The main research windmills at NREL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Renewable energy is expensive. It’s unreliable. There’s no way to store it. Anyway the scientists are still arguing about global warming, so why wreck the economy for something that might not exist?
We all know these things here in Australia, but here’s a weird thing. Those tree-hugging pixie-lovers the Germans are converting to renewable energy anyway. They plan to phase out nuclear power within a decade. The official target is to reduce fossil-fuel use by 80% by 2050, but many people think it will be reduced to zero before then. Already more than 25% of electricity comes from renewable sources.
[This is the first of an occasional series on what we can do to make our presence on Earth tolerable to the rest of the biosphere, and mostly should do anyway, regardless of one’s view of the dangers or possible means of salvation. It will be filed under ‘Solutions’.]
Australia is one of the largest emitters per capita of greenhouse gases. We are also the world’s largest exporter of coal, which is the dirtiest fuel in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. We must therefore be the world’s worst citizens regarding global warming. However we could be rapidly cleaning up our act, and diversifying and improving our economy in the process.
[This is a draft. Over the next week or so I will be revising, adding links and making other versions to send to any news outlet that might take them.]
Here is the climate news. The real climate news.
So far the world has warmed about 0.6°C. If currently advised reductions of greenhouse gas emissions were realised there would still be a 90% chance global warming will exceed two degrees Celsius (2°C). 2°C used to be regarded as the threshold of “dangerous” climate change, but new science has shifted that threshold to only 1°C. 2°C is now regarded as the threshold of “extremely dangerous” climate change. At that level, global warming effects would be widespread and severe.
However, somewhere between about 2°C and 4°C lurks a tipping point, beyond which global warming will run beyond human control, driven by natural feedback mechanisms that drive temperatures higher, perhaps to 6°C or 8°C, no-one knows. 4°C would already be “incompatible with an organised global community”. Higher temperatures could result in the extinction half or more of the world’s species and much of the human population.
A submission to the Senate Select Committee on Climate Policy, April 2009
[This is punchier than the version I posted 23 March, which was for a different Senate enquiry.]
The Government fails completely to appreciate the urgency of the climate situation, which must be seen in terms of dominos and tipping points.The first big domino seems to be tipping now, and there may soon be no way to prevent or reverse catastrophic warming.
The Government also fails completely to appreciate the opportunity to rapidly reduce emissions while creating an economy that can secure Australians wellbeing indefinitely.
This submission focusses on reframing the policy discussion.It is intentionally brief.Details are irrelevant unless the problem is properly framed.
The greatest and most immediate threat to our global environment comes from our use of fossil fuels to power our consumer-capitalist industrial system. However we already know how to dramatically reduce our energy use without seriously compromising our quality of life. In fact we may save money even as we save the Earth.