During the week someone alerted me to Rod Oram being interviewed by Lynn Freedman on National Radio. One particular moment jumped out as Rod went silent and seemed to wrestle with what he was about to say.
It immediately brought to mind a piece I read in The Guardian a few weeks ago, maybe a month back,
I’ll come back to Rod Oram, but first to the Guardian. They print heaps of reports and articles on global warming. Common to all those reports and articles, dire as much of the information they contain might be, is an underlying assumption that things will be okay. This headline from an August article kind of captures what I mean. – Australia will need to remove CO2 from air to keep warming below 2C, climate body says (sub-head) Climate Institute report says negative-emissions technology is imperative because risks of global temperature reaching 2C are ‘unmanageable’
So, you get that? There’s no questioning the feasibility of negative emission technologies – just a call for them to be applied.
Go through article after article and the same refrain comes up over and over again. Things are really bad, but we’ll be okay – we have the technology.
But then there was this one where, for the first time to my knowledge, a Guardian article cast serious doubt on the feasibility of negative emissions technologies. Of note, and unlike other pieces, they were providing direct quotes from scientists throughout this one.
But what form that (negative emissions) technology takes is unclear. Several techniques have been proposed. One includes spreading crushed silicate rocks, which absorb carbon dioxide, over vast tracts of land. Another involves seeding oceans with iron to increase their uptake of carbon dioxide. Most are considered unworkable at present – with the exception of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. Under this scheme, vast plantations of trees and bushes would be created, their wood burned for energy while the carbon dioxide emitted was liquefied and stored underground.
“It could do the trick,” said Cambridge University climate expert Professor Peter Wadhams. “The trouble is that you would need to cover so much land with plants for combustion you would not have enough space to grow food or provide homes for Earth’s wildlife. In the end, I think we just have to hope that some kind of extraction technology, as yet unimagined by scientists, is developed in the next couple of decades. If not, we are in real trouble.”
I don’t pour over the Guardian’s environmental section and so don’t know if that piece was a one off. But I seriously hope it’s not; that it’s the beginning of more realistic reporting.
Back to Rod Oram. The following attempt at a transcript is from 11:08 on this pod cast link.
“There are things we can do. There are things we can do right now and try and um help encourage people and um bring people together who do relate to these issues so we can make these extraordinary leaps that we have to do. Em otherwise, um , well quite frankly um we, well civilisation as we know it is..is not just at risk, I mean, the trajectory we’re on um is to see em em (long pause before he rushed out) I’m thinking really hard about saying this, I’ve never actually said it before – about the collapse of civilisation as we know it…
Now I know some people will accuse me of desperately casting around seeking something positive to cling to; of seeing things that aren’t there. And maybe I am guilty of that. But if liberal commentary is now beginning to acknowledge that we’re out of our depth and beyond the limits of our ‘god given’ prowess and cunning, and if that’s going to presage a call for action based on a realistic assessment of our situation, then I’ll take it.
The levee might not be gushing forth, but any slow seepage is a start.