotic weather systems. If Economic Damages outpace Economic Growth, this will create Recession.
It can be reasonably projected that Climate Change-linked Recession will force Technological Research and Development off-budget.
In addition, international efforts to halt Climate Change could mean that nations start to contract their Energy Economy, by regulatory means, on the basis of a global treaty.
There are therefore limits to how much we can progress Technological Development. There is in effect a petrodollar window of development opportunity, after which the option to investigate alternative technologies will close up. So we are constrained to choose Clean and Renewable Energy Technologies that are already mature or in the proving stages.
“Our current centralised energy system wastes two thirds of the energy generated in its power stations. In fact the amount of heat thrown away, in for example cooling towers, is equivalent to all the heating and hot water needs in the UK’s buildings. Decentralising our energy system allows that ‘waste’ heat to be used. This better alternative can slash energy wastage, radically cut CO2 and ensure we get maximum energy from our fuel, giving us improved energy security. Globally, decentralised energy systems are already providing more energy than nuclear power stations”. Stephen Tindale, Greenpeace Executive Director, 20th June 2006
“We worked our way out of the last big energy crisis in the ’70s and early ’80s almost entirely through conservation. From 1977 to 1985, our economy grew by 3 percent a year, while oil use dropped 2 percent each year…Think about this. If we got back on that pace today, it would take less than three years to reduce oil consumption by an amount equal to what we import from the Persian Gulf…About 80 percent of the energy potential of oil is wasted in internal combustion engines. More than half the energy potential of coal is wasted in traditional utility plants. Almost all of our homes and commercial buildings could use energy more efficiently. American business knows something the vice president needs to find out. Conservation is about efficiency, about doing more with less, not doing less with less.” US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton 23rd May 2006
What is interesting is that there are many Renewable Energy Technologies that are low-cost and small-scale, and yet in the Industrialised Countries, the governmental mindset is still locked onto the Post-War ideas of Economic Expansion – which implies vast national projects for the provision of Energy – centralised wasteful mega-spends.
Until recently, larger and larger slices of the tax pie have been taken to finance national Energy projects by subsidy or direct spend – and yet these grand grid-based schemes are inefficient and wasteful.
Due to Peak Oil and Peak Natural Gas, in the end, the industrialised nations will not be able to afford Natural Gas for domestic Central Heating or national Electricity Generation – especially as Natural Gas supplies are fought over (diplomatically or literally).
We need to rescue policy from centralised Big Energy, a wasteful path, before the options become much more limited. We are creating Option Depletion by delay.
“The Swedish government announced in February that it plans to be world’s first oil-free economy, and to achieve that status within 15 years from now. The minister of sustainable development announced the government’s plans after work by a committee of industrialists, car makers Saab and Volvo, academics, farmers, and civil servants. We can safely presume they would not have made this announcement if they didn’t consider it feasible. Renewable energy now contributes 26% of total energy in Sweden. Oil’s share is 32%, down from 77% in 1970. A key component of the plan involves bioethanol, which can come from the nation’s forests.” British environmentalist Jeremy Leggett, Designing ourselves to Death, 27th May 2006
By turning the national energy provision paradigm on its head, and developing de-centralised Renewable Energy sources, we can help to address not only the needs of the Industrialised North, but also the Developing South.
If we, the rich developed nations, want to negotiate a global treaty based on the stabilisation of concentration of Greenhouse Gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, with the poor developing nations, then we must address the issue of Carbon Wealth.
“Foreign companies have been here for the last century exploiting oil and gas, and they’ll have all the space they’ve been able to have so far…It’s just that they will have to pay the royalties, they will have to pay the income tax. If they don’t, we will go after them.” Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan President
“We also talked to Torrijos about creating a joint enterprise for supplying fuel at preferential prices, which would require new legislation here. We are not going to give gasoline to the transnationals so that they can get richer,” Hugo Chavez 23rd June 2006
We have burned unimaginable supplies of fossil fuels in order to make wealth, and most developing nations look at this model and want the same deal, or need the industrialisation to compete in globalised industry. But with Climate Change, this kind of Economic Development cannot be possible, unless we want to cook the planet.
If the rich developed North can grow our low-cost, small-scale Renewables, we can not only be a good example, we can also provide Energy Aid to the poor South, the Majority World.
“…the World Bank’s Clean energy and development: towards an investment framework…perverse definition of ‘clean’ energy, letting Northern polluters off the hook and neglecting the needs of the rural poor. …Despite the framework’s clean investment mandate it includes proposals for untested coal technologies, nuclear power, and large hydropower as solutions to global warming. Although it identifies decentralised, renewable sources of energy- such as wind, mini-hydro, solar photovoltaics and biogas- as low-cost solutions to climate change, such solutions are given scant priority in the Bank’s current lending portfolio. Instead the framework focuses on centralised, grid-based power plants, ignoring the fact that nearly 1.6 billion people live in communities that are not connected to electric grids…In disregard for the findings of the World Commission on Dams, large hydropower is central to the framework, particularly for Brazil, India, and Sub-Saharan Africa. This is despite devastating environmental and social impacts and greenhouse gas emissions of large dams in tropical regions.” the Bretton Woods Project, 19th June 2006
We have to avoid the mistakes of the past, for example, providing enormous Hydroelectric schemes to Africa, where all the rivers and lakes get sucked dry as power demand increases.
It has to be recognised that poverty in the South is directly related to the Energy activities of the North. The burning of Fossil Fuels by the North has created an enormous wealth advantage, and the wealth pump of global trade effectively means that the North eats the South.
The valve has to stop working one way only. Direct and indirect monetary aid to the South from the North can only achieve so much. The North should provide free Renewables Technologies to the South as part of our contribution to Climate Change Mitigation. We should also provide Renewable Energy powered water de-salination plants and other Climate Protection Technologies, North to South, at no cost, to help the South in Climate Change Adaptation.
Renewable Energy Technologies have the opportunity to create Employment in the North of the World, and Development in the South – Economic Survival for everyone.
2. Climate Change & Natural Disasters
2a. Ecological Survival
“Climate change, on a global scale, is a bigger hazard than Aids, obesity or bird flu. Extremes of heat and cold, rising sea levels, droughts, floods, storms and food shortages – these are the likely effects. In turn, they threaten to lead to famine, drowning, destruction of human habitation, mass migration, the spread of deadly diseases and armed conflict as people fight over scare resources.” Anna Coote, Sustainable Development Commission, writing in the Guardian Newspaper, 14th June 2006
Climate Change is already contributing to emergencies such as famine and flooding, because of the changes to weather systems and rainfall. There will be a significant increase in the toll of international disasters – and a subsequent decrease in the human ability to respond.
As the Economy contracts, because of Peak Oil and Climate Change policy and the fact that Climate Change causes economic damages, we will not be able to accommodate an increase in the need for global aid and relief.
More of each nation’s collective wealth will need to be spent on preventing and recovering from disaster – in their own nation as well as others.
It will not be clear if international organisations which exist to alleviate suffering and promote development will continue to be supported, either because of donor impoverishment, or because charity will have to begin at home in the donor nations.
2b. Economic Survival
“Where will the next generation of nuclear power stations be built, pray ? …stand on Suffolk’s shores and look across at Sizewell B, to name but one. What happens there when the North Sea level rises ? It’s not a debate, it’s a calculation: great swaths of eastern Britain, including this one, will lie beneath the waves – a fate threatening cities, towns, villages, farms. Consider London. Is there a property portfolio here propping up your pension fund ? Pretend you’re the Duke of Westminster, with half the Grosvenor Estates subject to flood. Pretend you’re a prime minister wading across Downing Street…” Peter Preston, writing in the Guardian Newspaper, 26th May 2006
“Brace yourselves; insurance rates are going to increase.” Robert Muir-Woods, American National Association of Insurance Commissioners, December 2005
Besides human disasters, Climate Change will bring accruing Economic Damages to other systems.
The Insurance industry for example has already responded – and it will not be long before the value of general investments will be in question.
What can be foreseen is a collapse in the value of all manner of financial constructs such as Pension Funds.
Property will be rated at continually decreasing value as flooding and storms have more impact – and the energy crisis, and increasing energy prices, will mean that they are shown to be thermally inadequate. The housing market bubble is about to burst.
What else do people trust for increasing value ? Land on high ground…and land on high ground is in short supply.
3. Climate Change & Migration
3a. Ecological Survival
“Climate change has major diverse implications for the Great Barrier Reef. It will affect a range of animals and plants including corals, seabirds, marine mammals, turtles, invertebrates, plankton and fish, as well as habitats within the Great Barrier Reef. Climate change could also impact on ecosystem function through changes to ocean chemistry, sea level rise, circulation patterns and loss of reef structure.” Australian Government Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, “Climate Change: Risk and Vulnerability” Report March 2005
Climate Change means failure in habitats for both animals and plants.
Sea level rise and salt water encroachment will destroy arable land. Heatwaves will make some places uninhabitable.
Food systems and food chains will break down, bringing crop loss and famine. Disease is on the increase.
There will be massive human migration, such as already begun with plants, animals and sealife.
3b. Economic Survival
“Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger this week rejected a request from the Bush administration to send an additional 1,500 National Guard troops to the Mexican border, the governor’s office confirmed Friday. The National Guard Bureau, an arm of the Pentagon, asked for the troops to help with the border-patrol mission in New Mexico and Arizona, but Schwarzenegger said the request would stretch the California Guard too thin in case of an emergency or natural disaster.” Associated Press, 24th June 2006
We have already begun to witness renewed vigour in the war against immigration. We can expect to see further restrictions on immigration and interregional movement and for some time the governments will waste huge amounts of time and labour on “The War On Immigration”. Just like “The War On Drugs” it will completely fail.
The fruitless war against psychoactive chemicals shows that international inequality of wealth will always regenerate drug trading – we are likely to start wasting a lot of time and effort on controlling and stemming immigration and intra-national migration – which we won’t be able to stop.
Ultimately it will be seen that people have the right to Climate Protection – and water – and weather safety – and health – and so migration has to be allowed – and provided for.
4. Climate Change & Resource Conflict
4a. Ecological Survival
“Like oil, water is becoming a source of wars as it is commodified and privatised, dammed and transferred long distances. Every river in India has become a site of major, irresolvable conflicts over water ownership and distribution. The waters of the Tigris and Euphrates, which have sustained agriculture for thousands of years in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, have been the cause of several major clashes among the three countries.” Dr Vandana Shiva, June 2006
Climate Change is causing changing rainfall patterns and fresh water stress along with changing temperatures is putting stress on life support systems. The principle resources that will be the source of conflict are already fresh water and productive soil. As these become scarce for all forms of life, humans will inevitably fight over them. Some argue that Resource Wars are already happening.
4b. Economic Survival
We will be wasting time and labour on Resource Wars. There will be a waste of financial investment on weapons and labour in order to secure fresh water and good soil.
The “greening of the desert” is an unsustainable exercise. Soil erosion due to a century of intensive farming is not helping. Degraded soil is a Carbon Source, not a Carbon Sink, and does not produce crops.
5. Climate Change & Civilisation
5a. Ecological Survival
In order to protect the Planet we need to unravel some of our human systems, and this will change our assumptions about our civilisation – particularly our “standard of living”. There is no benefit in continuing with systems that cause Resource Depletion – as this is unsustainable – and the natural world will no longer be able to support us or our civilisation. Our entire civilisation depends on a good supply of cheap energy, and this is about to go away, leaving us with environmental damages that undermine our ability to climb for higher ground.
5b. Economic Survival
We at risk of expending all our time and labour on survival after the onset of breakdown in social systems – can we afford old people when the financial and pensions systems crumble ?
Constructing new communities that operate without money seems the likely solution. Breaking laws and regulations will become necessary for survival.
Without strong community obligations, these illicit activities will cause violent anarchy – as individuals seek to protect themselves and provide for themselves they will infringe the liberty and rights of others unless they are part of a responsible conscious community.
6. Climate Change and Carbon Control
6a. Ecological Survival
“At the Gleneagles meeting the leaders of the G8 were able to agree on the importance of climate change, that human activity does contribute to it and that greenhouse gas emissions need to slow, peak and reverse. All G8 countries agreed on the need to make substantial cuts in emissions and to act with resolve and urgency now.” Tony Blair, Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, 30th January 2006
“We need, in particular, stronger action to boost investment in research into cleaner technology…But above all, internationally, the best stimulus to…create the right incentives for investment in clean technology will be to decide what level we should aim to stabilise green house gas concentrations and global temperature levels. This must be the heart of future negotiations on climate change, bringing together science and economics…I know how politically challenging all this will be. But we have no alternative but to do it.” Tony Blair, Letter to Stop Climate Chaos coalition, 28 th February 2006
The case for a Carbon Budget has been made powerfully of late. From the science, it seems highly likely that in order to save the Earth, it is necessary to place firm and enforceable limits on Carbon Dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. That’s the Precautionary Principle.
In order for such regulations to be effective, the geopolitics tells us they need to be negotiated and monitored at the international level, for Climate Change is a genuinely global problem. One country alone cannot dictate. And one country alone cannot make sufficient changes by itself to make the difference. This demonstrates the Principles of Cooperation and Consensus.
The science also leads us to the position that a Global Cap on Carbon Emissions is not sufficient by itself. Taking into account the Positive Feedbacks and Time Delays and Carbon Overload Accumulation, in order to stabilise the concentration of Greenhouse Gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, we need to have a progressive reduction in global Carbon Emissions. This is the Principle of Contraction.
“We do not believe that the ethos of democracy can support any norm other than equal per capita
rights to global environmental resources.” Indian Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee
UNFCCC COP 8 30th October 2002
“Oil peaks by 2007, but the response to the shortage of oil is immediate. Governments realise that, without an international agreement to share out the limited amount of oil and gas on a non-market basis, over-high oil prices will threaten both oil-producing and oil-consuming countries with depression and financial ruin. A system called Contraction and Convergence (C&C) is put in place which adopts the position that everyone has an equal claim to be able to use the atmosphere as a dump for his or her greenhouse gas emissions and issues permits for them to do so. These permits can then be traded on the free market but the effect is to control and limit the supply of fossil fuels. Fair Shares eventually lead to economic decline as manufacturing and other associated industries turn lower scale.” “Fair Shares”, Energy Scenarios Ireland
The geopolitics informs us that the only way to avoid and answer the inevitable wrangling and positioning over Carbon Emission Rights is to grant a Carbon Allowance to each country based on how many people live there – effectively per capita Carbon Emission Rights. This is the Principle of Equity.
The science tells us that at the moment there is a great gap between the Energy consumed per person in the North and per person in the South. In order to reach a position of Equity, we will have to ride the geopolitics to approach equal per capita Carbon Emissions globally. This is the Principle of Convergence.
In order to distribute a nation’s Carbon Allocation to its citizens, some clever mechanisms will be needed : some form of Carbon Rationing or Carbon Taxation are suggested. And this will need to be rolled out by each country in their own way. We cannot wait for a universal policy that will suit each country in order to share out Carbon. This is the Principle of Subsidiarity.
Whilst Contraction and Convergence is being implemented there is a need for self-restraint via enforced regulation on the part of Corporate and Government Energy and Development activities. This is the Principle of Efficiency.
6b. Economic Survival
“China, the world’s biggest electricity user after the United States, has established a fund to finance the development of renewable energy projects.The fund will be used to encourage research and development of wind power, solar power and biomass power projects intended to cut pollution and reduce reliance on oil… Money will be distributed through subsidies and interest repayments. The mainland economy is turning to alternative fuel sources to help cope with power shortages and reduce pollution. About 67 percent of power plants in the country burn coal. China plans to expand renewable energy to 16 percent of total supply within 15 years.” the Chinese Ministry of Finance & Xinhua News Agency 18th – 20th June 2006
“The number of rooftop, solar hot water heaters in China now exceeds that of all the rest of the world combined. It’s a little known success story in China,” Lester Brown, World Policy Institute.
“My slogan is, ‘Let every Chinese use solar energy,'” Huang Ming, chairman of Himin Solar Energy Group
Since most of our wealth derives from the burning of cheap fossil fuels, it will take quite some difficult steps to maintain the current levels of economic growth if we accept the need to contract the fossil fuel economy.
Carbon Responsibility will require us to stop outsourcing manufacturing and the attendant CO2 emissions to developing nations such as China and India, because the original blame for Climate Change will still rest with our markets.
Europe and several American States are queuing (lining) up to buy into Carbon Trading – economic survival is the rationale behind Carbon Trading – but unfortunately this has not been shown to successfully place a cap on carbon emissions.
However, since it can be easily shown that Ecological Threats are Economic Threats there is some hope that politicians will respond.
International Governance has to become more tightly tuned if it is believed it can achieve progress in the fight against Climate Change – currently it is slow and inarticulate – the Economics Ministers don’t yet come to United Nations Climate Talks.
Clearly, those Companies that turn to Ecological Production will become and remain profitable. Similarly, those Corporations that invest in Renewable Energy Technologies and reduce their Energy Demand will survive and thrive economically.
The one thing we can be certain of is the need to change.