Written By: - Date published: 5:34 pm, August 9th, 2015 - 138 comments
Categories: capitalism, climate change, energy, Environment, Ethics, global warming, science - Tags: Anderson, climate change, fossil fuels, global warming
To have any chance of avoiding very dangerous levels of global warming and the climate change that rides shot gun on the warming, the world must be burning absolutely no fossil fuels by, at the latest, 2050.
In a world that cannot burn fossil fuels, there are no carbon credits to be bought and sold. No-one seems to have alerted our government to that simple fact: zero is zero. And although the New Zealand government might say that New Zealand’s too small to make a difference, and anyway, most of New Zealand’s emissions come from land use, it’s worth repeating, zero is zero. And we’ve got 35 years.
Meanwhile, cumulative emissions are increasing by about 2 or 3% per year and the fossil fuel industries are being subsidised by over US $5 trillion per year by governments that made a commitment to keep the world’s warming below 2 degrees C. New Zealand’s annual subsidy is to the tune of some US$2.5 Billion
Link to page that contains link to spread sheet for NZ figures
Putting aside that we’re paying, what some might refer to as ‘the executioner’, there are quarters suggesting we place our faith in carbon capture and storage (CCS). Hmm, here’s the thing about CCS in a world that must be at zero by 50. It hasn’t any place for CCS. We cannot be burning any fossil fuels, no matter how efficiently or cleanly in that scenario.
Another carbon capture idea is to suck CO2 directly from the atmosphere. (Anyone else instantly seeing weird images of Dr Seuss type sucky machines?) Okay, let’s just imagine the technology gets invented.
In 2013 the world emitted 36Gt of CO2 from cement and fossil. Being optimistic, we might aim to suck a 1/3rd, or somewhere over 10Gt of that CO2 from the atmosphere – every year, year after year and then store it somehow and somewhere. To put that in perspective, 10 Gt of CO2 is ~3x the weight of carbon and is more than the combined annual global tonnage of coal, (7000-8000 Mt) and gas and oil that the world currently extracts. Now think of the infrastructure that’s been required just to extract the fossil we use and how long it’s taken to build up. Can you still imagine a Carbon Capture and Storage Industry with all its required additional infrastructure spanning the globe in, say, 20 years from now? Me neither.
Anyway, there’s another flaw with sucking carbon from the atmosphere. Most of the carbon we expelled has been absorbed by the oceans. So, remove all the excess carbon from the atmosphere – get us back to 285ppm – and the oceans will continue to heat up and acidify.
What to do? Well, as any 10 year old might say, stop using fossil fuels. It really is that simple.
I know what’s going to happen mind. People, maybe yourself included, will jump in cars and on planes, and on a good day for awareness – shrug. And no government will bring in efficiency standards or roll out policies to tackle the problem. And for the 1 – 5% of humanity who are responsible for about 40 – 60% of emissions, the globe trotting holidays/shopping trips/conferences and what not will continue. And the private jets and ocean going yachts of the super rich won’t be getting grounded or berthed.
And in December in Paris, world political leaders will make a lot of positive noise over woefully inadequate plans of action. Some people, no doubt, will cheer and convince themselves that something’s being done.
Then 2020 will roll round and the 2 degrees C of average surface warming that’s already locked in now will be creeping inexorably upwards to…well, who knows what?