Posts Tagged ‘Copenhagen’

sinkingplanetThanks to the Bristol Festival of Ideas I have actually been to an optimistic meeting about climate change.

Climate change is undoubtedly the most significant (although not the only) environmental crisis facing humanity. That it is self inflicted adds to the irony but also the sense of guilt and responsibility. As a species we are consuming ourselves to destruction with little thought for those we share this planet for or the generations to come. Our inheritance to our children and the following generations is an environmental and economic disaster.

Maybe we have an almost naive sense that some clever scientist will come along and sort it all out, in the same way that my young son thinks that I can fix anything he breaks.

The science of climate change is well understood although difficult to predict. It is not new either. I remember studying planetary climate change in the mid eighties as part of my degree and the concern that if we did not reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that earth’s atmosphere could become a hot ball of acid rain unable to sustain life. Luckily we are a long way from that scenario but global temperatures and sea levels are rising.


There is almost fatalism about this among some. “It doesn’t matter what we do when China is building so many coal power stations” or “Americans use so much energy and there is no point us doing anything unless they act” are among the excuses used by people not to take any action themselves. (USA and China combined account for 43% of CO2 emissions). Most presentations on what we should do are, frankly, depressing and unlikely to result in the majority acting, massively reduce travel, population control and huge reductions in consumption. The vast majority of citizens are not prepared for the famine after the feast – anyway how many people are able to stick to a diet for any length of time.


Governments need to act and show leadership. The UK has agreed to an 80% reduction in CO2 emission by 2050 an ambitious target but still probably not enough to reverse the damage being done. The forthcoming summit in Copenhagen is seeking to get an international agreement which can be signed up to by USA, Europe, China, India and the other major polluters while still allowing the 80% of people living in the developing world to have access to more than 20% of its wealth and resources.

Kyoto to Copenhagen

The speaker at the meeting I went to was Graciela Chichilnisky, an economist who never tired of telling us was at the heart of the Kyoto agreement and who has a cunning plan for Copenhagen. Her presentation started with the usual doom and gloom but quickly advanced onto how a carbon trading and caps actually drive carbon emissions down. The sad truth is that the capitalist market is the only international mechanism we have for dealing with this problem. There is no robust international governance and the workers of the world have not united. Her view is that a Kyoto type deal that includes USA and China is not only essential but also possible. She was also promoting a technology which would allow power generation plants to become carbon negative, using the heat generated by the production of electricity to capture and fix carbon.

I know many environmentalists consider that carbon capture is greenwash for the coal industry, and maybe it is, but although Kingsnorth is on hold around the world 3 coal power stations are being opened every week and unless carbon capture can be developed we are going to be in very deep water, literally.

I am interested in views of anyone who has got this far in a long blog; is a green capitalism the only answer halting and reversing climate change? Can carbon capture be developed to reduce the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere in the volumes and timely enough to make a difference?


Bristol Festival of Ideas: http://www.ideasfestival.co.uk/

BBC article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8254212.stm

Blog Action Day: www.blogactionday.org


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