Let's Stop Lying to Ourselves and Fund a Solution to Global Warming

Sat, 2008-02-02 14:04John Lefebvre

Let's Stop Lying to Ourselves and Fund a Solution to Global Warming

By DeSmogBlog Co-Founder John Lefebvre

It is very important for all of us to make every effort to reduce our carbon footprint, whether by driving less, going hybrid, acquiring carbon neutral energy sources like photovoltaic or buying carbon credits. But it must be said, and it is unfortunate that it must, none of these, nor all of them together, will solve the problem or even put a significant dent in it.

Go to China. Go to India. Travel throughout the third world. Look and see. Our efforts in our personal spaces are at the most symbolic. Sorry. But it’s true.

But that doesn't let us off the hook. The U.S. and Canadian governments, saying they will sign no accord for CO2 reduction that is not signed by India and China, are like little children in a sand box putting their hands over their eyes and saying “You can’t see me.”

The problem will not be solved until it is solved for India and China.

India and China do not have the capacity to solve the problem.

We either solve it for them or they will continue to burn carbon fuels prodigiously for a century or centuries into the future. We can clean ourselves up but they will sink us anyway.

Waiting for them to “come to the table” amounts to waiting to sink. Sorry. But it’s true.

The climate change we are experiencing now is driven, mostly, from carbon fuels consumed up to 30 years ago. The fuels we have consumed since then will continue to create change for a century to come. What we burn for the next 30 years will redouble our troubles. It’s funny that the word we use for this process is “snowball.”

Ice free Arctic summers within 10 years. Hello?

If we carry on for 30 years, we’re looking at rising oceans, storms, draughts, floods and other meteorological weirdness that will make our recent surprises look like a spring sun shower.

It is trumpeted that converting to clean energy will create unacceptable economic costs. What do the changes in weather that we are already witnessing create? “Snowfalls in China cost billions” was the headline this January. Everyday there are new examples: “30% of worlds maize crop will fail by 2020.”

Climate change will certainly bring with it more, not less, upheaval - much more, But that’s not all. It will also bring an inescapable truth, an undeniable lesson that will show the way to the future of our species and our planet. Earth may be scores of “nations.” But it is one property. Climate change will make it impossible to persist in the youthful illusion that we have neither rights nor responsibilities beyond our borders. When we alter the atmosphere with CO2, we irrevocably alter only one property. It is no defence of our inaction that others are unaware. If China continues to desiccate the property, we will pay the price even if we clean up our own corner. One property.

We know how things work here. People will rush headlong towards wealth and power, no matter what. And that’s final. We either provide them with non-destructive ways to do so or they will persist in deploying the destructive means. Asking human beings to settle for less is as likely to succeed as asking youth to abstain from sex.

One property, one market. Changing energy sources will not end the market. It will merely divert it. People will always purchase energy. They will always purchase the energy that is cheapest.

We are realizing that carbon fuels come with colossal “hidden” costs in environmental disruption, that is if you can call drought, famine and flood “hidden”. These costs will be born by all, not only the carbon burners.

So, now we face a bleak future on one hand or a big research and development project on the other. With $300 billion, we can develop infrastructure sufficient to provide super cheap absolutely clean electricity to the world forever. That's seven years of Exxon profit. One-tenth the U.S. annual budget.

Fuel Cell. Use geothermal energy to separate hydrogen from water. Use hydrogen to create electricity by fuel cell. The sole emission is water. Circular. Eternal. Take the emissions and make tea. And supply the world with cheaper, non-destructive no hidden cost energy for ever. And as always, for income.

We will sell more cars not less. We are already making them. They will be clean and quiet. And if we want, bigger cars. No problem. Drive huge SUV’s forever. Powered by fuel cell batteries. Don’t settle for less. Expect more.

By making personal efforts locally we will exemplify for our peers and our children the importance of acting globally. The contest is on. Can we make it here for as long as the dinosaurs did?

 

Comments

I agree 100%. Now, how do we get the rest of the western hemisphere to come aboard? I am not being facetious. We need a plan. It won't happen if we wait for governments to get in line. Maybe this is where the next democratic revolution begins.

So how about it, folks?

Fern Mackenzie

I agree, Fern! We cannot achieve our goals with the present democracy. We must eliminate this troublesome problem once and for all. We must bypass the political process, through violent revolution, if necessary. I salute your zeal!

Furthermore, I propose we should make deniers wear a large yellow letter 'D' on their clothing, so that we can identify them more easily, and be on guard for their cunning trickery. We should also boycott their businesses, since we know their love of money is greater than their loyalty to Gaia.

Uh, I thought the plan had something to do with finding a way to fund geothermal mega-projects.

John, where was that price estimate from?

I recall Ross Gelbspan estimating $200bl a couple of years ago and I rounded it up. Give or take a few hundred biliion though, it doesn't really change the idea. $300bl is still 10% of the new budget and way less than half the Iraq "investment"

Switching from carbon fuel will create economic costs but really what are people who bring this up saying? Costs for whom? When China suffers $7bilion costs from snow storms who pays that cost? Whomever, certainly not the coal companies.

Tell me, why is it that the self proclaimed "conservatives" trumpet the "cost" of switching? These guys arn't conservatives, they are an insult to conservatives. Conservatives conserve capital. These guys are a bunch of exploitative self serving future eaters who think conservative means not believing in science. Conservative. Conservation. Hello?

If the cost truly is less than 1 trillion, though, you'd think the ability to fuel humanity would easily pay for itself. I'll have to read up on the background and feasibility of the idea. I couldn't agree more with you about the some people's claims regarding costs being great -- I've often thought that their economic models were far less certain (and likely more biased) than the IPCC ones. They cling to them because of ideology, not because of their 'skeptical' natures. That makes it all the more important to advertise easily affordable geothermal.

From cnn:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/02/06/clean.energy.ap/index.html
Seems forecasts are that trillions will be available for investing in low emission technologies. Geothermal was not promoted in the article.

Just go to your room and have a time out, Ethan. You're about to pop an artery.

Clearly I am talking about people making their voices heard -- persistently and loudly -- so that the government must take action. "Democratic revolution" does not equate to anarchy.

The kind of financial commitment advocated here would require a substantive and fundamental shift in budget priorities. No government is going to take that step without a clear mandate from the electorate. Can the case be made? If this is a significant part of the answer, why is there not a huge lobby & information campaign mobilized? If "all" it would take is $300billion, we can start by taking the money Harper has just announced for carbon capture & sequestering as seed money . . .

Oh, and re: the yellow "D's" to be sewn onto deniers' clothing, I have a better idea -- how about a dunce cap in a nice shade of green?

Fern Mackenzie

Democracy is about responsibility. If the people lead the government will, perhaps reluctantly follow. The real rubber meets the road question for all of us is how to we diminish our carbon footprint in substantial ways. We personally control the energy consumed in our homes and our cars. Insulate your house, get energy efficient appliances. Drive less, don't buy a new car until they will sell an extreme hybrid. Unless a substantial number of trendsetters start actually reducing their fossil fuel consumption to show the way for the rest we will deservedly be at the mercy of the oil and coal companies.

Hear, hear, Mr. Lefebvre! What a rousing call to action ;)

"The climate change we are experiencing now is driven, mostly, from carbon fuels consumed up to 30 years ago. The fuels we have consumed since then will continue to create change for a century to come. What we burn for the next 30 years will redouble our troubles. It’s funny that the word we use for this process is 'snowball.'"

I really like the way you write, Johnny. Not an ounce of scientific merit to it, but inspiring all the same. In case you missed it, the "climate change" we are experiencing now is driven, mostly, by factors not of human origin, and well outside of human control.

All the same, I like this $300 billion idea of yours. "Why can't we bash ourselves in the head even if the Chinese and the Hindu aren't falling for it." If we tax the pants off every family in North America, we just might come up with a solution for the gigatons of pollution our fine friends across the Pacific are casually dumping into the atmosphere every day. It's inspiring, my friend.

Just think, for $300 billion, we could have clean, green energy for the whole world forever!

Hey Ethan/John:

I think I'm keeping up on the insults okay, (though your terribly clever satirical approach almost had me fooled).

But ... what's your point?

 

PS

And is "Greenheart" - like - a pseudonym or are you compensating for something? 

While I agree with the general thesis I have to object to "Our efforts in our personal spaces are at the most symbolic."

While this is certainly true if personal efforts are limited to things like "driving less", etc, it is also true that such minimal changes do not constitute "make every effort to reduce our carbon footprint"

"Every effort" means every effort, real and meaningful action. Ditch the private automobile entirely, never use AC and drop the winter temp down to 15, eat 90% local and vegan, never fly, reduce all consumption of goods radically, etc.

Really, actually, sincerely "make every effort to reduce our carbon footprint" and you will be making a real difference.

These are just a few of the things I and people I know have done and continue doing. It's shocking how little it affects quality of life.

John writes: The problem will not be solved until it is solved for India and China.

India and China do not have the capacity to solve the problem.

We either solve it for them or they will continue to burn carbon fuels prodigiously for a century or centuries into the future.

Frankly, I find this language quite patronizing. China graduates something like 600,000 engineers per year. I think if you look at the senior leadership in the Communist Party, most are engineers. And being a dictatorship, they can accomplish significant change in record time. What other country has changed so significantly over such a short period of time as China has the last 15 years?

Frankly, in my opinion, the world has changed dramatically since the Montreal Protocol on CFCs and the Kyoto Protocol. Yet everyone sticks to the developed world first/ the NEW China and India later. Put continued international pressure on China and their leadership will eventually change its priorities. Trade seems to be important to their economy. The country is not as closed as it was in the early 90s and its citizens and ex-pats get much of their info from abroad.

It's old parochial thinking as outlined in this blog that perhaps needs a dose of the 21st century.

And if we want, bigger cars. No problem. Drive huge SUV’s forever. Powered by fuel cell batteries. Don’t settle for less.

This is the wrong message from a variety of prespectives.

I'm a huge fan of this blog, but this is over-the-top. Where's the supporting evidence that we can tap enough geothermal energy quickly enough (or ever) to produce hydrogen in sufficient quantity to solve all motorvehecile transport problems?

The part I can agree with is the need for greatly increased funding for renewable energy.

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